The USS Iowa was the first of the USA’s IOWA class battleships built especially for service during World War II. After serving in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and taking part in exercises during the Korean War and Cold War she was retired in 2006 and has been a museum since 2012. During holidays and Fleet Week the ship can get busy, so book tickets in advance to save time and money!
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4 tips for visiting the Battleship USS Iowa Museum
Battleship USS IOWA | Photo: Flickr, David Brossard – CC BY-SA 2.0
Download the app to access archive material, crew member stories, virtual tours, games, and a collection of video material, which mean you can keep exploring even after your visit has ended!
Battleship USS IOWA 1989 | Photo: Flickr, Berry Lewis – CC BY 2.0
The museum hasn’t changed the layout of the ship very much, and that includes the stairways and ladders which the crew used to use to move between decks. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes as you’ll be doing quite a bit of climbing!
Take your time to chat with the staff and volunteers - some of them served on the USS Iowa before the ship was retired, and they have plenty of unique stories to tell!
Cruises depart Los Angeles from the same part of the harbor, so this is the perfect attraction to spend 1-3 hours while you’re waiting to leave!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s special about the USS Iowa?
The USS Iowa was launched in 1942, during World War II, and saw action in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. She also carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to vital talks with other Allied leaders in Tehran, and visitors will be able to see the special bathtub fitted in the President’s quarters for the journey. The USS Iowa was on active duty until 2006, with service in the Korean War, and participated in NATO exercises during the Cold War. The ship also hosted President Ronald Regan in 1986 and President George H.W. Bush in 1989, giving her the nickname The Battleship of Presidents. Visitors can learn all about her history and the daily lives of the crew members who served on her through exhibits on 5 levels and 3 decks.Read more.
Is it worth taking a guided tour?
The Full Steam Ahead tour costs $59.95, takes two hours and gets deep into the ship’s history and daily life on a ship in active service. Tours are led by staff or volunteers, several of whom served in the Navy, and some even served on the USS Iowa! The tour has a limited number of spaces, and it isn’t recommended for children under the age of 10. For those who really want to get the VIP experience, The Big Stick Experience costs $2,500 for up to 6 participants, takes 5 hours, includes lunch, special parking spots, a commemorative hat, and access to areas that may never be open to the public.Read more.
What’s the Big Stick?
The Big Stick is one of the USS Iowa’s nicknames, derived from a quote attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1900: 'speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far'. As the first in an impressive new class of battleship, the USS Iowa was considered the Big Stick of US foreign policy in the 1940s and 50s. It’s not the only ship in the US Navy to have the name, the USS Theodore Roosevelt (still in active service) is also nicknamed The Big Stick.Read more.
Can I take my kids or will they get bored?
Children can enjoy a 30-minute special tour, led by the ship’s dog Vicky. The museum is designed to be an authentic experience, so the original low ceilings, hatches, ladders, and any uneven flooring have been retained throughout. As a result, strollers are restricted to the main deck exterior area. It’s recommended that very young children be carried in a front carrier, and adults are not allowed to carry children up or down the stairs and ladders without a carrier.Read more.
How long will a visit take?
The self-guided tour takes about two hours, but if you stop and speak to the volunteers for more information and their own stories you can spend up to three hours on board.Read more.
The museum is open every day at 10 am and closes after the last guided tour ends at 4 pm, except Thanksgiving and Christmas day.
Battleship IOWA Museum 250 South Harbor Blvd San Pedro, CA 90731
General admission tickets on the day cost $19.95 for adults (aged 12 to 61), $16.95 for seniors (aged 62 and older) and active, retired or former members of the military, and $11.95 for children aged 3 to 11. Children aged 2 and under can enter free of charge. The Extended Iowa Experience also includes newly opened attractions on the third deck.
how to get there
The museum is accessible by public transport, just take the Metro Silver Live bus to the stop at Beacon/1st Street. Parking is available from 1st Street and Harbor Boulevard, the first hour is free and each additional hour costs $2.
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