April 13, 2018

Museum Review - USS Iowa

I've decided to add reviews of the military museums I've visited over the years to the blog, as I believe the information will be of interest to readers. We'll start with the Iowa. I promise that the information here is totally unbiased.1

My first visit to Iowa
Type: Museum Battleship
Location: San Pedro, Los Angeles, California
Rating: 6/5, Absolutely Must See2
Price: $20 for normal adults


Iowa is the greatest ship ever built, preserved in San Pedro since 2012. She served in WWII, Korea, and in the 1980s. Her fantastic crew has worked very hard to make the visitor experience as good as possible.3 Visitors will be able to see the 16" guns, officer's quarters, the captain's cabin where FDR stayed in 1943, the conning tower and bridge, 5" mounts, CIWS, Tomahawk and Harpoon launchers, directors, and crew quarters, including berthing and messes. There's a museum at the end of the tour, along with the gift shop, where guests are encouraged to spend more money to support the Iowa.4 On deck, there's a Korean War HUP Retriever helicopter, as well as a motion simulator on the pier. My first visit took me about 90 minutes, and 2 hours is a pretty good estimate for a normal group. If you feel the need to get every single piece of information that's offered, it will take somewhat longer.5 There's a free audio tour app, which can be found by searching "Battleship Iowa" at the App or Play stores. It also works away from the ship, and includes some videos of spaces that are not on the normal tour route.

One downside is that the tour route does require climbing the ladders, which are actually stairs that are as steep as they could be and still be stairs.6 There are currently elevators installed leading from the main deck up to the 01 deck, and down to the 2nd and 3rd decks. The second deck has the museum, while the third is home to the excellent new Lost at Sea exhibit, chronicling the underwater expeditions of Robert Ballard, although this is a $10 add-on to the main ticket. The 3rd deck also allows visitor access to a bunch of stuff on the 3rd deck aft, such as the laundry, tailor shop, print shop, and barber shop.

Guests who want to see more of the ship can take the Full Steam Ahead tour, offered on certain days (check schedules before making plans) that takes them into the Strike Warfare Center, Sickbay, Boiler and Engine Rooms, and the aft plotting rooms. It's an extra $30 beyond general admission, and spaces are limited. There's also the Curator's Tour for $100, which runs once a month, and involves spending the day (including lunch) with Iowa's curator, Dave Way, and getting to see a different set of behind-the-scenes spaces.7

Overall, Iowa is magnificent and wonderful in every way, and you should definitely go pay her a visit.

1 Fortunately, the low-bias part of bean's brain has gotten to do the footnotes.

2 I'd put it about 4.5/5. It's a very good museum, and one worth traveling some distance to see.

3 The crew is admittedly very good.

4 In fairness, museum ships are sort of like black holes you have to pour money into to keep them afloat.

5 Before you ask, I knew most of the stuff that was on the signs when I went. If you chose to take it, the Lost At Sea extended tour will probably take about another 30 minutes.

6 It's a Navy thing. There isn't really an explanation.

7 This may or may not still be running. I can't find a mention of it on the website.

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