Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

33 USD


4.4/5 Pros

  • Huge and very versatile collection
  • Visiting the key facilities of a WW2 aircraft carrier
  • Unique views of Manhattan Cons

  • At most average public transport connection
  • Quite a lot of additional fee places

Especially as a German aviation enthusiast, being on board of an aircraft carrier is just a cool experience again and again. One of the museum places where this is possible is the West shore of Manhattan, where the USS Intrepid has been turned into a museum. The Essex class vessel operated from 1943 until 1974 and became a museum ship in 1982. I (again) visited the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in October 2023.


Intrepid Museum – Location & Admission

The former aircraft carrier is located at Pier 86, which is more or less West of 46th Street. There is a bus stop right in front of the vessel (12Av/W 46 St, bus line M50), By Subway, the location of the museum is not ideal. Best options are 50 St (lines A,C, E) and 34 t Hudson Yards (line 7), which both require a bit of walking. The Manhattan Cruise Terminal is close to the pier and Circle Line has one of their sightseeing cruise starting points just two piers away. It is of course also possible to visit the Intrepid by car, if you feel like driving Manhattan. There is some parking around, I did not check out for the price, though.

During spring and summer months (April to September, the Intrepid Museum is open daily, 10:00 to 17:00, with a prolonged opening time to 18:00 on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Few selected days even come with a 9:00 opening. The other months, there is a general opening from 10:00 to 17:00. You may enter up to one hour before closing – but as that would be a big hassle and there may be queues, I would not arrive there later than three hours before closing. The nominal adult admission during our visit was 33 USD. There is the possibility to pre-purchase a timed ticket as well. We used the New York Sightseeing Pass. Please bear in mind that all special exhibitions (e.g. a VR about the Space Shuttle or visiting the Concorde) is at an additional fee. At the time of publishing, the Concorde is closed for maintenance.


Intrepid Museum – The Visit

The museum complex is huge. Roughly, you can split your visit into aviation and space exhibits, exploring the vessel itself and additional experiences. My split does not full work out, as your general admission also includes access to the submarine SSG-577 USS Growler. Nonetheless, I roughly try to split this posting in that style, splitting between on deck and under deck exhibits. Documentation is very good and in English only. There used to be audio guides pre-Covid-19.


Control Tower

You are free to visit the the museum in any order you like, but especially if you are early, it might make sense to start from the top of the vessel and go for the control tower first. You enter the tower from deck level. One really nice feature is that some of the ship’s staff has in fact maritime experience or even served on the Intrepid. The staff has been amazing throughout my visit, so that you got a lot of information about the ship and how life on such a huge vessel used to work out. You can visit quite a bunch of facilities, including cabins, instrument rooms and – of course – the bridge. Apart from exploring the technical features, this part of your visit also gives you some of the coolest and most unique views of Manhattan.


Flight Deck Exhibitions

The former flight deck also features quite a bunch of military airplanes. There might be other museums which do a similarly good job in presenting historic planes. However, it is again the view you got from the USS Intrepid, which leads to a special experience. The set of planes in display range from a 1942 Grumman/Eastern TMB-3E Avenger to comparably exotic ones like the 1979 Italian military Aermacchi MB-339.

The “star” of the flight deck exhibits is, however, located in a pavillion on the very opposite side of flight deck. The 1977 Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise is definitely one of the key attractions to many visitors. This part of your visit comes with some additional exhibits and also introduces you to the people in space. The space vehicle as such is impressive – but if you have been at Cape Canaveral, for example, you might not be absolutely overwhelmed. A VR experience at an additional charge might give you a better idea about space flight, though.


Under Deck Exhibitions

Similarly, you can explore onboard life and the former military facilities as well as visit other exhibits while being under deck. The first pictures show the facilities. Especially the design of the cabins which finally don’t offer too much privacy to the soldiers are very interesting. I also like “functional areas” like the mess and exploring how all these facilities differ by the rank you are having.

Especially in and around the hangar deck, the museum offers some really interesting exhibits as well. There are some displays of the ship’s equipment, but also a 1:40 scale model of the vessel in interlockable building bricks by the Danish market lead. The hangar deck is also large enough to feature some more planes in display. In this part of the ship, there is also the Exploreum Hall, which is more interactive and aims to explain the life on an aircraft carrier and the facilities around it to younger visitors.


Additional Exhibits

During our visit, you could enter the Concorde for an additional ticket. As I had the excellent Concorde Technical Tour in Manchester, U.K., before, I skipped that one. The lines to enter the submarine Growler were really long that day. In addition, I don’t feel that comfortable inside a submarine, so that we finally decided not to go for that experience. There are some other shows and experiences for an additional fee.


Intrepid Museum – Services

You can have some snacks in the ship mess. In addition, there is a snack booth in front of the aircraft carrier. Especially if you go for an intensive experience and deep-dive into all the stories told by the museum, a break in between might definitely be necessary. There is a souvenir store at the exit of the museum. Of course, some of the special exhibits like the Space Shuttle feature their additional opportunity to spend some money of hardware memories as well.


Intrepid Museum – My View

Exploring the sheer size of an aircraft carrier, looking inside a Concorde, seeing some historic planes and more. There is quite a bunch of things to do on board the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The admission feels relatively high at first sight, but the value for money is really fine. Having a deeper look into the engines and other facilities of the huge ship would cool – but I guess that would also exceed the staff capacities and other constraints. Last, but not least, there are the great and unique views of Manhattan – I love that! Local transport could be better, though.


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