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When you think of Norfolk, Virginia, one thing comes to mind–the United States Naval Base.  Norfolk and the Navy just go hand-in-hand.  On our road trip this summer, we planned two nights at Virginia Beach.  As we planned this part of our trip, we soon realized how close we were to Norfolk.  We also discovered the Nauticus, a museum that commemorates shipping in every regard–commercial, scientific, and defensive. Adding to our excitement, we learned that you could take a two-hour cruise of the Navy ships nearby.  In fact, you could buy a combo-ticket to the museum and the cruise.  It was a no-brainer!  We had to do it!

After our first night at Virginia Beach, we woke up early enough to head over to Norfolk to be at the museum before opening.  It is about a 30-40 minute drive, depending on traffic.  We also wanted to be early enough to get the cruise time we wanted.  The Victory Rover only sails three times a day, sometimes only twice per day, so we wanted to be sure to get the first sailing.  We made good time, and we parked in the designated parking garage across the street.  From the parking garage, we were able to get our first pictures of the Nauticus and the USS Wisconsin, a battleship that is now a part of the Nauticus Museum and available for touring.

Nauticus Museum Norfolk Virginia

Connected to this building is the USS Wisconsin.  Here is a view from the sidewalk looking up at it.

USS Wisconsin, Norfolk, Virginia

This battleship is huge.  Since we were early enough, we walked all around it.

USS Wisonsin Norfolk, Virginia

On the opposite bank from the Nauticus, we found this statue dedicated to sailors.  It is known as the Lone Sailor.

Statue near USS Wisconsin

When we got back to the museum, the ticket window was open.  We purchased our tickets, and we got the first sailing!  Our voyage was at 11:00 a.m. though, so we decided to start the museum portion.  We could come back and finish it after the Victory Rover tour.

Nauticus Museum Norfolk, Virginia

The exhibits start upstairs, so you get to ride a very long escalator to access them.  They even educate you about shipping on your way up!

Nauticus Museum Kids

The museum has a lot of interactive exhibits for kids.  They can climb on things and touch them.  You can learn about naval history including how crew members lived on the ships.  You will also learn about how ships played an important part in the wars and conflicts the United States has been involved in.  You even get to learn about shipping today!

Nauticus Museum

The museum looks out over the water, and at one point, we were able to see this replica ship getting ready to sail.

View from Nauticus Museum

There are just so many great hands-on exhibits for kids. We had a blast trying everything out!

The Nauticus also teaches about oceans and the animals who live there, too.

Shark cage at the Nauticus

The Nauticus has a few aquariums and a couple of touch tanks.  The touch tanks are only available during certain times, so be sure to check the daily schedule.  Soon, it was time for our cruise!

The Victory Rover

This little ship is perfect for the cruise.  It has an interior part with air conditioning.  You can also purchase snacks and drinks in this part of the boat.  We went up to the upper deck so we could have a great view.

The Victory Rover

We do suggest sunglasses for the cruise, as you can see.  It wasn’t long before we were off.  We saw some commercial shipping yards first.  The entire time, the captain narrates the cruise so you know what you are seeing, which is really helpful for someone like me who knows very little about all of this.  Soon, we headed towards the Navy Shipyard.  It was time for the main event of the cruise!

Norfolk Navy Shipyard

When you take this cruise, you get an exclusive look at all the ships.  You can’t get any closer than on the cruise.  During our excursion, we got to see a submarine going back out to sea.  It was heavily guarded, and our boat had to stop for awhile.  They made sure we were very far away from the submarine.

Submarine at Norfolk

After the submarine left the shipyard, we got a closer look at the ships.

Ships at Norfolk

We got to see many ships, but one some of the most memorable were the aircraft carriers.

Aircraft carrier Norfolk

The Victory Rover tour lasts about two hours.  After we had seen the ships, we explored the interior part of the boat for the return trip.  It was cooler, of course, and we were out of the sun.  Our cruise had a lot of people on it, but it never felt crowded.  We could easily move around the different areas of the boat.  Here is a little snippet of our return trip before we left the shipyard.

When we returned to the dock, we decided to have a little lunch in the cafe on-site.  It had a variety of food, and it was reasonably priced.  It was also made to order, and the wait wasn’t long at all.  It was perfect, and I don’t remember other food choices in the area.  There may have been, but the cafe at the museum was convenient!

After lunch, we went back upstairs and resumed our tour.  There really is a lot to see!

Nauticus museum

At this point in our tour, we were able to walk across the bridge to the USS Wisconsin, or the Wisky, as many service people called it.

USS Wisconsin at Nauticus Museum

It’s remarkable just how large this battleship really is!  We walked around the ship in amazement.  You can do a guided tour, but we just walked around ourselves.  The guided tour is a little more in depth, but we thought the self-guided tour would be best for our family.  The Nauticus offers some special events, too.  You can stay onboard all night, and they have an escape room-type of adventure.  It looks like they also host private events sometimes.

The self-guided tour does allow you to go inside the ship.  I can’t believe so many people lived in such close quarters here.  It made me appreciate even more what our service people sacrifice for us.  Not only do they risk their lives and live away from their families, but they are also living without very much privacy or personal space!  Here is where meals were served on the USS Wisconsin.

Inside the USS Wisconsin

It was fun to tour the ship.  And the interior seemed endless!  The passageways wound around forever; I would probably get lost, but I guess you would learn your way, eventually.  It was almost like a small city, complete with a post office!  I was surprised to learn about their recreation opportunities and competitions with other ships.  Keeping morale high is so important!

We finally made it to the back of the battleship.  You can see some buildings in Norfolk in the background.

USS Wisconsin from the back

It was getting pretty warm during our tour, so we decided to head back to the beach.  I do think I have a greater appreciation for the armed forces after this tour.  Of course, I am always grateful for the sacrifices made, but I think I understand a little more about day-to-day life on a ship like this.  It’s not the same as living the experience, yet my understanding of what it means to live for months on a ship is greater now. More importantly, Kristin understands a little more, as much as a child her age can, because she has experienced a ship firsthand.  It may not seem like much, but this is just another reason that taking our family trips together is so important to me.  I want Kristin to see things, touch things, experience things.  I want her to understand things because she was there.

As we left, we headed over to the mermaid to leave our admission stickers that we had worn on our shirts all day.  The museum tries to keep people from flinging stickers on the ground.  Leaving our stickers was almost like a ceremony.  A goofy, laughter-filled ceremony, but a ceremony nonetheless.

Nauticus Museum Mermaid

We had a wonderful time at the Nauticus Museum and on the Victory Rover Cruise!  If you are in Norfolk or even the Virginia Beach area, put the Nauticus Museum on your list of adventures.  We are so glad we made time for this, and we learned so much.  The Nauticus Museum is a great experience for young and old!

Nauticus Museum
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  1. Looks like a fabulous experience! I will definitely put this on my list to do if we ever visit that area. If you ever get to San Diego, there’s a fantastic tour of an aircraft carrier USS Midway.

    • Stacey Reply

      I just read about that in another comment. I will definitely put it on my must-do list for San Diego!

    • Stacey Reply

      Thank you! We had a really great time here. It’s a great experience for families!

    • Stacey Reply

      It really is a great place to spend a few hours. We had a blast!

  2. You know, I never had an interest in this type of attraction until I went to the USS Midway in San Diego. It was so cool! I’ll have to add this one to my list now. Thanks for sharing!

    • Stacey Reply

      Cool! We’ll have to do the USS Midway when we go to San Diego!

  3. Looks like a great experience for the entire family!! If we ever plan a trip to Norfolk, we will be doing this!

  4. Kamie Berry Reply

    This looks like a lot of fun! How choppy is the cruise? I have SEVERE seasickness (can’t even get in a wave pool), but it looks like fun.

    • Stacey Reply

      It wasn’t very choppy at all, but I don’t usually get sick on boats like this. Now when I went to the Statue of Liberty, that was really choppy. Like, hard to walk in a straight line, choppy. This cruise was nothing like that.

  5. Evangeline Reply

    So cool! I will be adding this to my history homeschooling trip list.

    • Stacey Reply

      This would be a great place for a homeschooling outing!

  6. This looks like such a cool place! I’d love to take my family here if (hopefully when) we make it to Virginia one day. Thank you for sharing this!

  7. This looks amazing!! Looks so fun and such a great learning experience.

  8. You got some pretty great pictures of this naval museum. I love the idea of interactive activities. It makes history learning a lot more fun. Glad you guys had a great time!

    • Stacey Reply

      Thanks! We love to visit places like this. Learning is more fun when it’s interactive!

  9. I love a good educational museum and this one reminds me of the Naval museum in NYC. It was so close to my apartment…but I never went. Mayhaps it’s time I visit both.

    • Stacey Reply

      You should! It’s funny how sometimes we miss going to the places right next door!

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