NOTE: We are not advocating mass travel during this time, but we do want to continue to support the incredible businesses and destinations that make North Carolina so amazing. In the meantime, we encourage you to virtually travel through our articles and plan your visits for when it is safe to do get out there. Finally, while we do work hard to keep our posts updated, some activities and places may not be accessible at this time.
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Battleship North Carolina: Visiting Our Namesake Ship and How She Arrived at Wilmington

Last Updated on August 2, 2020

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Battleship North Carolina sits across from downtown Wilmington and serves as a memorial to previous ships named “North Carolina” and North Carolinians who served all branches during World War II.

She sees visitors every day of the year and if you’re looking from the Downtown Riverwalk, you’ll easily spot this “Museum Ship” across the Cape Fear River.

Take a closer look, though, and step on this ship so you can descend its many levels. When we did, it became clear that powerful stories were created here. That’s because before this ship arrived to rest in Wilmington, she spent her early years fighting for our nation as the USS North Carolina.

Not only did the North Carolina fight for our nation, but many North Carolinians fought hard to keep the ship intact after its decommissioning. And thankfully, they succeeded.

And since we’re one of the many people lucky enough to visit this awesome bucket list-worthy and family-friendly piece of Wilmington, we thought you might want to know more about it.

Follow us as we share background info and history, things to expect when visiting, and more in this guide to Battleship North Carolina.

This post is part of our series on Wilmington and all the awesome places to visit in Eastern North Carolina.

Battleship North Carolina

For quick info about the Battleship North Carolina (including hours and admission info), please scroll to the bottom of this post.

Background & History

Wilmington NC Battleship Outside Image

The USS North Carolina was one of two North Carolina-class “fast” ships (along with the Washington). The New York Naval Shipyard laid the ship’s keel in 1937 and it launched in 1940.

The finished product was as tall as a 15-story building, weighed 35,000 tons, and it cost $70 million to build.

Campaigns and Battle Stars

From its commissioning in 1941 to 1947, the North Carolina saw a lot of action. Participating in the South Pacific theater during every major offensive, this ship earned 15 battle stars and fear from enemies, as it was known as a truly formidable force.

“Save Our Ship”

Battleship NC Wilmington Outside Image

After the war, it was mostly used for training and in 1947, decommissioned. In the late 1950s, reports of the ship’s scrapping led to “Save Our Ship.” And to be clear, there was originally no connection to North Carolina, other than the name.

But the statewide effort succeeded and is the reason why the North Carolina resides in Wilmington today. She arrived in 1961 and one year later, a ceremony dedicated it to World War II veterans and the 11,000-plus North Carolinians who died throughout the war.

Today’s Battleship North Carolina: Wilmington’s Family-Friendly Museum Ship

You can now visit Battleship North Carolina at 1 Battleship Rd in Wilmington. Many folks drive to the ship and can reach it via either the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge (from downtown) or via US-421.

If you’re staying downtown or already parked and don’t want to move your car for a while, you can also take a Water Taxi across to the ship.

Inside Battleship North Carolina: Tips for Visiting

The North Carolina is longer than two football fields at 728 feet and nine levels deep for those who visit. You can easily spend a few hours here, as each room is an impressive display of engineering might.

You’ll start with the massive observation deck which offers views of the Cape Fear River and downtown Wilmington across the water. Start your way down and walk through a variety of living spaces, storage rooms, mess decks, and more.

There’s even an accessible Memorial Walkway that goes around the ship and is available during open hours.

Tight Spaces & How to Beat Crowds

One thing to remember is that non-air conditioned tight spaces await as you descend on and climb ladders to and from each level. Flat-soled shoes are best for doing so. Also, keep the close quarters in mind when bringing your camera, sunglasses, and other belongings.

And if you want to beat the crowds, try to arrive as early as possible. For more info, check the hours below in our quick guide to the ship.

When to Visit: All Year!

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Special Events happen throughout the year at the North Carolina. The almost-monthly Battleship 101 is an educational, interactive, and volunteer-led experience that’s perfect for all ages.

Additional special events also take place on Memorial Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7), and Flag Day (June 14).

If you’ve ever visited during one of these occasions (or another one), we’d love to know about your experience.

Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!

Even though the North Carolina might’ve originally had zero connection to this state beyond its name, we think it’s worthy of everyone’s NC bucket list, including our own.

And if you’re one of the people who’ve visited, we’d love to know how you enjoyed your time aboard. If not, we’d love to know what you’d want to see first.

Let us know in the comments section or send us an email. We’re always happy to chat more and provide additional tips if necessary.

Battleship North Carolina Quick Guide

Address: 1 Battleship Rd, Wilmington, NC 28401

Hours

  • Summer (Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day): 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
  • Winter (Tuesday following Labor Day through Thursday before Memorial Day): 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • Christmas Day: 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

Note: Ticket sales stop one hour prior to closing.

Self-Guided Tickets

  • Members and Children Ages 5 & Under: FREE
  • Friend with Member Ages 6 and Up: $6
  • Adults Ages 12 & Older: $14 + Tax
  • Seniors & Military (Includes Spouses and Dependants, ID Required): $10
  • Children Ages 6 to 11: $6

Guided Tours are also available via the Battleship North Carolina Friends website.

Tips

  • Arrive Early
  • Plan to Spend 2 to 3 Hours (at least!)
  • Prepare for Tight Spaces
  • Be Mindful of Belongings when Climbing Ladders
  • Keep an Eye Out for Special Events

Disclosure Note

Special thanks to Wilmington and Beaches CVB for hosting us during our stay. All opinions within this article are our own.

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