This fascinating floating museum largely unfolds on the decks of the USS Intrepid, a retired, 900-foot-long aircraft carrier docked on Manhattan's Hudson River. The family-friendly Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum comes loaded with military, aviation, and space exploration technology, historical insights, and interactive displays to engage the minds and activate imaginations of visitors of all ages. Explore the carrier's many decks, brimming with exhibits; have a firsthand look at the world's first space shuttle (the Enterprise); wander the belly of a guided missile submarine; and admire the engineering marvel of a supersonic Concorde, the fastest commercial aircraft to ever cross the Atlantic.
Here's everything you need to know to prepare for your visit:
What Will I See?
- Aircraft Carrier Intrepid: The museum's namesake and centerpiece, the former WWII-era aircraft carrier USS Intrepid (launched in 1943, it served tours of duty in WWII and the Vietnam War, before being decommissioned in 1974) sets the stage for most of the museum's exhibits. The vessel's top deck, or flight deck, is covered with a collection of military aircraft, representing all five branches of the U.S. armed forces (look out for an Avenger torpedo bomber and an A-12 Blackbird, the world's fastest military jet). (Bonus: The views of Midtown Manhattan from here are also part of the attraction.) Pop up into the carrier's navigation bridge, or see how naval personnel lived and worked in the berthing areas, mess deck, and pilot "ready room." The main hangar deck showcases even more planes and displays, as well as the Exploreum science/learning area, featuring hands-on exhibits (climb in a Bell 47 helicopter, steer the wings of an airplane, etc.) geared toward families.
- Space Shuttle Pavilion: Set within an exhibition hall that's accessible from the Intrepid's top deck, visitors to the Space Shuttle Pavilion (note: a supplementary ticketing fee of $5 to $7 applies) get to view the impressive space shuttle Enterprise firsthand, along with a Soyuz TMA-6 space capsule, related artifacts, and multimedia displays. The shuttle was the prototype NASA orbiter, and while it was never sent into space, it is credited with paving the way for the United States space shuttle program.
- Submarine Growler: The only American guided missile submarine that's open for public tours, the Growler (built in 1958) is docked alongside the Intrepid. Access is included with general admission, and proposes a fascinating peek inside life aboard a submarine and behind the controls of what was once a "top-secret" missile command center. (Note that kids under age 6 are not admitted; also, the claustrophobic need not apply.)
- British Airways Concorde: At the end of the pier that runs adjacent to the Intrepid, catch a glimpse of the record-breaking Concorde Alpha Delta G-BOAD—what was the fastest transatlantic passenger plane (it could complete the transit in under 3 hours), before being taken out of commission in 2003. Note that the supersonic plane can only be viewed from the exterior; access onboard is restricted to participants on one of the daily guided tours ($20/adults).
- Flight Simulators: The museum also offers a trio of high-tech flight simulators, carrying a supplemental charge of $9/each.
Are Guided Tours Available?
Yes. Though you're free to wander the massive museum guided by your own whims, several themed 45- to 100-minute guided tours (carrying a supplemental charge of $20/adults; $15/kids) do afford additional insights for those looking for a more in-depth understanding of topics like Intrepid's WWII history, military planes, and more. Note that a guided tour is the only way to get onboard the Concorde. Docents are well-informed, and oftentimes have military backgrounds.
What About Exhibitions and Special Events?
The museum hosts a rotating roster of special temporary exhibits. Currently on display is the excellent HUBBLE@25 exhibit (through September 14, 2015), which is dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Set within the museum's Space Shuttle Pavilion, visitors can view Hubble-shot images and check out supporting artifacts and multimedia displays.
The museum also hosts special sleepover programs, and can additionally coordinate children's birthday parties.
More Info: The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is open daily, year-round; plan on at least two to three hours for your visit. Admission is $24/adults, with discounts for children ($19, ages 7 to 17; $12 ages 3 to 6; free under 3), seniors, students, and military/veterans. Note there is a $5 to $7 supplement for entry to the Space Shuttle Pavilion. There is an Au Bon Pain serving soups, sandwiches, and snacks on the mess deck. The museum is located at Pier 86 (W. 46th St. & 12th Ave.) at Hudson River Park; tickets can be booked at intrepidmuseum.org.