It was both exciting and intriguing to wander through narrow passages and climb stairs leading to four different deck levels during a recent visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. As we passed the Berthing Area on the third deck, we listened to the recording of a veteran describing life on board the 900-foot ship. He recalled how at night he would escape the intense heat of the sleeping quarters by climbing up to the flight deck. There, he lay looking up at the brilliant stars and feeling proud to serve on such an amazing ship.
That sense of pride is shared by the staff and volunteers who work at the museum, located at Pier 86 in Manhattan. The Intrepid welcomes more than 915,000 visitors each year, and its flight deck has one of the most varied and unique aircraft collections in the country. The USS Growler submarine and the Concorde aircraft are part of the museum experience.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour or an audio tour or choose from four themed tours led by a museum guide. We chose the audio tour that includes 55 stops of interest. At many of those stops, veterans who once served on the Intrepid are on hand to answer questions. A special child-oriented audio tour features 17 stops and includes information about the hangar deck, the ship's bell, the Navy planes and the Mercury space capsule.
"The Story of Intrepid," an 8-minute film that is shown in the theater on the hangar deck, provides a nice overview before setting out on the tour. Here visitors learn that the ship was commissioned in 1943 and served in World War II. In addition, the Intrepid was one of the primary recovery vessels for NASA, did three tours of duty off Vietnam and conducted submarine surveillance in the North Atlantic during the Cold War. In 1976 the Intrepid was headed for the scrap heap when the Intrepid Foundation came to its rescue. In 2001 the Intrepid served the country once again when it became the center for FBI operations following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
It's a good idea for families to take the full tour of the museum before returning to the hangar deck to spend time in the Exploreum Hall. This 13,000-square-foot interactive exhibition space is the most visited area of the ship. It features 18 exhibits divided into four zones Ð water, space, air and life at sea.
At the end of the visit, families can stop for sandwiches or light snacks in the restaurant at the visitor's center or in the mess deck on the Intrepid. When the weather allows, visitors can eat lunch at picnic tables along Pier 86 while enjoying wonderful views of the aircraft carrier, the Hudson River and the New Jersey skyline.
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is located at Pier 86, W. 46th St and 12th Ave., NYC. The fall/winter hours through March 31 are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Spring/summer hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week and holidays. Admission is $24; $20 seniors; $19 ages 7 through 17; $17 veterans; $12 ages 3 through 6; and free to active duty U.S. military, retired U.S. military and children under 3.
Additional charges for audio and guided tours as well as for the simulators. For more information, call (877) 957-7447 or visit www.intrepidmuseum.org.