Posadas

Visiting Normandy’s D-Day Landing Beaches with Teens

by Barbara Rogers

Feb 15, 2019

© Stillman Rogers

Age Specific / Teens

Reading in history class about the allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, doesn’t begin to tell the story that unfolds as your teens see the places where all this happened. Standing far above the sea on bluffs that were scaled to reach Nazi strongholds brings the monumental operation to life.

The main sites begin at Pegasus Bridge, between Caen and Ouistreham, and continue west to Sainte Mere Eglise; you can stay in attractive beach towns along the coast or visit them from a base in Caen or Bayeux. The number of beaches and landing sites can be overwhelming, and the point of a historic pilgrimage of this sort is not to overload or bore teens to death. So here’s a quick guide to the most interesting and memorable places that tell the story of the D-Day landings, and what to look for there.

For an overview of the Battle of Normandy and its place in a broader history, as well as a look into the lives of the people who lived it, begin at the excellent Caen Memorial Center. The 19-minute film recounts the Battle of Normandy with original footage and sets the stage for what you’ll see later.

Pégasus Bridge

Just after midnight on June 6, the first parachutist landed just east of Ouistreham, followed by 45 men who crash-landed in gliders and then by 6,000 men with supplies and weapons. Their job was to seize and hold the bridge to keep the Germans from sending troops to defend the “Atlantic Wall” of coastal batteries, and to keep the bridge open for the Allies to use. The current bridge is a replica, but you can cross the original one at the Pegasus Bridge Museum, where there’s a full-sized replica of a glider and a large piece of an actual one used in the landing

Atlantic Wall Museum and Sword Beach

One of the most fascinating museums for kids (and you, too) is this one housed in a real 52-foot-high concrete bunker that was a German fire command post. It was still active for three days into the invasion, until the Allies took it (kids will love the story about its capture). The Grand Bunker is not a replica, but the actual bunker and its cramped quarters are furnished as they were in 1944, showing the daily life and work of soldiers as they directed the German fire from batteries along the coast.

A German Panzer tank at Falaise in Normandy, France

A German Panzer tank at Falaise in Normandy, France © Stillman Rogers

Juno Beach

Perhaps the most family-oriented of all the museums, the Centre Juno Beach concentrates especially on the role of Canadian marine commandos, who landed here first to disable German positions. Hands-on exhibits, presentations and films present a Canadian perspective as they bring to life the fight to liberate this important stretch of coast. Especially interesting are the guided tours (April through October) that explore the bunkers and tunnels of the underground command post. You can climb through ruined bunkers all along the beach.

Omaha Beach and Overlord Museum

One of the most brutal landings, and one with tremendous casualties, was at Omaha Beach, where losses are commemorated by the rows of crosses in the American Cemetery. In the Overlord Museum, artifacts from that landing — more than 10,000 of them — have been assembled in realistic replicas of scenes from the D-Day landings and the later operations in the liberation of France. Lighting and sound add realism to the authentic equipment and artifacts, as well as other exhibits, and make this especially vivid and understandable for young people.

Sainte-Mere-Eglise and Airborne Museum

The pre-dawn invasion by American paratroopers at the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise was vital to establish a western line of defense for the liberated coast, a story well told in the Airborne Museum. Along with the experiences of the landing forces, the museum visits the experiences of the townspeople, who awoke to see the American flag flying over their liberated town. What your kids will remember most, though, is what else the locals saw on the church — an American paratrooper suspended in his parachute from the roof. He was safely rescued, and an effigy hangs there today.

Airborne Museum, 101st and 82nd U.U., Airborne Divisions, World War II in Sainte-Mer-Eglise, France © Stillman Rogers

Airborne Museum, 101st and 82nd U.U., Airborne Divisions, World War II in Sainte-Mer-Eglise, France © Stillman Rogers

#WhereverFamily

Insta Feed
Budget
Sep 19, 2019

Cheap Thrills in San Diego This Fall

San Diego is a great destination for families looking for fun no matter what time of year it is, but this fall, there is plenty to do for everyone — even when you have a budget. Thanks to year-round sunshine, the best way to explore this city is by heading outdoors and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Take Me to Tahiti

Mana is the life force Tahitians believe connects all things. Feel the mana for yourself on a visit to the islands of Tahiti, and sample some of these activities as you connect with the breathtaking nature of the South Pacific. Fly Air France from the United States to Tahiti in the most convenient and comfortable way and let your holiday start on board.

Travel Tips
Sep 18, 2019

End of Summer Fun

Just because the kids have gone back to school and the days have started getting shorter doesn’t mean summer fun has to end. There are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy what’s left of the dwindling season. You can extend your warm weather adventures with these activities all over the country.

Cruising
Sep 18, 2019

Hollywood Magic: Coming Soon to a Cruise Ship Near You

The movies and cruise vacations actually have a lot in common: fascinating ports of call, making friends with interesting people, new sensory experiences, the constant change of scenery. When you think about it, it’s no surprise many classic comedies and romances are set aboard cruise ships, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, Royal Wedding (1951), An Affair to Remember (1957) with Cary Grant, the more recent and kid-friendly Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, and the long-running television series Love Boat.

Wherever Awards 2019

By Whereverfamily.com, the trusted travel source for the modern family, announces the winners of the Wherever Awards.

Listicles
Sep 17, 2019

Fall Wellness Getaways

There is an ever-growing number of options for wellness breaks — but it’s up to you to choose wisely in order to get the most from your experience. First, decide what kind of setting is best for facilitating an environment you find personally soothing or rejuvenating: city, forest, historic, mountain, ocean or lake? Do you want access to a yoga instructor, dance classes, hiking, cooking classes or another specific activity? Are you a solo wellness warrior, or do you prefer to travel with a partner or friends?