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Best-Kept Secrets of Intrepid

Best-Kept Secrets of Intrepid

Whether you have a preschooler, a grade-schooler, a teen, or all three, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum will teach and thrill with exhibits, simulators, and hands-on fun.


Intrepid is unique. I admit I didn’t know enough about it before I visited. If you have only a vague idea of what it is and why your family should visit, read on.  We’ve broken down the must-knows and why-go’s of this massive floating education hub. 


flight deck blue angels intrepid

One of the famous Blue Angels on the Flight Deck.


Museum Overview

Intrepid itself is an aircraft carrier that served in World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, surviving five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. Over the years a total of 50,000 men lived—and 270 died—on it. Now docked in the Hudson River, it teaches visitors about life on an aircraft carrier, heroism, history—even space travel. Four decks are open to the public, with three being inside, and the upper one, the Flight Deck, housing 24+ aircraft with the NYC skyline as a backdrop. The adjacent pier, with several separate attractions (a flight simulator, submarine, and the Concorde among them), is part of the museum as well.

Standby Faves for Kids

Exploreum Hall

Kids, especially grade-schoolers, would happily spend most of the day in this hands-on interactive zone on the far end of the Hangar Deck. They can climb into a helicopter and walk through an interactive submarine, amongst a dozen other “look, but please touch!” exhibits. A great photo opp is waiting in the submarine exhibit, where kids can pose in real (tiny!) submarine beds.

G-Force Encounter

This is a ride that gives you the feeling of flying a supersonic jet in a two-person cockpit. On the other side, find the XD Theatre. Before you sit in one of its 14 seats, you’re handed 3D glasses. Between those, the vibrations, 3D graphics, and hi-def sound system, it’s quite the ride.


intrepid submarine

The view of the submarine Growler from the flight deck.

Submarine Growler

Climb aboard a guided missile submarine on the pier.

British Airways Concorde

I got a kick out of seeing one up close myself, since for years it boomed over my childhood home near JFK.  It took the world record for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing. You’ll need tickets for a guided tour of the interior; buy them at the information desk.

Transporter FX Flight Simulator

Also on the pier, near the entrance to Intrepid, this flight simulator is not for anyone prone to motion sickness. That said, all the kids seem to be fine with the powerful special effects, like feeling the wind in your hair. It was some of the grown-ups I was worried about!


Intrepid space shuttle Enterprise

To get a good look at the ginormous Enterprise space shuttle, you need to climb up in front of it. Even then, it's hard to get a shot of the entire thing.

The Enterprise

It’s the crown jewel of the Space Shuttle Pavilion. It’s so massive, you don’t even see it at first. Then you realize the ceiling is it. Enterprise is the prototype NASA Orbiter that started off the space shuttle program.  


intrepid new york city space

The Large Magellanic Cloud, an irregular galaxy full of very young stars, as displayed in the Space Shuttle Pavilion. As I explained to my daughter and nephew, the light from these objects travels a really long way to reach your eyes. It can take millions of years. So when we look at something far away, we are also looking at it the way it was long ago. They found this pretty mind-blowing.


Secrets to Discover with Your Kids

The Third Deck

I’m not sure why, but not many visitors venture down here. You can take your time exploring without crowds. The area was virtually vacant even when the other levels were bustling on a sunny Sunday. The galley and berthing areas, set up as they were in the 1950s, give a feel for how daily life was for the 3,000 young men on board for months at a time. For one thing, it was dark! There were no windows in these living quarters, so the crewman had to get creative in decorating to keep spirits up. The kids got a kick out of the “wild west” room. And while you’re down there, ask the kids if they need the bathroom. They are spotless, and have no lines.

9-11 Steel

This artifact, a piece of steel from the World Trade Center, stands at the tip of the pier on the river. You won’t see it unless you go looking for it.

The Kamikaze Experience

Several times a day, a screen drops down and this multi-media show begins, putting you in the place of the seamen aboard the ship during the Japanese attacks of November 25, 1944. It’s pretty intense. It’s a must-do for older kids, but probably a bit much for kids under 8. It’s loud, and the narrator points out, “If you were standing here on November 25, 1944, you’d be dead.”

Port Side Aircraft Elevator

We wouldn’t have even realized what this section of the Flight Deck was had a fellow visitor not tipped up off. You can enter the cordoned-off area of the flight deck on the north middle side, and ride down to the lower level, on what used to be an elevator for aircraft. A docent takes the trip with you to answer questions and give background. It’s made of teakwood planks, only because those are easier to repair than anything else. The technology was considered so top secret back in the day that anyone found in the basement of Radio City Music Hall (where a similar technology was employed to raise and lower the stage) was considered a spy.

Adapting Common Tools

This eye-catching exhibit demonstrates how, while you may think astronauts use futuristic implements, in fact, they often use what dad might have in the garage, such as the Black + Decker 12V Power Drill. Find it in the Space Shuttle Pavilion.


intrepid hangar deck nyc

One of the discoveries on the hangar deck is the Optical Landing System. It helped pilots find the correct path as they approached Intrepid for landing. A light was shone into the mirror, and pilots had to align with this ball of light. Tricky, to be sure.


View Deck 1

This small deck gives you a great vantage point of the entire hangar deck you can’t get anywhere else. The hangar deck was the only space onboard that could hold the entire crew at once, so it served as the site of celebrations as well as burials at sea.

LEGO Marvel

Constructed of 250,000 LEGO Bricks and weighing 550 pounds, this replica of Intrepid will impress anyone, but completely wow a LEGO maniac. Find it next to the far window on the left of the main entrance to the hangar deck.

A 106-year-old Basketball

Take your sports fan over to the Space Shuttle Pavilion to check out this piece of history. Edwin Hubble, of Hubble telescope fame, was on the University of Chicago National Championship team in 1909. In 2009, John Grunsfeld, an astronaut and University of Chicago alum, took his ball on the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.


Special Events

Check for screening details of the Summer Movie Series. Take in a free feature film, like Top Gun, in the evenings. Also worth looking into during the summer months: Family Astronomy Nights, during which you stargaze from the Flight Deck, guided by experts such as former NASA scientists.



Flight deck intrepid

Climb to the tippy top of the flight deck. If you're not afraid of heights, that is!



Parents, Know Before You Go!

Just four blocks south at 42nd Street, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises are a classic boat ride that never gets old. You can also board the Beast, a speedboat thrill ride, at the same terminal. That said, if you have older kids with some stamina, and plan to see every last thing at Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space museum and break for lunch, your day is pretty much shot.

Speaking of lunch, the cafeteria on the Intrepid is indefinitely closed. Food trucks, selling lots of options from hot dogs and knishes to Middle Eastern fare and smoothies, are right at the pier, and limited seating is nearby. They take cash only; an ATM is located near the entrance.

Weather iffy later in the day? Start with the flight deck and pier. Everything else is indoors.

Strollers are permitted, but not necessarily easy to navigate through all areas of the ship. You’ll encounter quite a few staircases, and while elevators are available, a few areas can only be reached via steps.

Despite the size of this museum, there are only three restrooms. When you arrive, consult the touring map and strategize, especially if your child is “almost” potty-trained.


view from top of intrepid nyc

Once you make it to the highest point on Intrepid, you'll be rewarded with this incredible vantage point.



Hell’s Kitchen, now just as often called by the more genteel Clinton, at 46th Street and 12th Avenue at Pier 86.


Tickets that include Space Shuttle Pavilion are $31 for adults, $24 for ages 7-17, $17 for ages 3-6, and free for 2 and younger. If you opt to skip the pavilion, you’ll save $5 on child tickets, and $7 on adult tickets.


Monday through Friday: 10-5; Saturday, Sunday, and holidays: 10-6. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Birthday Parties


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Christina Vercelletto


 Christina Vercelletto is a former editor at NYMetroParents, ParentingScholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her kids, a chiweenie, Pickles, and a 20-pound calico, Chub-Chub.

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