When we entered the Camden Waterfront, the first thing I noticed about the Battleship of New Jersey, a floating museum on the Delaware River, was the massive size—eleven stories high and nearly three football fields long. This Iowa-class battleship, built to “keep floating and keep fighting”—with nine 16-inch guns that can reach up to 23 miles away—has a fierce presence that served it well in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf Wars. Today, it is an interactive preserved museum where you can walk, climb, and crawl into everything from bunks and bathrooms to laundry rooms, a mess hall, a library, and even an added modern play area for kids to climb. I give this ship 19 stars (the battleship earned 19 Battle Stars while in service and is the most decorated one in the US) for a day my family will never forget. Scroll down for what we learned while we visited the Battleship of New Jersey, and be sure to check out our best things to do in NJ for more fun ideas. (featured photo taken at The Battleship New Jersey)
The Battleship of New Jersey: A Monumental Tour Experience
Choose your tour
After signing in at the Visitor’s Center, we selected our tour for the day. There are four interactive tours to choose from, but the one the kids thought sounded the most up their alley was the Fire Power Self-Guided Tour, where you could explore five levels above ground and two decks below. You aren’t totally alone, though—guides are stationed throughout each part of the battleship, so they can answer any questions or give insight. There are also extensions to the regular tours that allow you to walk into the armored gun house, explore the magazines where powder bags were stored, and pull the trigger to simulate firing a 16-inch gun. My husband and son loved the ship so much that we took three self-guided tours. It was fun to have the freedom to explore the ship independently, and it was exciting to see a new surprise around every corner.
Coming aboard the Battleship of New Jersey
We were greeted by docents when we came aboard the ship, and the first thing I noticed was the extraordinary views—you can see everything from Penn’s Landing to the Philadelphia skyline. The deck alone is an adventure to explore. The sheer size of the chains and anchors on the ship was amazing to see. Can you believe about 11,000 feet of anchor chain are on each anchor, and just one chain link is about 123 pounds? Another really neat feature on the ship was the bell. My husband lifted my son so he could ring it, and he was so excited when it rang loud and clear.
Choose your path
Since we were doing the self-guided tour, we could follow the lines on the floor and choose our battleship adventure. The options were the green, blue, yellow, or red tour. The Green Line tour follows the main route, The Red Line features weapons and navigation, the Blue Line tour goes into the Citadel, and the Yellow Line tour features glimpses of the Crew’s Life. The lines were easy to see, but take note—there’s a lot of walking and climbing. If you are up for it, there are options to crawl into tight spaces to see the ship’s inner workings in several locations. After the tours, stop by Jason’s Kids Kompartment where kids can play for a while (and parents can take a break). We spent only a short time there, but my kids liked pretending to be a boat captain, cooking a meal in the play kitchen, or playing some Sixers basketball.
Take a step back in time
The keel for the Battleship New Jersey was laid in 1940, launched in 1942, and arrived at its final destination on October 15, 2001, at the Camden Waterfront. The ship accurately represents what a TV studio, barbershop, laundry room (imagine doing all of that laundry), navigation room, library, radio room, and even the Captain’s In-Port Cabin looked like when the ship was in commission. One unique feature on the boat was the “high line chair” that made a “high line transfer.” It meant you would travel from one ship to another right over the ocean waves as 10 to 30 people would pull you, culminating in the ultimate ride.
Spend the night on the Battleship of New Jersey
Yes, you can sleep over in the Battleship New Jersey—thankfully, the Overnight Encampment Program is back on. If you’re thinking about doing it, you can book with a group (scouts, schools, etc.), request a family trip, or do it as a birthday party. You’ll feel right at home after storing your gear in a locker and finding your bunk–both used by the enlisted sailors when they were at sea. Next stop is the Chow Line for dinner, and then after, a tour of the ship exploring different spots that aren’t on typical tours. The following day, guzzle down breakfast in the Crew’s Mess and join the hands-on programs, including exploring the science behind the battleship, before packing up and stopping at the gift shop for souvenirs.
Special events aboard the Battleship of New Jersey
Did you know that you can get married aboard the Battleship New Jersey? Yup, you can rent out the ship to host private events, and even several proms have happened aboard it. There are special public events like Halloween Treats at the Battleship or Family Fun Day. Check their events section to find out what’s happening, and mark your calendar for the fireworks shows on holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Watching fireworks bursting in the air over the 887-foot battleship is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
What to know before you go
With costs of around $10,000 a day to keep the ship afloat on the Delaware River, the Battleship relies on donations, events, members, and visitors to help keep the floating museum open. It’s best to wear closed-toe shoes or sneakers because there are several steep steps (called ladders by the Navy) to maneuver up and down the ship, and there are also “knee knockers,” which are high step openings between rooms. Strollers are not permitted; front carriers are required for infants or toddlers. There is a gift shop, visitor’s center, restrooms on-site, and The Chow Line snack bar if you get hungry. There are also Sensory Friendly Days available. The ship is open every day from 10 AM-5:30 PM. Tickets are $30 for an adult, $23 for seniors, and kids 12 and under for a self-guided tour; prices vary for other tours. Several parking options are available, and public transportation options are also available.
Battleship of New Jersey
62 Battleship Place
Camden, NJ 08103
Check out their website, Instagram, and Facebook before you go.
What is your favorite part of the Battleship of New Jersey?
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