SAN DIEGO -- The
aircraft carrier Midway, which was involved in major world events
in the 47 years it served the U.S. Navy, has become San Diegos
newest visitor attraction.
The carrier was
decommissioned in 1992 but was taken out of mothballs and
transformed into the nations largest aircraft carrier museum after
veterans and civic leaders raised $8 million for the
In June, the
first month of its opening, 100,000 people toured the Midway, some
of them veterans who came from all over the U.S. to revisit the
ship on which they had served and to show their friends and family,
said Scott McGaugh, the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museums director
But its amazing
how strong of an appeal the ship has to people with no relationship
to it, he said. Its a big hit with everyone.
as museums are nothing new, but Reint Reinders, president of the
San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the southern
California city may be in a prime position to benefit the most from
having the attraction.
The four other
carriers open to the public in the U.S. are the Hornet in Alameda,
Calif.; the Intrepid in New York; the Lexington in Corpus Christi,
Texas; and the Yorktown in Charleston, S.C.
San Diego has the
largest naval complex in the world, and we really have no museum of
any major significance to recognize the Navy and its past, Reinders
said, so what better way to provide a tribute to San Diegos naval
history than to have an aircraft carrier?
The city attracts
14 million overnight visitors a year, and an estimated 1 million of
them come to San Diego for reasons related to the military, he
said, so the presence of the Midway may generate more trips or
cause travelers to add a day to their planned trips.
Area hotels have
created commissionable packages combining admission to the Midway
with overnight stays. An example is the Hilton San Diego Mission
Valley, which is offering two admission tickets, two trolley passes
and an overnight stay, starting at $119 per room per night, through
history in the center of international events is one reason for the
great interest. The carrier, commissioned just days after the
Japanese surrender in World War II, sailed the seas during the
entire length of the Cold War, the Vietnam War and Desert
The Midway was
the first aircraft carrier to sail amid icebergs in the Arctic
Circle. In 1947, a German V-2 rocket was launched from the ship, an
experiment marking the advancement of naval missile
Visitors to the Midway take a
two- to three-hour, self-guided audio tour that is included in the
price of admission ($13 for adults; $10 for seniors and those with
military or college ID; $7 for youths ages 6 to 17; free for those
age 6 and under or in uniformed active duty).
In the audio
program, a narrator describes 30 exhibits. Interviews with Midway
veterans, ranging from young sailors to former commanding officers,
describe life at sea.
four acres of flight deck, the island superstructure (including the
bridge and traffic control tower), berthing spaces where they can
see where some of the crew of 4,500 slept and one of the ships six
galleys, which together cooked and served 13,000 meals a
There are about a
dozen aircraft, from World War II planes to modern jets, on
display. More are being added each month as they are
Visitors can also
strap themselves into flight simulators (for an additional cost)
for a feeling of soaring into the air from the deck of a
location at Navy Pier downtown also is a draw. On view just across
the bay are three more carriers -- the new Ronald Reagan, the
Stennis and the Nimitz -- all home-ported in San Diego. A short
walk away is the new Petco Park baseball stadium and the cruise
terminal, where sailings are growing in number.
Were working with
Holland America and Carnival to create pre- and post-cruise
packages since the ships dock practically adjacent to the Midway.
Its ideal because cruise passengers are typically older and more
nostalgic, so they will want to see the Midway and relive its
history, Reinders said.
information, call (619) 544-9600 or visit the Web at www.midway.org. For
hotels offering packages, see www.sandiego.org.
reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].