If you are a military history buff or if your kids just love visiting big ships, you won’t want to miss seeing Battleship North Carolina. This huge WWII battleship is open every day of the year for visitors to explore. Find out how the sailors lived and worked while out at sea and battling the Japanese in World War II. Your whole family will have so much fun visiting this iconic Battleship.
Located on the Cape Fear River and across from downtown Wilmington, it’s one of the top things to do in Wilmington NC for visitors. Get the most out of your visit with my tips and insights into visiting Battleship North Carolina.
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For this trip, we were hosted by the Wilmington & Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau. Although we are so appreciative of these hosted visits, all of my comments and tips are my own opinion.
Battleship North Carolina’s Ultimate Guide for Families
Battleship North Carolina History
The Battleship North Carolina was considered in 1941 to be the world’s greatest sea weapon. Put into action after Pearl Harbor, she sailed to Iceland and then spent most of the war in the Pacific. The North Carolina participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operation earning 15 battle stars. It was a pretty remarkable ship. Eventually, the ship was decommissioned in 1947. A local petition called Save Our Ship brought the North Carolina to it’s current spot in 1961. It now serves as a State Memorial to it’s WWII veterans and the 11,000 North Carolinians who died in the war.
Directions to Battleship North Carolina
The ship is located in Wilmington NC on the Cape Fear River. There is a permanent dock and small building attached. If you are in Wilmington, you just need to cross the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and you’ll see signs to the ship. You can also view the boat from across the river in downtown Wilmington. It was pretty easy to get to and has a large free parking lot.
Address: 1 Battleship Road, Wilmington, NC 28401
The Battleship is open every day of the year as it serves as a memorial. There is a fee for entrance into the battleship but kids 5 and under are free. At the time of writing this, it was $14 for adults and $6 for kids six and older. There are longer hours in the summer months for your visit. Use this Battleship link to check prices and times.
USS North Carolina Events
The ship hosts events throughout the year. They host behind the scene tours, reenactments, Easter egg hunts, fireworks, and more. Find out if there is an event when you want to visit.
Tips for your Visit
Plan to spend at least 2 hours exploring the 9 levels of the ship. Yep, that’s right, you will be exploring 9 different levels of the ship. Visitors could easily spend more time depending on how many of the signs you read and the docents you talk with on your walk. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.
- When you first arrive, the ticket building has a small display to look at and bathroom facilities to use.
- Bathrooms are very limited, there is only one small bathroom on the ship to use. I suggest you use the one in the ticket office before going onto the Battleship. There are also bathrooms when you exit the ship back on land.
- The ticket building is the only air-conditioned area.
- Go earlier in the day as the ship can get hot and there are larger crowds.
- You can not eat on the ship so make sure to eat a snack or meal before getting on.
On the Battleship
- You will not be able to take a stroller on the ship, there are too many staircases.
- Visitors start out on the deck of the ship. Then you are supposed to follow the arrows on a path that will take you on a tour of the ship.
- We visited in the summer and it can get very hot on the top of the ship and inside when you are in smaller cabins. We decided to do the outside of the ship first and then the inside when the sun was warmer.
- On the ship’s deck, visitors can pretend to shoot the guns on board and act like they are in a battle in WWII.
- You will find signs that explain what you are looking at throughout the ship. We found these to be very helpful and informative.
- On certain days, they have volunteer docents throughout the ship to answer any questions you may have about the ship and life of the sailors. We found this really added to the visit.
- Stairways on the ship are very narrow and steep, so be careful with smaller children.
Things for the Kids to Do
- There are tons of hands-on knobs, wheels, and gadgets for the kids to touch and press.
- Kids will also enjoy pretending to drive the ship in the Bridge room. This platform was the command area of the Battleship.
- Families will be immersed in the life of a sailor. Heading down below the deck, you will learn how the sailors lived on the ship for months at sea. Kids will get to see their living quarters (for the officers), bunk rooms, kitchen, stores, butcher shop, post office, ice cream shop (you can’t eat there), and everything else needed to maintain a ship carrying thousands of sailors. Our kids were amazed to see how they lived at sea during the War.
- Kids can also wave the flags while pretending to guide planes to land on the ship.
There is a wooden boardwalk that takes you all around the outside of the Battleship. As you walk, take a look at the informative signs about the North Carolina. You can access this boardwalk from outside the ticket building.
If you are pressed for time, you could always just walk the boardwalk and skip seeing the inside of the ship. There is no fee to park or walk the boardwalk.
What to Bring With You
- There is nowhere on the ship to get refreshments or snacks. When you exit the ship, there are vending machines and a small store.
- Make sure to bring water for the whole family. We got warm and needed it while we walked.
- They do not want you eating on the ship so make sure to eat ahead of time. Remember, you’ll be on there for at least 2 hours.
- Bring a hat for the sun while on the deck
- Remember to put sunblock on before going on the ship as there is very little shade when you’re on the deck.
The Battleship North Carolina really was one of the best things to do on our trip to Wilmington. Our whole family really enjoyed exploring the ship and learning about life on a Battleship. We hope these tips will make your visit as memorable and fun as ours.
More Fun Place to Explore in the Area
Downtown Wilmington NC
Make sure when you are done exploring the North Carolina to head over to downtown Wilmington. We were amazed at all the fun things to do in Wilmington. Stroll the beautiful Riverwalk area and have a delicious bite to eat at one of the many restaurants. Take a horse and carriage ride through the cobblestone streets to learn the history of the area. Then when you’re ready to get out of the sun, head to one of their cool museums. The three main museums are the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, Cape Fear Museum, and the Railroad Museum. Find out everything there is to do in my Guide to Wilmington NC with Kids.
Topsail Island NC
Looking for some beach time while visiting the area? We stayed on Topsail Island and absolutely loved it. The quiet island has amazing wide sand beaches perfect for swimming and strolls on the beach. Kids will love visiting the turtle sanctuary, boogie boarding, mini-golf, and building sandcastles. History lovers will enjoy learning about the island’s history as a secret naval base during WWII and Operation Bumblebee. Find out more in my Guide to Topsail Island.
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