Mariners' Museum lowers cost to bring in explorers

Families looking for an affordable way to spend the day together can rediscover an old gem in Newport News.

In November, The Mariners’ Museum and Park, which first opened in the 1930s, lowered its admission fee permanently to $1. The idea behind the switch is to serve the community by allowing easier access to a facility dedicated to celebrating maritime history both locally and on a national level.

“We all have a connection through our shared maritime heritage,” said Howard H. Hoege III, president and CEO of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

The museum’s main draw is the USS Monitor Center, which houses remains of the famous Civil War ironclad warship, including its gun turret. The center also features a replica of the USS Monitor as well as the ship’s signal lamp, the last item seen as the USS Monitor sank and the first artifact raised during the recovery of the ship.

“This is one of my favorite parts of our galleries,” said Hoege. “A lot of people don’t know the history, so we like to engage with our guests and make what they see here relevant to them through human interest stories. The signal lamp is just one example of that.”

In 2017, The Mariners’ Museum opened a new display, Speed & Innovation in the America’s Cup. Here, visitors can check out the Oracle Team USA’s AC72 Catamaran, the 72-foot racing yacht that won the 2013 America’s Cup. It is the largest boat in the museum’s collection.

“A lot of people get excited about it,” said Hoege.

The Mariners’ Museum also boasts an International Small Craft Center, which showcases 150 boats from 50 countries; a model ship gallery; a 3D theatre; and rotating exhibits. The newest exhibit, Seizing the Moment: The Evolution of Maritime Action Photography, opens Feb. 23 and will highlight artistic maritime images that have never been seen before.

The Mariners’ Museum first experimented with an $1 admission fee in August 2016. That month, 39,000 people visited the museum, up from 5,500 patrons that typically tour the museum in August.

“The $1 admission fee has been an overwhelming success,” said Hoege. “It takes the pressure off of families exploring. When they come, we want them to have a positive, emotional experience.”

In addition to the museum, the property is also home to a five-mile hiking trail, Noland Trail, as well as a lake, Lake Maury. A favorite picnic spot is the Lions Bridge overlooking the James River, or guests can dine at the museum’s café.

“Why not make a whole day of it?” Hoege said. “Take in some nature, have some lunch, and explore the museum. Families sometimes struggle with finding quality time to be together, and we are a low-cost way of doing this. Where else can you find a fun and educational place for $1?”

Want to go?

The Mariners’ Museum and Park

100 Museum Drive, Newport News

596-2222; marinersmuseum.org.

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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