An Impossible Victory: National World War II Museum

Lisa Fritscher May 20, 2011 No Comments

National World War II Museum Historic Posters

Take the time to read some of the historic posters

Opened in 2000, New Orleans’ D-Day Museum was officially designated the National World War II Museum by Congress in 2003. A massive recent expansion brought the size of the museum to over 70,000 square feet, more than triple the size of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History. Although the official recommendation is to allow 3 hours, we found that it took a good day and a half to see everything in detail.

Visiting the Museum

New Orleans' Museum District

The National World War II Museum is in the heart of New Orleans' Museum District

The National World War II Museum is on Andrew Higgins Drive in New Orleans’ revitalized Museum District. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the historic Civil War Museum are just a block away. Paid parking is readily available around the museum.

As of 2011, exhibit admission is $18 for adults, $14 for seniors and $9 for children aged 5 to 12. Students and military members with photo identification also pay $9. Uniformed military, World War II veterans and children under age 5 are free. Add Beyond All Boundaries, a high-tech 4-D film narrated by Tom Hanks, for a nominal fee. Purchase a second day’s admission for just $5 for adults or $4 for seniors and children.

Our Experience

John Besh's American Sector Restaurant

John Besh's American Sector is well worth the money

The museum is open daily from 9 to 5. We stopped by the Civil War Museum first, arriving at the World War II Museum around 11 a.m. We selected tickets for the 4 p.m. showing of Beyond All Boundaries, then went in search of lunch. The soda shop and café inside the main building was closed for renovation, so we went across the street to American Sector, a highly themed restaurant owned by celebrity chef John Besh that focuses on modern updates of classic American dishes.

The food was excellent and portions easily large enough to share. Although pricier than a typical museum café, the cost was not overwhelming. Casual dress is acceptable. If you enjoy musical theater, check into the dinner and a show package. On certain evenings, you can enjoy dinner at American Sector followed by a high-energy rendition of a live radio show circa 1945.

National World War II Museum Exhibits

Toy soldiers demonstrate just how outmatched the United States really was

With full bellies, we returned to the museum. The first floor is an open exhibit area featuring tanks, planes and other equipment from World War II. Special presentations are frequently held here. The second and third floors consist of a series of galleries that tell the story of the United States’ entrance into World War II, the battles we faced and our ultimate victory against all odds.

Don’t miss the special exhibit gallery on the second floor opposite the main galleries. On our visit, the special exhibit was on Jews in World War II. You will need to take a different elevator or staircase to access this gallery, so take a peek at your museum map for directions.

We actually ran out of time to explore the full museum together, so we decided to split up. I went to the third floor while Dad went across the street to the Solomon Victory Theater to see Beyond All Boundaries. He was so impressed that he insisted on taking me to see the movie a few days later.

Beyond All Boundaries

Solomon Victory Theater New Orleans

Try not to miss the epic Beyond All Boundaries

The experience begins in a small preshow theater. Arrive early if you want to sit down, as the preshow theater has only a few bench seats. During the seven-minute preshow, Tom Hanks gives a brief overview of what was happening around the world in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor. Period photos punctuate the narrative, creating a gripping experience that sets the stage.

The main theater has 250 comfortable movie theater-style seats. A 1930s-style radio sits alone on the stage. The show begins as the radio begins broadcasting a football game. The game is soon interrupted as the red velvet curtain rises to reveal three large screens broadcasting news of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Throughout the 39-minute film you are transported into the middle of some of the most important events of World War II. You will find yourself behind the walls at a concentration camp, in the middle of a tank battle, and even caught in the blast of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. Moving, shaking seats and in-theater effects dramatically enhance the experience.

Parental guidance is recommended. We suggest that you preview the film before taking any child under age 8, or older children with particular fears. There were several kids in the audiences at both our showings, and everyone seemed fascinated rather than afraid. However, we did not see any very small kids. If you have any doubts, sit at the end of a row and be prepared to leave if necessary.

Tips for Parents

Graphic Displays at the National World War II Museum

Some of the images are rather graphic, but sensitively handled

The museum provides a highly interactive and very realistic depiction of World War II. Several film clips and photos are extremely graphic, though sensitively handled. These items are blocked off by curtains or walls, allowing more sensitive members of the family to bypass them. Keep a close eye on your kids and pay attention to signage if you want to bypass the more graphic displays. The rest of the museum is both educational and entertaining for visitors of all ages.

You are free to come and go from the museum at your leisure, so plan for occasional breaks. Sit down outside in the shade or let the kids run around on the lawn of the Victory Theater. Make time to stop by both gift shops as well, where souvenirs run the gamut from inexpensive toys to pricey collectibles. If at all possible, plan to break your visit into two days. The massive museum continues to expand, and it is nearly impossible for adults to see everything in one day. With kids, it could easily start to feel overwhelming.

avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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