Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, St. Louis
Eighty years after it opened as a memorial to the city's World War I dead, the Art Deco-style museum reopened just in time for Veterans Day 2018 after a two-year, $30 million renovation. Now operated by the Missouri Historical Society, the free museum doubled its exhibit space, and new exhibits are more interactive and focus on local service members. The first exhibit in the new lower level is World War I: St. Louis and the Great War. On the main level, the long-term installation St. Louis in Service explores the stories of individual St. Louisans (including a variety of races, genders and backgrounds) who have given military service from the Revolutionary War until today. mohistory.org/memorial
Soldiers Memorial Military Museum. Photo courtesy of Missouri Historical Society.
National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri
The 217-foot tall Liberty Memorial towers over the nation’s only museum dedicated to World War I. Visitors enter the main gallery by crossing a glass bridge over a field of 9,000 red poppies; each flower represents 1,000 people killed in the war. Other powerful exhibits include life-size trenches and a crater scattered with debris, a recreation of a French farmhouse struck by a shell. (816) 888-8100; theworldwar.org
National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial
Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District, Indianapolis, Indiana
The district includes two museums and 24 acres of monuments, sculptures, statues, parks and fountains. Free museums inside the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and the Indiana War Memorial shed light on Hoosier military history. Visitors can explore other parts of the war memorial, including the Shrine Room, designed to both encourage reflection on those who gave their lives in service as well as to inspire peace and unity. At the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, visitors can climb (or take an elevator) to the top for sweeping city views. nps.gov; in.gov
Visitors can climb 330 steps (or take an elevator to step 290) at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument for views from the top of the 284-foot tall memorial.
USS LST 393 Veterans Museum, Muskegon, Michigan
Only two warships used to transport troops to Normandy on D-Day remain, and one floats in Muskegon Lake. Tours explore the LST (landing ship tank), including automatic rifle displays, the mess hall and the radio room. Metal stairs lead to crowded bunks, where troops slept on the way to Omaha Beach. Open May-September. (231) 730-1477; lst393.org
Can’t visit on Memorial Day weekend? The museum re-enacts D-Day battles, complete with WWI fighter planes dive-bombing the ship and firing blanks, on June 3. Photo courtesy of LST USS 393
Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, Waterloo, Iowa
Dog tags act as admission tickets at this museum designed to tell the stories of Iowans in America’s armed conflicts since the Civil War. Each tag is programmed with three characters who have roles in different wars; visitors scan them at various stations to reveal whether they lived or died. (319) 234-6357; groutmuseumdistrict.org
Examining war artifacts; a P-51 Mustang WWII fighter plane on display. Photos courtesy of Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum
National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago
Paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, poetry and more, all created by veterans, give visitors a window into wartime experiences and revelations. Guests climb into a jeep, touch machine guns and grenades, and interact with other objects from the Vietnam War at the immersive permanent exhibit, The Things They Carried. (312) 326-0270; nvam.org
Interacting with The Things They Carried; a combat-inspired sculpture created by a veteran. Photo courtesy of National Veterans Art Museum
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, Put-In-Bay, Ohio
The 352-foot tower is a tribute to the command of Oliver Hazard Perry, recognized for his contributions to the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, as well as a symbol of the long-lasting peace between the United Sates and Canada. A $3 elevator ride to the observation deck offers stunning views of the bay, surrounding islands and (on clear days) our neighbor to the north. The free visitors center below details Perry's victory and the construction of the monument. Open May-October. (419) 285-2184; nps.gov
Perry's Victory Memorial is 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty and can be seen from the ferry ride to Put-in-Bay.
Wisconsin Veterans Museum, Madison, Wisconsin
Educational and even emotional, the compact museum’s exhibit galleries delve into Wisconsin veterans’ life at the front, in combat, on leave and at home. More than 26,000 objects used and collected by Wisconsinites over 150 years include letters, poetry, medals, photographs, field equipment, uniforms, insignia, maps and weapons. Wisconsin veterans are encouraged to record their stories through the Wisconsin Veterans Oral History Program. (608) 267-1799; wisvetsmuseum.com