My family is fortunate to live close enough to New York City that we make regular day trips into the city to explore different areas. You can read more about our suggestions for Things to Do in New York City on a Rainy Day (or a sunny day!) and Things to Do during the Holiday Season in New York City. We’ve driven by The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum several times and were invited to visit this past week ahead of the Fleet Week festivities.
The aircraft carrier Intrepid, operational between 1943-1974, served in World War II, the Cold War, Vietnam War, and as a NSAS recovery vessel in the 1960s before being decommissioned and opening as a museum in 1982. At any given date, there were between 2500-3500 male sailors- women never served aboard the Intrepid- and, in total, over 50,000 men served on board the Intrepid during its service. The Intrepid is now stationed at Pier 86 in the “Hell’s Kitchen” section on the West Side of Manhattan.
Traveling with Kids:
I wouldn’t recommend this museum for toddlers; personally, I’d be too concerned about their mobility (or lack therefof) moving around tight quarters, sneaking under roped off areas, and getting too close to the railings, even with the secure safety measures surrounding outer railings. I think any child over age 5 would enjoy it and know better how to navigate.
If you are traveling with children, or people with mobility or sensory concerns, this sensory guide is extremely helpful. It also includes information on restrooms and elevators.
Consider purchasing tickets online or as part of a CityPASS to avoid some of the wait when arriving. There are no timed tickets, and visitors may leave and return same day. Check here for more information about Free Fridays during select summer Friday evenings.
Also consider adding a tour; there are several options offered each day. I recommend the family friendly tour which also gets you into the museum and areas ahead of the daily opening. There is also an audio tour option, which is an additional charge.
There is no designated parking area for the Intrepid; check here for information on nearby garages.
Wear sneakers. The walking areas are clean and smooth but there are a lot of steep stairs.
There are two gift shops: one located inside Space Shuttle Pavilion and a larger gift shop near the exit to the complex.
Dining options include the Marketplace inside the Intrepid (pizza, sandwiches, wraps, and salads), the Aviator Grill above the gift shop, and seasonal outside concession vendors. There is plenty of indoor seating at the Marketplace and Grill and plenty of cement benches (they’re actually comfortable, and have great views!) for outside picnicking.
FifteenThings Kids Should Do Aboard the Intrepid:
The USS Growler is a Cold War era submarine that hid in the water off the coast of Russia from 1960-1964. While the Growler never launched a nuclear missile, it had nuclear missiles on board, along with a crew of 90 sailors. Today, the Growler is the only nuclear submarine open to visitors in America. Visitors must be at least 40” tall and able to navigate through a hatch. Because the Growler only allows a certain amount of visitors aboard at one time, lines form quickly- visit the Growler first. (Plan on 15 minutes for the museum portion and 20 minutes for touring the submarine)
1. Pretend to seek shelter under a school desk on display (will you fit?)
2. Experience the sensations of being onboard the Growler while at sea.
3. Guess the sound coming from the hydrophone (an underwater microphone)
4. Count the number of bunks in one area- some bunks are four beds high!
5. Pick a favorite spot aboard the submarine: the mess (dining room), galley (kitchen), helm (steering), radio room, or torpedo room.
Space Shuttle Pavilion houses the Enterprise, the prototype for the NASA orbiter at the beginning of the space shuttle program, as well as a large collection of memorabilia, photographs, and film clips. (Plan on 30-40 minutes to explore; visitors will need additional time (and there is an additional charge) for a mixed reality experience)
6. Climb the stairs (or take an elevator) to a platform for a close up look of the Enterprise.
7. Peek inside a Soyuz TMA-6, a Russian space capsule that launched in 2005.
8. Read about the influence space exploration has on everyday items like spray bottles, hand warmers, and air purifiers.
9. Compare details of all six space shuttles in the program fleet.
Navigation Flight Bridge and Island is the tower that rises from the flight deck where commanding officers oversaw the navigation of the ship. (Plan on 20-30 minutes to explore the area. Visitors must be able to climb very steep steps and walk through narrow passages)
10. Check out the view from the Admiral’s Bridge, one of the highest spots on the ship.
11. Chart a course in the chart house, stacked with various maps of past adventures.
Flight Deck has a collection of 20 aircraft vehicles from all five branches of the US armed forces, and some tours allow for visitors to sit inside the aircrafts. Check here for fun facts about each of the aircrafts. Plan to spend 20-30 minutes reading the placards and checking out all of the aircrafts)
12. Pick a favorite aircraft. Our favorites included a seaguard helicopter, phantom fighter, tiger supersonic fighter, and a Lockheed A-12 Blackbird which can flies 2,300 miles per hour!
Intrepid Hangar Decks have interactive exhibitions, a collection of TBM-3E Avenger Aircrafts, and the Fo’c’sle, which includes various living quarters of the officers. (Plan to spend one hour exploring the Hangers, not including the Exploreum.) Note: some children may be scared of the Kamikaze Experience, which replicated the November 1944 event when two airplanes crashed into the Intrepid, killing 69 crew members. There are loud, starling noises and some emotional narration.
13. Check out the 1:40 scale, 22 foot long replica of the Intrepid made with 250,000 legos.
14. Compare your size with one of the four propellers used to operate the ship.
Exploreum, located in Hanger 3, is the spot for little kids (and kids at heart!) The interactive hall has lots of hands on experiments to give kids a feel for what it was like to live aboard the Intrepid. (Plan on 30-40 minutes for kids to explore the entire exhibit)
15. Climb inside a cockpit of a mock intruder bomber air fighter, stand in the island to steer the ship, and climb into a bunk for a rest.
Bonus: Leave time to speak with at least one of the crew members of the Intrepid. Each day, former crew members give talks, answer questions, and recount adventures to visitors. Attend one of the free educational sessions offered throughout the day in numerous spots in the complex.
Looking for more submarine history? Read about our adventures at the HS Nautilus in Groton, CT here. If you want more nautical fun, check out this post of 15 places to see boats on the East Coast.and follow along on our adventures on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Disclaimer: My family was given a media pass to explore the Intrepid. All opinions expressed are my own.