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Tuesday 22 March 2016

USS Midway Museum, San Diego

When we travel I like to try to add a little variety to our vacation. I'm not a fan of doing the same thing every day when we're away - we get enough of that at home! On vacation I like to fit in as many different experiences as possible, without making our days too busy, of course! I like to make sure that we visit places that will to appeal to everyone in the family. Obviously, that's not always easy, but I've found that if just one person in our family is excited about a place we're visiting, their enthusiasm rubs off on the rest of the family and we all end up having a great time. Well, most of the time. Sometimes toddlers can take a little more convincing! 

Anyway, our Southern California road trip over the Winter Break was a great example of a trip full of variety. Over the course of almost two weeks we visited many different places. While we all enjoyed every place we visited some were definitely more geared towards the kids. Think Legoland, San Diego Zoo, the beach and national parks. While a few places were more up my alley like The Broad Art Gallery, Hearst Castle and the Madonna Inn. Then there was one place that was at the top of Kim's must see list: USS Midway Museum in San Diego. 

Much like the USS Hornet here in San Francisco Bay, the Midway is a decommissioned aircraft carrier turned museum. Only much bigger! In fact, when it was commissioned in 1945, the Midway was the largest ship in the world. It held this title for a decade and was the first ship too large to fit through the Panama Canal. That's a huge ship! 

Commissioned just one week after the end of World War 2, the Midway took part in many operations during its almost 50 years of service, including the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War. It was decommissioned in 1992 and opened as a museum in 2004. During it's working years, the Midway boasted a crew of up to 4,500. Now as a museum, the Midway hosts 1 million visitors annually - and I think that most of those were there the same day as us! Ok, not quite. But just like San Diego Zoo the day before, the Midway was absolutely packed with visitors. Good thing it's a big ship!

We visited the Midway on a particularly wet day but happened to arrive during a lull in the rain, so we headed straight up to the Flight Deck to check it out before the rain came back. The girls were pretty excited to see all of the planes, helicopters and vehicles on display - especially any that they could climb inside of. In fact, anything they could interact with was a big hit with the girls. Now I'm no expert when it comes to planes and helicopters (or aircraft carriers!) so rather than me attempting to explain what any of these aircraft are, let's just look at the pictures!  

One thing I do know for sure about aircraft carriers is that they have a lot of space on the flight deck for crazy dance moves!

With the Midway being located right next to Downtown San Diego there are some pretty stunning city views from the flight deck. I quite like the contrast between the fighter planes and the skyscrapers. We also had a pretty great view over Seward Johnson's Unconditional Surrender sculpture located right next to the Midway. I had hoped to go see the sculpture up close after we left the Midway but by then the rain was pretty heavy so we gave it a miss.

The rain settled in again once we'd checked out all of the aircraft on display on the flight deck forcing all of the visitors inside. We had hoped to tour the control tower and captain's bridge above the flight deck, however with so many of our fellow visitors cramming into this relatively small space during the rain it was just a little crowded. So instead we headed down to the hangar deck for lots more hands on fun.

In the control rooms we found radar machines to play with, old telephones to dial and have pretend conversations on, and fighter pilot training seats perfect for pretending to be fighter pilots. Oh, and buttons and knobs. Lots and lots of buttons and knobs. Whole walls of them! Let me tell you, Lola and Mathilde were totally in their element. Getting them to leave the room full of buttons and knobs was no easy task!

After pressing all the buttons and twiddling all the knobs, we headed down to the lower deck, AKA the "City at Sea" to have a look at what life at sea would have been like for the crew of the Midway. As always when we visit ships, the girls were keen to go see where the crew slept. Of course, there were many different sleeping quarters to see, but the girls were most excited by the bunk beds that they could climb on. Not quite as nice as their own bunk beds at home, but fun to climb on all the same. Lola was also quite impressed by a particular seat that she was convinced was a toilet! I have a feeling it may have been for bathing, but let's just go with pretending it was a toilet. Who knows, maybe it was!

Several of the rooms on the lower deck are set up just as they would have been when the Midway was in service, complete with mannequin crew members. The girls thought that these displays were pretty cool, especially the cafeteria and the operating theater. 

While we couldn't enter the rooms with the mannequin displays, we did find a dental surgery that the girls were able to play in. Lola just had to try out the dentist chair and say aahh.

Our time spent on the lower deck took us through to the end of the day and time to say goodbye to the Midway. We all had such a great time on the Midway. What started out as a place that we were visiting specifically for Kim turned out to be a place that the whole family enjoyed. If you're visiting San Diego make sure you get yourself to the USS Midway Museum. It really is a fantastic place for the whole family.

USS Midway Museum is located at 910 North Harbor Drive, San Diego alongside Navy Pier.

For ticketing information, opening hours and more visit http://www.midway.org/

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