OK, my husband is a bit of a history nut. And if your spouse is in the submarine force, I might just assume you’re in the same boat as me. No pun intended. Given their locations and naval history, it should come as no surprise so many submarine duty stations are home to unique maritime museums. With COVID-19 precautions in place, several museums are temporarily closed, while some are open with limited capacity.
Whether you’re eager to get out and explore your local area or you want to bookmark these for another time, here are nine unique museums to explore:
Bangor, WA: US Naval Undersea Museum
Located in Keyport, Washington, the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum is the only official Navy museum that interprets all of the Navy’s undersea activities. The museum is home to the country’s more comprehensive collective of U.S. Navy artifacts, documents and reference material related to undersea subjects. Specialty collections include diving and salvage, submarine technology, unmanned underwater vehicles, torpedoes, mines and more.
Covid-19 Updates: Unfortunately, the museum is closed until at least November 1, 2020. In the meantime the museum is offering free virtual tours and various STEM resources online. For more information, click here.
Groton, CT: Submarine Force Museum – USS Nautilus Museum
Known as the “submarine capital of the world,” Groton is home to the Submarine Force Museum – USS Nautilus Museum, located along the Thames River, next to the Naval Submarine Base New London. Visitors can climb aboard and tour the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered vessel. The museum offers more than a dozen unique exhibits, with detailed timelines of the history of the U.S. submarine force. The museum also offers free scavenger hunts (available online), guided tours and more special events throughout the year. We’ll do a larger feature on this soon!
Groton, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum
Located in nearby in the same namesake town, the Mystic Seaport Museum is a must-visit. Founded in 1929, the museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” The museum grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River and include a recreated New England coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The museum houses more than 500 historic watercraft, including the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship.
COVID-19 Updates: Mystic Seaport Museum reopened on May 23, with access to outdoor exhibits, top decks of historic ships, family activities on the Village Green and more. Face masks are required indoors and outdoors, per Connecticut state regulations. For more details, click here.
Guam: Pacific War Museum
The Pacific War Museum contains exhibits related to the military in the Pacific during World War II. With a focus on the U.S. Marines, the museum was founded by the late John Vincent Pangelinan Gerber, a retired marine. He ingeniously spent his retirement efforts creating the museum out of freight containers. The museum contains some of Guam’s war wreckage, artifacts and memorabilia from World War II, as well as war maps, aerial photographs, medals, insignias, and commemorative medallions.
COVID-19 Updates: We could not find any COVID-19 updates online. For more information, contact the museum at 1-671-477-8355.
Kings Bay, GA: St. Mary’s Submarine Museum
St. Mary’s Submarine Museum is the largest museum of its kind in the south, and the fifth largest in the country with nearly 5,000 square feet of space “jam-packed” with exhibits and displays on two floors. The museum is a great place to learn about the “silent service,” dedicated to educating, preserving and sharing the rich history and legacy of the submarine force and all the men and women who have served and are currently serving our nation. More than 99% of all WW II submarine combat war patrol reports are housed here, and files on nearly every submarine the United States has or has had in service as part of the collection. The museum also houses a real submarine Type 2 periscope guests can use to view the beautiful St. Mary’s waterfront and beyond.
COVID-19 Updates: St. Mary’s Submarine Museum is currently closed. For the latest updates, be sure to check out their Facebook page.
Norfolk, VA: Nauticus & Battleship Wisconsin
Nauticus is a maritime-themed science center and museum located on the downtown waterfront in Norfolk. The museum is also home to the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest battleships ever built and a key vessel used in World War II, earning five battle stars for service against Japanese forces. The museum features hands-on exhibits, interactive theaters, aquaria, digital high-definition films and an extensive variety of educational programs. Nauticus has a high-definition large screen theater and shows several nautically-related films on a rotating basis.
COVID-19 Updates: The Nauticus reopened in July with new precautions, operating only at 50% capacity, requiring face masks, touch-free payment process, and more. For more information on their safety precautions, click here.
Honolulu, HI: Pearl Harbor National Memorial
A National Historic Landmark, Pearl Harbor of course is also an active military base. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is part of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, a National Park Service site. Pearl Harbor consistently ranks among the top three most heavily-visited tourist destinations ina ll of Hawai’i, with an average of 4,000 daily visitors. The memorial includes four distinct areas: The USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
COVID-19 Updates: Following guidance from national, state and local public health authorities, the National Park System is increasing access and services in a phased approach across all parks. As of August 27, Pearl Harbor National Memorial is temporarily closed. For the latest updates, be sure to follow the Pearl Harbor Facebook page.
Portsmouth, NH: USS Albacore Submarine & Museum
The USS Albacore is a research submarine, designed by the U.S. Navy to test experimental features used in modern submarines. Today, visitors can explore Albacore Park, which houses the preserved submarine. Visitors can look through the periscope, explore the control room, engineering spaces and bunk rooms, and hear crew members tell of things that happened when they were at sea. The museum offers self-guided tours, with a series of audio stations and recordings to tap into. The museum also features a visitor center and gift shop, as well as a memorial garden to preserve the memory of those who have served on U.S. submarines.
COVID-19 Updates: The Albacore Park is now open Thursday-Sunday, no reservations needed. Face masks are required, and no children 2 or under are not permitted.
San Diego, CA: USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway Museum is a historical naval aircraft carrier museum located in the heart of downtown San Diego. The ship houses more than 30 restored aircraft and nearly 10 acres of exhibits and displays. From high up on the bridge down to the main engine room, visitors can transport themselves through a unique warship journey. The museum hosts a variety of programs and events (pre-COVID), from Movie Night Sleepovers and Family Fun Fridays to Little Skippers and Overnight Adventures.
COVID-19 Updates: The USS Midway Museum is now open! New safety protocols include timed, online tickets, face mask requirements and bring your own earbuds for audio tours. To read all about the precautions, click here.
Washington, D.C.: National Museum of the U.S. Navy
The National Museum of the U.S. Navy is the flagship museum of the United States Navy, located on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The museum was established in 1961 and collects, preserves, displays and interprets historic naval artifacts and artwork to inform, education and inspire naval personnel and the general public. Permanent and temporary exhibitions commemorate the Navy’s wartime heroes and battles. The museum attracts more than 90,000 individuals every year, and admission is free.
COVID-19 Updates: The museum is temporarily closed, but for the latest updates make sure to visit their Facebook page.
Did we miss any museums? Comment below and let us know, we’d love to add to the list!