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

Type: Museum Battleship
Location: San Pedro, Los Angeles, California
Rating: 6/5, Absolutely Must See2
Price: $24 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 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 2-2.5 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 Lost at Sea exhibit, chronicling the underwater expeditions of Robert Ballard. 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.

Iowa is still a museum under development, and as a result, the tour packages they offer change frequently. As of this writing (April 2023), I think that the Lost at Sea/3rd deck has been reopened after several years of being shut, but I'm not sure. The Captain's Cabin (where FDR stayed in 1943) is a guided tour costing an extra $15/person, while there are two different premium tours ($50 each) offered, one to the engineering spaces, and another to Turret I and the fire control room. The latter tours are only available on weekends and spaces are limited, so check the schedules before you go. They have fairly recently added a Google StreetView-style tour of the ship, along with some other online stuff I don't really know much about. Other new features are an escape room and a cafe on the fantail, which I believe you can access without going aboard the entire ship.

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. Definitely a place to prioritize if you're in LA.

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. I am not super-confident in my timing estimates given the changes to the tour over the years since I was active.

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

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