Ever since I read an article in the local online paper about the best times to visit some of the attractions in our area, I have been taking their advice and visiting them. Last week Teresa, Kirk and I visited the Norfolk Zoo. It had been a long time since my last visit there and I was surprised by the great improvement in the facility since my last visit years ago. Yesterday I visited the Mariners Museum in Newport News, another attraction I had not visited in over 20 years.
I was stunned by how much the museum had grown since my last visit. I did not even recognize the place. It has been designated by Congress as the National Maritime Museum and is the largest maritime museum in North America. It is located on a beautiful piece of land with bike trails and a nature trail. Today its main attraction is the Union ironclad USS Monitor. An entire section is dedicated to the history of the USS Monitor, including its battle with the CSS Virginia (Merrimack). The original turret is preserved in a huge tank of water and there are many artifacts from the recovery of the Monitor on display. Outside is a full scale reproduction of the Monitor which is great for giving you a realistic idea of what the ship was like in real life.
Inside there are recreations of the crews quarters, a full scale reproduction of the turret with cannons, as well as a recreation of the CSS Virginia. I could have spent hours in the Monitor section alone, but since I only had two and a half hours till closing I had to skip a few things. The Age of Discovery and the Nelson Touch sections of the museum were also fascinating, with many artifacts on display. I was particularly intrigued by the Defending the Seas section of the museum. There was a full size recreation of a WWII carrier flight ready room which eerily made you feel like you were actually there being briefed for a mission. There was also a recreation, with real instruments, of the con of a WWII submarine. Again, it made you feel like you were really there in the middle of a world war.
But my two favorites of the museum were the Great Hall of Steam and the International Small Craft Center. Words fail me in adequately describing just how fantastic both of those exhibits are so I will post a couple of links to video I took of my visit to them. I do know that I will be back again real soon to take a more leisurely tour of this amazing place. If you live in this area, I highly recommend a visit to the Mariners Museum. My next stop will be to the Virginia Marine Science Museum. I cannot wait to see what surprises are in store for me there. That is all.