945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
GRADING – B
If you purchase the movie and/or submarine experience, you will need to select a showtime while at the ticket counter.
Parking is available across the street from the museum, in a garage at 1024 Magazine Street. Most visits last between 3-7 hours, which will cost you $10 in parking. ($8 for 1-3 hours, $5 for 0-1 hour) Click here for more parking information.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is a museum dedicated to showcasing America’s strength, sacrifice, and overall experience in the second world war. Opened in 2000, this museum was later designated by Congress as America’s “official National World War II Museum,” and is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Be sure to come early for your visit, as the museum is TripAdvisor’s #1 attraction in New Orleans; the museum is bound to get busy, especially with school groups and tourists. (Click here to learn why this museum was built in New Orleans.)
A visit here starts in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, as signs lead you to ticket sales. While standing in line, decide on whether you want just admission to the museum, a 4D movie experience, and/or a submarine experience (see pricing above). After your purchase, you will receive a small metal tag to wear on your shirt or lapel, designating you as a paid guest. Be aware that these metal clips/tags do not stay on very well. Many people lose them. Hold onto your receipt as a copy of your payment, just in case you lose your button, so you can verify that you paid. As the National WWII Museum consists of multiple buildings and open entrances on its campus, it can be easy for non-paying guests to slip in; this is why the museum gives out these metal clips.
At the ticket counter, you will also be given a dog tag for each member of your party. These tags represent American soldiers from WWII. Hop aboard the old fashion train next to the ticket counter to learn about these tags.
Aboard the train, you will feel like a soldier heading to war. The short video that’s played welcomes you to the museum and instructs guests to register their dog tag and provide an email address to receive information. Scan your tag, learn about which soldier you will represent, and later learn their fate as you scan the tag in various displays throughout the museum.
If you’d like, check out the large exhibit pieces on the main floor; otherwise within this same building, you can see special traveling exhibits. During my visit, I experienced State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, which was a traveling exhibit from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. As fascinating as this exhibit was, I quickly lost interest as the crowds ahead of me were not moving. As the whole exhibit was about propaganda, it involved reading signs and posters, so there was no movement in the aisles. The walkways were also very narrow in this area, so I backtracked a bit and walked backwards through the exhibit before deciding to come back later. This is the first exhibit people walk through since it’s in the same building as the ticket counter, so naturally it gets busy early. So if crowds aren’t your thing, head to the second level and take the walkway over to the Solomon Victory Theater Complex. Once in that building, you’ll pass through a Merchant Marine Gallery. Descend to the first floor, where the theater, a small gift shop, and restaurant are located.
My family and I experienced the 4D movie Beyond All Boundaries, which plays in the Solomon Victory Theater Complex. Before the movie starts, you’re ushered into a dark and likely crowded holding room, with only a few benches. In here, you will wait and see a short introductory movie with Tom Hanks. Afterwards, you’ll be ushered into the movie theater. Overall, I thought this movie was educational, insightful, and well crafted. Be prepared, as this is a 4D movie, be ready for flashing lights, loud noises, and simulated warfare. I don’t recommend that small children watch this movie. It’s much too scary for most kids under 6 years of age.
Outside of the movie theater is a small gift shop and restaurant. I figured this restaurant would be cafeteria style to serve a lot of guests, but I was wrong. The American Sector Restaurant and Bar is a sit-down restaurant with table service. This was extremely frustrating for me because no family on a budget wants to spend a bunch of money on table service in a museum – that was bound to cost us at least $80. For other food options on the campus, there is Jerry Nims’ Soda Shop, which is connected to the museum on Magazine Street. This is a rather small diner with a 1950’s vibe and a limited menu. This restaurant seems to focus on fancy coffee drinks, ice cream/shakes, and pastries. They do have a few salads and sandwiches, but I didn’t want to spend $2.75 on a coke and $7 on grilled cheese in a soda shop with limited seating. Again, not a cheap lunch! (Pro-tip: Leave the campus for lunch. My family decided to leave the museum campus and walked two blocks to Magazine Pizza for a more affordable lunch!) If you decide to leave the campus for lunch, just know that you can walk back into any building on campus – you don’t have to go back through ticket sales. Your metal clip that you received upon paying for your ticket, is good for the day.
In the third building, Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, you will find the bulk of the WWII exhibits. This is where you will see and learn the most. Follow the “Road to Tokyo” and the “Road to Berlin,” the two major galleries here. Walk through and explore the American narrative in World War II, how we fought with the Allied forces, and how we contributed to the Allied victory. Short movies, photos, narratives, artifacts, and more are used to tell the stories of American soldiers, where they fought, with what equipment, and hardships they overcame. Below are photos from the Tokyo and Berlin exhibits.
There is a fourth building on the National WWII Museum campus – the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Although I did not visit this pavilion personally, I know that you can see tanks, trucks, airplanes, and war machines that were used in the war by each military branch. In this building, you’ll also find the USS Tang Submarine Experience, which costs an additional $5 if you only purchased the museum admission. (I cannot review the submarine experience, as I didn’t see it.)
Right outside the main entrance and near the bridge that crosses Andrew Higgins Drive is a memorable display that many guests don’t even see. In the display are pieces of the German Atlantic Wall that was Hitler’s means of defense against Allied Forces. This piece pictured below was part of the wall at Utah Beach in France. Pockmarks on the wall are from American weapons that fired upon the Germans, striking and shattering parts of the wall. To see the actual marks of battle was chilling for me. This was a powerful artifact, emanating the effects of war. Next to the fragments of the wall are also examples of German air raid shelters, structures to protect Germans from Allied air attacks.
In between the three main pavilions is Founder’s Plaza. This is also where the Atlantic Wall fragments are located. For a map of the complete WWII Museum campus, click here.
Be sure to check out the various gift shops scattered in the buildings. The largest gift shop is in the Solomon Victory Theater Complex that faces Magazine Street. Here you can find anything and everything military related, including books, apparel, housewares, and more. You can also shop the National WWII Museum store online, by clicking here.
My only criticism of the WWII Museum is that its setup seems rather haphazard. The museum is missing the natural ebb and flow that most museums have. For such a new museum, builders and designers lacked the foresight for large crowds, resulting in poor floor layouts and overall design. Exhibitions and walkways are crowded; patrons must walk around enormous theaters to get to exhibits; and large theaters are filled and emptied by one small entrance and only two exits. All of this leads to the frustration of visitors, unlikely to return or recommend a visit to others. I know the museum was initially only one building, but that does not excuse these flaws. The small walkways in exhibits need to be adjusted to accommodate larger than expected crowds, especially in areas that have artifacts on both sides of the walls. Many of the visitors of this museum are senior citizens and a lot of walking or crowded exhibit halls don’t bode well for these guests, many of whom are likely in wheelchairs.
Despite its layout, the National WWII Museum it is a very good museum and deserves a visit. I would simply recommend getting here when the museum opens and heading over to building 3 (European and Pacific Theaters) first. This is the most informative building with the best exhibits, so get there before it gets crowded. Visit here first and easily navigate through the rest of the museum later in the day.
Have you been to the National WWII Museum? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!