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“A little overwhelming but very interesting”

The Mariners' Museum & Park
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The Mariners' Museum, America's National Maritime Museum, includes the USS Monitor Center, home to the Civil War Ironclad's iconic gun turret. The Museum has over 35,000 maritime artifacts, including ship models, paintings and small craft. Located on a 550-acre park, they also feature a 5-mile hiking trail and paddleboat rentals.
Level Contributor
79 reviews
31 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 135 helpful votes
“A little overwhelming but very interesting”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 29, 2011

We went to the Mariners' Museum last week with our three sons, ages 15, 14 and 10. They are all into everything maritime, so this was right up their alley! There is no shortage of things to see at this museum, and the coolest part is the restoration work they're doing on pieces of the USS Monitor, the Union's first ironclad, put into service in the Civil War. Also featured prominently is the USS Virginia, the Confederates' ironclad, which they repurposed out of the USS Merrimac, a wooden ship. The creation of these two ironclads meant the end of wooden warships, which were incredibly vulnerable to these nearly impenetrable ships.

On December 31, 1862 I believe, the Monitor sank off the coast from Cape Hatteras in a vicious storm. It took 120 years for it to be found, and the first item brought up was the last item seen as it sank: the distress lantern that glowed red as the ship was tossed about by the sea. The museum is working on restoring several metal pieces of the ship to remove more than a century of marine deposits and to stabilize the metal so it won't dry out and decay. Monday through Friday, visitors can watch the work they're doing, especially on the huge gun turret, which is filled to the rim with saline water to protect it at all other times. We went on a Saturday and would have gone the day before had we known, so plan ahead!

The Mariners' Museum has a LOT of info about ships used before and during the Civil War, with both placards and interactive displays. I found the running vignettes broadcast overhead through ceiling speakers to be very distracting; it was hard to concentrate to read detailed info about the ships and the engineers who designed them. You can turn off the screen videos, but not the overhead audio, and I really, really wanted to. It was bothersome enough to drop my rating of this museum by 1 star. My husband, an engineer, was the only one able to concentrate well enough to read it all!!

There are some interesting films about the clash between the Monitor and the Virginia, and the films do a better job presenting the information. It is repetitive compared to the written placards, so if your kids aren't readers or you get bogged down with all of the placards, watch the films instead.

There are also some interactive features, including a really cool computer game where you build your own ironclad to see if it's seaworthy and formidable. One of my boys built a "USS Adequate" and eventually created a "USS Awesome"! You can choose your build structure and materials, your armament, etc. Very cool.

Because of the heat we tired out before exploring everything, even though it was all indoors (this was during the daily 100+ degree heat wave), but there's another hall my husband explored with more modern ship models that he said were spectacular. We were there for 3 hours and still didn't see everything, but had we realized how much the films repeated what was in the placards, we would have skipped reading so much and would have seen more.

You can find 2-for-1 coupons in the Hampton Roads Entertainment book! We paid $29 for the five of us with the two coupons in the book.

Visited July 2011
1 Thank lilheathen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Level Contributor
3 reviews
“Presentation peaked our interest.”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 25, 2011

Two adults and a 17 year old... We went based on the reviews here and were not disappointed. The cost was a little high, but I'm cheap and complain about everything. We only had three hours to see it so were only able to see half of the exhibits, but what we saw was incredibly well presented with a combination of displays, text to read and very intriguing multimedia videos and interactive games. I would rank this as a must see for anyone even partially interested in maritime history and even if not, you will find your moneys worth.

Thank azper03
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Saint Louis, Missouri
Level Contributor
492 reviews
168 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 116 helpful votes
“A Must for Navy Fans”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 22, 2011

This Museum is an absolute must if you are a student of Naval History. The star attractions are the Monitor artifacts and the Monitor full scale model. There is also an exhibit on the Virginia (Merrimack). But there is so much more to see here. Plan on a long visit.

Visited July 2011
1 Thank califken
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toms River, New Jersey
Level Contributor
209 reviews
155 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 165 helpful votes
“Don't Miss This One!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 30, 2011

The USS Monitor Center at this museum was extraordinary. The movie shown in the Battle Theatre gives an exciting introduction to the Battle of the Ironclads and gives you a greater understanding of the exhibits and displays. The recreated ship interiors, along with the actual artifacts and the full-size replica of the turret bring the Monitor to life and the information on the recovery and preservation of the artifacts from the ocean depths is extremely interesting. We cannot recommend this museum highly enough.

Visited June 2011
Thank TouringTwoTimers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
41 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“I Love this Museum”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 13, 2011

I have been here many times and am always impressed. The Mariners Museum is geared towards adults, but they often have exhibits for children. When we were there in October 2010 they had some kind of pirate festival that my niece and nephew loved! The Monitor exhibit is amazing and the geounds are gorgeous (dont miss the great park, Lions Bridge or trail around the lake). Of course, I am biased as my husband and I were married in the courtyard of the museum and had our reception in their function room. :)

Visited April 2011
2 Thank amanda6500
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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