Battleship USS North Carolina: Best Tourist Guide & 4 Attractions

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Updated On: April 23, 2024 by   Courtney AugelloCourtney Augello

The Battleship USS North Carolina is a fascinating piece of US and World War II history. The vessel saw many battles, housed scores of US troops, and survived to tell its stories. To anyone interested in history, visiting the USS North Carolina is a great opportunity.

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The USS North Carolina was the first of its class to be constructed.

With 9 decks to explore, there are tons to see aboard the Battleship USS North Carolina. From the turrets on the main deck to the living quarters below, the USS North Carolina will fascinate anyone who visits the ship. To help you plan your trip on the vessel, we’ve explored its history, attractions, and essential tips for your visit.

About the Battleship USS North Carolina

The Battleship USS North Carolina is a North Carolina class battleship that was constructed for the US Navy. Built with an emphasis on speed, the USS North Carolina was the first of its class to be constructed.

The USS North Carolina was completed in April 1941. At this time, the United States was a neutral country in World War II. The ship was activated after the Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor that December.

After being activated, the Battleship USS North Carolina was stationed in the Pacific Ocean to bulk out the defences and attack power of the Allied forces. The vessel was part of many campaigns and helped to shoot down Japanese jets.

In late 1942, the USS North Carolina was hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. The ship received vast but not serious damage and had to undergo repairs. The repairs took the vessel out of action for the remainder of the year.

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In 1942, the USS North Carolina was hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine.

In 1943, the Battleship USS North Carolina returned to the Central Pacific Ocean to aid the Allies. The vessel took part in many battles across islands in the ocean and continued to shoot down Axis aircraft.

While stationed in the Pacific, the United States Navy was hit by Typhoon Cobra. The typhoon hit in December 1944 and caused great damage to the Allied fleet. In the storm, 3 destroyers were sunk, 9 warships were damaged, dozens of aircraft were thrown into the waters, and nearly 800 soldiers were killed. It was the third typhoon to hit a US Navy fleet that year.

Luckily, the USS North Carolina did not receive extensive damage during the storm. The ship was able to carry on and participate in battles on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and other Pacific islands.

Although Japan surrendered in August 1945, the Battleship USS North Carolina’s journey was not over. The vessel was sent out as part of Operation Magic Carpet to bring home soldiers stationed across the Pacific Ocean. In total, 369 ships brought more than 8 million American soldiers home from August 1945 to September 1946.

The USS North Carolina was decommissioned in June 1947. Originally, the United States Navy was planning to modernise and repurpose the ship to improve its speed and transform it into a helicopter carrier. In the end, these plans were discarded.

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The USS North Carolina was activated after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

In 1960, the Battleship USS North Carolina was removed from the US Navy’s register and marked to be scrapped. James Craig, a man from North Carolina, could not bear to see this happen and began a campaign to save the ship.

Craig was inspired by a similar campaign which saved the USS Texas from being scrapped and instead turned it into a museum ship. Over $300,000 was raised for the campaign, and the USS North Carolina was saved from the scrapyard.

Where is the Battleship USS North Carolina Located?

The Battleship USS North Carolina is located in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA. Wilmington is a coastal city with approximately 115,000 citizens. The city was voted the best riverfront in the USA and features a historic downtown district.

After the Battleship USS North Carolina was decommissioned and saved from being scrapped, the vessel was moved to North Carolina. Beginning in September 1961 and starting from New Jersey, it took 9 tugboats to pull the ship to its destination.

During the expedition, the tugboats lost control of the USS North Carolina. The ship went off course and crashed into a floating restaurant, which caused damage to the vessel. After repairs to the ship’s hull were completed, the museum opened in 1962.

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The Battleship USS North Carolina is located in Wilmington, North Carolina.

20 years after the USS North Carolina opened to the public as a museum, parts from the ship were taken to restore reactivated Iowa class battleships. To prevent further parts from being taken, the Battleship USS North Carolina was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1982.

Today, the ship is consistently repaired to prevent wear or deterioration from ruining the vessel. New paint, hull repairs, and other refurbishments are an ongoing part of maintaining the museum.

How long to spend at the Battleship USS North Carolina

On average, most visitors spend 2.5 hours exploring the Battleship USS North Carolina. However, it is easy to spend more time there if you want to see every nook and corner of the ship.

The self-guided tours allow guests to wander at their own pace and stay as long as they like. Guided tours onboard the Battleship USS North Carolina last anywhere from an hour and a half to 3 hours, proving that there is much to see on the vessel. 

What to bring to the Battleship USS North Carolina

The USS North Carolina can be difficult to navigate. With small corridors, multiple levels, and more, it is important to be prepared for your visit. For this reason, we recommend you bring the following items to make your visit easier.

Proper shoes are key when visiting the USS North Carolina. Any shoes with a heel, including kitty heels and wedges, are strongly discouraged. This is because the heels can become stuck in the steel grate floors. Sandals and flip-flops are also not recommended.

If you are visiting the Battleship USS North Carolina, make sure to pack plenty of water. It gets extremely hot on the ship, especially during the summer months when it is warm outside. 

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It is important to bring water with you on the USS North Carolina.

The tour involves a lot of walking, going up and down steps, and few places to sit. It can be tiring to explore the ship, and having extra water will help your group stay hydrated. An air-conditioned seating area is available in the visitor centre if you need to take a break.

There are no restaurants on the USS North Carolina, so it is recommended that visitors bring a few snacks with them on the tour. Drinks and snacks are allowed on board the vessel, and vending machines are in certain areas of the ship.

Well-fitting pants or shorts are a must for any visit to the USS North Carolina. There are many steps to climb between levels, and it can be easy to trip if your pants are too long or wide. In addition, guests on lower decks can see through the floor of the deck above, so skirts and dresses are not recommended!

Hand sanitiser is another great thing to bring on your visit to the Battleship USS North Carolina. After touching handrails, doors, and other parts of the ship, you may want to wash your hands. And, if you choose to eat during your tour, your hands may be dirty or sticky. There are no accessible bathrooms on the vessel, so hand sanitiser is a must!

Tips for Visiting the Battleship USS North Carolina

Give yourself enough time to explore the battleship thoroughly. The self-guided tour can take a couple of hours, depending on your pace and interest level. Consider arriving early to avoid crowds and to give yourself ample time to experience everything the ship has to offer.

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There are many tours offered on the Battleship USS North Carolina.

Be mindful of low ceilings and narrow passageways on the Battleship USS North Carolina. Some areas of the ship have low ceilings and narrow passageways, so watch your head and take care when moving through these sections. The ship’s design is authentic to its time, so be prepared for tighter spaces.

Make sure to explore! Take the time to explore all the different sections of the battleship, including the main deck, gun turrets, engine rooms, bridge, and more. Each area offers a unique perspective on the ship’s history and operations.

Check out the tour options. The Battleship USS North Carolina often provides audio guides or guided tours that can enhance your experience. These resources offer additional information and insights into the ship’s history, making your visit more informative and engaging.

Don’t forget to bring your camera or smartphone to capture photos of your visit. The battleship offers picturesque views of the Cape Fear River and various interesting spots to document your experience.

Finally, keep an eye out for any special events or activities taking place during your visit. The Battleship USS North Carolina occasionally hosts events like reenactments, exhibits, or educational programs that can further enrich your visit.

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Before it was in Wilmington, the Battleship USS North Carolina was held in New Jersey.

Things to do at the Battleship USS North Carolina

1. Explore the Visitor Centre

The Battleship USS North Carolina has a visitor centre that provides visitors with information, exhibits, and amenities related to the historic battleship. The information desk is staffed by knowledgeable personnel who can provide details about the battleship and its history and answer any questions you may have.

The visitor centre features a range of exhibits that highlight the USS North Carolina’s history, including its role in World War II. These exhibits include artefacts, photographs, and interactive displays that offer insights into the ship’s operations, crew life, and notable events.

Also at the USS North Carolina’s visitor centre, guests can watch film presentations that provide a deeper understanding of the ship’s history and its significance during World War II. 

It’s worth noting that specific exhibits and amenities may vary over time, so it’s recommended to check the official website or contact the Battleship USS North Carolina directly for the most up-to-date information on what is currently available at the visitor centre.

2. Read Stories from the Crew

One of the best things to do on the USS North Carolina is to read stories from the ship’s crew. Each room below deck is filled with stories from the servicemen who lived and worked on the ship.

The stories provide details on what life was like on the ship and what the men went through during the war. Each story is accompanied by a photograph of the crewmember who wrote the story.

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The Battleship USS North Carolina helped bring US troops home from WWII.

3. Take a Guided Tour

The Battleship USS North Carolina offers several tours to enhance visitors’ experience and provide a deeper understanding of the ship’s history.

The self-guided tour allows visitors to explore the ship at their own pace. As you navigate through the different areas of the battleship, you can read informative displays, view artefacts, and learn about the ship’s history through various exhibits.

The Battleship North Carolina offers a mobile app that provides a guided audio tour. The app can be downloaded onto your smartphone and offers detailed commentary and additional information as you explore the ship.

The Behind-the-Scenes tour lasts about 3 hours and takes visitors to areas of the battleship that are typically not accessible on the self-guided tour. You may have the opportunity to visit spaces like the engine rooms, ammunition handling rooms, and other restricted areas, accompanied by knowledgeable guides.

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Other US battleships have been converted into museums around the country.

The battleship occasionally offers special focus tours that delve deeper into specific aspects of the ship’s history. These tours may focus on topics such as the crew’s daily life, the ship’s role in World War II, or its engineering and technology.

In the evenings, the Battleship North Carolina occasionally offers ghost ship tours, giving visitors a unique perspective on the ship’s history and rumoured paranormal activity. These tours are usually held around Halloween or on specific event dates.

4. Run the Battleship North Carolina Marathon

The Battleship North Carolina Marathon is an annual marathon race in Wilmington, North Carolina. It is one of the oldest USTA-certified Half Marathons in the USA. The race course starts and finishes near the Battleship North Carolina, taking runners through scenic routes in Wilmington. 

The event offers multiple distance options to accommodate runners of different levels. The main race is a full marathon, which is 26.2 miles. Additionally, there are half marathon (13.1 miles) and 5K (3.1 miles) races as part of the event.

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The Battleship USS North Carolina showcases the bravery of US troops during WWII.

The Battleship USS North Carolina is an Impressive WWII Relic

The USS North Carolina narrowly avoided being scrapped and instead is an amazing museum full of history, bravery, and adventure. The stories told from the ship take visitors back in time and showcase how difficult life was at sea during World War II.

Touring the Battleship USS North Carolina is a dream for any US history buff. The vessel is in an amazing state, nearly identical to how it was at sea. Even if you’re not interested in history, the ship is exciting to explore and learn about.
If you’re planning a holiday to the United States, check out our list of Best City Breaks in the USA.

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