Battleship IOWA was launched more than 70 years ago to defend American ideals of freedom, liberty and justice—her construction, design, and the service of her veterans reflect these ideals, and inspire all who visit the iconic ship. Named one of the "Best Cool Exhibits to See with Your Kids" by CBS LA, Battleship IOWA is a fun and educational experience for all ages. Kids will love playing "Where's Vicky?", a fun activity to try and spot IOWA's mascot, a little dog named Victory. Explore the teak decks of the World’s Greatest Fighting Ship with family and friends for an unforgettable journey. A tour aboard IOWA is a genuine adventure spanning the ship’s glorious past and the nation’s bright future: Live the history; continue the legacy. Visit Battleship IOWA and Celebrate the American Spirit!
Battleship IOWA offers special guided tours for youth groups, field trips for schools, kid's birthday parties, and special events throughout the year. Please visit our website for more information.
My kids took one look at the USS Iowa and started eagerly discussing all the ladders, levels, nooks & crannies on that ship that they wanted to explore. I took all 4 of them (ages 5 – 13) on a self-guided tour of the battleship and we did get to explore lots of the ship.
WHAT IS GREAT FOR KIDS
This ship is a floating museum. It is filled with history of battles, presidents, and events that are important to the US. Most of those things aren’t that important to my young kids (not yet anyway) so I was wondering how they would like the ship. The first thing that they experienced after walking the gangway was getting a small card with a picture of a cute dog named “Vicky” on it. A docent told them that Vicky was hidden all over the ship and they had to look for her. Sure enough, in key places there was that same picture of cute Vicky. My 5 & 7 year old got quite excited to find her and stayed looking for her throughout our walk. There was a bit of a lack of things for them to experience hands-on but they did climb on things (the big 16” mortar bullets, the compass, and the pilot’s chair).
My 13 & 11 year old were more engaged with reading the signs, looking at the photographs, and making connections with the objects they were seeing to the historical story (like seeing the bathtub in the captain’s quarters for President Roosevelt.) The huge guns were very interesting to them and they watched the video demonstrating how they were loaded, fired, and what when on inside the gun turrets. They decoded the signal flags (by using the code on the cards given to my younger kids) and found out what the message was flying over the ship.
TOUR SET UP
There was a path set up on the ship that guided all the visitors along a general course with yellow arrows on the ground marking the way. It was a great way to see the whole ship without getting lost or confused or missing something. Docents were stationed all over the vessel and we enjoyed talking with many of them. Several had served in the NAVY and had interesting stories to tell us. The boys enjoyed the signal and flag bridge (where the signal men would work) and the con tower (which is where the captain/navigators/admiral) would work to direct the ship. On this section we saw old-fashioned equipment (a crank generated phone and navigation equipment) that brought the history to life. As a mom, I especially enjoyed seeing the crew quarters and the galley where hundreds of crewmen slept and ate from a large kitchen.
The kids enjoyed roaming the gift shop to see all the fun toys, books, patches, and stickers that were on sale. NAVY items were in abundance and it was fun to browse. We watched a video in the museum area of the ship near the end of our tour (the museum area was mostly images and words on walls that did not catch my kids attention.) The video did a great job explaining what made the USS Iowa the top of its class of battleships. Impressive! We finished the tour on the stern (back) of the ship where we learned that small planes were catapulted into flight (0-60 in 1 second) and then landed on the water at the end of their mission. In more recent history, helicopters were used. I would have loved to see one of the planes or helicopters on the ship… maybe that will be in the future.
Touring an historical ship as an adult or as a kid is an invaluable experience. The true history of our country comes alive when you walk the decks and see the pictures of how ordinary men responded to threats and fought wars. My kids saw chairs that presidents sat in and could glimpse the heart of our military. All that to say… the actual monetary cost of visiting this ship is higher than I would expect for what was offered in the tour. I hope it doesn’t deter families away from exploring a great naval vessel filled with history.
• The railings on the ship are covered in netting for extra precaution but keep young kids close at hand for safety. (It’s a long drop to the water below!)
• Wear close-toed and flat-soled shoes. The ground can be uneven and there are lots of steep stairs to climb.
• No strollers.
• Stairs are steep and can be challenging for young kids. Send an adult down first and then have kids go down backwards (facing the steps and holding onto the rails) for safety.
• I would recommend this tour for kids 2nd grade and up.
Disclosure: I was given complimentary tickets to tour the Battleship with my kids. I was not asked to present a particular viewpoint and all opinions are my own.