Calling all history buffs.
This summer, America’s top military museums will be celebrating veterans and inviting guests to immerse themselves in authentic wartime experiences with epic battle reenactments. Visitors can handle rare wartime artifacts, explore the nooks and crannies of historic citadels, and even taste food and beverages supplied to real infantries.
Celebrate American history all season long with a visit to one of these military museums that bring soldier experiences to life.
The National Infantry Museum - Columbus, Georgia
Presiding over a lawn seeded with soil from real American battle sites, this $100 million museum lies on the outskirts of Fort Benning, Ga., the home of the American infantry. Dedicated to the infantry soldier, the museum houses one of the most sizeable collections of military artifacts in the world. Every infantry soldier is required to train at Fort Benning, and every solider must visit the museum to learn about the soldiers who fought before him or her.
“Summer is a great time of year for the museum,” said Col. Greg Camp, President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Infantry Museum Foundation. "School is out, families can take vacations, and there's time to relax and fully explore the museum.”
On June 2, the National Infantry Museum will partner with the Columbus Museum for “Operation Warfare: Dinner with the Allies,” where guests learn about and sample the foods that sustained American allies during World War I.
Freedom Fest, held on the Fourth of July at the museum, will host live bands, cannon firings, re-enactors, living historians, Fort Benning’s Silver Wings Parachute Demonstration Team, an old-fashioned Pint-Sized Patriots Parade, children’s games, and festival food. The event is free to the public and open to all.
This summer, the museum will also be launching its virtual reality combat simulators, which allow participants to experience what it’s like to be an infantry soldier.
Where to stay: Originally built in the 1870s, the Rothschild-Pound House Inn is a charming bed and breakfast run by a husband-and-wife team, just ten minutes from the National Infantry Museum. The B&B serves up gourmet breakfasts, which can be delivered to guests’ suites upon request. The Rothschild-Pound House is set in the historic neighborhood in Columbus and is walking distance to both the Chattahoochee River and downtown Columbus.
Where to eat: 11th and Bay Southern Table is posted along the Chattahoochee River and serves up hearty dishes with a southern twist. The restaurant is set in a rustic, former cotton warehouse with indoor and outdoor seating.
Fort Ticonderoga - Ticonderoga, New York
European armies fought for control of the Americas during the 18th century at this frontier post which lies strategically between Canada and the Hudson River Valley. Constructed between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War, this striking star-shaped fort built by the French played a significant role in shaping the nations of the North American continent. Fort Ticonderoga is only open seasonally (May-October), so take advantage of the museum’s summer events.
Resting on 2,000 acres of landscape on Lake Champlain, the historic site will host its “Guns by Night” series every Thursday night (from July 6 through August 24), demonstrating 18th century firepower. Participants learn how guns impacted and shaped the importance of this former citadel and witness a dramatic reenactment at the end of each tour.
On Tuesday evenings from July 11 through August 29, visitors can explore different areas of the fort not open to the general public. A curator describes strengths and weaknesses of the fort and how military personnel prepared to combat the British (Note: an extended period of walking is required for this tour).
Each Monday, Fort Ticonderoga offers summer sunset boat cruises aboard a replica 19th century touring vessel where guests experience a mountainside sunset on Lake Champlain.
The Mount Defiance experience is included in a general admissions ticket, which features a guided tour up the mountain-- which afford stunning view across the lake-- every day at 4 p.m.
Where to stay: The luxurious Sagamore Hotel is over 100 years old and just a 40-minute drive from Ft. Ticonderoga.
Where to eat: La Bella Vita at the Sagamore offers panoramic views of Lake George and features centuries-old Italian recipes.
Custer Battlefield Museum - Garryowen, Montana
As the site of one of the most studied military actions in U.S. history, Custer Battlefield Museum is located where the Battle of the Little Big Horn began at Sitting Bull’s camp. Honoring the anniversary of Little Big Horn, the museum will host the Custer Reenactment, rain or shine, on June 23, 24, and 25. The museum’s mission is to expand people’s awareness of the Western Migration Movement and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where the Crazy Horse-led Sioux massacred General Custer and his cavalry.
Where to stay: Constructed in 1904, the Northern Hotel in Billings is an upscale boutique hotel, just a one-hour drive from the museum.
Where to eat: Visit Jake’s Steak House for dinner in Billings and Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery for breakfast.
The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Adjacent to the battlefield of Gettysburg, this museum is one of the largest in the area, with twelve different galleries encompassing the five years of the American Civil War. Starting in 1860 and culminating with the Restoration, the museum offers different artifacts and videos describing various battles, highlighting the three days of battle at Gettysburg.
The Living History series kicks off June 9 (running through mid-August on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). Visitors can take a shuttle bus to one of the best preserved and significant Union field hospitals from the Battle of Gettysburg. The George Spangler Farm Civil War Field Hospital site treated 1,800 Union soldiers and 100 Confederate soldiers. This summer, there will be doctors and soldier reenactments, historian lectures, and a Women’s Relief Association discussion about the importance of female contributions during the war, among other series at the farm.
Where to stay: The Federal Pointe Inn is a boutique hotel located in the heart of the Gettysburg historic district.
Where to eat: Fidler & Co. Craft Kitchen is located in Adams County and serves rustic, local cuisine from the surrounding farmland.
The National World War I Museum and Memorial - Kansas City, Missouri
Upon entering the National World War I Museum, visitors walk over a symbolic field of 9,000 red poppies. Just one flower represents 1,000 combatant deaths in the Great War. The museum is built underneath the first American monument dedicated to the war, the Liberty Memorial, funded by local citizens in less than two weeks in order to honor “courage, patriotism, sacrifice, and honor.”
Over Memorial Day Weekend, the museum will provide free admission for active duty members of the military and veterans, and half-price entry to all guests. There will be themed activities over the long weekend, culminating in a public ceremony on Memorial Day featuring musical performances and speeches.
The museum offers its “Hands-On History” program every Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. this summer, where visitors have the chance to handle wartime artifacts at the museum.
From June 18 through June 24, the museum invites guests to picnic, play games on museum’s lawn and enjoy the outdoors at sunset during the museum’s “Taps at the Tower” series, linking the Taps bugle call with the symbolism of the Liberty Memorial Tower.
Where to stay: The Raphael Hotel, a boutique property set in a Spanish Renaissance Revival building, overlooks the Country Club Plaza and is a ten-minute drive from the museum.
Where to eat: Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar specializes in sustainable, fresh fish in this landlocked state.
The National World War II Museum - New Orleans, Louisiana
An expansive, three-pavilion institution in the heart of New Orleans’ Central Business District, the National World War II Museum offers visitors an experience of the European and Pacific theaters through a guided, immersive timeline with oral history stations and story points. Because of the museum’s scale, guests are encouraged to visit the museum as a two-day trip (the museum discounts the second-day passes).
With the museum’s travel tours guided by historians and experts, the tours head to historic locations, such as Normandy, Pearl Harbor, and include airfare, hotels, tours, food and drink. An added bonus is that the museum receives special access to select locations where civilian access normally isn’t granted.
Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Canal St., which is a five-minute streetcar ride from the museum.
Where to eat: The American Sector Restaurant and Bar is the museum’s upscale farm-to-table restaurant open for lunch, dinner, and happy hour.
The Airborne and Special Operations Museum - Fayetteville, North Carolina
Located close to Fort Bragg, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum presents the chronological history of America’s Special Operations units. On the morning of May 20, the museum’s annual Field of Honor Opening Ceremony allows friends and families to honor a loved one with a flag on the parade field at the museum, which will be displayed through June 30.
The museum will honor National Airborne Day on August 19, which celebrates the 77th year anniversary of the first jump by the Test Platoon, and the 17th anniversary of the museum. The museum also features a 24-seat simulator, which offers experiences like flying into Normandy with the 101st Screaming Eagles on D-Day and performing a HALO operation from 25,000 feet.
Where to stay: Embassy Suites is just a five-minute drive from the museum.
Where to eat: Morgan’s Chop House has a menu that includes local steaks, as well as more unique dishes, such as kangaroo and alligator.
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Although not technically a museum, this list would not be complete without Arlington National Cemetery, the historical site and active cemetery with over 400,000 active duty service members, vets, and their family members buried there. A sprawling 624 acres serves as a scenic tribute to the nation’s fallen and is on The National Registrar of Historic Places.
The cemetery holds about 3,000 ceremonies per year honoring U.S. service members from all branches of the military. The site also commemorates astronauts, nurses, chaplains, war correspondents, and is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for soldiers whose remains could not be identified.
Where to stay: The Four Seasons Washington, D.C. is one of the area's highest end properties and it's less than two miles from Arlington National Cemetery.
Where to eat: Mele Bistro is about a mile from Arlington and features farm-to-table Italian cuisine in a cozy atmosphere with an outdoor patio.
Eva Fedderly is a travel, culinary, and political journalist who writes for Travel+Leisure, Esquire, The Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. She lives in Savannah, Georgia and can be found on the road and overseas.