If your vacation to-do list includes experiencing life on a submarine, piloting a Navy fighter jet, standing under a space shuttle and boarding the International Space Station, good news: you can experience what it’s like to do all of those over the course of one afternoon in New York City.
The centerpiece of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is the aircraft carrier Intrepid, a technological marvel that once served in World War II, the Cold War, the Space Race and the Vietnam War, and is now permanently docked on Midtown Manhattan’s west side. Today it functions as a cultural institution dedicated to the intersection of history and innovation. Many first-time visitors to the Intrepid Museum are enthusiastic about its flight deck, and that’s understandable—it’s filled with dozens of the fastest planes from the United States and countries around the world. But there’s much more to Intrepid than just the flight deck. Below, we’ve rounded up some other great things to see while you’re on board.
Space Shuttle Pavilion and More Space Exploration
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the historic 1969 Apollo 11 mission, when American astronauts first set foot on the moon, so it’s a fitting time to learn more about space exploration. The Space Shuttle Pavilion is a great place to start; it features the Enterprise, the prototype orbiter that NASA used as the basis of its future space shuttles.
The pavilion includes an exhibition about women in space, a peek into astronauts’ daily lives and a VR station that mimics the experience of being aboard the International Space Station. There’s also a new installation, Apollo 11: Media, the Moon and Beyond, which focuses on the moon landing as seen through television news reports from the 1960s. The ship itself served as a recovery vessel in space-flight programs Project Mercury and Project Gemini, so it’s steeped in space-exploration history.
Real Former Crew Members
One of the most amazing things about the Intrepid is that a number of former crew members—who worked while the ship was in service during World War II, Vietnam and other junctures—volunteer to help tell the ship’s story. They’ll gladly answer your questions if you’re lucky enough to cross their paths.
Flight simulators available onboard the Intrepid will help you experience some measure of what it’s like to pilot a jet. Among the options is the G-Force Encounter, which allows participants to feel the physical sensations of piloting a supersonic aircraft, complete with spins and twists from within a realistic two-person cockpit. Other simulators showcase true stories from Intrepid pilots and a flight with the legendary Blue Angels.
If you want to step onboard a guided-missile submarine, this is your chance; it’s the only American vehicle of its kind open to the public. The sub patrolled along the coast of the USSR during the Cold War. Visitors can explore its control room, mess and torpedo room to see how its crew lived. It’s tough to spend months at a time in a confined space, but they did have checkers, cards and cribbage, plus a handful of movies (shown on a film projector) to help pass the moments.
While the supersonic Concorde has not transported passengers since 2003, you can still venture into its cabin at the Intrepid (or, more precisely, on the pier next to the Intrepid) at a savings of thousands compared to what it cost to cross the Atlantic on the famous airplane. You will, naturally, spend some time sitting in first class. The tours last 45 to 60 minutes, and you should book in advance.
2019 brought two brand-new 3-D movies to the Intrepid, and you can only see them at the museum. Journey to Space, narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation, gives an optimistic look at NASA’s future, during which they hope to capture asteroids and land humans on Mars. Those goals may be a distant possibility, but this high-tech film conveys the excitement of working toward them. Aircraft Carrier: Guardian of the Seas, meanwhile, gives viewers a visually stunning look at how a nuclear aircraft carrier and its 5,000 crew members work to keep waterways safe and free.
Hard Hat Tour
Visitors ages 16 and up are welcome to book this tour, which takes them behind the scenes into parts of the ship that are not usually open to the public. The two- to three-hour session includes visits to the emergency generator room and sick bay, and involves passing under low ceilings and down steep ladders. If you do go on the tour, you’ll get to hold onto your hard hat as a keepsake.
If you’re hungry during your visit to the museum, try the Aviator Grill. The on-site restaurant, located on the second floor of the Welcome Center, at West 46th Street and Twelfth Avenue, serves a full breakfast and lunch menu with staples like burgers, sandwiches, pizza, salads, soups and pastries—and the Aviator Grill staff bakes its bread fresh on the premises.