The day after our late-night ghost-hunting tour, we had a late start. (Late as in, we missed breakfast altogether, which wasn’t a problem for Amanda, but is blasphemous for this breakfast-loving girl!)
We decided we would go to the National World War II Museum that day. Amanda was a little skeptical about the awesomeness of the museum and thought three hours would be plenty of time to see all there was to see. (I, though not a museum lover, was skeptical that three hours would be enough, but I also didn’t want to be a jerk and drag her through the museum for hours upon hours if she wasn’t into it. It was her birthday trip, after all, and I’m selfless like that. ;))
Well, let me tell you, we were there the entire three hours until closing time, and we only made it through one of the FIVE buildings. Yup, you read that right. Amanda and I, the two non-museum lovers, were there for three hours and we barely scratched the surface. There’s a reason TripAdvisor lists the museum as the #1 attraction in New Orleans, you guys. If you’re at all into World War II, then you’ll have to be dragged out of that place just like we were.
You start your museum-going journey by being assigned a soldier; you’re given a card that you can use at various interactive points in the museum that allows you to follow your soldier’s story. (You can also go online later and use your “dog-tag number” to find out more about your soldier.) You get on a “bus” (no, not a real bus; hence the quotation marks), and it gives you a quick, immersive intro into their newest exhibit, The Arsenal of Democracy, which
explore[s] the road to war and then how the war was fought on the Home Front. Allied victory was an epic undertaking fueled by stateside industry, ingenuity, and the labor of millions of patriotic Americans. Through multimedia and interactive displays, and drawing on artifacts and oral histories from the Museum’s extensive collections, The Arsenal of Democracy creates countless opportunities for visitors to make personal connections with the men and women who helped win the war (via the National WWII museum website).
One of the best revelations, for me, as we explored this exhibit, was just how much footage there is. Every few feet, there was a short video focused on a very specific aspect of the war. I love looking at historical artefacts and photos, but footage just makes it so much more real for me. But even aside from the videos, the exhibits themselves were inventive and interesting. For instance, one exhibit had a podium, behind which a hologram of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was projected delivering the “Infamy Speech,” which he delivered after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; one either side of the FDR hologram, there were stats from Gallup polls about Americans’ feelings about joining the war at various points in the months leading up to America’s declaration of war, among other things.
We loved the National World War II Museum so much that we decided we must go back another day to explore the other four exhibits we hadn’t had a chance to see that first day. The museum is nice enough to offer a re-entry pass for $6!
The first thing we did on our second day at the museum was the “Beyond All Boundaries” 4D experience (you guys, it’s narrated by our most beloved actor, Tom Hanks!) at the Solomon Victory Theatre. But really, it’s quite impressive. The folks who curated the film spent years doing so, combing through soldier’s and journalists’ correspondences and hundreds of hours of footage, and it’s a quite impressive, condensed yet all-encompassing look at the war and its far-reaching effects upon the entire world, and definitely worth experiencing if you have time while you’re at the museum.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the other exhibits: The Road to Tokyo, the Road to Berlin (it’s funny how I always forget that Russia was actually aligned with the Allies and Italy with the Axis powers) and the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, and a cool exhibit on Bob Hope, all of which are housed in the Campaigns of Courage building.
Another building, a short walk away from the main cluster of museum buildings, features refurbished military airplanes. The last building focuses on the ways in which science (STEM) impacted the war, from ambulances to tank upgrades; it’s intended for kids mostly, I think, but it was still really interesting! These last two buildings took us maybe an hour and a half altogether; they’re less extensive than the exhibits housed in the other two buildings.
Altogether, we spent about seven hours, over the span of two days, spread out over five buildings, exploring New Orlean’s National WWII Museum. It was, hands-down, my favorite thing that we did in New Orleans and should be at the absolute top of your list if you’re planning a trip to N.O. I want to stress how much time it really takes to fully absorb and appreciate the museum, though; you know, unlike those two silly girls who thought three measly hours would be enough… Plan accordingly!
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