Best D-Day sites to visit with the kids

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Wherever you go on holiday, it's always great to soak up some of the history and culture, whether that means visiting historic chateaux or tasting moules frites by the beach. So, in Normandy, it's impossible to visit without seeing some of the sites of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, where WW2 has left a mark that you can still see today.

As every parent knows, you don't want the kids to be bored stiff by being dragged around a museum. Several of Normandy's D-Day museums are however, brilliant modern, child-friendly, interactive museums that mean that kids will be enjoying themselves - and learning something too.

Here's a list of the best D-Day sites and museums to visit with younger and older children.

For all the family

D-Day beaches

Whatever their age, a visit to the beach will always go down well as a fun day out and the D-Day beaches are some of the best beaches in Normandy. From Utah Beach, on the coast of the Cotentin Peninsula, to Sword Beach, right beside our terminal at Ouistreham, these are some beautiful sandy beaches and you will find WW2 bunkers and fortifications scattered around them.

Sword Beach was one of the two beaches where British soldiers landed and is known today for it's pretty beach huts that look out across the sand. To the west, the huge expanse of Omaha Beach is an incredible, open stretch of coastline that beach lovers will adore. But you can see how that meant this became the bloodiest beach of all on D-Day with 2,000 US casualties here in the first few hours of the battle.

Juno Beach Centre

Situated right beside Juno Beach, where the Canadians landed on D-Day, the Juno Beach Centre was set up as a non-profit organisation by the families of Canadian war veterans and the friendly, family feel of this museum makes it perfect for children.

Throughout the museum, you'll find specific exhibits and displays at child-height to help kids understand and there's also a fantastic interactive exhibition called 'Grandma, what was it like during the war?' that has been created especially for children to show what life was like for a child growing up in wartime.

Best for children seven years and older, there's also a bunker outside that you can explore and direct access down to Juno Beach.

Longues-sur-Mer gun battery

Get the kids out in the fresh air and explore the German gun placements by the sea at the Longues-sur-Mer gun battery, which still contain their original guns. Four bulky, concrete casements stand here and, on D-Day, the guns were trained on the British and American warships aiding the landings at Gold and Omaha.

D-Day Paratroopers Historical Centre

Have a wannabe pilot in the family? At the D-Day Paratroopers Historical Centre near Carentan, kids can climb aboard a flight simulator and learn what it takes to become a paratrooper. There's games and a quiz to help children learn about the role that paratroopers played in the D-Day landings. 

Grown-ups may be interested in the Band of Brothers exhibits. The many objects and artefacts collected here are related to individual soldiers so that you can discover the lives of specific men involved in the combat and the roles that each of them played.

Utah Beach Museum

The other beach where US forces landed on D-Day, Utah Beach is probably best known as the landing beach where Lt Richard Winters and his troops landed - the Band of Brothers. Built partially in a German bunker, the Utah Beach museum is home to one of only six remaining B26 Marauder bombers and also an original Higgins Barge LCVP landing craft, the only one known to be still in existence that was used during D-Day.

With a flight simulator, kids' quiz and an award-winning documentary that includes live-action film, 3D tactical animations and state-of-the-art immersive archival material, there's much to keep the whole family occupied here.

Pegasus Memorial

Under the dark of night, just a few hours before the D-Day landings began in the morning, Allied paratroopers were dropped at key points in Normandy to take bridges and other spots vital to the success of the landings. The Pegasus Bridge, spanning the Caen canal near Ouistreham, was one such spot. The original bridge that was captured in the daring night raid is now outside in the gardens of the museum.

You'll also find a replica Horsa glider in the grounds as well as tanks and other exhibits. Inside are hundreds of artefacts and displays and more and more artefacts are donated by veterans and their families every year. There's also a large model of the area where bi-lingual staff often give talks about the mission to take Pegasus Bridge and other key locations in Normandy., as well as an archive film to watch too.

Normandy Tank Museum (Now closed)

You're usually onto a winner with most kids when they get to see enormous tanks up close. And the Normandy Tank Museum goes one better - you can even ride in them here! There's a large selection of tanks and military vehicles from WW2, many of which are set in diaromas with mannequins of uniformed soldiers to give a real feel of what it would have been like to live around these machines.

Located on the A10 airfield, built by the Allies just weeks after the landings, you can take a ride around the airfield in an FV432 or Sherman tank destroyer. Or, for the young petrolhead amongst you, there's even a mini tank that they can drive themselves!

For older children and teenagers

Memorial de Caen

This enormous and in-depth museum explores Europe's descent into war in the 1930s, through WW2 and D-Day to the Cold War and even manages to take a look at wars today. There are some exhibits at the Memorial de Caen that you might want to avoid with younger children and it would be best to recommend this for children at least seven years old and up.

However, if you do have younger kids with you, then head outside into the peaceful souvenir gardens where you'll find huge gardens planted in remembrance of the American, British and Canadian soldiers that died during the war on Norman soil. You'll also discover a reconstructed bunker to explore.

Arromanches 360 cinema

Again, best for children seven years and upwards due to some of its more visceral imagery, the Arromanches 360 is a unique circular cinema where films are projected onto nine screens that are arranged in a circle around you. There isn't any seating, which allows you to move around to watch all the different screens, so this one's for kids that can stand still for a 19 minute film!

Pointe du Hoc

Whilst Pointe du Hoc is a brilliant location to explore out in the open, this isn't a place where you want to let children run around too freely. Left exactly as it was in 1944, the ground here is very uneven, marked with bomb craters and concrete fortifications, so you want to keep an eye that young ones don't wander off.

Sandwiched between the Utah and Omaha landing beaches, it was here that US troops performed a daring mission by climbing up the cliff from the beach below in order to take out the German guns. There are several bunkers here to visit and the clifftop views are absolutely stunning. 

Would you add any sites to our list? Let us know in the comments below. And check out our D-Day guides for a map and more D-Day places to visit.

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