The visitor’s center here opens at 7am, but when Todd dropped me off just after 6:30, there was already a line! This line was primarily to go to the USS Arizona, but there are other things to see there as well (more about that below). As of my visit, people were still unable to get onto the USS Arizona memorial. However, it’s still worth a visit. Once in the visitor center, if you don’t already have tickets (like me-rare to not have my tickets already!), you get into a line and they give you a ticket for a certain time. I got into the first tour at 7:30am. Note that this tour is completely free! Also note that the visitor’s center is very limited in what you can take in purses, backpacks, etc are not allowed. Basically, you can take a clutch and water bottle, or whatever will fit in your pocket. If you have more, they have a storage area, where you pay $5 to store it while you tour all the different sites (including the USS Missouri, which requires a shuttle to Ford Island).
When it was time for the tour, we first viewed a video for about 15-20 minutes that gives information leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack itself, including all the ships that were destroyed and the lives lost. Then it’s time for the tour. We boarded a boat, where a navy crew manned the ship and a parks department docent gave us more information about the memorial. Right at 8am, the national anthem played and the toured stopped until the song was over. Then the boat took us out to the USS Arizona. It rotated around to make sure everyone on the boat got views of the memorial. You are not allowed to stand up on the boat (and trust me, the docent will shame you into seating if you dare stand), but I think the navy crew did a great job of rotating the boat around for us to get multiple views. That said, I was also lucky enough to have a seat right at the beside of the boat so I had no people obstructing my view to take photos.
The boat also took us to view the USS Missouri. We didn’t go on it (that is a different tour, that costs $29), but we got a great view of it, and they pointed out the spot where the treaty was signed by the Japanese to end WWII.
After a few more views of the USS Arizona, we headed back. From there, I walked more around the visitor’s center. There was so much to see, including plaques with a list of all the names of the lives lost on the various ships during the attack, quotes from different people about the attack, and more history about the area. Overall, this is a very moving monument and an absolute must-see.
Afterward, I also toured the USS Bowfin, a submarine, as well as a museum about different submarines from the WWII era. The submarine was neat to see (especially trying to imagine so many men living on it!!), but the museum was a bit lost on me. If you are into submarines, it’s worth touring both, but otherwise, you can probably skip this. (I took some photos but they didn’t turn out that great; you can see all my Hawaii photos here ).
I really enjoyed the Visitor’s Center and going out to see the Arizona. It’s a somber experience but such a moving memorial.