2015 Vacation Destinations: The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, New York City

I actually considered having Alex, the family airplane enthusiast, write a guest post for me for this one.  During June, as I was planning our vacation, I saw a reference in something unrelated to the vacation that one of the Concorde passenger planes was in New York City.  “How interesting,” I thought, “New York City is a big place, though.  It might not be anywhere near where we are going to be.”  When I looked it up, I discovered that the Concorde’s home is now The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (which I will refer to from here on as “The Intrepid Museum”) and that not only do they have a Concorde, they offer special tours of it.  I knew then that Alex and I had to at least visit the museum, even if we weren’t able to do any of the special tours they offered.  As fate would have it, we were allowed to do one of the special tours.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The Intrepid Museum is housed in the Intrepid, a World War II-era aircraft carrier berthed at Pier 86 on the Hudson River.  Four decks of the Intrepid: the hangar deck, the gallery deck, the third deck and the flight deck, are open to the public.  The hangar deck of the Intrepid is pretty typical museum, with exhibits and artifacts around the themes of the museum.  The third deck has been restored and is designed to give you an idea of what life was like for the sailors who were stationed aboard the Intrepid. The flight deck is where we spent most of our time on board.   This is where most of the aircraft on display are located.  The fore part (you can tell that I’m hip with the nautical lingo here) of the deck holds aircraft that are out in the open.  The aft part holds a tent where they restore aircraft, and which is open so that the public can see what they are doing, and the space shuttle pavilion.

The space shuttle pavilion is a permanent structure that holds, you guessed it, a space shuttle.  The space shuttle that is housed at The Intrepid Museum is the very first space shuttle built, the Enterprise.  They used the Enterprise to do tests in the atmosphere, and they intended to add things like engines and bathroom facilities later so that it could go into space.  As fate would have it, when they were building the second shuttle, Columbia, they made changes to the design of the shuttles and NASA decided that it would be too expensive and time-consuming to make those changes to the Enterprise.  As a result, the Enterprise is the only space shuttle that has never gone into space.

There are two exhibits that are not on or in the Intrepid itself.  One is a submarine, the Growler, which dates to the Cold War era and is the only guided missile submarine on public display.  Unfortunately, the lines for the Growler were prohibitively long and so we ended up not being able to get in to see the submarine.

However, we did have the chance to spend quite a bit of time around (and, courtesy of the guided tours offered at The Intrepid Museum, inside) the Concorde.  The Concorde that The Intrepid Museum has in their collection is G-BOAD, a British Airways plane, which is something of a celebrity, as airplanes go.  I’ll try to avoid the infodump, but G-BOAD holds the record for fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a passenger jet going both directions.  G-BOAD (commonly known as Alpha Delta) was also the only Concorde to be painted with the markings of an airline other than either British Airways or Air France.  This airline was Singapore Airlines and G-BOAD had British Airways livery on the starboard (right) side and Singapore Airlines livery on the left (port) side in 1980.  By the time the plane was retired in 2004, both sides had been painted with the then-current British Airways livery.  Our guide was very informative and the tour was well worth the extra $20 per person to me, and I am not the airplane enthusiast in our family.

The Intrepid Museum is largely wheelchair-accessible.  I say “largely,” because neither the Growler nor G-BOAD are wheelchair-accessible.  The only places aboard the ship itself that are not wheelchair-accessible are the Fo’c’s’le and the Combat Information Center.

And if the Intrepid Museum has provided you with enough metal for one day and you are craving some green time, the next pier over, Pier 84, has been converted into a public park.  There is a dog park, a playground, kayaking lessons, PD O’Hurley’s restaurant, and water taxi access all available at Pier 84.

Piers 86 and 84 are on 12th Avenue between 46th and 43rd Streets.