All aboard for an overnight adventure at Patriots Point

For nearly three decades, the USS Yorktown served her country by helping in the Pacific offensive during World War II, deploying to the South China Sea during the Vietnam War and picking up the Apollo 8 command module.

Not only can you and your Scouts visit the “Fighting Lady” and learn about her service, but you can also live like sailors for a weekend in the “Operation Overnight” experience.

The Naval aircraft carrier is stationed in Mount Pleasant, S.C., at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. There, you can spend the night aboard USS Yorktown, tour the USS Laffey destroyer, check out the replicated Vietnam War-era support base and read the stories of American heroes at the Medal of Honor Museum.

Operation Overnight

Patriots Point is open nearly year-round, and the Operation Overnight program is available to groups of 10 or more. For 43 years, more than 434,000 people have participated in the program. It caters to those who love history, have an affinity for engineering or mechanics, or just want to go on a unique overnighter.

“My favorite part of Patriots Point was staying overnight in the Yorktown and getting to see lots of cool World War II fighter planes,” says Charlie Baker, 10, a Webelos Scout with Pack 490 from Charlotte, N.C.  “I also liked the scavenger hunt and going to all the different areas of the ship to see how the sailors lived.”

When you arrive, you’ll review safety rules — including staying with your “battle buddy” — and then be escorted to the bunks, where you can drop off your sleeping bag, clothes and other personal effects. Much of the ship has been maintained to accurately depict how life would’ve been like for sailors. In addition to the sleeping quarters, you can tour the hangar bay, brig, engine room, machine shop, barber shop, ice cream shop and cobbler shop. It was truly a floating city.

On the flight deck, you can walk by a chronological aircraft exhibit, featuring biplane trainers to jets flown in the Vietnam War. Stop by the onboard movie theater to watch films detailing the history of the Yorktown. Did you know the aircraft carrier has been featured in multiple films, including the 1970 World War II film Tora! Tora! Tora! and the 1944 documentary The Fighting Lady?

Scouts can participate in a scavenger hunt as they tour the ship and study the informational placards. There’s a place in the galley where you can prepare and eat your meals, whether you bring your own rations or order from one of the nearby restaurants.

Touring the grounds

Reveille is at 6:45 a.m., and after breakfast, you can tour the Yorktown or head over to the Laffey. There, a hologram guide takes you through the ship, sharing its missions during World War II, Korean War and Cold War, the latter of which included hunting for submarines.

Walk around the 2.5-acre Vietnam Experience and see period vehicles and artillery, like three helicopters, ambulance and Howitzer gun. The site has been set up with a medical tent, mess hall and observation tower.

The Medal of Honor Museum honors heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice, from the Civil War to the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can also see an unissued Medal of Honor.

Heading back to the Yorktown, Scouts will enjoy trying out the flight simulator and sitting in a replica Apollo 8 capsule.

Historic-based guided tours take place on Saturdays for those staying one or two nights.

Before you go, make sure to head over to the gift shop and purchase one of Yorktown’s famous chocolate chip cookies — the perfect sweet treat to end your trip.

“Patriots Point is a great outing for Scouts of any age,” says Jim Mixson, Scoutmaster of Troop 609 in Statesville, N.C. “No matter how often I go, I always learn or experience something new. Scouts have the opportunity to truly experience history onboard decorated naval vessels and at the Vietnam Experience. I highly recommend the overnight program as well as day visits. My own son served as a naval officer after his graduation from The Citadel. I’m sure his experiences at Patriots Point directly influenced his decision to serve in the Navy.”

Special events

You have the choice of one night ($85) or two ($145) for the Operation Overnight. Day passes cost $27 for adults and $16 for children ages 6-11.

If you visit during certain times of the year, you can enjoy spectacular Fourth of July fireworks from the flight deck or see festive Christmas trees on display. On Veterans Day, free admission is offered to vets.

Veterans also donate items that make up special temporary exhibitions, showcasing military history. Many veterans also serve as tour guides.

Patriots Point is a top destination in the Charleston, S.C., area with fascinating, family-friendly events throughout the year.

About Michael Freeman 446 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.