The museum is currently operating at reduced capacity with entry-timed tickets to manage crowds (avoid the line by buying tickets in advance online). It has implemented social distancing guidelines and enhanced sanitizing and cleaning procedures. The USS Tang exhibit is temporarily closed. Check the website for updates.
The steel Higgins landing craft awaits with its door open, as if inviting you to climb aboard for the 1944 D-Day assault. Above, a C-47 propeller plane hangs ready to drop paratroopers with support from looming artillery pieces. Immersed in these full-size instruments of war, you can almost imagine sailing on the jarring ride to Omaha Beach, packed in with two dozen other soldiers, salt spray flying over the sides, explosions all around. As your Higgins craft reaches shore and its ramp lowers, you “enter into Hell,” as a display quotes a soldier who was there.
Welcome to the stark concrete-pillbox atrium of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the main entrance to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. You'll likely feel such visceral emotions in the atrium and throughout all five of the museum's buildings, which bring to life the entire wartime experience — from the home front to the European and Pacific battlefields, from the “Day of Infamy” of Pearl Harbor to the ultimate victory over fascism.
Walking through the museum's exhibit halls not only reveals the grand story arc of World War II, but within it the triumph and tragedy of individual soldiers’ daily lives shared through humble artifacts and oral histories. Viewing the battered boots, the shattered guns, the tiny life preservers and the diary pages with shaky script describing a young soldier's horror and fear has an impact beyond what you can read in a book or see in a movie. The combination of sweeping narrative and personal touches describing the war's origins, impact and aftermath makes the National WWII Museum a must-visit not only for history buffs, but for any American. As Curator Kimberly Guise says, “Even visitors who think they're not history people find something they really like here.”
Plan Your Trip
Location: 945 Magazine St.
Getting there: The museum is located in New Orleans’ Arts & Warehouse District, about a mile from the French Quarter, but still close to many area hotels, restaurants and entertainment options. The city's streetcar line has a stop about two blocks away, and city buses drop off visitors directly in front of the campus. Paid parking is available in the museum's garage across the street from the entrance, with several other garages in the neighborhood.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and, of course, Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday)
Admission: $28.50 ($24.50 for people 65 and older)
Best time to visit: Weekday mornings are typically less crowded, but school groups may fill hallways.
Best season to visit: The museum is good for all seasons. The climate-controlled interior is a nice escape during New Orleans’ hot, humid summer days. Special programs and events commemorate important anniversaries such as D-Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, Pearl Harbor Day, V-E Day, Veterans Day and V-J Day.
Accessibility: The museum provides comprehensive accessibility support services, including plentiful handicapped parking spots in its garage, wheelchairs (no charge, first-come, first-served), ramps and elevators in all buildings, as well as programs for the deaf and blind.
A pivotal local connection
The Higgins boat in the atrium gives a clue to the museum's origin and location. During World War II, the Navy needed a shallow-draft landing vessel to bring soldiers ashore for combat. New Orleans-based Andrew Higgins had been building similar boats to navigate Louisiana's shallow bayous, and modified his design for battle. By war's end, Higgins’ local factories produced more than 20,000 of the essential landing craft, inspiring Dwight Eisenhower to declare him, “the man who won World War II for us.” The museum's Bayou to Battlefield exhibit details Higgins’ (and the city's) important contribution to the war effort.
University of New Orleans professor and author Stephen Ambrose's 1995 book on D-Day inspired him to found the National D-Day Museum, which opened in New Orleans in 2000 with a single building. Since then, the museum's mission has expanded to encompass all of the war, with Congress officially designating it as the National WWII Museum in 2004. The campus continues to expand as well, with a sixth building, the Liberation Pavilion (covering the war's end), currently under construction.
Touring the museum
Like WWII, the scale, scope and details of the museum are massive and can be intimidating to tackle. To help visitors, the museum has created full-day, half-day and even two-day recommended itineraries. It's well worth spending a full day to appreciate all the exhibits and to see the film and submarine attractions, refueling for lunch at the museum's restaurant. A half-day will feel rushed, but is better than not visiting at all. History buffs will find enough to do over two days (with a $7 second-day pass) by joining guided behind-the-scenes tours.
To instantly immerse yourself in the WWII journey, begin your tour by picking up a soldier's replica Dog Tag card. You can enter the card at kiosks throughout the museum to track that individual soldier's story throughout the war and even follow up online.