Aurora History Museum Review: From Town to City

Denver and its surrounding cities are home to many museums worth exploring. One museum that you may want to consider visiting is the Aurora History Museum.

It is a compact museum, but it packs a historic punch. If you are ever in the eastern part of the Denver area, you may want to carve out some time to pay it a visit.

In this article, I will give you an idea of what to expect and some of the highlights of the museum to get you excited for your visit.

What is the Aurora History Museum?

The Aurora History Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Aurora and the surrounding area.

It features both permanent and temporary exhibits that cover a wide range of topics, including the early settlers of Aurora, the development of the city, the impact of World War II on the community, and the growth of the aerospace industry.

In addition to exhibits, the Aurora History Museum also offers educational programs, workshops, lectures, and guided tours for visitors of all ages.

Aurora History Museum  entrance

How to visit the Aurora History Museum

The Aurora History Museum is located at 15051 E Alameda Pkwy, Aurora, CO 80012.

It’s found in a vibrant complex that houses various government buildings, including the Aurora Municipal Center and Aurora Police Department Headquarters.

But this area isn’t just about paperwork and law enforcement — it’s actually a picturesque little spot. Take a stroll around, and you’ll come across some interesting sculptures that add a touch of artistic flair to the surroundings.

There is a parking lot adjacent to the main field area and you can find a few parking spots designated for Aurora History Museum guests — just look for the signs (pictured below).

Admission to the Aurora History Museum is completely free but consider bringing along some cash to make a donation or at least purchasing items from the gift shop to help support the museum and all of their incredible efforts.

You can also donate online if you would like.

Aurora History Museum parking

Experiencing the Aurora History Museum

The Aurora History Museum is a smaller installation but it’s still an interesting museum to check out and one that doesn’t require you to dedicate a tremendous amount of time to.

As we stepped through the museum doors, we were greeted with a warm welcome by the friendliest front desk agent. He was like a walking encyclopedia, giving us the inside scoop on everything the museum had in store.

Taking his advice to heart, we kicked off our museum exploration by heading straight to the exhibit on the right, which delves deep into the city’s military roots.

Specifically, it highlights Lowry Air Force Base, named in honor of 2nd Lt. Francis B. Lowry, a Colorado native and World War I aviator, who lost his life in an aircraft accident in 1934.

Aurora History Museum

Over the decades the base played a major role in the defense of the United States, including many of the Air Force’s most important training programs. From training for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress to photographic intelligence courses.

A huge Air Force base, it provided Aurora with many jobs, homes, and perhaps most of all: a sense of local pride.

As we delved into the rich history of the base, we discovered its profound impact on the world of military aerial photography. Way back in 1937, when it first opened as the Denver branch of the Army Air Corps Training School, this base helped develop critically important aerial photography techniques used by the military.

Photographs depict the life lived by soldiers during this time. You get a sense of the 57-year evolution of the Air Force Base, the key roles that it played in major conflicts like World War II, and an understanding of how it drove so much growth in the area.

I was also surprised to find out that Lowry Air Force Base was used as a summer White House by President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1955. Equally interesting was its temporary role as the original Air Force Academy.

Finally, I was taken back to our visit to the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona after learning about how Lowry became a part of the U.S.military’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program, a land-based nuclear arsenal on American
soil back in the 1950s.

Titan Missile Museum located near Tucson, Arizona.

After learning about the storied military past and about some of the historic structures that still can be found today, we checked out the temporary outdoors exhibit which will be running through 2024.

Exhibits go into great detail about the magnificent outdoor opportunities that the city of Aurora has to offer, including its reservoirs, 100+ parks, 24 gardens, nature centers, High Line Canal, and five golf courses.

Aurora History Museum

We learned about the different types of wildlife and gained a lot of insight into different trails and other activities available in the area, including those in hot spots like Cherry Creek State Park and Morrison Nature Center.

When people come to Denver they often think about the Rocky Mountains as the main outdoor attraction but there’s a lot offered in the Aurora area as well.

Discover things like bird watching where you can encounter birds like the Lark Bunting, American Goldfinch, White-crowned Sparrow and maybe even Bald Eagles. If you have just moved to the area, this would be a fantastic place to visit to get a sense of the outdoor opportunities.

Aurora History Museum

After getting our nature fix, we made our way to the main historical exhibit of Aurora.

Through interestingly designed panels, you’ll be able to learn about the early days of the city and how different neighborhoods and developments came into existence. As things started to takeoff after World War II, read about both the successes and failures along the way.

Exhibits tell more of the story of the areas military’s past which includes that of Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, which started as a recovery site for veterans wounded in World War I and expanded into a nationally-known center for treating tuberculosis.

It was known for offering world-class care to military personnel and the tradition of providing solid medical care has continued. Today, Aurora has one of the largest complexes for biomedical research in the world.

We got a little taste of the history of education and public services including the police and firefighters which took me back to our visit a few days prior to the Firefighters Museum in Denver.

Aurora History Museum

Eventually we made it to the transportation exhibit which touches on subjects like the early pioneer travelers heading through places like the Four Mile House but it also houses the main highlight of the museum.

I’m talking about the 100 year old beautifully preserved and restored Trolley Trailer No. 610, which once transported workers who built Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Aurora History Museum trolley

It takes you back to a different area of transportation and we were able to walk inside and take a seat. Before you depart, make sure to take a moment to try on the conductors outfit and give the trolley a ring or two.

Aurora History Museum trolley

We then wrapped up the museum visit with a quick stop to the gift shop where we came away with some local honey from Lockhart Honey Farms. Check out all of the shelves because you have a lot of different options to choose from.

I should mention that there is also a 30 minute film you can watch on the development of Aurora from “town” to “city” but we didn’t quite have the time to make that so we had to save that until next time.

However, if you want to, you can request for the museum to restart the movie so that you can begin watching it from the beginning (since it plays on a loop).

Overall, it was a really great visit and I found it very interesting to learn about this community which is significantly larger than I ever imagined.

7/20 Memorial & Reflection Gardens

After visiting the Aurora History Museum, we made our way over to the nearby Reflection Garden located just across the street.

You could walk from the same parking lot you parked in for the museum or look for a parking spot a little bit closer to cut down on your walking time.

Once we arrived at the gardens, we followed the meandering sidewalks checking out various vegetation and other exhibits until we arrived at the 7/20 Memorial.

It’s a beautiful memorial adorned with 83 graceful cranes, known as the “Ascentiate” sculpture.

It was dedicated on July 27th, 2018 and the cranes honor the 13 lives taken and 70 wounded during the Aurora Theater shooting.

Beyond commemorating these individuals, it stands as a testament to the incredible strength and resilience displayed by the first responders and community members. It’s a heartfelt tribute that reminds us of the indomitable spirit that emerges from even the darkest of times.

We took some time to pay our respects for those who lost their life, which is something we had just done a few days prior when we visited the Columbine Memorial.

7/20 Memorial aurora

Final word

The museum is very well done and worth a visit if you are ever on the east side of Denver. I thought it was really interesting to learn about the beginnings of this area and had no idea about the depth of military history. After you check out the museum, I also recommend you to take a moment to reflect at the “Ascentiate” sculpture.

Denver Firefighters Museum Review: Blazing Through History

The Denver Firefighters Museum brilliantly showcases the heritage of Denver’s firefighting legacy.

From vintage fire trucks that once roared through the city’s streets to the historic living quarters, this museum immerses visitors in the world of firefighting.

In this article, I’ll give you an idea of what to expect when you visit the Denver Firefighters Museum.

What is the Denver Firefighters Museum?

The Denver Firefighters Museum pays homage to the rich history and heroic efforts of firefighters in Denver, Colorado. Located in a historic brick firehouse, known as “Fire Station No. 1,” the museum tells the story of the evolution of firefighting and offers visitors a unique glimpse into the lives of some of the city’s earliest fire fighters.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Where is the Denver Firefighters Museum?

The Denver Firefighters Museum is located at 1326 Tremont Place, Denver, Colorado, 80204. It is situated in downtown Denver, near the Civic Center Park and the Colorado State Capitol.

The Denver Firefighters Museum does not have its own parking lot, but there are several paid parking options nearby. There are metered street parking spots available and they are usually around $2.00 per hour with a two hour maximum

Several paid parking lots or garages are also located within a few blocks of the museum, including a lot directly across from the museum.

Admission prices as of May 2023 are the following:

  • Adult:  $9.00
  • Senior/Military/Firefighter: $8.00
  • Children 3-12:  $7.00
  • Children Under 3:  FREE
  • Member:  FREE  

Related: Four Mile Historic Park Review: Denver’s Pioneer Legacy Comes Alive

Denver Firefighters Museum parking

The Denver Firefighters Museum experience

The museum is situated inside an authentic historic firehouse, Fire Station No. 1, constructed in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After buying your tickets at the front and learning what you can and can’t touch, you can follow the footsteps through the museum taking your time at each exhibit.

Inside the museum, you’ll find a wide array of firefighter memorabilia and equipment used throughout the decades.

Start off marveling at the old communications equipment as it’s a great opportunity to gain some insight into the unique “alarm box” communications and Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph dispatch methods dating back to the 1800s.

While you’re there, take the opportunity to delve into the beginnings of “9-1-1” and visit the “watch desk,” also known as the central hub of the fire station, where personnel diligently monitored all fire-related incidents throughout the city.

It was truly fascinating to discover the array of sophisticated techniques they had developed and refined over the years.

Denver Firefighters Museum

You’ll soon be drawn to the impressive collection of vehicles used by the fire department over the years, which showcase the evolution of firefighting technology since the 1800s.

Check out the 1867 Gleason and Bailey hand-drawn pumper, the first pumping machine of any kind in Denver. And don’t miss the horse-drawn steamer on loan from the New York City Fire Museum.

These steamers represent a time when firefighters relied on steam-powered pumps to deliver high-pressure water streams to extinguish fires. Eventually these were made obsolete by things like motorized fire engines and hydraulic pumps, but these vehicles are beautifully preserved.

Denver Firefighters Museum
Denver Firefighters Museum

Another classic not to be missed is the 1953 Seagrave engine, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Seagrave Corporation of Columbus, Ohio. With its classic look, it truly captures the essence of firefighting in the mid-20th century and evokes a sense of nostalgia. Other classic vehicles can also be admired.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Get up close to a life net which where are those trampoline looking things you probably have seen in cartoons. These were actually used to help save lives from people trapped high up in buildings, although they came with their own risks.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Uniforms worn by firefighters from different eras are on display, showcasing the evolution of their protective gear and the changing styles over time. You’ll see the special “turnout gear,” which includes a protective jacket, pants, boots, and helmet used and a collection of historical firefighter uniforms. Learn about the color-coded helmets and all of the little details related to this equipment.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Tools and equipment used by firefighters, such as axes, hoses, and breathing apparatus, give you a glimpse into their daily lives and the challenges they faced in their line of duty. See how they broke through doors, windows, and walls and survived smoke-filled environments while saving lives.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Be sure to make your way up the creaky steps to the second floor, where you can explore the old living quarters. You can check out the family dining room where firefighters would gather with their families for dinner and see how the officers lived in some of the rooms, as well as the dormitory space. Some of the rooms were nice and spacious with their own bathrooms while others were more on the modest side.

Denver Firefighters Museum

It’s pretty interesting to see all of the different ways they were optimized to respond to calls, doing whatever they could to ensure that firefighters could shave off as much time as possible when heading out on “runs.” Every precious second held significance.

Regrettably, some of these measures came at a price. Injuries involving the sliding poles were not uncommon and you could imagine some of the accidents that took place. Luckily, there are covers on these now to prevent you from accidentally taking the express elevator to the first floor.

Denver Firefighters Museum slide pole

It’s all really cool to see and make sure you don’t skip the vintage bathroom!

Upstairs, you’ll also find a number of other interesting things to see including a small exhibit area dedicated to 9/11. There’s a piece of one of the steel beams on display at the exhibit which remembers the 343 FDNY firefighters who were killed in the terrorist attacks.

Denver Firefighters Museum 9/11

This being a fire station museum, it’s no surprise that it’s a great place to bring kids. Upstairs there is something called Little Squirts Square where children can learn about fire safety through hands-on activities and educational displays. Kids will also have the opportunity to try on firefighting gear and role-play as firefighters down stairs.

Denver Firefighters Museum squirts square kids area

As you wrap up your visit, there is a small gift shops section of the museum. You find different T-shirts, souvenirs, and gift of all sizes and prices, including play sets and fire trucks.

Denver Firefighters Museum gift shop

The Denver Firefighters Museum also offers educational programs and guided tours for school groups and other visitors. These programs focus on fire safety, firefighting history, and the importance of emergency preparedness.

Through informative presentations, hands-on demonstrations, and engaging discussions, visitors of all ages have the opportunity to learn from experienced firefighters and gain valuable knowledge about fire prevention and safety measures.

In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions that highlight specific themes or aspects of firefighting. From showcasing the contributions of women in firefighting to displaying the latest advancements in firefighting technology, these rotating displays keep the museum experience fresh and engaging for returning visitors.

Throughout the year, the museum organizes various events and special programs. You can attend fundraisers, lectures, workshops, and demonstrations that offer opportunities to engage with firefighting professionals.

Final word

Stepping inside the Denver Firefighters Museum is not just a journey through history, but also a chance to appreciate the dedication and bravery of firefighters. From vintage fire trucks to fascinating communications exhibits, this museum offers a comprehensive and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

Titan Missile Museum Review | (Tucson, AZ)

If you’re ever in the Tucson area and looking for something completely unique, fascinating, and eye-opening to do then look no further than the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, AZ, just outside of Tucson.

It’s a historic site that provides visitors with a pretty chilling encounter of just how close the world came to World War III.

In this review, I’ll tell you everything you need to know before visiting the museum so that you’ll be able to make the most out of your visit!

What is the Titan Missile Museum?

The Titan Missile Museum is a National Historic Landmark that houses the only remaining Titan II site open to the public.

Titan II missiles were the largest land-based missile ever deployed by the US and they served a crucial purpose during the Cold War.

The Titan II launch complexes, which housed the W-53 nuclear warheads, were “on alert” from 1963 to 1987 in an effort to show the Soviet Union that mutually assured destruction would be imminent upon a launch of one of their own nuclear missiles.

Today, you can take a guided tour of the site that allows you to get up close and personal with a Titan II and also learn about how these powerful missiles could have been used during the Cold War.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Where is the Titan Missile Museum?

The Titan Missile Museum is located at: 1580 W Duval Mine Rd, Green Valley, AZ 85614.

Green Valley is a smaller city just south of Tucson which, depending on what side of Tucson you’re coming from, should only take you about 20 to 30 minutes to get to.

Other Tucson sites:

Titan Missile Museum Access (prices & hours)

Titan Missile Museum hours are typically 9:45am to 5:00pm.

In terms of ticket prices for guided tours, here is what you can expect:

  • Adult (Ages 13-64): $15.50 
  • Pima County Resident Adult: $14.50 
  • Seniors (65+): $14.50 (Proof of age required at check-in)
  • Child (Ages 0-4): $1.00
  • Junior (Ages 5-12): $12.50

As soon as you arrive, you will need to check in with the front desk at the gift shop.

Unfortunately, this means that you may need to wait in the line of gift shop customers before you can check in (which is the one thing I would change about this experience).

If you arrive early, there are some museum exhibits to check out connected to the gift shop which tell some of the story of the Cold War and give you some insight into the power of these nuclear weapons.

I’d wait until the end of the tour to check out the exhibits just because you will appreciate them more.

The guided tours are 45 minutes but there is an optional self-guided portion at the end. In total, we spent about one hour and 20 minutes touring the museum which I feel is a perfect amount of time.

Titan Missile Museum gift shop

Titan Missile Museum history

After World War II, the US and the Soviet Union faced off for over four decades in what would be known as the Cold War.

During this time, tension between the nations grew and the reality of all-out nuclear warfare became a real possibility.

As a deterrence strategy, the US knew that it had to show the Soviet Union that it had the means to cause at least as much destruction as the Soviet Union could, so in 1960 they began constructing 54 Titan II silos.

These missiles — known to be the largest land-based missile ever deployed by the US — were extraordinarily powerful.

In fact, compared to the atomic bombs dropped during World War II they were about 600 times more powerful.

If that doesn’t sound impressive enough consider that they were also more powerful than all of the bombs combined used by combatants in World War II.

Each individual bomb could easily wipe out an entire major city.

So we’re not only talking World War III stuff here — we’re talking end of civilization as we know it.

titan II missile launching
Image via Titan Missile Museum.

These silos were built underground so that they could withstand a potential nuclear attack.

They would not be able to survive a direct attack (warhead landing right on top of the complex) but Soviet missiles were not known to be very accurate so they would stand a good chance to survive in the event of a missile missing its target.

Moreover, the Titan II missiles were designed differently from the Titan I to ensure that they could be launched much quicker.

We’re talking a launch time of under a minute.

Not only could they be launched quicker but after launch, it would only take 30 minutes to hit their target.

This was very important to the deterrence effect because the Soviet Union had to believe that the US was capable of retaliating instantly in the event of an attack.

Therefore, the silos were ready to go 24 hours a day and always “on alert” during the Cold War between 1963 and 1987.

Many processes were developed to ensure that the silos could always receive launch orders.

Even if Washington was destroyed they were able to receive commands for nuclear launches via the “Looking Glass.”

That was an aircraft that acted as a command center in the sky that was constantly flying for 29 years straight around the US to have a way to orchestrate a response to nuclear threats even if bases on land were wiped out.

While there were 54 Titan II silos built, these were not located randomly throughout the US.

Instead, there were three groups of 18 missiles and they were found near three bases: 

  • Davis–Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona
  • Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas
  • McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas

So the silo at the Titan Missile Museum was only one of many in the Tucson area, although it is the only one still available to visit.

Check out the map below to see where all of the other ones were.

Titan II Missile Sites Tucson Arizona

The particular launch complex at the museum (Launch Complex 571-7) came off alert on November 11, 1982.

Immediate efforts took place to preserve this place as a museum which was a tall order because parties like the Air Force had to be convinced.

But thanks to a lot of hard work and special agreements with other nations, the Titan Missile Museum opened up to the public on May 21, 1986.

The Titan Missile Museum experience


Your first stop will be a small room where you’ll get a very brief overview of what was going on with the Cold War and the purpose these missiles served.

The big theme here is MAD: mutual assured destruction.

Because there were so many of these silos and they were so powerful with the ability to be quickly launched, any opposing force would be assured that the US would respond with an equal if not heavier use of force against them following a nuclear attack.

It’s a theory that many people have debated the merits of but throughout the Cold War I think it proved to be effective. After all, we were able to avoid World War III.

As some will refer to it, it was “peace by deterrence.

Mutually Assured Destruction Theory | by Patrick Hollis | Medium
Photo via Medium.

Our tour guide was a former employee that actually worked at the silo and I believe that at least some of the other guides are as well.

In my opinion, this seriously upgrades the value of the tour as you get to not only experience the silo yourself but also hear from someone who lived and breathed in that space for years.

It’s truly living history.

Descend to the Blast Lock Area

After the short film, you will head outside to the Access Portal Entrance of the Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) complex.

It’s here where you will enter the complex en route to the Blast Lock Area.

The entire complex you’ll be visiting is has a pretty simple layout.

There are basically three buildings that make up the entire complex: 1) Missile Silo, 2) Blast Lock Area, and 3) Control Center.

You’ll be visiting level two of the Missile Silo, the Blast Lock Area, and level two of the Control Center.

To find out more about each section, you can click here.

Titan Missile Museum complex diagram
Image via Titan Missile Museum.

Beyond the Access Portal Entrance, stairs await you.

While the missile is 103 feet tall and the entire silo about 150 feet, you will only head down 35 feet below the surface via 55 metal grate stair steps which is not that bad.

Note: They do have an elevator it is not available for visitors.

Once you get down to the Blast Lock Area, you’ll encounter the massive 3-ton steel blast doors which were designed to protect the crew from a potential nuclear blast.

If you’re over 6′ 2″ tall, watch out for the ceiling because it is a pretty tight fit. I’m 6’1″ and I could feel my head just getting by without grazing the ceiling in the cableways.

Launch Control Center

Your third stop will be in the Launch Control Center.

This is where you can check out all of the actual controls used to launch one of these missiles.

Because decisions and actions were so “consequential” in this room, at least two crew members had to be present there at all times and one of them had to be an officer.

Titan Missile Museum command center

You’ll be briefed on the entire process used to launch these nuclear warheads and witness what it would have looked and sounded like in the command center.

To me, this was the coolest part of the tour.

You discover that the launch process is a sequence full of redundancy and decoding with a little bit of escape-room trickery.

It’s a bit chilling to hear the sirens and nuclear codes ringing through the speakers knowing that this type of alarm would have signaled a likely apocalypse upon the earth.

If you want to take your experience to another level, my advice would be to get to the front of the line before entering Launch Control Center so that you can take one of the seats.

This isn’t to rest your feet but to ensure that you can personally act out what would’ve been one of the most radical moments in the history of the planet.

The seat in the middle is reserved for the Missile Combat Crew Commander (MCCC) and the seat closer to the side of the wall is designated for the Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander (DMCCC).

If you snag one of the seats you get the lucky opportunity of turning one of the keys to initiate the launch and walk away with your own personal proof you did it!

Titan Missile Museum command center

The missile silo

After the launch session, you’ll journey down the cableway to level 2 of the missile silo.

You are still only seeing about a third of the rocket whenever you look up but it’s extremely interesting to see the rocket so up close.

Titan Missile Museum missile

One of the best story lines to these Titan II rockets is that they were used for scientific purposes.

Specifically, NASA used them for Project Gemini — NASA’s second human spaceflight program. These rockets played a major role in the space race and helped with our mission to be be the first country to land someone on the moon.

Historic - Titan II Rocket
Image via Nasa.

Apparently, these rockets made an interesting noise when they were launched. See if you can pick up the noise in the video below.

Back to the surface

After a close encounter with a Titan II, you’ll head back out of the bunker and you have the opportunity to wander around and inspect all of the objects on the surface. Watch out for rattlesnakes.

From the top you’ll see you can look down and get a great view from atop the Titan missile.

At over 100 feet, it’s a pretty long way down.

You’ll notice that the cover is permanently locked in a half-open position and that the tip of the missile (re-entry vehicle) is also missing a section, allowing you to see right in.

As you’ll learn, these were all conditions required by the mutual agreement between the US and the Soviet Union as they disarmed their silos.

The Soviets needed to trust that this rocket was not going to suddenly be launched one day and wanted to be able to use scout it out themselves using their own satellites.

Titan Missile Museum missile

While you’re up there, you’ll also learn about all of the different antennas set up to ensure that communications could still take place even after a nuclear blast.

You can also check out some of the engines, radar systems, and other vehicles that were utilized at the facility.

Gift shop plus exhibits

After you check out everything outside, head back in and take a look at some of the exhibits in the visitor center.

They have some interesting things to check out and one of the artifacts that stood out was an edition of Life magazine that contained a letter from JFK telling the American people what to do in the event of a fall out. I just really cannot imagine reading something like that.

Final word

Overall, this was well worth the visit. It’s unbelievable to think about the power that these missiles could unload and the responsibility that the personnel had inside these silos.

A visit to this museum will force you to ponder how close we came to the destruction of mankind during the Cold War.

But it will also make you re-think what it means to retain world peace.

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum Review [2022]

When Pearl Harbor was attacked almost all of the damage came from the air and perhaps the best place to get a sense of what those enemy attackers looked like is the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

It’s one of the attractions located on historic Ford Island and it’s definitely worth adding to your itinerary if you can find the time.

Below, I’ll explain more about the museum and give you an idea of what you can expect when you visit including highlighting some of the most interesting things to check out.

What is the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum?

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is home to several aircraft and original artifacts involved in the Pearl Harbor attacks.

You’ll explore two airport hangars, an outdoor aircraft lot, and a control tower, which all allow you to experience the unique history of this place in a different way.

This museum is special in that it is located at ground zero for the Pearl Harbor attacks.

I’ve been to some aviation museums before and always enjoyed my time but this one just feels different. The history is palpable.

Tip: If you want to buy tickets to multiple Pearl Harbor attractions (USS Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri) check out this option online.

How to visit the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is located on historic Ford Island, Hawaii, which is an active military base that can only be accessed by a shuttle bus (unless you have some other type of special permission).

The shuttle bus station is located on the north side of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Visitor Center. It’s basically on the opposite side of the station for the shuttle boat to the USS Arizona Memorial.

If you plan on visiting the USS Missouri and USS Oklahoma Memorial, you should first get dropped off by the bus at that stop and then when you finish up there you can hop back on the shuttle bus and make your way to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

That will make things a lot easier because the shuttle bus only runs one way.

Shuttles depart every 15 minutes from 8am to 5pm daily but the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is only open from 9am to 5pm.

For security purposes, no bags are allowed on the shuttle bus to Ford Island.

A bag storage facility at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park shuttle bus stop can store your belongings for a fee of $5.00 per bag. Credit cards are accepted.

You can buy tickets for the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum online or in-person at the following rates:

  • Adults: $25.99
  • Children: $15.99 (ages 4-12)

Experiencing the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

Hangar 37

Your first stop will be Hangar 37, where the shuttle bus will drop you off.

When the attack happened, this hangar housed nine Grumman J2F “Ducks” and nine Sikorsky JRS-1s.

Soldiers on the ground used the mounted machine guns on the grounded J2Fs to defend the island. Meanwhile, five JRS-1s departed Hangar 37 to find the Japanese fleet (but were unsuccessful).

The hangar also provided shelter to the survivors of the battleship USS California.

So thousands of lives were permanently altered on the grounds you’re stepping on and countless acts of bravery took place on these premises.

Getting started

After showing your tickets to the front desk you will begin your journey to the museum.

You should see the gift shop and the Laniākea Cafe restaurant located right by the entrance and also nearby is a 200-person theater that you can pop into to catch a short film about Pearl Harbor.

That will give you some history and then you’ll be ready to head into the main part of the museum.

Mitsubishi A6M Zero

One of the main attractions at the museum is the Mitsubishi A6M Zero or simply “Zero,” which is the name used for these Japanese planes made by Mitsubishi.

They get their name from the last digit of the year that they were launched which was the year 2600 according to the Japanese Imperial calendar.

These were state of the art planes and the most equipped carrier planes when they were launched in 1940. Japan also produced more of these (10,000+) than any other model of combat aircraft.

Their lightweight design made them extremely fast and maneuverable and gave them a lot of range but also made them vulnerable to gunfire. Nine Zeros were shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Eventually, weaknesses in the Zero were discovered and the US would capitalize on them by altering their strategies of engagement.

As the Allies became more advanced with their aircraft tactics, the Zero became increasingly outdated and eventually was adapted for kamikaze attacks.

Mitsubishi A6M Zero
This specific aircraft was used in combat in the Solomon Islands in 1943.

Zero Nishikaichi (the Niihau incident)

At first glance, the remains of the The Zero Nishikaichi look like in an uninteresting pile of scrap. But these rusted remnants are actually part of a fascinating story related to the Pearl Harbor attacks.

Pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi flew this Zero during the second wave of attacks and was forced to make a crash landing on the island of Niihau, which is just off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

A local Hawaiian, Kaleohano, then discovered him and took his papers and pistol.

Kaleohano did not know about the attack on Pearl Harbor yet but he realized this was a Japanese pilot and knew that relationships were strained between the US and Japan.

The locals provided a hospitable welcome for the pilot but struggled to communicate with him so they brought in two Hawaiians of Japanese descent, the Haradas.

Nishikaichi shared the news of the Pearl Harbor attack in Japanese with the couple but they kept that news a secret.

This married couple had sympathy for the pilot and would end up trying to help Nishikaichi escape the island while also attempting to retrieve his confidential papers and pistol.

But as locals on the island discovered what happened at Pearl Harbor via radio broadcast, they quickly turned on Nishikaichi.

Ultimately, a situation played out overnight where Nishikaichi and Harada, armed with a shotgun and pistol, stormed Kaleohano’s house only for him to get away.

Nishikaichi and Harada then initiated a manhunt for Kaleohano, while putting the island intro a frenzy.

Ben Kanahele, who had been captured along with his wife by the duo, ended up getting into a fight with them. During the scuffle, Kanahele killed Nishikaichi with a hunting knife despite being shot three times by the pilot.

Meanwhile, Harada took his own life with a shotgun.

It was a very crazy situation and unfortunately it was likely a contributing factor to the government setting up Japanese internment camps based on an official Navy report dated January 26, 1942.

Nishikaichi burned his Zero which is partly why the exhibit looks the way it does. Image via creative commons.

Nakajima B5N “Kate”

There’s also a Nakajima B5N or just “Kate,” which was the first all metal monoplane aircraft in the Imperial Japanese arsenal.

Japan’s premier carrier-based torpedo bomber, these were integral to the Pearl Harbor attack and 144 of these planes took part in the attack, arriving in both waves.

They also played a role in battles at the Coral Sea, Midway, and Santa Cruz Islands.

The Kate you’ll see at the museum is an extremely rare find.

In fact, it’s one of only two Kates in existence, even though over 1,000 were produced.

Nakajima B5N “Kate”

Boeing N2S-3 Stearman (Trainer)

The “big yellow plane” hanging in the museum is the Boeing N2S-3 Stearman.

This one is especially noteworthy because it was used by former President George H. W. Bush Bush on December 15, 1942, while participating in flight training at Naval Air Station, Minneapolis, MN.

Another interesting aircraft to check out is the Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, which was used by the US to combat the Zeros and quite a successful US Naval fighter. It was famously used a lot when pilots engaged in the “Thach Weave” (video)

There are some other interesting exhibits to check out in the hangar.

One of the more helpful exhibits was a large diagram that illustrates the first and second waves of the Pearl Harbor attacks.

It does a really good job of giving you an idea of the direction that the attacks came from and also showing you some of the other targets that were hit on Oahu.

Fighter Ace 360 Flight Simulators

If you’re looking for a bit of a thrill ride then consider giving the Fighter Ace 360 Flight Simulators a try.

My biggest regret on visiting the museum is that we did not try this out because in retrospect it looks freaking awesome.

It’s only about $22 for two people and this thing can take you fully inverted for the ultimate flight experience.

You can experience a dog fight with Thunder in the Pacific or get futuristic and partake in some space travel with Quantum Star Fighter.

Outdoor collection

Once you get finished with Hangar 37 you will head outside and make your way to Hangar 79 but on the way you’ll probably want to make a pitstop at the outdoor collection.

Between the two hangers there is an outdoor area where different helicopters and planes are on display.

You’ve probably heard of the Blackhawk but have you heard of the Seahawk?

One helicopter that stuck out to me was the Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk which was sort of the Navy’s version of the Blackhawk.

Equipped with one torpedo on each side, a 30mm gun, and Hellfire missiles, it specialized in anti-submarine warfare, mine clearing, anti-ship warfare, and insertion of Navy SEALS.

If you look on the left side of the helicopter you’ll see 25 tube openings which look a bit peculiar. These are made to send out sonobuoys that allow a crew to detect submarines.

Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk

There’s quite a few aircraft outside so you’ll want to allocate some time to wander around and check these out.

Raytheon Pavilion

The Raytheon pavilion is located between the two hangers and it houses an “ever-changing roster of experiences with traveling exhibits.”

When we visited, there was an exhibition on Bob Hope who was a comedian, actor and entertainer who helped keep the spirits high for service men and women on the front lines of World War II.

Hangar 79

The other major structure that makes up the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is Hangar 79.

Hangar 79 was undergoing a lot of construction when we were there and the vast majority of the hangar was blocked off.

Hangar 79 Pearl harbor

Once inside, we got a glimpse of one of the Blue Angels and the B-17 “Swamp Ghost.”

This B-17 aircraft, which originally arrived in Honolulu 10 days after the Pearl Harbor attack, has a pretty fascinating story as the pilot had to perform an emergency landing in Agaiambo Swamp in Australia.

The aircraft remained there for decades and only recently was restored and brought back to the US in 2014.

We also saw the Shealy Restoration Shop in action, which is a “genuine aircraft restoration shop that maintains and restores authentic aircraft from World War II and beyond.”

If you want to go behind the scenes of the restoration shop, book the guided Legends of Pearl Harbor Tour.

While I enjoyed exploring the hangar, I don’t believe we were able to get the full experience that Hangar 79 typically has to offer since so many things were blocked off.

Still, one thing that we did see were all of the bullet holes in the windows which are from the Pearl Harbor attack.

To me, that is the most moving aspect of the entire museum.

Hangar 79 Pearl harbor windows
Hangar 79 Pearl harbor windows bullet holes

Control Tower

It was at this control tower where the first radio broadcast of the attack on Pearl Harbor was made at 8:05 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941.


At the time of the radio announcement, the structure was being bombed and windows on the lower levels were shattering.

The Control Tower at Pearl Harbor has undergone a lot of recent renovations but unfortunately those were not fully complete when we visited.

But soon the tower will be complete and you’ll be able to take an elevator all the way to the top where you will have 360° views of Ford Island and the surrounding harbor.

Final word

It felt like our experience here was a little bit limited because of some of the ongoing renovations but it was still worth checking out.

You’ll no doubt feel the history as you wander the premises and check out everything from the bullet holes left in the windows to some of the rare aircraft on display.

During my time on the shuttle bus, I overheard people talking about skipping the aviation museum but I would highly recommend you to give it a shot because there’s a lot to take in here.

USS Missouri “Mighty Mo” Review (Pearl Harbor) [2022]

Pearl Harbor in Hawaii is full of interesting and historical sites to see and one of those sites is the USS Missouri aka the Mighty Mo.

It’s one of the most iconic and symbolic attractions at Pearl Harbor and it’s arguably the most famous battleship in the world.

But what exactly is there to see at this ship and what can you expect when you visit?

In this article, I’ll give you a breakdown of the major highlights of the USS Missouri and also give you an idea of what to expect when you walk its historic decks.

What is the USS Missouri?

Launched on January 29, 1944, the USS Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and it’s well known for its “surrender deck” which was the site where the Empire of Japan surrendered, officially ending World War II.

Today, you can explore many rooms and quarters of the ship on a self-guided tour as part of one of the many enriching experiences at Pearl Harbor.

How to visit the USS Missouri

The USS Missouri is located on historic Ford Island, Hawaii, which is an active military base that can only be accessed by a shuttle bus (unless you have some other type of special permission).

The shuttle bus station is located on the north side of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Visitor Center. It’s basically on the opposite side of the USS Arizona Memorial shuttle boat station.

You’ll load into the shuttle bus and be taken over the bridge to Ford Island and during your ride your bus driver might give you some history into Pearl Harbor.

Once you make your way to the military base, you are forbidden to take photos from the bus until you get out so keep that in mind.

USS Missouri shuttle bus

Your first shuttle bus stop will be the USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum will be your second stop.

If you plan on visiting both the USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum then you should first get off at the USS Missouri because the shuttle bus only runs one way.

Shuttles depart every 15 minutes from 8am to 5pm daily and the USS Missouri is open from 8am to 4pm (you must present your ticket before 3pm).

For security purposes, no bags are allowed on the shuttle bus to Ford Island.

A bag storage facility at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park shuttle bus stop can store your belongings for a fee of $5.00 per bag. Credit cards are accepted.

You can buy general admission tickets for the USS Missouri online or in-person at the following rates:

  • Adults: $34.99
  • Children: $17.49 (ages 4-12)

Tip: If you want to buy tickets to multiple Pearl Harbor attractions (USS Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri) check out this option online.

USS Missouri entrance

USS Missouri (brief) history

The USS Missouri was launched on January 29, 1944, as part of the Iowa class battleships ordered in 1939 and 1940 and designed in part to ensure the US could compete against the faster Japanese fleets.

Although plans were made for the next generation class of battleships which would’ve been even bigger, the Iowa class ended up being the last class of battleships and the USS Missouri was the final US battleship created.

The Missouri arrived at the latter end of World War II but just in time to provide support for other vessels and inflict damage at the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

During the war she provided anti-aircraft support for aircraft carriers and helped to bombard the shores of places like Okinawa. In August of 1945 it was decided that the official surrender of Japan would take place on the USS Missouri.

After World War II, she would then go on to fight in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, where during two deployments she inflicted considerable damage to many locations along the Korean coast.

In 1955, she was decommissioned and after about three decades she was reactivated after being modernized in 1984.

She’d go on to provide support in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, where she fired newly installed Tomahawk missiles and also fired her 16-inch guns in anger for the last time.

After being decommissioned on March 31,1992, and after much bidding from other states, it was decided that the perfect docking place for the Missouri’s final chapter would be Pearl Harbor.

In 1998 she was towed across the Pacific to Ford Island and then in 1999 she opened as a ship museum.

USS Missouri with World War II camouflage.
USS Missouri with World War II camouflage.

Experiencing the “Mighty Mo”

There’s a ton to see at the Mighty Mo but when it comes to the things you have to see, make sure you check these out:

  • Main Battery Turret
  • Surrender Deck and plaque
  • Bridge
  • Kamikaze Deck (make sure you see the “dent”)
  • Second Level

When touring the ship, you should be able to wander anywhere that is not restricted, so just be on the lookout for those signs. It’s possible that during the pandemic more things are blocked off.

Getting on the ship

As soon as you get off the shuttle bus, you can proceed to the Missouri but don’t forget that you can also walk across the street and check out the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

It’s a well-done memorial to all of those who lost their life in the USS Oklahoma and it’s also much less crowded than other spots so it’s worth a visit.

Once you head to the entrance area you’ll walk towards the ship where you should see a line or at least someone attending a station and they will scan your tickets.

You’ll then make your way up to the main deck of the ship and begin your tour.

Note: if you think you need to use the bathroom I would recommend going to the bathrooms located just near the shuttle stop.

Your driver should tell you about these bathrooms but they are located in a building just in front of the main entrance (across from the USS Oklahoma Memorial).

There is a bathroom on the ship but there’s only one and it’s easy for you to get stuck in the middle of a maze inside the ship so it is best for you to just go before you head inside the ship.

Main Battery Turret

One of the most impressive things you’ll see on the Missouri is the Main Battery Turret and this should be your first stop on the tour.

This battleship came armed with nine 16-inch guns, 20 five-inch guns, 80 40mm anti-aircraft guns, and 49 20mm anti-aircraft guns.

But it’s the nine 16-inch/50-caliber Mark 7 guns that really stick out.

The size of these 66 foot long guns is hard to fathom until you are standing beneath them. You can only imagine how loud these suckers were when they fired upon the enemy at about two rounds per minute.

USS Missouri Main Battery Turret 16"

To get a sense of what this looked like and probably felt like, take a look at the image below which shows the sound waves blasting through the surface of the ocean.

And just imagine how much force was output when all of the guns were firing broadside. It was truly a spectacle.

USS Missouri firing during the Korean War.

You can see the size of one of the shells just below the barrels of the gun. These guns could fire projectiles weighing up to 2,700-pounds, which is just incredible.

What’s even crazier is that the Japanese built a battleship with even bigger guns which could handle 18 inch shells.

That was known as the Yamato and it was sunk during the battle of Okinawa after being hit with multiple bombs and torpedoes.

USS Missouri Main Battery Turret 16"
Each turret required a crew ranging from 85 to 110 men.

These guns were great for bombarding shorelines prior to amphibious invasions and destroying structures like bunkers.

They could fire up to 24 miles away with good accuracy and were used in the battle of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and also in the Korean and Gulf War.

While these guns were extremely powerful, the Navy realized during World War II that carriers could be utilized better and that is largely why battleships were phased out.

After checking out the turret, you’ll head towards Surrender Deck which will require you to go up a steep ladder.

I believe they have an elevator that can also take you up so if you have mobility issues you can still see Surrender Deck. Read more about the accessibility here.

Surrender Deck

The main attraction of the USS Missouri has to be Surrender Deck, since you really can’t get any more historic than this location.

This is the site where Japanese commanders signed the official instrument of surrender, thus ending World War II in a 23-minute ceremony.

A whole lineup of generals from the US and from other countries were present at the signing and you can stand in the same exact spot where these famed military officials once stood.

USS Missouri surrender deck historical photo
USS Missouri surrender deck

Initially, the surrender ceremony was scheduled to take place on August, 31, 1945.

Sailors were ordered to get the ship ready for the ceremony and performed cleaning and even paint jobs on the ship. However, bad weather delayed the ceremony until September 2, 1945.

On that day, at 9:02am, General MacArthur opened the surrender ceremony with these words:

“It is my earnest hope—indeed the hope of all mankind—that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.”

This moment is memorialized with a plaque that is set into Surender Deck of the USS Missouri.

USS Missouri surrender deck plaque

When you arrive at Surender Deck, there should be a guide there who will tell you some of the story around the surrender.

This is also a great opportunity to ask any questions you might have so it would help if you did a little bit of research before your visit and come with a couple of questions because chances are this guide will know the answers.

In addition to the plaque, there is also an exhibit with duplicates of the surrender papers which were signed at 9:25am to close out the ceremony.

Something that’s a little funny is that U.S. General Richard Sutherland had to fix some signatures because several Allied officers mistakenly signed in the wrong place. Talk about an awkward experience.

This article from Life has a lot of photos from the ceremony that gives you a good idea of what the scene looked like.

USS Missouri surrender deck signature papers

In one of those images you may notice an old (backwards) American flag in the background and you’ll see a duplicate of this flag at surrender deck.

It’s a flag used by Commodore Matthew C. Perry when he arrived at Tokyo Bay in July 1853 to deliver a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan with the hopes of opening diplomatic and trade relations with Japan, which had isolated itself for two centuries.

The flag was one of the demands by Gen. MacArthur and during the surrender ceremony he brought it up in his speech.

“We stand in Tokyo today, reminiscent of our countryman, Commodore Perry, 92 years ago. His purpose was to bring to Japan an era of enlightenment and progress by lifting the veil of isolation to the friendship, trade, and commerce of the world. But alas, the knowledge thereby gained of Western science was forged into an instrument of oppression and human enslavement.”

The final stamp on the surrender ceremony had to be the flyover which included 465 B-29s.

This was nothing short of a force demonstration that would rid Japan of any doubts about changing their minds on the surrender.

It would also send a message to other participants in the audience including those from Russia.

These B-29s would take a special route so that they could loop back around and make it appear as if the US was equipped with 2 to 3 times more of these aircraft than we actually had.

Not every B-29 pilot was thrilled with this request, though.

The Smithsonian notes that “the average B-29 crewman was much more likely to die in an accident or a mechanical failure than from enemy action.”

These pilots were taking on a 15-hour trip over 3,000 miles of ocean in subpar weather.

They’d be forced to fly much lower than originally planned and to do so in an already crowded air space with hundreds of aircraft.

This was not your typical football game fly over.

With many of the B-29 pilots having been through plenty of close calls and emergency landings, I’m sure there was a lot of reservations about the risk versus reward.

Still, other pilots embraced the experience and even went on “sightseeing tours” over Tokyo to view the decimated city in the daytime for the first time since their bombings usually took place at night.

The B-29s ended up arriving shortly after the final signatures were made and they put on an impressive showing.

U.S. Navy carrier aircraft fly over Tokyo Bay

Captain’s cabin & Bridge

After experiencing all of that history, you can then make your way to a few more interesting spots up on the deck including the Captain’s Cabin.

As you make your way up to and around the bridge, you come across a special view of the USS Arizona Memorial.

You’ll notice that the Missouri’s guns point right over the remains of the USS Arizona.

It’s meant to be a symbolic gesture that the Missouri is watching over the Arizona and all of those sailors and marines who were entombed within it.

As you look out to the memorial you realize it’s quite fitting that the Missouri is located at Pearl Harbor since this place marked the beginning of World War II and the Missouri is where it ended.

I thought this view from inside the bridge was one of the most impressive views in Pearl Harbor.

One could only imagine the type of scenes that were viewed from these same windows throughout the decades.

Next, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the conning tower. Take note of how thick the walls are.

I also thought it was interesting that they still had the naval signal lamp which was used to send communications to other ships, usually with Morse code.

They would be able to output no more than 14 words per minute, so sailors either had to be very concise or patient with their messaging.

You can still pull the levers today, so feel free to give it a try.

Kamikaze Deck

As you come back down onto the main deck you have a chance to check out Kamikaze Deck which is another major point of interest on the Missouri.

This marks where, on 11 April 1945, a 19-year-old kamikaze attacker, Setuso Ishino, crashed a Zero into the ship’s hull during the battle of Okinawa.

Thankfully, there were no casualties from this attack and only superficial damage to the ship.

However, kamikaze attackers did do a lot of damage especially during the battle of Okinawa when they essentially went all out.

As of late June of 1945, it’s reported that around 10,000 US sailors and marines had been killed or injured by kamikaze attacks and 30 ships had been sunk with an additional 400 or so damaged.

Kamikaze attackers were so difficult to stop that they forced US forces to bulk up on anti-aircraft fire power including more ships and more personnel.

There’s a few interesting things to note about this kamikaze attack at Okinawa.

You can still see the dent from this attack if you look over the side of the ship between frames 159 and 165.

Photo by Wally Gobetz.

There’s a photograph of the Zero (or Zeke) just before it slams into the ship. It’s such a rare moment that I can’t imagine there being many (if any) other photographs like it.

Equally impressive is that it was taken by Len Schmidt, the cook assigned to the USS Missouri.

Zero kamikaze slamming into USS Missouri.

After the plane hit the Missouri, a machine gun from the plane broke off and impaled one of the turret guns.

There is a picture of that scene and it’s pretty remarkable how that happened.

Finally, the crew recovered the body of the kamikaze attacker and gave him a proper sea burial.

This was ordered by the captain of the ship, William Callaghan and it came at the protest of many sailors, especially when he called for the burial to take place with a Japanese war flag.

Callaghan’s reasoning for the ceremony was that he wanted:

“A tribute to a fellow warrior who had displayed courage and devotion, and who had paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life, fighting for his country.”

It’s kind of unfathomable to me that a crew would be able to show this kind of humanity during such a brutal war but there’s probably something to be said about the perspective it helped to maintain for some sailors.

The second deck tour

Right after you get done exploring everything above, you have the decision on whether or not you want to go down to the second deck.

The entire second deck will probably take you 30 to 40 minutes to explore.

I did not have a map and was able to get through it all without any major issues because the doorways and walls are marked with arrows so you pretty much always know where you need to go.

Personally, I would highly recommend that you head down there to check everything out because it will give you a sense of what life was like on a battleship like this.

It’s also a nice way to get a break from the heat if you are visiting on a warm day.

It’s kind of easy to miss the ladder down to the second deck but it is in the little outhouse looking building located underneath the middle gun in the photo below.

You can check out the second deck photos below.

For the most part, it’s pretty obvious what you’re looking at and a lot of times you’ll see signs describing to you what you see.

Once you finish up your tour you can head back down to the pier and there are quite a few different places to grab food, snacks, and souvenirs.

You’ll probably be spending around $10-$15 depending on if you want a burger or something a little bit more substantial like shrimp, fish and chips, etc. But you can also find refreshments to get you by like Dole Whips.

Related: Dole Plantation Review (Worth it or Tourist Trap?)

Before you leave make sure you check out the iconic statue of a sailor kissing his partner.

USS Missouri kissing statue

As you exit the Missouri area, you’ll head back to a covered pavilion with a lot of benches where you can wait for the shuttle bus.

After the tourists exit the bus they will signal for you to board and you can head to the next stop which is the Aviation Museum.

If you don’t want to visit that museum then just stay on the bus and you will be taken back to the visitor center.

Final word

I think the USS Missouri is a must when you come to Pearl Harbor. The ship itself and all of its armory is a spectacle but it’s hard to beat the history on the ship with Surrender Deck.

Even if you don’t have the time or the energy to tour the entire lower deck it would still be worth it to just come and check out the main deck and perhaps grab a bite to eat.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum Review (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii)

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is one of the main attractions at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that will give you insight into the role that the “silent service” of submarines played in World War II and also in the Cold War.

You’ll learn more about the the crucial role of submarines during warfare and get an idea of what it was like to serve in a submarine as you get to interact with sonar radars, periscopes, and check out conning towers and torpedoes.

In this article, I’ll give you an overview of what to expect when you head to the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus overview

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus is just one part of the overall Pearl Harbor experience and it’s home to the:

  • The USS Bowfin submarine
  • Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
  • Park with outdoor artifacts
  • Shaded eating area and food truck
  • Gift shop

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum was recently renovated at the tune of $23 million and re-opened in 2021 so it has a much more modern feel to it and is one of the newest tourist attractions at Pearl Harbor.

If you purchase a ticket to the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum you get entry to the USS Bowfin and all of the surrounding sites.

You’ll probably want to spend about 1.5 to 2 hours exploring all of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus sites.

The good news is that you can come back later in the day if you have to head out to catch another tour such as a boat shuttle to the USS Arizona.

Tip: If you want to buy tickets to multiple Pearl Harbor attractions (USS Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri) check out this option online.

How to visit the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is located on the north side of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial area. After you go through the main entrance, you will head to the right to make your way to the submarine.

You should see signs pointing you the right way but basically it’s on the opposite side of where you line up for the USS Arizona shuttle boat.

It’s pretty close to where you hop on the shuttle bus to take you over to Ford Island where you can visit the USS Missouri, USS Oklahoma Memorial, and Aviation Museum.

Related: Pearl Harbor Ultimate Guide

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

You will need to buy tickets in order to visit the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum and here are the prices for the tickets:

• Adult General: $21.99
• Children General (4-12 years): $12.99

Military members and Kama’aina can get discounts:

• Adult (Military and Kama’aina): $16.99
• Child (Military and Kama’aina): $8.99

You can buy these online or you can buy them whenever you get there but I would advise you to just secure them online.

You’ll have to select the date of your visit but you do not have to lock in a specific time slot.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum experience

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is basically divided into two separate sections or galleries.

The first section is mostly focused on the role submarines played in World War II in the Pacific.

The second section covers more modern times such as the Cold War and focuses on the evolution of submarines including the introduction of nuclear warheads.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

Context for your visit

Japan did not have many natural resources which is one of the main reasons why the war started for them in the first place.

So they relied on merchant ships coming in from various countries to transport all of the different resources that they needed to expand their empire.

US submarines helped with fighting warships and also rescue attempts of fallen pilots but their primary accomplishment in World War II was that they wreaked havoc on these Japanese merchant ships.

The US submarine force only made up approximately 2% of the US Navy but they were responsible for destroying over 60% of Japanese merchant shipping and over 30% of Japanese warships in World War II.

Thus, they had a huge outsized effect on the war relative to their size.

Their effectiveness did come at a price with 52 submarines and more than 3,600 officers and crewmen lost during World War II.

So as you stroll through the museum keep that context in the back of your mind because it will help you appreciate everything you see and interact with a little bit more.

If you have the time, I would recommend watching the video below as it is an excellent overview of how submarines were utilized during World War II.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

The World War II gallery is basically one large room and you can explore it in any order you would like.

That’s great for people like to randomly check out exhibit but makes a little bit more difficult for people who prefer more of a linear flow to a museum experience.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

One of the first exhibits you’ll see is a scale model of the USS Bowfin.

If you have not already visited the submarine, this can help give you some insight into the different compartments you’ll be going through.

One thing that you don’t see on your tour are the batteries that reside at the bottom and it’s pretty cool to see them in this model. It was those batteries that the submarine relied on when submerged.

Another interesting artifact is the bell from the USS Bowfin.

When the bell was created, it wasn’t clear exactly what year the submarine would be launched and apparently after it was launched no one decided to update the bell so it’s still missing the year.

The bell actually went missing at one point but luckily was re-discovered in 1996 when it was given to the museum.

USS Bowfin bell

In the World War II gallery, you’ll find several different interactive exhibits that give you a sense of what it was like to work on a submarine.

You’ll get to test your hearing and eye sight on radar and periscopes to see how you would fare in the 1940s.

My decision making was very suspect when it came to firing torpedoes so hopefully you’ll make it further than I did.

After you explore the World War II gallery, you can head over to the Cold War gallery.

The Cold War gallery gives you a lot of context around what was going on at the time and how submarines fit into the equation.

It introduces you to ballistic missiles and how they were used in submarines which I found to be pretty fascinating.

Having just visited the Titan Missile Museum in Tucson, Arizona a couple of months prior, it was really cool to see how these type of missiles were launched from submarines.

Once you finish up in the museum, there are some exhibits outside for you to check out. One of the most interesting is the conning tower from the USS Parche.

You may not be able to access the conning tower in the Bowfin, so this is your chance to see what it’s like inside one.

This is the compartment where torpedoes were launched from controls and where they made calculations for when and how to fire.

While the periscope in the conning tower does not function, there is a periscope nearby that you can view and see how powerful that magnification was.

You’ll also find a lot of missiles and torpedoes outside, including a Mark 14 torpedo.

Taking a look at the massive size of it, you can imagine how difficult it was to transport these torpedoes into the tight quarters of a submarine.

The Mark 14s were problematic torpedoes used during the first couple of years of the war.

It had issues with accuracy and detonation.

Many sailors endured the frustrating experience of listening to a torpedo hit the hull of an enemy ship only to fail to explode.

But eventually the Mark 18 torpedo came around and fixed some of those issues.

It also had issues but it came with the added benefit of not producing a wake of bubbles or turbine exhaust pointing back to the submarine firing it, which made it much harder for ships to track where the submarine was. 

Mark 14 torpedo.

I thought it was interesting to check out one of the guns and take a view of the sites the same way someone working the gun would have nearly 80 years ago.

The submarine rescue chamber is another one of the more interesting things to check out.

It was only used one time during a tragic training accident but it did end up saving the lives of 33 people. There’s an illustration by the chamber that shows how it works.

And finally there is the waterfront memorial which pays tribute to all of the submarines lost in World War II, although that is located outside of the submarine campus area.

After we checked out the submarine and museum, we did the USS Arizona tour and then by that time we had worked up a little bit of an appetite.

So we came back here to eat at Jake’s food truck and found that the food was actually pretty good for a museum food truck (we went with the chicken meals).

Jake's food truck
Jake's food truck chicken

We also made a quick pass through the gift shop which had a decent amount of things in there but we are not really gift shop people.

I kind of regret not purchasing one of these cool bullet planes pictured below especially because the purchase would go to help support the museum.

Final word

I really like this museum because I thought it was the perfect size.

There’s already so much to see at Pearl Harbor that you don’t really want a huge museum here and this gives you enough to keep you interested but not so much that you get overwhelmed.

If you plan on checking out the Bowfin submarine then I would highly recommend to also check out this museum because it will just give you a lot more context for what it was like on a submarine and the role that they played in the war.

Sixth Floor Museum Review (JFK Site)

Dallas has been forced to grapple with its association to the JFK assassination for decades. And nowhere in the city is this association stronger than the location of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

Today, the building, despite its dark history, is one of the most notable tourist attractions in Dallas.

In this article, I’ll break down everything you’d want to know before visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, including giving you a taste of some of the major highlights in the museum.

What is the Sixth Floor Museum?

The Sixth Floor Museum is a museum located in the former Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Oswald was employed and allegedly shot former President John F Kennedy. The museum provides an overview of JFK’s legacy and thoroughly chronicles all of the events related to the assassination.

It is one of the top attractions in Dallas and takes about 1.5 hours to properly visit.

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Sixth Floor Museum
The Sixth Floor Museum, located in the former Texas School Book Depository building.

Where is the Sixth Floor Museum?

The museum is located at: 411 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75202.

When you visit the museum you’ll surely want to check out other sites like the grassy knoll, the “X,” and the JFK Memorial, which are all located right next to the museum or within a block or two.

Personally, I would recommend arriving about 45 minutes to an hour before the museum opens and checking out all of those sites so that you can see them before it gets too crowded.

If you’re interested in a full JFK itinerary that follows the footsteps of JFK during his visit to Fort Worth and Dallas as well as the places where Lee Oswald lived in Dallas, be sure to check out the ultimate guide to JFK assassination sites.

Did you know? The gun used in the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt was purchased on Elm Street only a mile down the road from the Sixth Floor Museum.

This “X” marks the spot where the fatal shot took place.

How do you access the Sixth Floor Museum?

Normal hours for the Sixth Floor Museum are 10am to 5pm.

The Sixth Floor Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Here are what the prices were as of January 2022:

  • Adults $18
  • 65 and older: $16
  • Youth (6-18): $14
  • Under five: Free

I highly recommend that you purchase your tickets online well ahead of your visit because there is limited space and they do fill up.

In terms of how much time you need, give yourself about an hour and a half.

If you need to pay for parking there is a pretty good sized parking lot adjacent to the museum. Parking prices may vary but it cost us $12.

Currently, whenever you enter you will have your tickets scanned and then you’ll have to wait to go up an elevator. The line for the elevator can be a little slow because of social distancing.

Therefore, I would recommend that you start lining up at 9:45am if you can get there before it opens.

That way, you could be one of the first people in and explore the museum with little to no crowds.

Related: Hilton Fort Worth Review (Where JFK Spent His Last Night)

The entrance to the Sixth Floor Museum.

Sixth Floor Museum sites to see

There’s a lot to see in this unique museum but it’s not so big that it’s impossible to see everything in one visit. In many ways, I’d say it’s the perfect size for a museum of its kind.

But to help narrow things down and to avoid spoiling any surprises, I’ll just focus on eight key sites you want to check out in the museum.

Overview of JFK’s time and legacy

The beginning of the museum will outline the major social events and political climate of the 1960s and will give you an overview of the issues faced by JFK during his presidency.

Through interpretive panels, many photographs, and even original artifacts, you’ll get an overview of his campaign, what the Kennedy White House was like, and what some of his accomplishments were while in office.

Hopefully, you already have of a grasp on JFK as a president (since it helps to understand a lot of the conspiracy theories) but just in case you don’t the first section of the museum should help get you somewhat up to speed.

The sniper’s corner

The museum preserved the eerie window corner where Lee Oswald allegedly shot at the president three times from a half-open window.

They’ve arranged a barricade of cardboard boxes in such a way that the corner looks like it did on November 22, 1963, when law officers first searched the floor and discovered three shells and a rifle.

Although the corner is preserved on the other side of a glass partition, it’s a pretty powerful sight to behold, knowing that someone was perched here decades ago just waiting to take the life of the leader of the free world.

The window corner where Lee Oswald allegedly shot at the president.

Oswald’s wedding ring

The night before JFK was shot, Lee Oswald was staying the night at Ruth Paine’s house — a house museum you can still visit today.

Before leaving that day he left his wife his wedding ring along with some cash and then headed out with his rifle on the way to the Texas School Book Depository, where he had been employed since October 15, 1963.

Nobody knows exactly why he left the wedding ring as there are a few different explanations. But you can actually see the wedding ring on display at the museum.

The wedding ring is displayed in the clear column in the middle of the photo.

The place set

When JFK was shot he was on his way to the Dallas Trade Mart where he was supposed to attend a luncheon.

The place set that was waiting for him at the luncheon is on display, along with some other artifacts like an original luncheon invitation.

It’s one of those rare instances where boring, every day objects like salt and pepper shakers and saucer plates can evoke strong emotions as they transport you back in time and connect you to a tragic event.

It reminded me of seeing a piece of an airline seatbelt in the 9/11 exhibit at the New York State Museum. It was unexpectedly moving.

Assassination related exhibits

As you would probably expect coming to this museum, the entire assassination is well documented in various exhibits.

You’ll see complete timeline breakdowns of the events and really get a full understanding of how everything took place.

They present evidence and analysis of eyewitness testimony, forensic and ballistics, photographic and acoustical evidence, and even touch on some of the conspiracies.

It’s a very comprehensive experience worth taking your time to get through.

As someone who had read a lot of articles and watched plenty of documentaries on this, I was surprised at how many new things I learned.

I think it definitely helps to do a lot of research before you visit, though.

With all of the theories that circulate around this assassination, I’d suggest watching some documentaries and even videos from the Sixth Floor Museum YouTube channel.

It seems like every time I get a grasp on the events I learn something new that turns everything upside down but the museum does provide a solid framework for understanding the events of that day.

FBI model

One of the interesting exhibits is the FBI model of the shooting.

Initially, I thought this was just a model that the museum put together but then I looked into it and it actually has some really interesting history.

According to the museum:

The model was built by the FBI in 1964 to help investigate the Kennedy assassination and was also later used by the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations when they conducted their investigations.

Apparently, there are some very strict conditions for displaying this model with respect to the lighting and presentation and the museum has to work diligently to honor those.

The model is encased in special UV-filtered glass to help preserve it and I think they were doing an excellent job because the model looks pretty well preserved considering it is almost 60 years old.

FBI model JFK shooting
The model of the shooting built by the FBI in the 1960s.

7th floor

You’ll also want to take a moment to visit the seventh floor.

One of the interesting things to do is to check out the corner on the seventh floor that is directly above where Lee made his shots.

This will give you a nearly identical view of what he would’ve seen from the sniper’s perch.

In this wide open space, there’s also some artifacts from the building as it existed in the 60s and some interesting visuals that give you a sense of the growth that the Dealey Plaza area has experienced.

You’ll also want to check out the giant photomosaics of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Initially, they look like large photographs but they are actually made up of tiny portraits of the opposite person.

So when you look at John F Kennedy, you’re actually looking at 50,000 tiny photos of Jacqueline Kennedy and vice versa. It’s a beautiful tribute.

The sniper’s vantage point as seen from the seventh floor.

Gift shop

You’ll eventually exit through the gift shop where you can find a lot of JFK memorabilia.

It seems like one of the popular souvenirs is the collection of replica old newspapers from the day after the assassination but you can find all sorts of JFK related items, including many different books.

Sixth Floor Museum FAQ

How long does the Sixth Floor Museum take to visit?

To avoid rushing, it’s recommended to give yourself 1.5 hours at the museum. However, you can experience most of what the museum has to offer in 45 minutes to an hour without having to rush too bad.

How far is the Sixth Floor Museum from DFW?

The Sixth Floor Museum is about a 25 minute car ride from DFW.

When did the Sixth Floor Museum open?

The Sixth Floor Museum opened on President’s Day 1989.

Final word

The Sixth Floor Museum is truly a well done venue.

It’s an extremely difficult task to tastefully preserve a building tied to such a tragic event.

But the museum has clearly gone to great lengths to make that happen and tell the story of these events in a way that is comprehensive and still respectful.

I would consider this a must visit attraction when in Dallas especially if you have any interest in the history of the assassination and JFK’s legacy.

Rothko Chapel Review (Worth the Visit?) | Houston, TX

Unbeknownst to many, Houston has a great museum and art scene.

You could easily spend a couple of days checking out marquee museums like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Space Center to only name a few options.

One museum-like attraction is the recently restored Rothko Chapel.

Part chapel, part museum, visiting this place is not like anything you’ve probably experienced.

Everyone seems to take something different with them after experiencing the chapel — spiritual awakenings, mindfulness, renewal, boredom, confusion….

There truly is no “wrong” way to experience the Rothko Chapel.

But what exactly can you expect when you give this place a visit?

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Rothko Chapel.

What is the Rothko Chapel?

The Rothko Chapel is a small, octagonal chapel located in Houston, Texas, where a permanent collection of 14 works of art by Mark Rothko hang on the walls.

Opened in 1971, it is designed to be a place where art lovers and people of all faiths and religions can come to experience a sanctuary for contemplation. Rothko intended for the chapel to be his single most important artistic statement.

The Rothko Chapel recently finished a $30 million restoration project just before its 50th anniversary in 2021 and now also has a visitor center and other new facilities in the works.

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Where is the Rothko Chapel?

The Rothko Chapel is located at 3900 Yupon St, Houston, TX 77006.

It’s adjacent to the Menil Collection and The University of St. Thomas and found along a beautiful tree covered street.

There is also a visitor center located directly across the street and new facilities planned in the surrounding area as well. Adjacent to the chapel is a reflection pool with a memorial sculpture known as the Broken Obelisk, which is a tribute to Martin Luther King.

How do you access the Rothko Chapel?

The Rothko Chapel is free to visit and is open from 10am to 6pm (although signs now say from dusk to dawn).

The venue may be closed on Mondays.

No photography is allowed inside and you will be asked to turn off your cell phones as well.

Rothko Chapel history and background

In the 1960s, Houstonians John and Dominique de Menil presented Mark Rothko with the opportunity to design a Catholic chapel for the University of St. Thomas.

Rothko’s take on the chapel would be to design something that would “speak to a contemporary mind and a contemporary spirit.”

Rothko started to work on the concept in 1964.

Difficulties emerged during the construction of the project as the initial architect Philip Johnson was not able to align his grander vision of the chapel with Rothko’s.

Johnson dropped from project which allowed Rothko to take the reins as he partnered with new architects.

While conceptualizing the project, Rothko utilized a large carriage house in New York City so that he could experiment with the scale of the room in the chapel.

One major feature of the room was a big skylight, something that Rothko wanted to be a defining feature in the chapel.

The idea was that this would emit a soft ambient light that would cast light on the paintings in a perfect way.

Rothko finished the 14 paintings (and four alternates) in 1967 but before the construction of the chapel began (and before ever visiting Houston), he sadly committed suicide in 1970.

Around that time, John and Dominique de Menil had parted ways with the University of St. Thomas and decided to move the chapel off campus.

This altered the nature of the chapel and is why it is now a non-denominational, interfaith destination.

Unfortunately, the whole lighting concept never really worked out as planned, either.

Many attempts were made over the years to try out different lighting solutions but none of them were sufficient to deal with the “gloominess problem” of the chapel.

They also caused problems with deterioration of the paintings.

Finally, with the most recent renovations a new skylight was installed consisting of multiple layers of UV-resistant glass screened by louvers.

In total, there are 280 reflective aluminum blades individually angled and spaced to evenly distribute light onto the paintings.

In addition to that, new landscape features were added like rows of birch trees and tall Savannah holly. And there are even more plans to add additional buildings and features in the area as more phases of the project take place.

You can learn about all the different phases of development by stopping by the visitor center.

The Rothko Chapel experience

It’s a unique space worth visiting

Regardless of how you feel about the Rothko Chapel, one thing that you can’t deny is that it’s a unique attraction.

For that reason alone, I think it’s worth visiting at least once.

Simply put, there’s a reason why the chapel has been visited by some of the most notable world leaders including arcbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and even President Jimmy Carter.

There’s just something different about this place and what it stands for.

Rothko, a main attraction

For me personally, I was firstly just excited to see Rothko paintings.

I’m definitely not a real art aficionado.

And while I do love (or at least appreciate) a lot of modern abstract art, I still feel like I don’t “get” the vast majority of it.

Nevertheless, I constantly find myself in art museums trying to decipher and absorb whatever I can from modern art.

It’s interesting to find pieces that resonate with me and to ponder works that evoke different feelings and emotions that are often indecipherable.

But in a lot of ways, if I’m being completely honest, I’m also just there to witness the so-called greatness of artists who achieved remarkable levels of notoriety.

Over the years I had done a fair amount of research on Mark Rothko and considered him to be one of the most well-known modern abstract artists.

I’ve seen some of his work in museums before but not much so I was really excited to see what he had created for this space.

Unfortunately, his works in the chapel don’t really resemble the work he is most known for which are contrasting blocks of color.

What you’ll find inside are a total of 14 paintings, likely inspired by the number of the Stations of the Cross.

The paintings are mostly black but incorporate other dark hues and texture effects, which is just enough to make you ponder what is going on in the painting.

Three of the walls display triptychs, and the other five walls display only single paintings.

To me, the achievement of his work in the chapel is found in the overall assembly of all of the pieces rather than the individual paintings themselves.

In fact, I think the consensus is that the individual paintings are pretty underwhelming. I believe Rothko himself even went for something “you don’t want to look at.”

inside the Rothko Chapel
A look at the pre-restored interior. Image via Wikipedia. Photo by Alan Islas.

Our experience in the chapel

We had the privilege to visit the Rothko Chapel with no other visitors in the building.

While I initially was excited about the privacy we’d have for such an intimate and possibly almost spiritual-like experience, I quickly realized that there is no privacy in the Rothko Chapel.

As we entered the chapel, two staff members stood in shadowy doorways, faces partially covered with masks, watching our every movement.

There was a faint trace of an acknowledgment — bust mostly just silence and stillness in a very dimly lit octagon.

To be honest, it initially was an almost disturbing scene that made me feel like we had stepped in to some sort of cult-like séance.

But I told myself to just get over it and focus on trying to make the most of the experience.

So I methodically inspected the large artworks similar to how I would on a typical museum visit.

After taking some time to appreciate four or five of these massive paintings, I could feel myself getting drawn into the space.

It was an odd sensation and difficult to describe but the best way to put it is that it felt like something was stirring from within.

Unfortunately, the feeling just never quite fully developed, though.

There was just something about the quietness and stillness of the room and knowing that I was being watched that I couldn’t quite get over.

If this experience could somehow be a truly private one, I could see how it could help me tap in to something truly subliminal.

Indeed, I think I did get a small taste of that.

I realize there are security concerns with an exhibit-like feature such as this that probably require staff to be observing visitors at all times.

But that is just unfortunate given the nature of this attraction.

It’s not like a normal museum where the docents almost blend in with the surroundings.

This feels more like stepping into a deprivation chamber of sorts but having a couple of strangers there along with you for the ride (and to monitor your experience).

It just doesn’t quite jibe well for me.

After exploring the interior, we checked out the Broken Obelisk, which is a tribute to Martin Luther King.

Initially, it was supposed to be placed in front of City Hall in Houston but after a little bit of disagreements, it was placed by the Rothko Chapel.

In addition to paying tribute to Martin Luther King, it also represents the struggle for human rights, which ties into a broader mission of the chapel.

Every two years the chapel recognizes remarkable people who have denounced violations of human rights while facing enormous economic and political pressures and often personal peril.

The award is named after Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was murdered on March 24, 1980.

Final word

For anybody remotely interested in art or unique experiences, I would consider the Rothko Chapel a must visit in Houston.

The reason is that it’s a unique attraction that could offer you a memorable experience while conjuring up feelings that you may not even be able to process.

It could also just feel like a weird way to spend a few minutes of your day.

But that is kind of the beauty of it to me — you really don’t know how the chapel is going to hit you until you give it a shot.

Ruth Paine House Museum Review (JFK Site)

On a recent trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I was surprised to find out how many sites there were related to the JFK assassination.

With so many different places to see, you might have to narrow down your options to only a few and if that is the case then I would highly recommend you checking out the Ruth Paine House Museum.

Below, I’ll give you a detailed review of the experience and let you know exactly what to expect and how to book if you’re interested.

What is the Ruth Paine House Museum?

The Ruth Paine House Museum is a house turned museum that is known for being the place where Lee Harvey Oswald stayed the night before the JFK assassination.

Lee Oswald’s wife, Marina Oswald, lived at the Ruth Paine House and Lee Harvey Oswald would spend weekends there when he was not staying at his boarding house (which you can also visit).

Now, the house is a museum open to the public and full of exhibits that tell the story of Ruth Paine, Michael Paine, Lee Oswald, and Marina Oswald.

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Where is the Ruth Paine House Museum?

The Ruth Paine House Museum is located at 2515 W. 5th Street, Irving, TX.

Before the pandemic, tours would begin at the Irving Archives Museum and then you would be transported to the house in a van.

However, now you simply arrive at the Ruth Paine House Museum and then you can decide if you want to visit the Irving Archives Museum afterwards. (The museum is only about a seven minute drive away from the house at 801 W Irving Blvd, Irving, TX 75060.)

Reservations are required to visit the Ruth Paine House Museum and you can book a tour through this website. Tickets are $12 per person which in my opinion is a bargain.

Ruth Paine House Museum Background

In 2009, the City of Irving purchased the Paine House and in 2011 they began efforts to restore the house to its original 1963 appearance.

This wasn’t the cheapest task and it’s estimated that they spent about $100,000.

Eventually, the Ruth Paine Home was ready for visitors and it opened up on November 6, 2013 — the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

Over the years, the museum has added additional artifacts and household items and they seem to be continually working to make the house look more and more like how it appeared in the 1960s.

Related: 16 JFK Assassination Related Sites in Dallas/Fort Worth (Ultimate Guide)

Ruth Paine House Museum Tour

Before you enter the house, your guide should give you a briefing on a lot of the background of the house and Ruth Paine herself.

You’ll find out who she was and what was going on in her life when she decided to let Lee Oswald’s wife, Marina, live with her.

Once you hear the full story of how it all came to be, it all sort of makes sense why she would let them into her house.

You’ll also learn a little bit about the neighbors including the neighbor that got Lee Oswald the job at the Texas School Book Depository and the one that took him to work on the day of the shooting.

It’s pretty fascinating that multiple homes on the street have such close ties to the JFK assassination.

Ruth Paine House Museum

Inside the Ruth Paine House Museum

The tour is a pretty simple one which will take you through a handful of different rooms in this tiny house.

In each room, you’ll find short re-enactments of different scenes that are displayed through projected vignettes. It’s definitely one of the more unique ways to take in this type of history.

The re-enactments will mostly tell the stories of Ruth, Marina, and Lee during their time living at the house and before and after the assassination.

You really get a sense of the type of relationships that these people had with each other which I believe helps you understand the type of people that they were.

It’s a pretty well done exhibit overall but I would recommend two changes to improve the experience:

First, my recommendation would be for the museum to time the start of the movie projections a little better because we were dropped into some of the rooms midway through the scenes.

Also, the volume from the other rooms is a little loud and can make it difficult to focus on what you’re listening to because of multiple voices coming from different areas in the house.

If they could fix those two things, I think it would greatly enhance the visitor experience.

On the tour, you’ll start off in the living room which has some original items from the house including the speaker box and a large brown lamp.

Original items in the Ruth Paine house.

This living room is where a very famous photo was taken from Time magazine that featured Oswald’s mother and Marina Oswald with her infant.

Reportedly, Oswald’s mother thought she was being paid for the photo shoot and after she found out that was not the case she became uninterested and was basically over it.

From the living room, you will head to a couple of the bedrooms.

The first bedroom is the room that Lee Oswald slept in the night before the assassination and it’s probably one of the main attractions of this museum for most people.

Lee woke up early that morning, went through his morning coffee drinking routine and without waking anyone in the house headed out with his rifle but not before leaving behind his wedding ring and some cash next to Marina’s bed.

Lee’s wedding ring can still be viewed today at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas.

This was the bedroom that Marina occupied along with the two kids.

The second bedroom is Ruth Paine’s old room where you can hear more of her story.

The bathroom is said to be virtually unchanged from the 1960s, including the bright pink color that you find today.

The kitchen is a really cool area that even has appliances dating back to the 1960s.

In addition to some retro literature, you’ll find some photographs which were used to track down the right type of appliances and other furniture items during the restoration efforts.

It’s actually really fascinating how they’ve used family photos and videos from interviews to reconstruct the interior of the house.

Also, I found it pretty impressive how they were able to find items that were exact or nearly exact matches to what was in the house previously.

From the kitchen, you can check out the backyard although there is not much to see other than a swing set. Beware: there is a pretty obnoxious dog in the neighboring yard that will likely go on a barking spree when you enter the backyard.

After you check out the kitchen you’ll be ushered into the garage where Lee Oswald stored (and hid) his bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle unbeknownst to the owner Ruth Paine.

Ruth was a devout Quaker who would have surely objected to the presence of a gun in her house but Lee and Marina did not tell her about the gun.

In fact, when the police arrived to investigate, Ruth was stunned to find out that Marina knew Lee had stored his rifle in the house.

One can only imagine the thoughts that were running through her head over that weekend.

On the wall in the garage, you can find some info on some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination. As you might expect, Ruth Paine was accused of playing a role in some of those conspiracies.

Irving Archives and Museum

Once you finish at the house you have the option of heading over to the Irving Archives and Museum which I would recommend doing.

The Irving Archives and Museum has a special exhibition room dedicated to Ruth.

Inside, you’ll find old school 1960s TVs stacked in the corner replaying black and white news footage from the time of the assassination.

The screen in the middle is the main attraction and you can choose from about seven different short video clips — each clip about five to six minutes long.

These video clips showcase interviews with Ruth Paine where she goes into detail about things like dealing with the grief of JFK’s assassination and her association to it.

She also talks about dealing with the negative spotlight, and her thoughts on Marina, Leo Oswald, and more.

I recommend checking out the exhibit because in addition to giving you insight into Lee and Marina’s relationship, it really does a good job of telling the story Ruth Paine.

It’s unimaginable to think about how it would feel to know you were housing the alleged assassin of the President of the United States.

However, if you listen to the interviews you’ll find that Ruth is an extremely open person and seems like a very genuine and trustworthy person as well.

Final word

The Ruth Paine Museum is a must-see attraction for people interested in the JFK assassination. Admission is cheap and I found it very worthwhile to watch history play out in the actual rooms where these events took place.

National Mall in Washington DC (1 Day/24hr Itinerary) [2022]

I’ve traveled all around the world and have seen a lot of bucket-list worthy places. And while it’s impossible to rank all of these places, in my opinion, the National Mall in Washington DC is way up there and one of the most interesting sites in the world.

If you only have one day or about 24 hours in Washington DC, I would highly suggest that you make your way to the National Mall.

But because there is so much to see there you definitely need to have a plan so that you make the best use of your time and don’t miss out on some of the more hidden attractions.

We recently spent one day exploring the National Mall and I learned a ton about how to best approach crafting an itinerary for a day tour.

In this article, I’ll break it all down for you and give you some guidance so that you can have the best experience possible at this magnificent site.

What is the National Mall?

The National Mall is not a shopping mall (sorry shoppers). Instead, it’s an expansive area consisting of open park grounds, world-class museums, war memorials, famous historical monuments, and some of the most important US government buildings.

People visit the National Mall to check out what is essentially the headquarters of US government, explore the renown museums, and perhaps most importantly, honor and reflect on all of the sacrifices made by those in the past that allow us to enjoy the freedoms we have today.

Note: Some people define the National Mall proper as consisting of a smaller area but for purposes of this article, I’m lumping all of the major attractions that border the National Mall into one area since they are all easily accessible once you’re in the general vicinity.

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The Lincoln Memorial.

What sites can you see at the National Mall?

When visiting the National Mall you’re going to see a mixture of government buildings, memorials, monuments, and museums.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most interesting sites you’ll likely want to focus on:

Government Buildings

  • Supreme Court
  • Library of Congress
  • US Capitol (Congress)
  • White House
  • Eisenhower Executive Office Building
  • US Treasury Department

Memorials and monuments

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
  • Washington Monument
  • World War II Memorial
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
  • Arlington National Cemetery/The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (across the Potomac)
  • US Marine Corps War Memorial (across the Potomac)


  • National Gallery of Art
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • National Archives Museum
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Hirshhorn Museum
  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History
  • Smithsonian Castle
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • National Portrait Gallery (few blocks away)

Food and snack huts

You can find a lot of food and snack huts throughout the National Mall. As you would probably guess the prices will be expensive but you can purchase things like water bottles, chips, and hot food items like burgers, pretzels, etc.

One thing that surprised me was the number of bathrooms. There are some permanent bathroom facilities but also rows of portable toilets in case you need to go.

Hotel Review: AC Hotel Washington DC Convention Center

Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

What is the best way to see the National Mall?

Walking + Uber

I would highly recommend you to consider walking throughout the National Mall.

If you are able-bodied this will be the best way to see the National Mall and it’s a beautiful walk to do when the weather permits.

My preferred way of exploring is to walk until you basically are not enjoying the walking anymore and then rely on a ride sharing service like Uber to get you back to your hotel to recharge or simply take you to your next destination.


I saw quite a few bike stations around the National Mall and it seems like a great way to get around. I just don’t like to bother with locating the stations and dealing with a bike so I prefer to just walk via foot.

If you want to rent a bike you can look into services like Capital Bike Share.


Like every other major city that attracts a lot of tourists, you can choose to do a hop on hop off bus tour. These can be a great way to get around but it does mean having to rely on a bus and dealing with certain stops.

Some of these bus tours have audio recordings that can give you more insight into the sites so it’s not a bad way to see the National Mall.


Driving does not seem like a very practical way to see the National Mall because of limited parking and traffic.

However, if you get familiar with the different parking areas and are comfortable driving you might be able to make it work.

Also, if you are driving in the early morning or evening parking will be more readily available and driving is much more doable.

What order should you visit the sites at the National Mall?

The good news. There is no wrong way to explore all of the memorials and museums in the National Mall. You could start at either side or even in the middle.

The bad news. That doesn’t really help your planning at all.

So to help give your visit some structure, here are three major tips:

Don’t worry about planning exact visit times

Unless you are planning on attending some type of specific tour or timed-entry attraction, you don’t have to plan out your visit times to any of the below locations and you can just check them out at your own pace.

Set a practical limit for your sites

If you only have one day you should draw the line somewhere on the number of sites you plan to see because one day is simply not enough time to see it all.

This is especially true with sites like museums that eat up huge chunks of time.

Start from the east side

I would recommend following the path that we did starting on the east side of the National Mall and then work towards the west.

Below, I’ll walk you through the itinerary we did and provide you with more tips to avoid some of the mistakes we made.

Note: For this itinerary to work, you want to get started early – no later than 8am.

National mall sites (itinerary)

Supreme Court

I’m probably a little bit biased because of my lawyer background but I thought stepping on the steps of the Supreme Court was extremely cool.

It’s a beautiful courthouse and it’s a shame that it’s a bit tucked away behind the US Capitol Building, but I guess there was really nowhere else to put it in the National Mall by the time they built it in the 1930s.

US  Supreme Court

If you don’t want to settle for glimpses of the Supreme Court’s exterior, you can head inside to check out more.

The Supreme Court does not offer guided tours of the facility but there are self-guided exhibitions you can check out. They also have lectures that they offer which are available on days that the Court is not in session.

These lectures are available Monday through Friday on a first-come, first-served basis and are free of charge. They usually begin every hour on the half-hour beginning at 9:30 am with the final lecture at 3:30 pm.

Note: Due to coronavirus these tours may not be available.

Right next door to the Supreme Court is the Library of Congress — a beautiful building known for being the largest library in the world.

Also, if you’re a Shakespeare fan you can check out the Folger Shakespeare Library whenever it opens back up.

Supreme Court door

US Capitol Building

Right next to the Supreme Court is the US Capitol Building.

Construction of the US Capitol Building began in 1793 and in 1800, Congress met in the first completed portion, the north wing.

Something a lot of people don’t know is that there is a huge US Capitol Visitor Center located underneath the US Capitol Building.

In fact, the visitor center is about 3/4 the size of the Capitol!

During normal times you can book tours of the Capitol Building and check out the Visitor Center but due to the pandemic these are currently not available.

When they do open up, advanced reservations will likely still be recommended or even required.

US Capitol Building

After you make your way past the Capitol Building you are now in close proximity to several of the best museums in Washington DC.

My personal preference is to focus on all of the outdoor sites in the National Mall first.

This is an ideal strategy for a few reasons.

First, this will allow you to stay in a mindset of remembrance when visiting the monuments and war memorials.

It’s also a great plan because if you are visiting when the temperatures can get warm you can check out all of the sites early in the morning when the weather will be cooler.

Then, when things start to heat up you can head indoors to the museums.

And finally, some of these museums don’t open until 10am so if you get started early (around 7am to 8am) you can explore a lot of the National Mall before the museums even open their doors.

Note: If you do choose to hit up the museums at this point, check out the section at the bottom of this article on the National Mall’s museums.

US Capitol Building

Once you pass the Capitol Building you can make a quick stop to the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial which is just west of the building. Ulysses S. Grant was a U.S. President and Civil War general for the victorious Union Army.

After that, you’ll then be heading west on the National Mall.

I would suggest staying on the south side so that you can make a short side trip to the one of the newest monuments dedicated in 2020: the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

If you’re putting off visiting the museums, the next visit will be the Washington Monument.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument — which honors the first president of the US: George Washington — is the most iconic symbol of Washington DC.

Built on July 4, 1848 and dedicated on February 21, 1885, this marble obelisk stands 555 feet tall — ten times the width of the base.

If you look closely at the Washington Monument, you’ll notice the two different colors of the monument.

During the construction they basically ran out of one type of stone and had to use a different type which is why the monument is bi-colored.

The monument has undergone a lot of restoration work through the decades including in 2011-2014 when it sustained damage from an earthquake

If you want to, you can head to the top of the monument but you need to book tickets ahead of time. Head to and you can try to get tickets the day before your visit.

You’ll take an elevator all the way up to the top which thankfully is not the original steam engine elevator which took 10 to 12 minutes to make its way to the top floor.

After your visit, you can turn north and head to the White House which is only about a 20 minute walk from the Washington National Monument.

But as I discuss below, we decided to save the White House for last and went straight from the Washington National Monument to the World War II Memorial.

World War II Memorial

The World War II Memorial, dedicated by President George W. Bush on May 29, 2004, is one of the most impressive war memorials in DC.

It honors the “service of 16 million members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, the support of countless millions on the home front, and the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 Americans.”

56 Granite columns representing each U.S. state and territory at the time of World War II surround you in the middle as you contemplate the scale of people who were involved in the war.

World War II Memorial

Seeing the columns for all of the states and territories gave me a sense of the unity required to come out victorious in such a massive war.

For a war memorial, it actually felt a bit uplifting, which was weird considering it was the most costly war in terms of human life.

Ironically, I think that was one of the biggest criticisms of this monument — it was a bit too “celebratory” and “pompous” for some.

As you wander, spend some time locating your state’s column on the perimeter of the memorial while paying respects for those from your home who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Then head to the center of the memorial where you’ll find the pool which I think still goes to the name of Rainbow Pool.

There’s a bit of controversy on whether or not it’s disrespectful to get in the water of Rainbow Pool, which is something visitors do on hot days.

At the time of our visit, signs indicated that putting your feet in the water was okay but wading was not. So use common sense there.

At the back, there’s a wall of 4,048 gold stars which was designed to remind visitors of all of the sacrifices made by over 400,000 Americans. Each star represents 100 US deaths.

Tip: Don’t forget to look for Kilroy

World War II Memorial wall of stars

After you make your way past the World War II Memorial, you have a choice to make.

You could go ahead and make a loop around the Tidal Basin which is where you find sites like the Jefferson Memorial.

Or you could put that loop off until later and simply keep going west where you will encounter the famous Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

We chose to put off the Jefferson Memorial until later which I think is a good call but you really can’t go wrong with either way.

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Built in the 1920s, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is not only a place where you can catch a beautiful reflection of the monuments, surrounding trees, and sky.

It’s also a place to reflect on all of the people and events that have shaped our nation’s history over the centuries.

When we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, I was a little bit disappointed to find out the pool was not filled up all the way.

I’m not sure how often that happens and perhaps it was due to some cleaning but it took a little bit away from the beauty of the Reflecting Pool if I’m being honest.

At least we still had the ducks, I guess.

At any rate, we chose to walk along the north side of the Reflecting Pool so that we would arrive at the next location, the: Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

When people talk about war memorials in DC it seems like the most moving of these is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Just how important is this memorial?

At the dedication on November 11, 1982, there was a 56-hour reading at Washington National Cathedral of all the engraved names of the dead.

Undoubtedly, the listed names of 58,318 Americans on the shiny black granite wall will leave you with a lasting impression of the sacrifice that so many people made.

The order of the names is a little confusing but basically they are listed in chronological order of the time of passing.

The earliest death begins in the middle of the memorial (at the high point) and then names follow chronologically to the right until you get to 1968.

At that point, the names resume on the short end of the west panels and then follow chronologically towards the center. This way the first and last deaths meet up with each other in the middle.

Image via

There’s also a code of sorts used on the memorial.

As the NPS states:

Those declared dead are marked by a diamond; those MIA are marked by a cross. If the person currently marked as MIA returns alive, a circle is placed around the cross. If his remains are identified, a diamond is superimposed over the cross.

For me, knowing how brutal the tactics were in this war it was very moving to see all of these names. I could only imagine the stories those people could tell.

Other elements to check out include the: The Three Serviceman statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, the In Memory plaque, and a flagpole that flies both the U.S. and the MIA-POW flag.

Find a bench near these to rest your legs and plan out your next move, which likely will be the Lincoln Memorial.

Interesting fact: the Salem Witch Memorial was inspired by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial

I like that we started at the east end of the National Mall because it built up lots of anticipation for the Lincoln Memorial.

There’s something about the Lincoln Memorial that just feels so uniquely inspiring and powerful.

I think it’s a combination of Lincoln’s tragic assassination and honestly just growing up with the Lincoln Memorial on the back of all our pennies and five dollar bills.

Either way, if we are talking about the monument with the biggest “oooh” factor it is hands-down the Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial statue

Modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, and dedicated in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial is a masterpiece.

You’ll find 36 fluted Doric columns rising 50 foot high columns and surrounding the temple (one for each of the 36 states in the Union at the time).

The 19-foot sculpture of Lincoln, which took four years to complete, possesses some subtle symbolic meaning if you look closely.

The creator positioned Lincoln’s hands so as to display his two most important qualities.

One hand is clenched, which represents Lincoln’s strength and determination to finish the war.

The other hand rests open representing his compassionate, warm nature.

Even the steps outside are rich with history as this is where Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

You can look for the exact location on the steps where King delivered the speech as there is an inscription. Be prepared for the goosebumps.

Inside the memorial, engraved on the interior walls, you’ll find the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, which he made only 41 days before his assassination.

Above the inscriptions, you can find a 60 foot by twelve foot mural painted by Jules Guerin which is meant to portray the governing principles of Lincoln’s life.

There are also some bathrooms and exhibits underneath the memorial.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial is one of the lesser talked about memorials in DC even though it saw 33,686 US deaths.

In fact, the war as a whole has sort of lived in the shadow of Vietnam considering that the Korean War happened before Vietnam but didn’t have a memorial until 1995 (built after the Vietnam Memorial in 1982).

For that reason, I felt a special obligation to spend some time honoring the fallen of “the Forgotten War.”

That plan was kind of ruined when we arrived because there was a lot of ongoing construction and it was just not the ideal time to visit.

With that said, I would like to go back when the memorial has been renovated.

At this memorial you’ll find 19 stainless steel statues, a wall of remembrance, and I’m sure some impressive new features that will be finished soon.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

After you visit the Korean War Memorial you now have another decision to make of whether or not you want to proceed towards the Jefferson Memorial and knock out a few more sites around the Tidal Basin.

Or, you can do what we did and proceed to Arlington National Cemetery.

You could of course do both but that will involve a lot of additional walking and time. If you plan on hitting up some of the museums I would not try to walk to both of these locations as that will eat up a lot of time.

Arlington National Cemetery

We chose to walk from the National Mall to Arlington National Cemetery.

We did not see any other tourists making this walk so I don’t think a lot of people choose to make the way to the National Cemetery by foot.

However, I would recommend making the walk.

For one, it’s a pretty cool walk and you get to cross the Potomac River as well as the state lines for Virginia. (It’s not every day you get to walk across state lines in the US.)

But more importantly the Arlington Memorial Bridge is an incredibly symbolic bridge to America.

Built in 1932, Arlington Memorial Bridge is a symbolic bridge that crosses the Potomac River, a body of water which once divided the Northern and Southern states.

Moreover, it connects the Lincoln Memorial to Robert E Lee’s Memorial as part of an intentional act of symbolism that represents the nation coming back together post Civil War.

To access the cemetery you’ll need to go through security so this is not your ordinary cemetery wide open to the public.

Inside the cemetery, there are tram tours that depart every 30 minutes, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. However, we opted to just walk around on our own.

I’m definitely not a big “cemetery person” but Arlington National Cemetery is quite beautiful and unlike any cemetery I’ve ever visited. It’s vast, historic, and peaceful.

Arlington National Cemetery

Within the cemetery there are many different sites to see.

The most famous is probably The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Since 1921, it’s been the home to an unidentified World War I service member. Unknown military members were added from later wars in 1958 and 1984.

It’s also just been a sight of mourning and reflection for all of those in the military.

Changing of the guard ceremonies go on throughout the day and you just need to time your visit so that you can witness one of them.

Luckily, this isn’t hard to do.

The ceremonies happen every hour on the hour from October 1 through March 31, and every half hour from April 1 through September 30. They are all free to observe.

Every movement from the guards is extremely precise and symbolic like the 21 steps they take and the directions they face, so it’s cool to learn a little bit about the symbolism before you check out the ceremony.

Be extra careful about being noisy or standing in the wrong area and definitely do not trespass to the area where the soldiers are guarding the Tomb.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier guards

Another interesting site is the gravesite of John F Kennedy, where you can observe the eternal flame.

If you are into checking out gravesites you can also check out the final resting place of Robert Kennedy, William Howard Taft (former president), and Thurgood Marshall.

There is also the Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, which has a fascinating and sort of comical history related to the cemetery. Tickets are required to enter the Arlington House.

John F Kennedy grave
Gravesite of former president, John F Kennedy.

If you have the extra energy you can also make your way to the US Marine Corps War Memorial, which is a creation modeled after a Pulitzer Prize winning photo taken at Iwo Jima (arguably the most famous war photo of all time).

Dedicated in 1954, it honors all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.

After we finished up at Arlington Cemetery, we ended up taking an Uber back to our hotel room to freshen up a little bit and grab lunch which ended up being a fantastic idea and good use of time.

We were able to recharge and then head back out to check out the museums and eventually the White House. (Read more about the museums below.)

If you go this route just keep in mind the museums do not stay open very late (5pm to 5:30pm) so you need to make sure that you get back to the museums with as much time as you think you’ll need to explore.

Consider going back to the Jefferson Memorial in the evening after you have explored the museums and visited the White House.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

We carved out some time the next morning for us to visit the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which is on the Tidal Basin (where people flock to see cherry blossoms in early spring).

We figured that a morning visit would be pretty epic because our visit would coincide with the sunrise and we would probably have the site to ourselves.

Well, we were right — we were able to visit the memorial by ourselves. Just us two and good ole TJ.

But for some reason the lights were off.

This meant that we checked out the large sculpture of Thomas Jefferson in the dark which to be completely honest was a little bit creepy.

Still, I think this is one of the must-see memorials if you only have one day so I would do whatever you can to make time for it.

Nearby to the Jefferson Memorial you can also check out the:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
  • George Mason Memorial

If you want to hang out in the Tidal Basin a little longer and get a unique vantage point, consider renting Tidal Basin paddle boats.

We didn’t rent paddle boats but I’ve done paddle boats before in the UK and they can be a work out so be ready to get your legs pumping!

Thomas Jefferson Memorial lights off

The White House

We decided to save the White House until the end of the day.

For one, temperatures would be a lot cooler and I just thought that ending our tour with the White House would be the right way to go.

There’s been a lot of construction around the White House recently as they have been installing a fence that is twice as high as the old fence and also more durable and secure.

Believe it or not, someone was able to successfully jump the fence and even make their way inside a few years ago.

As long as there are no closures I think you can check out the White House from both the north and south side.

For us, we were only able to check it out from the north view which is a really nice view.

If you want a tour of the inside of the White House that’s possible but you have to plan that well in advance and write to your local Congress representative.

When you’re viewing the White House from the north entrance, it’s hard to see the corridors for the “45 second” commute leading to the East Wing and West Wing, so the White House complex looks a lot smaller than it actually is.

For those that don’t know, the West Wing is where most of the “stuff” happens as that is where you’ll find the Oval Office, the Situation Room, the Cabinet Room, the Press Room, etc.

As you admire the White House you’ll probably see Secret Service members scoping out people from the top of the building and even making patrols through the lawn.

Don’t climb on the fence but feel free to stick your arm through the fence to get a good shot with your camera/phone.

The White House

The White House is nearby a couple of additional big-time attractions.

Just next-door is the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), which is located next to the West Wing, and houses a majority of offices for White House staff.

Just a few blocks away there is the Ford’s Theatre which of course is where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

It has a museum now with lots of exhibits from the tragic assassination and you can still view the balcony Lincoln sat on when everything happened.

Museums at the National Mall

We spent about two hours checking out the museums which is not nearly enough time to fully explore them but if you only have one day, it’s enough time to see and appreciate some of the major highlights.

There are a ton of museums in the National Mall and surrounding area and some of them are 100% free.

Tip: None of the museums were super crowded when we visited but if they do get crowded consider going through the back entrances which might be quicker.

Below, I’ll highlight four of the most interesting museums to check out (in my opinion) and then also provide you with a list of additional museums you might be interested in.

Highlights: Artwork by Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer, and other legendary artists.

National Gallery of Art Leonardo da Vinci

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Highlights: Dinosaurs, cool interactive exhibits, all-around good time.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Highlights: Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, model of the starship Enterprise, Wright brothers’ Wright Flyer airplane

National Archives Museum

Highlights: Viewing of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

Additional museums you may find worthwhile:

  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Hirshhorn Museum
  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History
  • Smithsonian Castle
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • National Portrait Gallery

You could easily spend 2 to 3 hours at a few of these museums and eat up your entire day.

So if you only have one day my suggestion is to choose two of the museums are the most interesting to you and plan on visiting those. Try to give yourself up to three hours between the two museums if you can. Typically, this will mean reserving museum time between 2:30pm and 5:30pm.

Final word

Visiting the National Mall is an experience that you will never forget. Even if you only have 24 hours, you can still see some monuments, museums, and government buildings that will blow your mind. If you follow the itinerary above and get started around 7am you should have a jam-packed day full of amazing experiences.

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