In September 2016, we signed our fourth grader up for her Every Kid In A Park pass and set off to visit as many parks as we could in a year. Hawaii was first up on the list.
Our trip started off with a visit to Haleakalā National Park and Volcanoes National parks. Those places bordered on the unbelievable with their moon-like landscapes and sputtering lava. It was incredible to watch the islands grow before our very eyes!
As cool as those were, we couldn’t let a visit to Hawaii pass by without visiting World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument – more commonly known as Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.
This park was a definite shift in mood from the other parks that we have visited. We found it to be beautifully done, but it also causes you to pause and reflect on the life-changing events that took place here on Dec. 7, 1941.
What to see and do for kids at Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial Tour
Visiting Pearl Harbor is very straightforward. Tickets to enter the park and visitor center are free, as well as the USS Arizona tour. However, only 1,300 USS Arizona tickets are issued each day, so make sure that you either reserve your tickets in advance at Recreation.gov ($1.50 fee applies), or arrive early the day of your visit. Tickets are issued beginning at 7:00 a.m. at the ticket window.
You’ll be issued a time on your ticket to arrive at the theater where you will watch a short movie about WWII, Pearl Harbor, and the events leading up to the Japanese attack. It’s well done, and held the attention of our kids, although younger kids might get fidgety. The film is 23 minutes long.
Once your viewing is over, you will be escorted to your boat ride over to the USS Arizona Memorial. This short ride will dock next to the Memorial where you will disembark, listen to a short presentation about the Arizona, her history, and her crew. Afterwords, you’ll have time to explore the Memorial. Your boat will then take you back to shore. The entire tour, including the film and the boat ride, takes about 75 minutes.
The Memorial itself is poignant, and a white marble wall displays the names of all who were lost on the Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941.
Enjoy the time to reflect and listen to the docent tell stories of the men and women who lost their lives, the ships involved that day, and the efforts of the park service and locals who keep this monument a special sanctuary for the communities and families affected.
Other Things To See and Do Around the Park
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Once you have finished your tour of the USS Arizona, you will want to explore some of the other areas of the park. Free areas include the galleries “Road to War” and “Attack”, Remembrance Circle, Wayside Exhibits, and the bookstore and gift shop. Also be sure to get your National Park Passport cancellation stamps while you are there. These can be found right next to the bookstore.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is large and full of great books, memorabilia, and souvenirs to take home. Our visit happened to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
During our visit to the bookstore, Ret. Brigadier General Jerome T. Hagen was signing copies of his books War in the Pacific. We picked up a copy for a Christmas present and have heard nothing but good things! If you want to dig a little deeper into the Pacific theater, check out his books on Amazon.
Remembrance Circle is a quiet area of the park where you can read about those who were lost during the attack. It’s a sobering look at the events that took place here.
Indoor Exhibits and Galleries
The kids really enjoyed the interactive exhibit on WWII code-breaking. It explains the basics and then the kids get to try and crack the code. Very cool!
They also have some great models of the ships and local area that help you to visualize the magnitude of the Japanese effort in coordinating this attack and some interesting USS Arizona facts.
Other Displays and Tours at the Park
Other tours include the USS Bowfin, which is the WWII submarine on display, the USS Missouri battleship, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. We did not have time to experience these exhibits, but people I have spoken with really enjoyed them.
- Tours of the USS Missouri or ‘Mighty Mo’ are offered twice daily. She was the last commissioned battleship for the United States Navy and was the site of Japan’s surrender, marking the end of WWII.
- The USS Bowfin offers kids ages 5-16 a Junior Submariner Program, and when completed, they receive an iron-on patch.
- The Pacific Aviation Museum includes aircraft not only from WWII, but also aircraft from the jet age like the F-14 Tomcat and the F-4 Phantom.
Admission for the Bowfin, the USS Missouri, and the Pacific Aviation Museum are not free, so be aware that you will need to purchase those tickets separately.
Programs and Calendar for Pearl Harbor
As always, be sure to check out the Junior Ranger Program at World War II Valor in the Pacific NM. They’ve put together a fun scavenger hunt for kids to take part in to help them learn more about the history of Pearl Harbor in a fun way.
Also be sure to check the park’s calendar on the dates that you’ll be visiting. Many times there will be a special Ranger program, talk, or activity you may find interesting.
Pearl Harbor Hours and When to Visit the Park
From the park website:
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is closed three days a year.
Programs to the USS Arizona Memorial run about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and include:
- A 23-minute documentary film in our Pearl Harbor Visitor Center theater
- A boat ride to the memorial
- About 10-15 minutes at the memorial
- A boat ride back to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center
USS Arizona Tickets and Timed programs to the USS Arizona Memorial:
Programs run every 15 minutes starting at 7:30 a.m.
No programs run at 12:15 p.m. and 12:30 p.m.
The last timed program is at 3:00 p.m.
How To Get To the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument
Make sure to use the following address to arrive at the visitor center:
Pearl Harbor Visitor Center
1 Arizona Memorial Place
Honolulu, HI 96818
Remember, Pearl Harbor is the actual military base (Pearl Harbor Naval Base), so make sure you’re using the above address in your GPS or maps app to get there.
Where Will You #FindYourPark?
Hawaii was fantastic, but you certainly don't have to travel that far to find a National Park close by. There are 417 parks, monuments, seashores, and public lands under the care of the National Park Service, so get out there!
Our crew here at Along for the Trip loves America's National Parks. We set out in 2016/17 to see as many parks as we could with our 4th grader and her Every Kid in a Park Pass.
This is a fantastic initiative by the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior to educate kids and families about our parks, and increase awareness about their care and sustainability.
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