Climb Aboard the USS Silversides For A Truly Unique Experience

USS Silversides girl at interactive map

Step Into History at the USS Silversides Submarine Museum

Next time your family is traveling up the lakeshore, put a stop in Muskegon on your list.

And then put the USS Silversides Submarine Museum at the top of that list.

The USS Silversides is a real, decommissioned submarine from the WWII era.

My son has often had the opportunity to camp on the sub through the Scouts program – and missed it each time. 

All of us – and especially him – were excited to finally get to make it to a real submarine.

Tip: while our tour was self-guided, you might be lucky enough to meet an actual submarine crew member and WWII veteran while you’re there! One such vet went on a tour that lasted 69 days with only one stop to refuel. 

The Legendary USS Silversides

The USS Silversides’ service started just a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It went on to complete 14 combat war patrols. Silversides is credited with sinking 23 Japanese ships.

When the submarine was decommissioned, it would have been scrapped. But this amazing record kept it intact. The USS Silversides was originally towed to Chicago to become a training vessel.

Nowadays, the submarine is docked in the Muskegon Lake Channel near Lake Michigan. It’s really close to Pere Marquette Park, which has a lovely beach on Lake Michigan.

Make it a day trip this summer! Spend the morning at the USS Silversides Museum and follow it up with a trip to the beach.

Pere Marquette Beach is across the channel from USS Silversides

For our trip, we packed lunches and ate at the picnic tables outside and then the kids played on the playground for a little while before we headed inside the museum.

Museum Wonders and Submarine Tales

The USS Silversides Submarine Museum (1346 Bluff Street, Muskegon, MI 49441) has two floors of history and exploration, some of it hands-on. When we visited, my kids were 5, 8 and 11 and they all had a great time.

The main floor begins with historical artifacts describing Silversides’ participation in WWII and successes over the Japanese. 

Visitors can pretend to shoot an anti-aircraft gun at models of Japanese fighter planes. 

Models, artifacts, newspaper facsimiles and timelines round out this first area of the main floor. 

In the back of the room, you’ll find more of the hands-on exploration. 

My kids (and husband!) loved “driving” at the model control system – which uses the actual system from the USS Silversides. 

There’s also a periscope here that extends through the ceiling. If you look through it, you can see outside! 

This back area also contains more exhibits explaining how submarines work, some personal stories of soldiers who worked on USS Silversides, and more models to explore. 

The upper level is mostly dedicated to personal stories of vets from Silversides as well as all of WWII. 

There are more interactive displays up here as well. 

Featured Exhibit: Through June 2024, be sure to visit the Patriot Day Exhibit. Among its artifacts are the “We the People” beam pieces from the World Trade Center Towers. This exhibit serves to honor 9/11 and its heroes.

Special Tribute: The USS Flier Exhibit

Be sure to take the time to visit a special exhibit dedicated to the USS Flier

The USS Flier was a submarine on patrol in WWII just like the Silversides, but was sunk and many of the crew members were lost. 

This exhibit pays tribute to them and tells their story.

Stepping Into the Sub

We spent over an hour inside the museum and then headed out to explore the submarine.

It’s a steep descent into the sub.

Be prepared to climb through lots of doorways and tight spaces…and marvel at the small spaces crew members lived in for months at a time.

With the steep stairways and cramped spaces, the submarine is not accessible. Even baby-wearing could be a challenge.

This is a working submarine: if you turn knobs or pull levers, something might turn on or move. Needless to say, you have to keep a close eye on your kids and tell them not to push any buttons!

We checked out all areas of the USS Silversides – including the tiny mess hall. 

The sleeping quarters have 36 bunks. These bunks are not like the ones my kids have in their bedroom – there’s no room to sit up on these beds.

I cannot fathom living in such tight quarters! This was a no-frills kind of life. 

We took our time going through the sub, making it last about another hour or so. 

Bonus Ship: USCGC Mclane Cutter

After we finished exploring the USS Silversides, we went on board the ship docked next to it: the USCGC Mclane Cutter. 

Designed as a patrol ship, the Mclane was transferred to the U.S. Navy from 1941 to 1946. It was also active during WWII, sinking a Japanese Submarine and rescuing the crew of a downed aircraft. 

The Mclane has a very similar setup to the USS Silversides, but since it’s not a submarine, it’s a little roomier. 

The bunks in the sleeping quarters certainly allowed for more wiggle room than in the sub. 

Group Sleepovers with a Twist

As I mentioned before, the Silversides offers overnight experiences. As long as the schedule allows, this is open to anyone. 

Groups of 20 or more people over the age five can can make plans to spend the night on the USS Silversides. It’s perfect for youth groups, Scouts, birthday parties or families.

My son finally got to attend a campout on the Silversides along with his little brother. 

Their trip, organized through the Cub Scouts, included classroom time where they learned about the history of the USS Silversides. 

They also got to build and control their own ROVs. 

Everyone brought along their sleeping bags and slept on the USS Silversides. My husband was eager to sleep by the hatch so he could leave it open and get a cool breeze overnight. 

This also put him in a prime position to get off the sub to use the restroom inside the museum in the middle of the night. The ones on board the sub are no longer functional. 

USS Silversides Submarine Museum Visitor FAQs

Is USS Silversides Submarine Museum accessible?

Yes. The museum is fully accessible with wide open spaces and an elevator to the upper level. The submarine and the cutter are not. In addition to steep stairs, they also have tight hallways and tiny spaces.

What are the hours of operation at USS Silversides Museum?

The hours of operation at the USS Silversides vary by season. 

Winter Hours (Jan – Feb)
Mon, Th, Sun: 10 AM – 4 PM
Sat: 10 AM – 5:30 PM
Closed Tues & Wed

Spring & Fall Hours (Mar – May, Sep – Dec)
Sun – Thurs: 10 AM – 4 PM
Fri & Sat: 10 AM – 5:30 PM

Summer Hours (Jun – Aug)
7 Days a Week: 10 AM – 5:30 PM

How much are tickets to USS Silversides Submarine Museum?

Combination Tickets (Includes admission to submarine, cutter and museum): 
Adults: $17.50
Senior (65+) or veteran: $15.00
Children (5-17): $13.00
Children under 5: Free
Active-duty military: Free

Museum-only ticket: Ages 5 and up: $8.50

Purchase your tickets online.

Does USS Silversides have a membership option?

Yes, memberships are available for both individuals and families. Discounts are available to veterans and active-duty military.

A New Appreciation for the Troops

We all had a fantastic time exploring the USS Silversides Museum and submarine. We learned so much about the men and women who took part in WWII. 

But the men who were stationed on the Silversides and other subs… wow. That is definitely not the life for me. 

More in Grand Rapids

5 Juicy Peach Picking Farms in West Michigan

Peach Picking in Michigan Is there anything better than a freshly-picked, perfectly-ripe Michigan peach?! It’s one of life’s most delicious pleasures. Peach picking in Grand Rapids starts late July and only runs a few…

Gymco Gymnastics to Close After 44 Years

Gymco to Close in August Gymco, a beloved gymnastics center in Grand Rapids, has announced that it will be closing its doors at the end of the summer session in…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *