7 Reasons to Tour California’s USS Hornet

September 9, 2017

USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum

The USS Hornet aircraft carrier is located in Alameda, California. Just east of San Francisco, this floating museum’s history includes participation in World War II and NASA’s Apollo Program.  Its highlights comprise of 15 historic aircraft on display, multiple exhibits, a flight simulator, over 10,000 artifacts, and daily tours. She was commissioned in 1943 and saw combat in World War II and the Vietnam War. She was also used to recover astronauts as they returned from the moon for Apollo 11 and Apollo 12. The USS Hornet was decommissioned in 1970 and is a National and California Historical Landmark. I visited the USS Hornet with several friends and even after spending hours touring the ship, there were still parts that we haven’t seen. The trip was a perfect combination of education, history, and fun.

USS Hornet Welcome Sign

1. Affordable

  • Adult Admission: $20
  • Seniors & Military: $15
  • Students: $15
  • Youth: $10
  • Children 6 & Under: FREE

General admission includes complimentary docent-led tours of the Engine Room, Captain’s Bridge, and Navigation Bridge. Guests can self-tour about 75% of the museum. For about the same price as a movie, you get a walk through history, take great photos, go on interesting tours, and several hours of entertainment. Great value!


2. Easy access


The USS Hornet is docked in Alameda, just east of San Francisco. It is centrally located between the Oakland and San Francisco Airports.

  • Driving: There are 750 free parking spaces across from the pier including spaces for RVs.
  • BART: Get off at 12th Street/Oakland City Center. Then take a taxi to USS Hornet (3.6 miles).
  • AC Transit Bus: #96 bus stop 0.8 miles from the pier.
  • Alameda/Oakland Ferry: The Alameda Ferry Terminal is about 2 miles from the USS Hornet’s pier.


3. Aircraft on display

There are over a dozen military aircraft on display in the Hangar Deck and on the Flight Deck, many of which you can get up close and personal for some great photos!

USS Hornet Aircraft
SH-3H SeaKing: Designed for ship-based anti-submarine warfare, and was the primary astronaut recovery helicopter for all Gemini and Apollo space missions.
USS Hornet Aircraft
T-28B Trojan: Restored to its original Training Command yellow and green to denote it as an instrument trainer.
USS Hornet Aircraft
F-8 Crusader: The US Navy’s first supersonic jet fighter.
USS Hornet Aircraft
Me with a jet aboard the USS Hornet
Related: Flying to Kuwait for war

4. NASA artifacts

The USS Hornet was a recovery ship for the splashdowns of Apollo 11 and Apollo 12, and a Gemini test capsule. The on board display includes the helicopter models used in the recoveries, Apollo test capsule CM-011, the Mobile Quarantine Facility from Apollo 14, and Gemini Boilerplate MSC-307.

USS Hornet Gemini Capsule Boilerplate
Gemini Capsule Boilerplate

Related: Travel the world in this travel themed game

Taking a tour on the USS Hornet
Taking a tour on the USS Hornet

5. Multiple daily tours

You can attend complimentary docent-led tours of the Navigation Bridge, Captain’s Bridge, and the Engine Room (due to safety concerns, you must be at least 48 inches tall to go on the Engineer Room Tour).

Tour Tips:

  • You can get a tour map of the ship at the Admissions Desk. Audio tours are also available.
  • Children must be with an adult at all times.
  • Wear closed-toed walking shoes and dress in layers.


USS Hornet kill scorecard
USS Hornet kill scorecard

6. Special Events

Check the Hornet’s event calendar for special events such as:

  • New Year’s Eve Fundraising Big Band Dance Gala
  • Public Lectures
  • Kraken Con Cosplay Day
  • STEM Youth Overnight Adventures
  • Moms in the Military Salute
  • Ship Show Music Festival
  • Battlestar Classic Beerfest
  • Model Expo & Open Cockpit Day
  • Holloween’s Monster Bash


7. History Mystery Tour

Several times a year, the USS Hornet plays host to an overnight History Mystery Tour. Sleep where the crew slept, eat where they ate and conduct a ghostly investigation from 6 pm to 9 am the next morning. Explore the ship’s Sickbay and jail by flashlight


External view of USS Hornet
USS Hornet

My Review

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed touring the USS Hornet. I recommend taking one of the interior ship tours and don’t miss out on seeing the flight deck where most of the aircraft are on display. The flight deck is also where you’ll get the best photos since the ship interior has low light.

If you have any questions, take advantage of talking to the tour guides as they are very knowledgeable history buffs, many of whom are military veterans. As always, double check hours and prices on the Hornet website before visiting. But if you do find yourself on this side of the Bay, the USS Hornet a must see!

If you’re looking for something to read to accompany this tour, I suggest reading Moon Men Return: USS Hornet and the Recovery of the Apollo 11 Astronauts by Scott M. Carmichael.

For more Bay Area adventures, check out my whale watching tour to the Farallon Islands. The Farallons have a fascinating history.

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By Amber Alexander

Through my own adventures, I strive to provide insight into experiences that will enrich your life. Traveling is my passion and I want to share that with you. Along with recommendations for adventures, I will also review books and supplies that are related to those adventures. I want you to push your own boundaries of what you thought you could do. Let me be your guide and compass to rediscovering how fun life can be!


  1. Reply


    That looks so interesting! Love a good history tour 🙂

  2. Reply

    Anisa & Katherine (@2travelingtxns)

    I actually have family in Alameda but I had no idea about the USS Hornet. I will have t o check it out next time I am there.

  3. Reply


    Looks very cool. Especially interested in the mystery tour! Sounds so fun!!!

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