It's Jason from Carltonaut's Travel Tips. I was in New Orleans several weeks ago for a business trip and was able to spend a few hours at the National World War II Museum. After exploring the museum, I decided to one day bring my entire family back to New Orleans for the sole purpose of visiting this museum.
It's full of historical artifacts and personal stories from those who fought in the war. There's information about the battles in Europe and the Pacific, but it also includes stories of the challenges faced on the home front.
Here are seven things you should see or do when you visit the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
1. Buy at Ticket for Beyond All Boundaries
When you're buying your tickets to the museum – either online or in person – there are add-on options available. One of those is for a 30-minute 4-D film, Beyond All Boundaries. It's a well-done presentation that brings you into World War II on multiple fronts. It's narrated by Tom Hanks and provides a great overview of the war.
Book your tickets early, because the show times fill up fast.
2. Learn about the Importance of the Higgins Boats
One of the most iconic water crafts from World War II are the Higgins Boats. You see them in all the photos from D-Day. They were packed with men making their way toward the beaches of Normandy. When they got as close to shore as possible, the front end would open and the men would come spilling out – fighting to make it to shore.
As you'll note on the plaque on the ramp to the Higgins Boat in the main lobby, President Eisenhower told historian and author Stephen Ambrose, “Andrew Jackson Higgins is the man who won the war for us. Without Higgins designed boats that could land over open beaches, the whole strategy of the war would have to be rethought.” Since Higgins and his boat-making factories were in New Orleans, that explains why the National World War II Museum is in New Orleans.
3. Explore the Aircraft in the Boeing Center
The Boeing Center has vintage aircraft from World War II hanging from the ceiling. Standing on the ground floor, you get an idea of what these planes looked like in their glory days. If you don't mind heights, climb to the sky-high catwalks and get an up-close and personal view of the aircraft. While you can't physically step inside any of these aircraft, there are virtual video tours that allow you to navigate around the cockpit.
Back on the ground level, you can see army jeeps and the fuselage/cockpit of a B-24 bomber. Imagine what it would've been like to be seated in the cockpit on a mission over Germany.
4. Walk Through the Events of D-Day
The National World War II Museum initially began as a museum about D-Day. Walking through the events of that day is humbling. D-Day was a pivotal point in the fight against Hitler's armies. It was make-or-break. The exhibit walks you through the planning of D-Day, the different elements that had to be accounted for, and a display that shows what the waters of the English Channel and the skies overhead must have looked like on the morning of June 6, 1944.
5. Learn How Science Won the War
The STEM Innovation Gallery is a unique exhibit geared toward kids. It was neat to walk through the development process of how science was used to overcome various problems. For example, the US Navy needed engines for their PT Boats and they needed them quickly. The solution was to repurpose an old World War I plane engine and train the crews how to use it as a boat engine. The STEM Innovation Gallery has several displays that talk about the challenge and solution.
There's also a place where kids can learn about aircraft lift, bombsights and more. Don't miss this section of the museum if your kids are with you.
6. Walk the Road to Berlin
D-Day was only the beginning of America's presence in World War II. Once they made land across the beaches of Normandy, France, they had to make their way to Germany and defeat Hitler. The Road to Berlin takes you through the various battles and strategies used along the road to Berlin. From the large artillery guns to the vehicles used to drive further toward the goal. There's also a display about the Battle of the Bulge and the Nazi's push to stay alive.
Along the road, you'll find personal stories from the men and women who walked that road and fought for their lives and the freedom of many others. Take your time – don't rush your way through this part of the museum. It's educational and presented in a way that helps you get a sense of what these battles were like.
7. Follow the Road to Tokyo
The attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, may have been the final straw that brought America in the war. From there, America was fighting a war on two fronts – the European and the Pacific. The Road to Tokyo exhibit takes you through the island-hopping battles of American troops across the Pacific. It was a long road, and as we learn from movies and history books, it was full of challenges.
Once again, the personal stories and artifacts tell the story of the road to Tokyo in such a way, that you won't soon forget. Take your time and absorb as much as you can.
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is a top-notch destination for history lovers. It's a good all-weather option for families with school age kids. There are a lot of great activities in New Orleans, but I would return with my family just for this museum alone. I hope that your family enjoys it too.
Good to Know
Where: 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
When: 9 AM to 5 PM, seven days a week. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
How much: General admission tickets are $28 for adults, $24 for seniors (65+) and $18 for student and military (with ID). Kids under age 5 get in free. WWII Veterans are free. Beyond All Boundaries and the USS Tang Final Mission Experience are an additional $7 each, per person.
How long: 3-4 hours
Amenities: There are restrooms throughout the buildings. BB's Stage Door Canteen offers a buffet lunch and performances. There are also several gift shops in the musuem.
Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets to the National World War II Museum for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.