The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on 13 October 2016.

©Lewis Tse Pui Lung/Shutterstock

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum


In WWII, under heavy enemy fire, the USS Intrepid endured a torpedo strike and four kamikaze attacks, but this hulking aircraft carrier survived to tell the tale. Moored today at Pier 86 on the Hudson River in New York, the warship is now the focal point of a multimillion-dollar interactive military museum that explains the Intrepid's wartime history using videos, historical artifacts and frozen-in-time living quarters.

For most visitors, the highlight is the flight deck, with a squadron of fighter planes and military helicopters that may inspire you to shell out a few extra dollars for the museum's high-tech flight simulators. Even if you're not into the subject matter, the ship is an impressive piece of hardware, and a visit is irresistibly absorbing. And yes, the curious, fan-made Star Trek: Intrepid TV series was named after this famous aircraft carrier!

The space shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
The Space Shuttle Enterprise on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum ©Alarax/Shutterstock

The USS Intrepid experience

Looking almost battle-ready in New York harbor, the USS Intrepid calls out to grown-up kids who love getting close to big machines. As well as touring the crew quarters and the mechanical innards of the aircraft carrier, including the elevator that delivers fighter planes from the bowels of the ship to its floating runway, you can wander around the vast flight deck, dotted with an eclectic collection of flying machines.

For most people, the pick of the planes is Concorde – this particular aircraft flew for British Airways before retiring in 2003. Also worthy of note are the deeply weird Grumman E1B Tracer, and the Lockheed A-12 surveillance plane, almost certainly the sexiest aircraft ever created. Other highlights for aircraft spotters include fighters, bombers and helicopters, including a distinctive Vietnam War-era ‘Huey’.

The ‘space’ part arrives in the form of the Enterprise, NASA's first space shuttle orbiter from the 1970s. It’s housed in the hangar-sized Space Shuttle Pavilion and displays inside recreate the life of an astronaut in space. The museum is also home to the guided-missile submarine Growler, whose cramped spaces offer a taste of the claustrophobic life of a submarine crew.

Hands-on exhibits include flight simulators like the G Force Encounter, allowing you to experience the virtual thrill of flying a supersonic jet plane. The museum is one of New York's top attractions for families with young kids – look under the Education tab on the website for current kid-friendly activities. Fun, hour-long weekend educational activity sessions are themed to current exhibits and are free with admission.

Vintage fighter on the flight deck of USS Intrepid
Vintage warplanes crowd the flight deck of the USS Intrepid ©PnPy/Shutterstock


The USS Intrepid currently docked in New York harbour is actually the fourth US Navy vessel to carry the name. The first Intrepid was a Libyan sailing ship, seized by the US during the First Barbary War in 1803, and two more Intrepids sailed under US colours before the current warship was commissioned in 1943 to serve in the Pacific during WWII.

Initially stationed in Pearl Harbour, the Essex-class aircraft carrier saw action in a string of naval battles, most famously the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, the largest naval engagement of WWII. As Japan and America struggled for control of the Pacific, the warship was targeted by repeated kamikaze raids, with four direct hits that caused many fatalities but failed to put the ship out of operation.

Post-WWII, the USS Intrepid was primarily engaged in low-key Cold War operations, aside from a brief stint as the support vessel for the 1962 Mercury-Atlas 7 space mission. The carrier returned to battle for the last time during the Vietnam War. After 31 years of active duty, the Intrepid was finally decommissioned in 1974; she narrowly escaped being scrapped before finding a new life as a floating museum on New York’s Hudson River in 1982.

View across the flight deck of the USS Intrepid
The Intrepid's flight deck is a plane-spotter's playground ©EQRoy/Shutterstock

Tickets & Practicalities

General admission tickets include access to the aircraft carrier, the Space Shuttle Pavilion, the Growler submarine and temporary exhibitions. There’s an extra charge for the flight simulators, audio tours, guided tours, and special tours of the first class cabin and flight deck of Concorde. Buying tickets in advance is a smart policy – under normal circumstances, tours run at fixed times daily, with special early morning tours at 9am on weekends.

Access the Intrepid from Pier 86, conveniently close to the myriad attractions of Midtown. There's a family-friendly grill restaurant on site, but eating is only permitted in designated areas, so consider bringing a picnic to munch on shore in the adjacent Hudson River Park or nearby DeWitt Clinton Park in Hell's Kitchen.



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