11 Best Battleship Museums In the USA to Explore Maritime History

Last Updated on July 19, 2023 by Nikki Jain

The United States may be just a few centuries old, but the country has an extensive military history.

The country has been involved in numerous conflicts around the world and has the most extensive and expensive military. It's no surprise that the country has a wealth of military museums.

On this page, we want to focus on a very specific type of museum; US battleship museums. We find these the most interesting. The US is a major naval power, and it is a true joy to explore America’s best museum ships and get an overview of how the US Navy came to be. 

This page was especially tricky to write. There are dozens and dozens of US battleship museums scattered around the country.

While we wish we could have written about every single one of them, we had to narrow down our list to just 11. However, we reckon you won't be disappointed with the battleship museums we have selected.

They give the best overview of US naval history and offer a brilliant day out for families and military enthusiasts.

Without further ado, let's check out the best naval ship museums in the US.

Best Naval Museums in USA

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1: USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum - New York City, NY

USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum - New York City, NY
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At the heart of the USS Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum is the Aircraft Carrier, Intrepid, which is arguably one of the best US museum ships.

The Intrepid has been through a lot, first being used in World War II before playing a key role in the NASA space program.

It was the main recovery ship for 'returned' space shuttles for a few years. It also played a role in both the Vietnam and the Cold War. There is a lot of history that this stunning ship has seen.

The Intrepid was moved to its home on the Hudson River in 1974 and has been working as a US museum ship ever since.

This isn't the only thing to see at the museum, though. Naval enthusiasts will love a trip into the Growler submarine (the only guided missile submarine open to the public).

If you prefer to head away from the water a little, you can also see the US space shuttle Enterprise and, while it is currently not on display due to repairs, a real Concorde aircraft!

Address: Pier 86, W 46th St, New York, NY 10036

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Also Read: Top NYC Attractions & Things To Do

2: USS Midway Museum - San Diego, CA

USS Midway Museum - San Diego, CA
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Next up on our list of ship museums in the USA is the USS Midway Museum. This museum plays host to the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that served between 1945 and 1992.

This aircraft carrier is significantly larger than the USS Intrepid and the only aircraft carrier to not only last the entirety of the Cold War but also serve on the seas a little beyond.

The USS Midway was commissioned shortly after World War II ended, so she didn't serve in World War II. Although, when she did appear, she remained the largest ship in the world (yes, even bigger than cruise ships at the time) all the way up until 1955.

Makes sense, really. At the end of World War II, the US saw an opportunity to fill a power vacuum, and it was going to produce some advanced military hardware to do so.

The USS Midway saw active service in numerous conflicts, with the most notable being Operation Desert Storm where it played a role as a major US base. Along the way, the ship received numerous modernization, allowing it to stay on the seas as long as possible.

On board the USS Midway, you can visit numerous exhibits that show what life on the ship would have been like. You can take part in flight simulators, educational activities, and even overnight trips!

Of course, since this is an aircraft carrier, you'll also feast your eyes on several cool aircraft (not all of which are served on the USS Midway).

Pro tip: Book tickets in advance to skip the line

Address: 910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

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Also Read: Top San Diego Attractions & Things To Do

3: National Naval Aviation Museum - Pensacola, FL

National Naval Aviation Museum - Pensacola, FL
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Ok. There are no battleships in sight at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Florida. Sorry to disappoint you. However, it is still one of the best naval museums in the USA and is worth looking at if you are interested in US maritime history.

This museum plays host to an extensive collection of naval aircraft. There is a little something from every era of flight in the US Navy.

It is a true joy to walk around the aircraft and learn more about their history of being stationed with the US Navy from the 1930s onwards.

The real highlight of a trip to the National Naval Aviation Museum comes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, though.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the famous Blue Angels practicing their moves overhead! If you’re even luckier, you can take part in the meet & greet that happens shortly after. 

The museum hosts several simulators, including some cockpit trainers that make it feel like you are really sitting in some of the oldest US Navy aircraft.

Address: 1750 Radford Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32508

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4: Battleship Cove Naval Ship Museum - Fall River, MA

Battleship Cove Naval Ship Museum - Fall River, MA
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The Battleship Cove Naval Ship Museum is one of our favorite US Navy ship museums, mainly because there is so much on display.

It would be almost impossible for us to list every single ship since the museum has been preserving important pieces since the 1960s (although, unfortunately, you can't go on all of them).

Highlights of the Battleship Cove Naval Ship Museum include:

  • USS Massachusetts: a destroyer that played a significant role in the invasion of North Africa in WWII.
  • USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr: a destroyer that served throughout the 50s, including several key battles during the Korean War.
  • Hiddensee: a Soviet-built Corvette (a small battleship). It served briefly in the German Navy after the fall of the Soviet Union.
  • PT-617 & PT-796: small torpedo boats (the only surviving ones!). They were primarily used for advanced projection missions in foreign countries. The US Navy destroyed most of them, with these two being the only surviving specimens.

The museum also hosts several Navy aircraft and helicopters. You also have a ton of exhibits dedicated to US Naval history (including several memorials, particularly for the Vietnam War), as well as several examples of earlier atomic bomb detection systems (used during the Cold War). You can easily enjoy a whole day out here and still wouldn't see everything.

Address: 5 Water St, Fall River, MA 02721

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Also Read: Best Space and Aviation Museums in the USA

5: Battleship USS Iowa Museum - Los Angeles, CA

Battleship USS Iowa Museum - Los Angeles, CA
Dreamstime/Debbie Ann Powell

We've always felt that the Battleship USS Iowa is one of the best US museum ships. This beautiful destroyer has been perfectly preserved, and you can enjoy most of the ship as you wander through the numerous exhibits. There is even a helicopter or two up on deck.

The USS Iowa played a crucial role in World War II. This ship sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with President Roosevelt on board.

His mission? To meet Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin to discuss wartime plans. Shortly after she dropped Roosevelt off, she headed to the Pacific, where she was involved in numerous shelling raids on some smaller islands.

After WWII, the Battleship USS Iowa was used in the Korean War and was then temporarily decommissioned. Although, she was brought back into service temporarily during the 1980s due to the Soviet’s push to expand their Navy. The US just had to one-up them!

The ship was originally scheduled to be destroyed, but a law required Iowa to stay afloat. So, in 2012, she ended up in Los Angeles, where she has remained ever since.

The museum not only allows you to tour the USS Iowa, but you can also glance at US Navy history. One of our favorite exhibits is the 'Lost at Sea' exhibit, which shows off some military wrecks.

Pro tip: Book tickets in advance to skip the line

Address: 250 S Harbor Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90731

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Also Read: Top Things To Do in Los Angeles

6: USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park - Mobile, AL

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park - Mobile, AL
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The USS Alabama Battleship was constructed in 1940. When she was made, one of the main purposes was to help strengthen the UK.

So, as soon as she hit the water, she made her way over to Europe (which was in the midst of World War II) to join the British Navy (they were losing ships like crazy because, well, a war). 

When the US took possession of the USS Alabama Battleship again, she was moved over to the Pacific for the fight against Japan.

The ship didn’t last too long in active service, though. She was decommissioned in 1947 and was destined for the scrap heap. It was only due to a campaign that she was saved.

The USS Alabama can now be found in Mobile, Alabama. Visitors can tour this beautiful ship which, because she wasn’t used much in actual conflict, still looks remarkable inside, despite her age.

The USS Alabama isn't the only Navy vessel to explore here, though! If you can combat claustrophobia, you can also explore the USS Drum, a Navy submarine.

It was launched in 1941 and remains the oldest US submarine open to public tours.

Address: 2703 Battleship Pkwy, Mobile, AL 36603

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7: Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial - Honolulu, HI

Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial - Honolulu, HI
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Many have heralded the Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial as one of the best naval museums in the USA. 

As you know, for the US, Pearl Harbor was the turning point of World War II. It was the surprise bombing raid on this Hawaiian harbor that directly led the USA into World War II. Several ships were lost, with the USS Arizona being their most popular.

Reaching the USS Arizona isn't easy. It is a sunken wreck. You need to take a boat to the memorial, which is a small museum that floats just above the wreckage.

Here, you can glance down at the final resting place of this beautiful ship and learn more about the raid on Pearl Harbor and the impact that it had on World War II.

On land, you can visit memorials of the USS Utah and USS Oklahoma. Several other exhibits pay tribute to the other ships that were lost on the day, as well as the people that went down with the ships.

If there is one museum that will bring a tear to your eye, it is this one. Everything is so somber, which makes sense. Lots and lots of lives were lost in just a few hours, and their graves still remain.

Recommended activities:

Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Honolulu

8: Independence Seaport Museum - Philadelphia, PA

Independence Seaport Museum - Philadelphia, PA
Dreamstime/Anthony Aneese Totah Jr

If you want to explore some of the older history of the US Navy, then this may be one of the best battleship museums in the US.

The highlight of the Independence Seaport Museum is the USS Olympia. This ship served during World War I on a variety of peacekeeping missions.

It did not see active conflict. It is perhaps best known for being the ship that took the Unknown Soldier from the fields of France onward to its final resting place in Arlington Cemetary.

One of our favorite exhibits explores the early history of the US Navy and its conflicts with pirates. This has resulted in a full-size recreation of the 1797 ship Diligence. 

Other exhibits explore the slave trade along the Delaware River, river rescues, and more.

Recently, the museum has also introduced an exhibit dedicated to the passengers of the Titanic, specifically those that lived in Philadelphia. There are a few wonderful artifacts on display.

Address: 211 S Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Philadelphia

9: National Museum of the United States Navy, Washington DC

National Museum of the United States Navy, Washington DC
Wiki Commons/U.S. Navy photo

This is one of the best battleship museums in the US, although there isn’t a single full battleship in sight.

The National Museum of the United States Navy is the main museum for logging the history of this military branch.

The museum is packed with artifacts, photos, and exhibits dedicated to the entirety of US Navy history.

It boasts the most complete collection of artifacts out of all of the US military museums.

You’ll even see small sections of scrapped battleships perfectly preserved and on display. For example, our favorite exhibit is the bridge of the USS Fletcher.

This is undoubtedly a museum that serious military enthusiasts will want to pay attention to.

Address: 736 Sicard St SE, Washington, DC 20374

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Also Read: Top Washington D.C. Attractions & Things To Do

10: USS Constitution Museum - Charlestown, MA

USS Constitution Museum - Charlestown, MA
Dreamstime/Sergii Figurnyi

The USS Constitution took her maiden voyage at the end of the 1700s. She played a major role in the early history of the US Navy.

She fought off Barbary Pirates and played a significant role in the War of 1812, where she was responsible for helping to capture numerous British ships.

Since 1907, she has been a museum ship. She has completed numerous sailings, with the most recent being in 2012.

Although, every year, she is towed out into Boston Harbor to demonstrate her firepower.

Good luck getting tickets for that, though. It is quite literally a lottery. Most of the USS Constitution's life is now spent in the dock in Charlestown.

While you can get on the USS Constitution, only a limited number of visitors are allowed daily. You'll need to turn up early. The ship only allows US citizens on board too (you need a state or federal ID).

However, don't worry if you can't get on the ship. The nearby museum will show you some wonderful artifacts preserved from the USS Constitution's active service life.

Address: Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, MA 02129

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11: Battleship Missouri Memorial (Mighty Mo) - Honolulu, HI

Battleship Missouri Memorial (Mighty Mo) - Honolulu, HI
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The Battleship Missouri is the second preserved Iowa-class battleship (the other was the USS Iowa from earlier). She was one of the most important ships in World War II.

The Battleship Missouri fought in both Iwo Jima and Okinawa. However, she is most famed for being the place where the Empire of Japan surrendered. It was on her deck that the Empire of Japan signed the peace treaties. 

After World War II, she fought in both the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm. In 1998, the ship was donated to Pearl Harbor, where she sits to this day.

If you’re visiting the other exhibits in Pearl Harbor, you may as well take a trip to one of America’s best museum ships. You’ll get to see how the sailors during World War II lead their lives on board this battleship. 

A tour around the ship will show you where the Empire of Japan surrendered, the deck, and pretty much every part of the ship. It is an eye-opening experience.

It goes perfectly well with a trip to the rest of Pearl Harbor. Honestly, there is no better place in the world to understand World War II US Navy history.

Recommended:

Address: 63 Cowpens St, Honolulu, HI 96818

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FAQs about US Museum Ships

What is the biggest warship museum in the US?

The USS Midway Museum is the most popular in the US, but Battleship Cove Naval Ship Museum has the most ships on display. 

What is the best US battleship of all time?

The USS Missouri is regarded as one of the finest ships in US Navy history. She isn’t the most powerful (all modern Navy tech could literally blow her out of the water), but when the USS Missouri served, she was a class above all the other ships. Unfortunately, she sank at Pearl Harbor. 

What is the most powerful US naval ship?

The USS Zumwalt is the most powerful US naval ship.

Wrapping up the top Battleship Museums in the USA

You could spend years touring the best Naval museums in the USA. This is a country that really appreciates its Navy history. However, we think that our list of America’s ship museums is a great place to start.

If you visit one of these 11 museums, not only will you get to see some of the best Navy hardware ever, but you will also learn more about how the world's most powerful Navy came to be. Whether you are a US resident, or a tourist heading to the States, it will be completely eye-opening!

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