If you find yourself driving or walking past the Buffalo waterfront, you can’t miss the large naval ships floating in the harbor. These two large boats and one submarine are part of the Buffalo Naval Park and are a fascinating spot to visit in the city.
The Buffalo Naval Park is officially known as the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park and has been open to the public since 1979. It is located in Buffalo’s Canalside near the Explore & More Children’s Museum and Buffalo River History Tours and is the largest inland naval park in the United States.
The park is home to two large naval ships, the USS Little Rock and the USS The Sullivans, the USS Croaker submarine, several aircraft, and a great museum.
It’s worth noting that visitors can walk along the shore and see these ships up-close without paying any admission fee. However, I wanted to go onto and into these ships to learn more about them, so I was excited for my family and me to have a chance to climb aboard on a beautiful summer day.
Visits to the Buffalo Naval Park start by walking aboard the USS The Sullivans.
USS The Sullivans is a Fletcher-class destroyer that was in active use from 1943 until 1965 and saw action during World War II and the Korean War. This ship, the first one named after multiple people, was named after the five Sullivan brothers who all perished when the USS Juneau sank in 1942.
While touring the ship, make sure to take a few minutes to read the story of the Sullivans and how their deaths impacted military policies.
On the USS The Sullivans, as well as the other two ships, arrows and ropes guide you on a tour of the ship. The route not only leads you above deck but also into a variety of areas below deck.
Having a father who served in the Navy, I found it quite interesting to head below deck and see a bit more what life was like for sailors on board the ship. There are even some mannequins set up in dioramas which really add some life to the spaces.
Once you’re done touring the USS The Sullivans, a gangplank leads you over to the USS Little Rock.
The USS Little Rock is a Cleveland-class light cruiser and was in service from 1944-1949 and again from 1960-1976. It was completed too late to see action during World War II and spent much of its time patrolling the Mediterranean. However, despite never having seen battle, this is still an interesting ship to explore.
In addition to being able to see interesting aspects of the ship and what life was like on board, the USS Little Rock features a fair number of museum displays. Rooms below deck offer information ranging from details on the Korean War to historic sailor uniforms.
There are definitely plenty of displays in here for any history or military buff to enjoy.
Once you’ve finished the tour of the USS Little Rock, another gangplank leads you to the USS Croaker.
This is a Gato-class submarine that came to the Buffalo Naval Park in 1988. This submarine was in service from 1944-1946 and again from 1951 through 1968. It saw action in the Pacific in the final months of World War II.
This submarine is quite interesting, and if you’ve never been aboard a military submarine, you are sure to be amazed at how small it is inside and how cramped the living spaces were.
While all of the ships require a bit of mobility to move around below deck, the USS Croaker requires a good amount of flexibility, especially if you are larger. Make sure you can squeeze through the narrow doors and aren’t overly claustrophobic before proceeding below deck. (You can skip the below deck portion on any of the ships if need be.)
Because of the narrow confines, there aren’t any museum displays in the submarine. However, there is interesting information and a few spaces set up to give you an idea of what life was like for the sailors on this type of submarine.
Once back on land but before leaving the Buffalo Naval Park, make sure to take a minute to check out a few of their displays.
Across the walkway from the ships, there is an outdoor display area that features a nice collection of larger pieces including several fighter jets, a tank, a helicopter, and more.
There is also an indoor museum space that focuses on the history of western New Yorkers at war and tells the story of American history through this lens. While touring the museum, there is a large P-39 Airacobra plane hanging above your head.
Overall, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park offers a really interesting look into military history. Whether you are just casually interested in climbing aboard a few historic ships and going through a submarine or are a big military history buff, there’s a bit of something here for everyone.
Definitely add this spot to your itinerary when you’re looking for things to do in Buffalo, NY.
Note: My visit to the Buffalo Naval Park was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Looking for even more places to visit nearby? Check out the Martin House Complex, the National Warplane Museum, the Buffalo Museum of Science, and Old Fort Niagara.
Buffalo Naval Park
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 10am-5pm
Cost: Adults: $18, Children: $12
Address: 1 Naval Park Cove