One of the great things about living in Washington, DC is that you’re only one road trip away from a great new adventure. A few hour’s drive can get you to New York City, the mountains or the beach. A few week ago, our family took a few days off to visit the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. One of the most interesting things we did while we were there was visit the Nauticus museum and USS Wisconsin in downtown Norfolk, Virginia.
The Nauticus is contemporary museum that uses Norfolk’s harbor to showcase global maritime commerce and the United States Navy. The museum inspires and educates with engaging & interactive experiences that celebrate our connections to the world and reminds us of the importance of naval history.
There are 3D movies that highlight life aboard a modern aircraft carrier and marine life under the Pacific Ocean. Other exhibits provide plenty of opportunities to learn about the history of Hampton Roads. There is even a life-sized Battleship board game. The building also hosts the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.
Our youngest really enjoyed interactive exhibit that let him “pilot” a boat around the Norfolk harbor. My husband and daughter got lost in an exhibit about the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, a popular World’s Fair event of the day. I really enjoyed the scenic views overlooking the harbor and downtown Norfolk.
The USS Wisconsin
Without a doubt, a tour aboard the USS Wisconsin is the highlight of any trip to downtown Norfolk. This World War 2 battle wagon was commissioned just after the ascendency of Naval air power, but she saw plenty of action during her 47 years of service.
This 887-foot-long behemoth carried 2,800 sailors from the end of WW2 to Desert Storm. Her mighty 16-inch guns could toss a shell with the weight of a Volkswagen over twenty miles! In later years, she was equipped with Tomahawk land attack missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
Armaments don’t tell the whole story though. A ship this large was like a floating city. During the self-guided tour, visitors can learn what it was like to live on the ocean for months at a time. Many of the conveniences of home could be found abroad, including a barber, dentist’s office, post office and donut shop!
While we were doing our tour, a reporter for the area’s major newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, walked up and asked if we’d like to answer a few questions about our visit. My quote made the first page of the paper!
Jennell Alexander, 43, was visiting with her family from Washington for a trip to Virginia Beach. They decided to check out the Wisconsin after her husband learned about it online.
“It’s always good to keep the kids learning all the time, even during summer breaks,” said Alexander, a real estate agent. “It’s definitely an opportunity to explore and open your eyes to new things.”
The Nauticus and the USS Wisconsin are a great addition to any trip to the Hampton Roads area. In a region steeped in history from Jamestown to the battlefields of Yorktown, this museum is one of our top recommendations. Unlike the taxpayer-funded museums here in DC, the Nauticus and the USS Wisconsin do charge an admission fee. However, the experience it worthwhile for history and military buffs or curious families.
The Nauticus and the USS Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Arena
One Waterside Drive, Norfolk, VA 23510
Open every day except major holidays.
Public parking is available.
You can learn more about planning your visit where at Nauticus.org.
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