A Museum Within A Museum

We loved our visit to the USS Texas in Houston and when we saw the USS Wisconsin was on the ASTC museum list we were excited to visit it. Unfortunately there was just too much to see in what is known as the Historic Triangle and we ran out of time. Our first trip out of camp found us at the NASA Air and Space Museum in Hampton, VA. We had wanted to visit a space museum in Texas and in Florida, but they were pretty expensive and we had to pass on them. Since it was on the ASTC list we decided that it would be our first stop, especially when the weather report showed rain everywhere else in the area except in Hampton. Well it turned out to be a great day to be at the museum. I was really impressed by the Apollo 12 Capsule on display and yes it is the actual capsule that went to the moon! Everyone really enjoyed the flight simulators and now we know that landing a spaceship is exceptionally difficult to do. The plane simulator was cool because it had a dozen rows of seats plus the windows were hooked into the computer program, so they showed what the pilot was doing, making it more realistic. Of course the kids really liked the cockpit with the thousand switches and buttons you would expect in an airplane. During our visit we also went to Mars in a simulation and got to see the inflatable structures that NASA is designing to build habitats on the red planet. From the Wright Brothers Flyer to Rockets this museum had everything you could imagine about space and flight. After half a day of learning though we were getting hungry, so we walked over to the marina and had a picnic where we could look at the yachts and sailboats. Journey wants to go sailing after we visit every state in the country, but that is a long way off.

The camp we stayed at was located in Newport News at a park right on the water. When we first pulled in and found out we were going to be in A loop right by the office, we thought the road noise would be bad. It wasn’t though and the laundry was within walking distance, so we did several loads (only a dollar to wash and a dollar to dry). The lake was near enough that the kids found toads, but far enough away that we couldn’t see it from camp. A small playground was right near us though and the kids enjoyed visiting it between downpours. Yes the entire time we were in the area it was overcast or raining. We decided to plan our day trips according to where the rain would be and for the most part it worked out. When we visited Richmond it was overcast. though it didn’t pour on us (more on Richmond in another post). As a warning about this camp, it was a great place to visit the area from and on a whole we enjoyed our stay, but the bathrooms were bad and I mean really bad. Another review we had seen mentioned that the bathrooms were horrible and we had hoped the park had taken care of them, though that wasn’t the case, they seemed like they hadn’t been cleaned in a month at least. So after staying for several nights and seeing most of what we wanted to see in the area, we decided to do something we have never done, move to a new campsite in the same camp. Travel day was super easy since I just had to drop tanks and move to a new site. Unfortunately the new bathroom was just as bad as the old one. This campsite had the lake in the backyard and Miles spent sometime fishing after Journey caught him some minnows. Everything seemed great until Memorial Day weekend was over and the road construction started up. All night, all day, right directly across the lake from our site was construction and trucks air braking plus trains going by. Yes it turned into one of those camps and anyone on the road for sometime knows what I mean by that. Luckily for us the campsite is always temporary no matter where we are at and I can take a noisy camp for a few days especially to have the privilege of seeing some historic sites.

We decided to go visit the beach on a day that was only mildly rainy and overcast. Sarah found one called Buckroe Beach with free parking and off we went to see it. We love the beach and have gotten to visit all different kinds of beaches on our adventure. This beach was the crowded kind, but it was the nicest day in who knows how long and of course everyone who could chose that day to visit the beach. It was still a great day though and our kids made friends with some other kids and they all had a blast shooting the sand castle we made with water guns. Then they dumped buckets on what was left and their finishing move was the good old fashioned stomping. We once again had a picnic, can you tell we like to picnic? Then the kids played at the playground for awhile before we headed home.

So at the beginning of the article I briefly mentioned the USS Wisconsin not getting visited, but since we added several more days it was once again feasible to see it. We had thought that the USS Texas was a big battleship, but the Wisky (that’s what people called the USS Wisconsin) is a giant battleship. We were impressed just walking up to the museum and that doesn’t happen too often anymore. Parking at the Nauticus Museum is a little tricky because the museum doesn’t actually have any parking on site. There are three parking garages near it though and we chose to use the one at the McArthur Mall because it was a few bucks cheaper and we are willing to walk a few blocks for some dollars. We really just went to visit the battleship, so imagine our surprise when we realized that the Nauticus was also an excellent nautical museum. I didn’t realize that Norfolk was such a huge port and that it had the largest ship channels. The kids found a boat simulator to entertain them till we pried them away. There was a ton of information about container ships and how ports work in the museum. What I didn’t expect when we rounded a corner was a small aquarium with touch tanks. Journey and Miles touched a live shark, but Trip passed on that one. All of them touched a horseshoe crab and we all enjoyed seeing some live fish (even if my brothers tanks is still the best). The next thing we found was a submersible that had been decommissioned and the museum had it still operating for the kids to use. We all had fun picking up the colored balls with the arm.
The museum had a bunch of displays about the Wisky and the sailors who made it a key ship in three major conflicts. We had wandered around so long that we needed to stop to eat and yes you probably guessed it, we had a picnic. The museum had a show about aircraft carriers showing that was included with our ASTC membership tickets and we had to see the battleship still, so we headed onto it to wander around. Well this ship was a huge one for sure and I was impressed by even the anchor chain. The Hundred and twenty pound links look heavy when you are standing next to them! Climbing into the gun turret was a little cramped and hot, but after we had watched the government training video on the turrets there was no way we weren’t climbing into one of them. The kids manned the big guns and looked around for some small gun turrets like the USS Texas had, but this ship had been modernized and didn’t have small guns except for a few token guns to salute with when foreign dignitaries boarded the vessel. It did have cruise missile racks and during operation Desert Storm it launched some during the initial missile barrage for that conflict. Inside the ship was vast and we all got a kick out of the old computers and phones. After wandering around the ship for quite sometime it was time to head out because we had to get over to the theater if we wanted to catch the show. The kids were pleased to get to see the fighter jets taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier and I think it helped them to realized how large these modern naval ships are.

Now we were more than happy with our visit to the Nauticus and the USS Wisconsin and thought that we had seen just about everything that there was in the museum. That’s when we found the museum within the museum. I was a little dubious at first thinking it was a pricing gimmick and that we would have to pay to see this exhibit. It wasn’t though and it was free to anyone who had entered the museum. Plus they had free postcards and if you found some information in their displays then they gave you a free educational DVD! This museum had a life-size replica of the turret of the Monitor with excellent models of the Monitor and the Merrimack (the first ironclads from the Civil War). In fact they had models showing the first steamships the navy had, ironclads, and then modern naval ships. The displays were very educational too and we all learned some more about naval combat. If you are ever in the Norfolk area, we recommend checking out both the Nauticus and the NASA Air and Space Museum.



Read more about our visit to the Historic Triangle:


Here are the links for the places we visited and some more pictures:

Virginia Air & Space Museum



Newport News Campground


Buckroe Beach in Hampton, VA


Nauticus Museum Featuring the Battleship Wisconsin (plus the museum within a museum the Maritime Museum which I couldn’t even find on the Nauticus website)


Parking at the MacArthur Center




This round for one of the USS Wisconsin’s main guns weighs the same as a small car!

I love this last picture. Look at Journey’s hands and you can see she is so anxious to get a turn. Like a good sister though she waits till her younger brother is done with his turn.

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