USS Midway Museum#10 in Best Things To Do in San Diego
San Diego is a big military town. You'll likely see bases scattered about while exploring the city, especially around parts of the San Diego Bay. The USS Midway is one of these affiliated sites that offers an insider's look into what is normally closed off to the public. The USS Midway is the longest-serving American aircraft carrier of the 20th century, having played host to 225,000 sailors over the course of its life. This historical relic offers patrons the opportunity to explore 60 different exhibits and 29 restored aircraft aboard, including some that have flown in World War II, Operation Desert Storm and the Korean War. During the self-guided audio tour, you'll see the crew's sleeping quarters, the engine room, the ship's jail and the primary flight control room, among other areas of the 4-acre flight deck. There are also flight simulators, fo'c'sle knot tying demonstrations and a cafe when you start to feel peckish on-site.
Travelers say the audio guides are informative, but they also recommend stopping to listen to the knowledgeable volunteer docents (many of them military veterans, some of which served on the ship) stationed throughout the museum. There is so much to see and learn, many visitors reported spending several hours here while some ended up staying the entire day. Even if you aren't necessarily a history buff, those with little interest in the attraction before visiting called it a must-see. Many were keen to note how much the USS Midway made them appreciate the military members past and present for their service. Because this is one of San Diego's most popular attractions, it's best to get here early to avoid ticket lines and crowds.
You'll find the USS Midway Museum located about half a mile south of the Maritime Museum on North Harbor Drive. The museum is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last admission is at 4 p.m. Tickets for adults cost $23; senior admission is $19; children (ages 6 to 12) and retired military get in for $10. Save $1 on each admission by purchasing tickets on the museum's website.
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#1 Balboa Park
Home to the renowned San Diego Zoo. this 1,200-acre park is the city's cultural hub. Located in downtown San Diego (about 2 miles north of the city center), Balboa Park is a great place for a stroll, bike ride or picnic. Wander around the park's many gardens while admiring the intricate Spanish-Renaissance architecture that permeates the grounds (the best examples are the California Building and the House of Hospitality). The Botanical Building is a great starting point in Balboa Park. The building is one of the most photographed places in Balboa Park and is one of the largest lath structures in the world. But don't just look at it. The famous botanical building features more than 2,100 permanent plants, including striking collections of tropical plants and orchids. The park also features a cactus garden, rose garden, a Japanese-style garden as well as a palm tree canyon, among many others.
But if you find yourself growing antsy just walking around and smelling the roses, there are plenty of attractions located here (many of them free). Take in a show at the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theatre, visit the Spreckels Organ Pavilion to see one of the world's largest outdoor pipe organs, or the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater if you got the kiddos in tow. Museums are just as aplenty, with enough to suit all types of interests. Art lovers will enjoy the San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts and Mingei International Museum while science enthusiasts will enjoy the Fleet Science Center and the Museum of Man. If you're traveling as a family, take some time to check out the San Diego Air & Space Museum or the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the world's largest operating model railroad museum. There's also an automotive museum and the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum, dedicated entirely to San Diego's sports history.
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