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Step aboard the USS Lexington for a high-tech tour

The USS Lexington in Corpus Christi Bay is the one of the most decorated aircraft carriers in U.S. Naval History. Now in retirement as the Museum on the Bay, the Blue Ghost includes exciting, high tech displays for visitors. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

Spend a day learning about naval history through high-tech presentations on the historic USS Lexington in Corpus Christi Bay.

The retired aircraft carrier is one of the most decorated in U.S. Naval history, with more miles and longer active service than any other carrier of its class in the world.

During its 40 years on the job, “Lady Lex” was reported by the Japanese to have been sunk at least four times — leading to a second nickname, “The Blue Ghost,” because it kept coming back. Today, the pale blue lights highlight the ship at night in honor of the brave men who served on board.

“Everybody wants to go to the flight deck, they love seeing the planes,” said Debbie Crites, Marketing Director at the USS Lexington. “It’s great to think about the history of all the great people who have served this ship and all the feet that have walked on the deck.”

The two-acre flight deck houses 20 vintage combat aircrafts spanning from the 1930s to the 1980s. Each aircraft — on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation — is retired from military use, from the KA-3B Skywarrior jet to the AH-1S Cobra helicopter.

Inside the ship, self-guided tours walk visitors through the life of a crew mate living on board during World War II. Visitors can use smartphones for additional information by downloading a QR code reader. Displays across the aircraft carrier have QR codes that, when scanned with the smartphone app, give more information about the exhibit.

The ship’s resident ghost, Charlie, may be the most popular tour guide. Actually, Charlie is a hologram of an engine room operator believed to haunt the ship. He tells the story of the USS Lexington’s role in World War II, during which the aircraft carrier spent 21 months in combat. He also details the day the Lady Lex was hit with a Japanese torpedo during an air raid, December 4, 1943.

Virtual battle stations provide a way to interact with the past using a flight simulator situated on the ship’s Hangar Deck. Battle stations have three dramatic aerial combat games to try: World of Warplanes, Combat and World of Warships. The games are fine-tuned with modern graphics to depict epic wartime battles.

A 15-seat flight simulator puts visitors in the cockpit of an F/18 in the thrilling “Screaming Eagles” training exercise. The simulator experience, which is not included in the admission price, costs $5 per person.

The USS Lexington recently installed a brand new laser cinema projector in its 3D theater. It is one of the brightest cinema projectors on the planet.

“It’s a truly spectacular piece of equipment,” said Crites. “It makes the film much brighter, so the colors are really true to reality. It’s just such a wonderful way of showing film through laser.”

Along with the projector, the museum introduced a new signature film: “Aircraft Carrier: Guardian of the Sea.” The action film has an immersive storyline of ships just like the USS Lexington and the role they play in maintaining safety on the seas. The 45-minute long film screens every hour starting at 11 a.m. daily, and is included in the admission price.

If all that history makes you hungry, be sure to stop by the Mess Deck Cafe for snacks, sandwiches and hot food.

The USS Lexington is open year-round, seven days a week, closing only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Admission costs $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors and military and $9.95 for children ages 4 to 12. Members and children age 3 and under are free.

Call (361) 888-4873 or visit usslexington.com for more information and a digital coupon for $1 off admission.

The USS Lexington is located at 2914 N. Shoreline Blvd. on North Beach in Corpus Christi.

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