About an hour’s drive down I-64 East is berthed one of the largest – and last – battleships ever built by the United States Navy. And the good news is that there are several types of tours of the Wisconsin available to the public.
General admission to the Nauticus The National Maritime Center on Waterside Drive in Norfolk ($15.95 for adults, $11.50 for children) comes with access to the battleship’s outdoor decks, the wardroom and Officer’s Country.
Nauticus is open Wednesday through Sunday and has re-opened several exhibits. One is focused on the U.S. Navy’s sustainment efforts to protect the environment. Another, titled Living Seashore & Aquarium, allows visitors to “get up close with the plants and animals that inhabit the Chesapeake Bay.”
From January 30 to April 25, a National Geographic photo and video exhibition, Planet or Plastic, will lend insight into the “global plastic pollution crisis.” Access to this exhibit is included with general admission.
But it’s the Wisconsin that is the big deal in this complex – literally. The last battleship to fire its guns in combat, the Wisconsin is 887-feet, 3-inches long, has a full displacement (weight) of 57,500 tons and was served by nearly 2,000 officers and men. Her 16-inch guns are capable of hitting targets up to 24 miles away, meaning they could easily send a shell over the Virginia Beach oceanfront and five miles or so into the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the most decorated ships in Navy history, the Wisconsin fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Gulf War, earning five battle stars for her World War II service and one for her service in the Korean War. Launched two years to the day after Pearl Harbor, visitors can explore its deck through a self-guided tour or, for an additional charge, go on a guided Topside Tour that promoters promise “will take you back in time.”
As the sun begins to set in downtown Norfolk in late December, the USS Wisconsin's 250,000 Christmas lights begin to shine. The holiday display is over, but the battleship remains open to the public