Manhattan is probably not the first place you'd think of to find an aircraft carrier. But there it is, docked halfway up the island. The USS Intrepid is more than just a retired naval vessel. It's the most visible part of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Iconic airplanes ranging from F-14 and F-16s, to the Concorde and the Space Shuttle, to the submarine USS Growler, are all on display.
Here's a full photo tour of these epic vehicles and museum.
After you get your ticket, you enter the pier that acts as the main grounds. Ahead, you can see the points and curves of the Concorde. To your right, the bulbous USS Growler. Dominating your entire field of view to your left, is the Intrepid itself.
The Concorde sits by itself at the end of the pier. No less gorgeous and futuristic than when new, this incredible aircraft looks ready to take to the supersonic skies with just a bit more runway. You can't get onboard the Concorde anymore without a special tour (usually once per hour, 10am-4pm daily, sometimes more).
After making your way back toward the entrance, you can take the stairs up to the top deck of the Intrepid, and wander between the rows of aircraft. Some, like the F-14 and Intruder, look at home here. Their wings folded back as they would have been on a carrier during active duty.
Others, like the A-12, the precursor to the SR-71, look fascinating but decidedly out of place. The A-12's size is deceptive. On one hand, it's long and oddly proportioned, yet it's still quite small compared to other aircraft (the Concorde is significantly bigger, for instance). Even the F-14, though not actually larger, looks larger. Or at least more bulky.Above the stern, inside the new hangar/pavilion, a post-Sandy addition, is the Space Shuttle Enterprise. While it was never sent into space, it is certainly no less impressive in person.
Making your way back down the deck, you can ascend up to the Island to the bridge and many other parts of the brains of the ship. The view here of Manhattan and the Hudson River is fantastic. It's easy to imagine what the ship looked like in its heyday.
There are multiple ways down, but eventually you want to make your way down to the main hangar deck. Along with more planes and displays, a long wall tells of the long history of the Intrepid. Here the tour gets rather fractured. You can make your way up to the bow, where the marine berthings are, and the anchor chain room and hurricane deck, or head aft to the Exploreum "kids" science/learning area, and the fantail. Above the hangar deck is the CIC, pilot ready room, and communications. Below are the galley, crew mess, and bunks. The galley is also home to a café, because where else would you put one?
If there's a weak spot in the Intrepid Museum, it's ironically the Intrepid itself. You get highlights of interesting areas, but it's all behind plexiglass, and many areas, like the engine room, are off limits. The larger Midway in San Diego, offers far better ship access.
Outside, the Growler waits. It's unlike any sub I've been on, mostly due to the two massive nubbins on top. In the days after WWII, but before ICBMs, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles like the ones stored here were the undersea deterrent. It's cramped, like all diesel-electric subs.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum offers a unique mix of sea, air, and spacecraft. While there aren't a ton of any one type of vessel, the eclectic grouping makes for a fascinating afternoon. Definitely worth checking out on your next trip to New York.
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