Story and Photos by Will A. Davis
There is something mystical, magical and mesmerizing for just about anything that floats on water. Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams all seem to capture our imagination whether one is a ” landlubber” or a seafaring person . On a recent visit to the Mariners’ Museum-America’s National Maritime Museum in Newport News, Virginia we had the opportunity to experience just about every level of boat education that one could wish for.
The Mariners’ Museum is located in the historic city of Newport News, in itself a place rich in the history of the American maritime experience.
The Mariners’ Museum 550-acre park is the largest privately maintained park in the United States. 167 acre Lake Maury is the epicenter of the park which features walking, biking, and jogging trails along the five mile long Noland Trail as well as picnic areas and other joys of nature.
The famous Lion’s Bridge, a dam that provides a breathtaking view of the James River, remains a highlight for visitors—a perfect family gathering place to enjoy the Museum Park. The beauty of the dam is enhanced by several fine pieces of statuary designed by Anna Hyatt Huntington, sculptor and wife of Museum founder Archer Milton Huntington. Four stone lions were mounted on the ends of the parapets of the dam in October 1932. Anna also created and dedicated a monument entitled Conquering the Wild that overlooks the Lion’s Bridge, the park, and Lake Maury.
The museums main building is 120,000 square feet featuring a lineup of time line galleries from dugout canoes to nuclear submarines and nothing left out in between. Each gallery is filled with written histories, artifacts progressively leading one forward. The Museum’s collection contains approximately 35,000 two and three-dimensional objects and images documenting nearly 3,000 years of mankind’s experiences on the seas and waterways of the world.
Located in a separate building The International Small Craft Center is not to be missed. This world class center holds unique and historic craft from around the world, from sail boats to Chris-Craft runabouts. From dugouts, to sunfish it’s a fabulous collection.
The ongoing sesquicentennial (1861-1865) of the American Civil War makes for an ideal time to visit and explore one of the most interesting and exciting events of the war. The USS Monitor Center is an extraordinary exhibit made up of historical artifacts and interactive displays that let you experience the fear, the awe, and the excitement that surrounded this extraordinary time in our nation’s history. There is a full sized replica of the Monitor outside of the center. The exhibit of the Monitor’s interior allows visitors a view life below deck where the sailors lived. The exhibit, like the museum, is a wonderful example of all of the crafts that went into boat building, from idea to fruition and not all successful.
In addition to many galleries and displays the Mariners Museum hosts special community events like their Safety at Sea Seminar.
We spent 4 hours here and did not see every single video or film, nor did we read every plaque in every display but not once were we bored as it every corner you’ll exclaim in delight like the dozen or so ships figureheads, the models of great liners, the special gallery exhibit of the handcrafted miniatures. (As well as video.)
Newport News has a wide array of places to rest you rhead or just relax for a bit from hotels to B and B’s. We were delighted to stay at the Marriott Hotel in the Center Center Complex at Oyster Point . The Newport News Marriott at City Center is an eleven-story, full service upscale hotel and conference facility with 256 guestrooms and 23,000 square feet of elegant meeting and banquet space. The Marriott Hotel features a 12,000 square foot ballroom, 4,400 square foot junior ballroom and a 6,500 square foot rotunda with views of the five-acre fountain. The hotel is quite centrally located easy to get to and to use as a base to visit the many area attractions in Newport News, Williamsburg, Portsmouth and Hampton also all within thirty minutes.
Mariners’ Museum :
There is a small snack bar and wonderful gift shop.
Monday, Wednesday – Saturday: 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. Tuesdays: CLOSED Sunday: Noon to 5 P.M. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Museum will be open on Mondays that coincide with Federal holidays.
Admission: Adults: $12.00 AAA, Military, Seniors (65+): $11.00 Students 13 and up: $10.00 Children Ages 6 to 12: $7.00 Ages 5 and Under: Free Museum Members receive Free Admission
The Mariners’ Museum is wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs are available for visitors upon request
Newport News Marriott at City Center 740 Town Center Drive Newport News, Virginia 23606 USA 1-757-873-9299 http://www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-information/travel/phfoy-newport-news-marriott-at-city-center/
Newport News Tourism Development Office 700 Town Center Drive, Suite 320 Newport News, VA 23606 Phone: 757.926.1429 Fax: 757.926.1441 www.newport-news.org