Here’s something fun to do just across the bridge from San Francisco, especially if you’re a military or aviation buff. Less than half an hour drive from the city you’ll find the USS Hornet Museum, an historic aircraft carrier and national treasure docked at 707 W. Hornet Ave., Pier 3 at the former Naval Air Station in Alameda, California.
The USS Hornet is a registered State and National Historic Landmark not funded by any governmental agency. The foundation running the museum does a good job with presentation and history. You can tell they take pride in preserving and honoring the legacy of the aircraft carrier and the people who served aboard her.
Things to do at the USS Hornet Museum
The carrier is the main attraction. You can wander around the ship’s four levels, through the captain’s bridge, the ship quarters, the hangar deck and curated exhibits, chat with docents, and enjoy panoramic views of San Francisco Bay. You may also enjoy the five-minute moving theater Flight Simulator ride. You could kill two or three hours just looking at all the historical exhibits, old war planes and helicopters.
Many of the exhibits are fun for families with kids, although children five and younger will most likely prefer running around the flight deck. If someone in your party has asthma or other respiratory problems, keep in mind that parts of the museum, inside the ship, can be a little stuffy.
Some of the special events are worth checking out. I particularly like the Living Ships Days scheduled throughout the year, usually on third Saturdays between February and August. These are meant to bring history to life in a fun way, and feature guest speakers like WWII veterans or astronauts.
Popular holiday events include the Hornet’s 4th of July Concert & Dance, the Halloween Monster Bash (come in costumes), and the New Years Eve Party (period costumes optional).
USS Hornet History
In service from 1943-1970, this USS Hornet, the CV-12, was the last in a long line of 8 warships. During World War II she fought in battles that included Okinawa and Iwo Jima, then served in Korea and Vietnam. It was the Hornet that recovered the Apollo 11 astronauts from the first moon landing mission on July 24, 1969.
The carrier was opened to the public as a museum in October 1998, moored on San Francisco Bay at the former Naval Air Station Alameda (currently known as Alameda Point).
Know Before You Go
- Tickets: Admission fees at the door are $20 for adults, $15 for students & seniors (65+), $10 for youth (5-17), and free for children four and under.
- Savvy Savings: It’s included with the discount pass Go San Francisco card. And the best thing about it is the “Build Your Own” option that lets you pick any two or more local attractions or activities and save 20 to 55 percent on each. You can print or show on your phone, so it’s easier.
- Children: Children four and under get in free.
- Hours: Open daily, 10am – 5pm; closed New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Days.
- Address: USS Hornet Museum, 707 W Hornet Ave Pier 3, Alameda, California 94501.
- Parking: You can park for free across the street from Pier 3.
- Official Info: For more information see uss-hornet.org.