In the capacity of Daily Vacationer, we get to see and do a lot of things. Everything we do is definitely fun and interesting, and we love all of it, but every now and then we come across something that just blows us away. This summer we had the privilege of going on a tour of the USS Battleship New Jersey anchored along the Camden Waterfront. The biggest takeaway from our experience? Everyone MUST do this, because it's just incredible!
If you've ever seen the Battleship NJ, you know that it's big, but until you're right up beside it and exploring it, you really have no idea how BIG this ship is. Constructed in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II, she is the longest battleship ever made at almost 3 football fields long (slightly longer than her sister ships due to the cleverness of the women from Camden who built her) and a towering 11 stories high! Give yourself a lot of time when you visit - you're going to need it, and you're really going to want it.
There are a few ways to go about seeing the Battleship New Jersey. The "Firepower" Tour is self-guided with a choice to follow the route with or without an Audio Guide. This tour takes you 5 levels up and 2 decks down with live guides stationed in the Captain's Quarters and CEC to answer questions. You can also just stick to the main deck if climbing and stairs aren't really your thing (the view is AMAZING!).
The tour that Daily Vacationer highly recommends is the Turret II Experience. This fully guided tour takes you from the top of the gun tower all the way down to the bottom of Turret #2. Once you're down there, get ready to join the crew! Not only do you get to see how loading and firing the guns works, but you're the one actually hoisting the projectile, loading the powder bags, and oh yes, firing those massive guns (we LOVED that!). From that point you can still take the Audio Tour if you wish and see the other decks and displays. (And stay tuned as a new exciting interactive tour - this one of engineering - is in the works!)
The Battleship New Jersey is a massive, floating, interactive museum where you not only get to learn about an incredible warship, you get to see firsthand what life was really like on it. Along with a look into the Berthing Areas, the Crew's Galley and Mess, and countless other spaces, the Battleship also has some fantastic exhibits, covering a huge variety of topics from the history of the ship and the day to day life on it to Bob Hope visiting during a USO tour and the ship surviving a plunge into a giant typhoon.
You can't help but be moved by the stories of the men who served on board. The Battleship New Jersey fought in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and was reactivated for operations again during the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980s. She has the honor of being the most decorated ship EVER in the history of the United States Navy. The ship is often visited by former crewmembers and some volunteer to help maintain its amazing condition. Running into a veteran taking their own tour of their old ship makes you understand how real it all is.
The Battleship New Jersey is actually open for tours most of the year, and is constantly hosting special events from historic celebrations and patriotic ceremonies to music concerts and festivals (and it's the best seat in the house for the Freedom Festival Fireworks Show each year). As always when we visit some place we love, we recommend purchasing a membership - there's just too much to see on one trip. "The Big J" is also available for private functions (weddings, celebrations, birthdays, corporate events, and more), and believe us, they have the room to accommodate any size group (we love how the helicopter pad has been turned into a dance floor)! Groups can not only register for tours, but can also arrange to sleep overnight on the Battleship New Jersey, taking the experience from unbelievably cool to one of the most memorable things they've ever done.
Daily Vacationer absolutely loved the visiting the Battleship New Jersey. From walking and climbing all over the vast ship to the fascinating information and stories shared along the way to our experience "loading" and "firing" the big guns - it was amazing! We can guarantee that this is a Local Destination we will return to, and that you really (REALLY!) need to go see for yourself.
(Active military in uniform with ID, former BB-62 crew, and children under 5 are FREE)
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