The Battleship USS Iowa Museum, near Long Beach in the Port of Los Angeles, is a top museum in the area, attracting many visitors.
As the only battleship on the West Coast open to the public, it has a rich history, hosting three U.S. presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.
Explore the ship’s decks and compartments through interactive exhibits and guided tours, learning about its impressive past.
Notable areas include the 16-inch guns, missile deck, bridge, and living spaces. The captain’s cabin even has a special feature: the only battleship bathtub installed for a president.
The museum’s newest attraction, “Battleship Flight – A Naval Aviation Experience,” lets you see a Piasecki HUP-2 Retriever helicopter from the Korean War up close and experience a simulated flight in a motion flight theater.
Here is an overview:
Table of Contents
Visiting the Battleship USS Iowa Museum
USS IOWA has a long and fascinating history. She was built as the flagship of the most advanced class of battleships designed in the 1930s as the world rapidly prepared for war. Commissioned in 1943, IOWA fought in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II.
One of the most significant events of her active service was the secret voyage with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and top military advisors to North Africa to meet with allies Great Britain and Soviet Russia. At the end of the voyage, the President gave an inspiring farewell address to the crew to motivate them for their future important missions in the Pacific.
However, with the advent of aircraft, the importance of battleships quickly diminished. As a result, no new battleships were built after the end of World War II, making the IOWA class the last of its kind.
After many years of faithful service, the IOWA was decommissioned for the last time in 1990. Since 2012, she has been a U.S. Navy museum ship, making her the only naval museum on the West Coast to display a large World War II ship.
Fun fact: There have been a total of four different ships named IOWA in Navy history – including a new Virginia-class submarine.
How Do You Get Tickets to the Battleship USS Iowa Museum
You can explore the ship on your own or take a guided tour. You won’t regret it if you only have 1-2 hours or if you go for a half-day experience. Your stay on the Battleship IOWA will be one to remember.
Here, we’ll provide you with all the info on the different options, focused on its length.
First of all, you’ll need to purchase the General Access Pass. You’ll need this one to access the ship. Then, you have the opportunity to get an add-on tour.
Add-on tours are available AFTER the purchase of the General Access Pass. Add-ons must be purchased in advance.
Buy The General Access Pass
Duration: 2 hours
Price: from $26
Explore the only warship open to the public on the West Coast. During your visit, you’ll hear fascinating stories of veteran service and walk the decks of this legendary ship.
You’ll also get a chance to see the bustling Port of Los Angeles – one of the most active ports in the country. As a bonus, you’ll get the award-winning mobile app with video, audio and visual content for your own device, absolutely free!
Add-On Tours for the Battleship USS Iowa Museum
Add one one or two of the below tours for bonus exploration of the Battleship USS Iowa.
Duration: 45 minutes
Price: from $15
Step into the world-famous captain’s cabin of the USS Iowa and listen to the story of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s historic journey across the Atlantic aboard the ship in 1943.
On a top-secret mission, Roosevelt was to cross the ocean to meet with Churchill and Stalin at the Tehran Conference.
During this 45-minute tour, you will learn about Roosevelt’s mission and the stories of his closest advisors and military officers who accompanied him. You’ll discover that another convoy had the potential to change the course of World War II.
You will learn about the modifications which were made to the IOWA to ensure FDR’s comfort and mobility during his stay.
You will even look at the bathtub built especially for the President and remains today as a visual reminder of his time aboard the battleship IOWA.
Duration: 2 hours
Price: from $50
Explore the depths of the legendary warship and take a behind-the-scenes look at the below-deck areas that keep the ship running!
The Battleship USS Iowa Engineering Guided Tour offers you and your guests an exclusive look inside the most innovative warship of World War II.
During the tour, you’ll hear and see stories about the engine room, boiler room, and stations such as the hospital and post office. You’ll walk through the corridors that thousands of sailors passed through in both peacetime and wartime. You’ll also have access to areas that have been closed to the public since the ship was commissioned in 1943.
Due to space limitations, this tour is limited in both group size and daily availability.
Duration: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Price: from $50
It’s time to bring out the BIG WUMS! The museum opens up one of its turrets for an exclusive tour …but that’s not all you’ll see.
They’ll take you on a fantastic behind-the-scenes journey through previously inaccessible areas of the historic Navy ship. You’ll climb through hatches and up ladders to discover what life was like for sailors aboard the battleship throughout history.
And finally, you will get a breathtaking view of the impressive mechanical masterpiece at the heart of the ship: the 16-inch guns.
Private Guided Tour
Duration: 2 hours
Price: from $75
If you would like an even more personalized tour of the Battleship IOWA, Private Guides for up to 10 people are available.
Some information about the tour: No groups or individuals other than your own family group and your assigned tour guide will be allowed on the tour to comply with current spacing requirements.
The Private Guide is limited to a maximum of 10 guests from your group per tour and lasts approximately 2 hours. During this time, the Private Guide will take you deeper into the history of the Battleship IOWA-from her first days of active service in 1943 to her third decommissioning in October 1990-and you will hear stories of the courage and dedication of those who served aboard this iconic ship.
You’ll also meet a member of today’s crew who is dedicated to preserving the ship for future generations.
Escape Room / Scavenger Hunt: Escape the Mothball Fleet
Duration: 2 hours
Price: from $200
Escape The Mothball Fleet is a brand-new adventure in our lineup and stands apart from all other tours. On this special tour, you will take the lead (under supervision) in exploring previously undiscovered inaccessible spaces on other tours.
Due to the limited space on this tour, group size and availability are limited. Escape The Mothball Fleet can accommodate a maximum of six (6) participants twelve (12) years of age or older.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Any participant under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
STEAM at Sea
Duration: 3 hours
Price: from $15
As an undergraduate, you’ll learn the fundamentals of STEM by actively participating in activities based on history, maritime science, and international trade. The secondary program emphasises leadership, teamwork, camaraderie, and skill acquisition in a unique environment.
Primary STEM activities include simple machinery, depth measurement, water displacement/buoyancy, shooting straw projectiles, and a team-building event called the Tarp Flip. Our STEM program at sea is designed to promote math, computer science, science and technology concepts and to develop critical and creative thinking. It also promotes communication, problem-solving, team-building, risk-reward thinking, and innovation.
Exhibitions on the USS Iowa
At the USS Iowa Museum, you can experience a variety of exciting exhibits that highlight different aspects of naval history and culture.
Delve into the fascinating world of Marines and discover their diversity, leadership and bravery in the Surface Navy Heroes exhibit. Or take part in a fun interactive scavenger hunt to find the museum’s mascot, Victory “Vicky” the Dog.
In the Battleship of Presidents area, explore the history of the battleship USS Iowa and the notable people who have served aboard since 1943.
In the Surface Ships exhibit, travel back in time through decades of surface ships and learn about their evolution in the Navy.
Cafe Vicky’s Doghouse
Vicky’s Doghouse Cafe is an exclusive and exquisite hot dog restaurant located at the stern of the famous battleship IOWA. It serves traditional American specialties such as hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches and sides. Visitors have the option of dining inside or on the ship’s deck overlooking the harbor.
Vicky’s Doghouse is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Admission to the museum ship is not required.
The name is dedicated to the famous 1940s mascot, a popular puzzle on the ship.
Enjoy a variety of delicious hot dogs, sides, salads, and refreshing beers and wines.
Battleship Iowa App
The Battleship IOWA Interactive Mobile Tour gives you a first-hand experience of life and service aboard this historic ship. Using authentic images, archival video and more, you can explore the oceans while aboard or download content in advance to learn about missions and excursions before you set sail.
Explore the different areas of the ship that interest you most by diving deep into the content.
Using your own device, you can discover stories from crew members, learn fun facts, and view ship service records and videos of the IOWA in action. Enjoy exclusive archival content not available anywhere else in the museum.
Enjoy the Battleship IOWA from anywhere with the interactive mobile tour. The mobile tour offers hours of exciting content with new discoveries all the time.
Languages Available: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Chinese.
Good To Know When Visiting Battleship Iowa
The parking lot is owned and operated by the Port of Los Angeles. Therefore, there is a parking fee of $2.00 per hour with the first hour free.
Due to the presence of ladders and gratings, visitors must wear appropriate footwear. Guests should be able to climb the stairs leading to the unique areas of the ship.
It is recommended that children under the age of 10 and those with physical ailments do not visit the ship, as it may affect their ability to climb stairs or stand for long periods of time.
Atmosphere Inside of the Battleship Iowa
The battleship IOWA was designed specifically for active naval service, so the corridors and accesses from deck to deck and the doors’ width were limited to the most essential needs of the crew. As a result, there are no elevators on board, only ladders (a nautical term for stairs).
You’ll also notice that the corridors are much narrower than in an ordinary building. To meet the demands of a potential conflict, many of the doors are either watertight or completely sealable to ensure the ship’s structural integrity.
Throughout the ship, you will find what are called “knee knockers” on the doors and passageways. These “knee knockers” are 6-8 inches-high pedestals that allow you to seal the doors airtight. They got their name because some people tripped over them, usually landing on their knees. Today, these knee knockers and narrow doorways pose a challenge for guests in wheelchairs or with walkers.
History of the Battleship IOWA
Commissioned in 1943, the USS Iowa (BB-61) has a storied past that includes World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War.
The ship is known for its impressive size, immense firepower, and technological advances such as radar and the ability to launch aircraft.
The ship was decommissioned in 1990 and later became a museum open to the public.
During World War II, the USS Iowa played a pivotal role in several battles in the Pacific, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Battle of Okinawa.
Although decommissioned in 1949, the ship returned to action in 1951 during the Korean War. There she supported ground forces with her guns and patrolled off the Korean coast.
The ship was modernized in the 1980s and saw active service in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq conflict.
Fun Facts and Stats
- During WWII and the Korean War, it had the nickname the “Mighty I”, and for the 1980 Cold War, it was called the “Big Stick”, which referred to President Teddy Roosevelt’s advice: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
- This impressive warship is among the largest battleships ever built by the United States. It is about as long as three soccer fields.
- At one point, the ship’s crew consisted of a total of 2,800 men, including 87 officers and an incredible 2,713 crew members.
- Weighing 45,000 tons, the ship can reach a top speed of 33 knots, which is about 38 mph = 61 km/h.
- To defend itself against attack, the USS Iowa was equipped with a formidable armament: nine cannons with an impressive 16-inch diameter, in addition to twenty-five-inch guns, as well as eighty forty-millimetre caliber anti-aircraft guns and forty-nine other twenty-millimeter caliber anti-aircraft guns.
- The battleship’s powerful 16-inch guns could fire shells as heavy as a small car and had an impressive range of 24 miles.
- The first ship of its class, the USS Iowa was later joined by three more battleships: the USS New Jersey, the USS Missouri, and the USS Wisconsin.
- Thanks to its outstanding service during World War II, this ship received no less than nine Battle Stars awards; two more were awarded to it for its service during the Korean War.
- Vicky the dog – The first time Navy Captain John L. McCrea brought home a new pet dog, his wife said, “Get that thing out of here.”
Years later, his daughter Annie Sullivan recalled, “My sister named the dog Victory, but we all called him Vicky. He was just a mutt.” That “mutt” would go on to sleep at the foot of President Franklin Roosevelt’s bed, share the Captain’s Wardroom with the great military leaders of World War II, log over 205,000 miles on the battleship USS Iowa, and receive full military honors when he finally left the ship.
Vicky’s job was to help keep the crew’s morale up. Vicky became the Apprentice mascot, was outfitted in a special sailor’s suit, and all the necessary sailor’s paperwork was soon completed.