USS History

I’m sure I’m doing little service to these grand ships by lumping them together in one post. However, my knowledge of battleships is limited; I’ll apologize in advance. What I do know is that kids, men, women, EVERYONE I’ve taken USS (United States Ship) tours with, honestly seems to enjoy the experience and history lesson. The fact that my toddler has happily made it through three of these tours is reason enough to celebrate!

The USS Hornet, located in Alameda, CA was used in World War II. It is huge! You can take a self guided tour through most of the ship, or opt for the complimentary docent led tours of the Engine Room and Navigation Bridge/Flight Deck. These tours can be a bit lengthy, and they do warn you in advance that you must stay with the group, and cannot exit until the tour is finished. For this reason, I chose not to take my then 16 month old son on the tours, as I couldn’t comfortably predict his mood and reactions at any given moment. A few months later, my husband was braver than I, and opted for the tours with a 19 month old in tow. They survived.

In addition to the ship, you’ll be able to view fifteen aircraft carriers, learn a little about outer space, and if open, have a chance to use the flight simulator (which I hear is a favorite of many!) Although I seemed to have missed this during my visit, the USS Hornet’s website explains a “Blue Jacket Training Family Activity Room: Take a moment to relax with cartoons, books, dress-up area, knot tying, and even learning about the power of pulleys and magnetism!” I’ll certainly be looking for the activity room during our next visit!

Bonus tips: Do you live locally? If so, check with your library for free and/or discounted tickets through the Discover & Go program. Also, the USS Hornet occasionally offers discount tickets on Groupon. Prefer a spooky tour? Check out the USS Hornet for your Halloween haunt.

USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum, 707 W Hornet Ave: Pier 3, Alameda, CA –


Only a few cities away in Richmond, you will find the SS Red Oak Victory. This ship was built in 1944 and used in World War II. It was used as both an ammunition and merchant ship. In 1998, the SS Red Oak Victory was headed to the scrap yards, yet instead, the Richmond History Museum bought the ship for $1. It was actually built and now resides in the Richmond shipyards.

You can visit and have a docent led tour for around $15-$20 a person (there was a little confusion between staff regarding the correct price. We just paid the overage and considered it a donation!) Our docent really was wonderful and very thorough. We also seemed to have the ship to ourselves! The tour took about 2 hours.

Two things we found interesting: 1) Many of the doors are wood doors (you rarely see this in war ships.) 2) The captain had a 24 hour clock! It seems kind of genius to me. However, the cost to have it repaired is about $1000…so they said, “No, thank you!” and will enjoy it in non-functioning form once it runs down.

Bonus Tips: Although not often, you can sometimes catch free tickets through your local library’s Discover & Go pass. It’s certainly worth checking in advance. Want to make a day of it? Stop for a drink next door at Carica Wines at Riggers Loft.

SS Red Oak Victory, 1337 Canal Blvd,  Richmond, CA –


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