Spring break vacation is an excellent time to visit museums honoring all those who have served in our military. With the weather warming up, visitors can take advantage of walking and touring the various military tribute venues across our country.
These museums are a great way to reinforce your child’s or grandchild’s school curriculum as well as to show your appreciation for our nation’s servicemen and women past and present.
FORT TICONDEROGA – TICONDEROGA, NEW YORK
A frontier post built sometime between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War, Fort Ticonderoga is a unique star-shaped fort that was constructed by the French and played an important role in establishing America. The Fort’s land acreage is just over 2,000 acres and sits conveniently between Canada and the Hudson River Valley of New York.
It’s one of the few historical museums that use live character interpretations to tell its story. Last year, the museum showcased the year 1757 when France controlled the strategic fortification known as Carillon (and was later named Ticonderoga). That year, they fought against the British for control of the Americas.
There are traditional trade shops set up where visitors can interact with shoemakers, blacksmiths, bakers and others who made up the everyday life of that century. Visitors can also learn about French soldiers, the Canadian militia and the Native Americans who spent weeks readying their weapons in preparation for attacking the British-held fort in Lake George. The museum features live actors who create dramatic reenactments, showcasing the impressive firepower of that time. There are even sunset boat cruises during the summer where visitors can ride aboard a replica 19th-century touring boat.
You’ll have to visit Fort Ticonderoga between May and October, though, as the museum is only open seasonally.
THE NATIONAL INFANTRY MUSEUM AND SOLDIER CENTER – COLUMBUS, GEORGIA
The U.S. Army requires that every infantry soldier train at this center, as well as visit the museum that tells the history of the soldiers who fought before them.
Voted the Best Free Museum in 2016 by USA Today, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center salutes our infantry Veterans in a 190,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility just outside the gates of Fort Benning. It is the only museum in the entire world that is dedicated to the American Infantryman. It preserves one of the greatest collections of military artifacts, tracing military history from the bloodied fields of the American Revolution to the hot sands of Iraq and Afghanistan. The $100-million museum is home to a fantastic display of priceless artifacts, numerous interactive multimedia exhibits and even sits on a lawn seeded with soil from American battle sites.
In addition to the exhibition galleries, the National Infantry Museum features a full-size theater and numerous exhibits, including:
- Reality Combat Simulators
- A Fife and Drum Restaurant
- The Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall
- Heritage Walk
- World War II Company Street
- Memorial Walk of Honor
- Soldier Store Gift Shop
- Weekly Infantry School Graduations
You can meet infantrymen face-to-face here and join them on their journey. One of the most popular attractions at this military museum is the virtual reality combat simulators, which allow participants to experience what it’s like to be an infantry soldier.
On the Fourth of July, the museum hosts Freedom Fest with live bands, cannon firings, re-enactors, living historians, parachute demonstrations and an old-fashioned Patriots Parade. The event is free to the public and open to all ages.
THE AIRBORNE AND SPECIAL OPERATIONS MUSEUM – FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Near Fort Bragg, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum showcases the chronological history of the United States’ Special Operations units. The museum allows an annual Field of Honor Opening Ceremony in May where friends and families can honor a loved one with a parade field flag at the museum. These flags remain displayed until the end of June.
The museum honors National Airborne Day in August, which celebrates the anniversary of the first jump by the Test Platoon. The museum also features a 24-seat simulator that lets visitors experience what it was like flying into Normandy with the 101st Screaming Eagles on D-Day. The 1.5-hour ride physically moves the visitor’s seating area at 18-degree angles in time to a film called, “Army on the Move.” The film focuses on airborne special operations and gives the rider a dose of what an Air Force aviation operator does.
CUSTER BATTLEFIELD MUSEUM – GARRYOWEN, MONTANA
In Big Horn County, Montana, inside the boundaries of the Crow Indian Reservation sits a small town named Garryowen with a population of two. The town was said to be named after an old Irish tune called “Garry Owen,” which happened to be one of Custer’s favorite marching songs.
In that town sits a town hall attached to a gas station and convenience store, a post office, a sandwich shop, a trading post shop that deals mostly with arts and crafts — and the famed Custer Battlefield Museum. This undisclosed location is also where the famed Battle of the Little Big Horn started at Sitting Bull’s camp. The museum has rare Native American and U.S. Cavalry artifacts on display, like a lock of General Custer’s hair, as well as the only known attested signature of Sitting Bull.
The museum houses over 100 photographs by world-famous photographer David F. Barry, one of the largest displays on exhibit. Visitors can see some of the most recognizable images of American frontier history, like Sitting Bull, Low Dog, Tom Custer, Benteen and General George Armstrong Custer.
The Custer Battlefield Museum is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The remains of this unknown soldier were found in 1926 when workers began building U.S. Highway 87.
GENERAL GEORGE PATTON MUSEUM – FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY
Those with interest in military vehicles should visit the General George Patton Museum, which includes the largest collection of armored jeeps, trucks and tanks showcased inside and outside the museum walls. In addition to focusing on the famous general, the museum examines the history and development of armored warfare.
From military motorcycles, half-tracks, prime movers, self-propelled artillery tankettes, scout cars, light and heavy battle tanks to armored reconnaissance vehicles, there is almost every representation of a military vehicle present at the museum. Since its opening more than 50 years ago, the museum boasts Patton memorabilia, mounted warfare relics, pistols, medals, boots, helmets, uniforms, silver stars and more
In addition to the actual automobile that General Patton died in during his fateful accident on December 21, 1945, the museum also has M48 Patton tank and M551 Sheridan tanks on display. There is even an interactive area where a visitor can sit in the seat of a tank’s driver, gunner, or commander and fight a tank battle through very realistic simulation. This incredibly museum has 400,000 visitors annually.
THE GETTYSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK MUSEUM – GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
Sitting next to the battlefield where the famed Gettysburg’s address was given, this museum has 12 different show galleries spanning the American Civil War. Beginning back in 1860 and ending with the Restoration, the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum features various artifacts and films describing all the different battles that occurred there.
There is also a meticulously preserved Union field hospital from the Battle of Gettysburg where visitors can see what life was like during that turbulent time. During the summer months, the museum performs doctor and battlefield reenactments, historical lectures and discussions on topics such as the importance of female aid during the war.
THE NATIONAL WORLD WAR I MUSEUM AND MEMORIAL – KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
When you first walk into this museum, you must walk over a symbolic field of 9,000 red poppies. They say just one flower represents 1,000 combatant deaths in the Great War. It’s a dramatic way of helping visitors to understand the severity of how many soldiers we lost in World War I. The museum is built underneath the Liberty Memorial, which is the first American monument dedicated to the war. Local citizens funded it in honor of courage, patriotism, sacrifice and honor.
The National World War I Museum and Memorial is known as the only American museum exclusively dedicated to conserving the history, artifacts and experiences of our country’s first World War. Congress deemed this distinct collection America’s official World War I Museum. During Memorial Day Weekend, the museum provides free admission for active duty members of the military and veterans, and half-price entry to all guests.
THE NATIONAL WORLD WAR II MUSEUM – NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Through an extensive, three-pavilion facility right in the middle of New Orleans’ Central Business District sits the National World War II Museum. Visitors can participate in the museum’s detailed timeline tour that features voice-guided stories of interest. The museum is so large that guests are encouraged to visit as a two-day trip (the museum discounts its second-day passes).
Since its grand opening on June 6, 2000, just under two million people have visited the museum replete with powerful, courageous images and fascinating war artifacts that give a glimpse into the war-torn times of that era. Visitors can trace the USA’s role in WWII, from the era of the Great Depression to the Normandy Invasion, all the way to the great and tragic battles of the Pacific Islands.
You can also visit the Union Pacific Train Station, which is an exhibit that allows guests to experience the sounds, sights and emotions of war. The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion gallery exhibits the beaches of Normandy and the sands of Iwo Jima, telling the stories of the many amphibious landings and thousands of men and women who made the Allied victory in World War II possible.
A very popular sight to see there is the reproduction of the Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel vessel, which was one of the boats used to transport thousands of Allied soldiers to the shores of Normandy Beach during the D- Day invasion in 1944. There is also a Douglas C-47 aircraft that historical aviation fans can check out, as well as a Sherman tank in the Museum vault.
THE USS INTREPID SEA, AIR, AND SPACE MUSEUM- NEW YORK, NEW YORK
If you have ever traveled the span of the West Side Highway from the George Washington Bridge into the streets of New York City, surely you noticed the massive USS Intrepid United States aircraft carrier docked right off the highway. The decommissioned ship was converted into a museum after serving in the Cold War, Vietnam and World War II. It has been a fixture on the New York City shoreline since 1982. The USS Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and is considered an American military and maritime history museum.
Launched in 1943, it became a frontline fighter in WWII, only to take a torpedo hit its second year on the water. There is a list of 270 names of our Navy men who perished in the countless kamikaze attacks aboard the Intrepid.
November 25, 1944 was called the Intrepid’s “Darkest Day” because two kamikaze attacks took out 69 men, which, according to the museum, was the most casualties the ship suffered in one day. You can find this museum located at Pier 86 at 46th Street in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY – ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA
Although not technically falling under the category of “museum,” this list would not be complete without including possibly the best-known war monument in the country: Arlington National Cemetery. The famed and historical site is the final resting place for over 400,000 active duty service members, vets and their family members. The 624 acres (roughly 472 football fields) of this historic cemetery contains the graves of servicemen and women and is on The National Registrar of Historic Places.
On average, Arlington Cemetery sees 30-plus burials a day. That’s roughly 3,000 ceremonies a year. It’s estimated that there will be no more room left for in-ground graves by 2025. The property also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for soldiers whose remains could not, and still cannot, be identified.
Some famous notables buried at Arlington are John and Jacqueline Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Glenn Miller, Charles “Pete” Conrad and Marguerite Higgins.