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american cemetary vistor center in Normandy @ omaha beach

Is this worth an extra trip to go the visitor center. We are taking an overlord tour for two daysand going to the American cemetary but not sure I we are also going to the visitor center? Does any one know and has anyone been to visitor center.. we are renting a car and have a few hours the first day of arrival

Posted by
16123 posts

I took a one-day Overlord Tour in 2017. We didn't have a great deal of time at the American Cemetery, but I had long enough to pop into the visitor center briefly. I'd say on the one-day tours, you should assume you can spend time either in the cemetery itself or in the visitor center, but probably not both. I'm going to guess we had less than 30 minutes available at that stop. It could well be different on a two-day, tour, however, and there must be some variation from day to day even on the shorter tours.

If you'll be picking up your car in Caen and staying in Bayeux, I'd suggest going to the museum in Bayeux instead of making an extra trip to Omaha Beach, since it's impossible to know with certainty how much time you'll have there on your tour day. The museum in Bayeux takes a broader look at the invasion. I spent more than two hours there.

The visitor center at Omaha Beach is described this way on the website of the facility: "These presentations are also intended to personify the stories of those Americans who fell for the liberation of France: the aim is to make the visitors aware that under each grave remains an individual story, with destinies sometimes crossed."

That quote is consistent with the impression I came away with--that the visitor center takes a human-interest approach.

Have you asked Overlord Tours for an estimate of how much time you'll have at the Omaha Beach stop?

Posted by
368 posts

I was very moved by the presentations at the visitors' center. It put faces and personal stories to the fallen buried there and I felt like it enhanced our visit. If you can fit it in, I recommend it.

Posted by
2514 posts

We spent our limited time in the cemetery. I went to the visitor’s center only to try and find a relative who died within the first couple days of the operation. Had I had more time, I would have spent more time visiting it.

Posted by
466 posts

I did a two-day tour with Dale Booth, which was probably similar. We had some time in the museum and some in the cemetery, but I'm a museum groupie and could have used more time in the museum. However if you haven't planned to see the Bayeux Tapestry please give it serious consideration as a nominee for those few hours.

Posted by
2525 posts

I found the American Cemetery visitor center very interesting and moving. However, it did not take more than 1-2 hours to see and appreciate most of what was on display. The cemetery itself, in contrast, is very large. I didn't have time to follow the trail all the way down to the water and back, but would have liked to. If your Overlord tour is 2 full days, it may already give you time for all of this.

The thing that struck me (and obviously this is just me; everyone's different) was how the terrain coming up from the beach is very uneven and very overgrown. I could imagine soldiers trying to fight their way up, wearing heavy equipment, losing their bearings in heavy foliage and not even being sure "am I headed for the top of the hill or not?"

Posted by
1082 posts

We took a one day tour of the WW II sights and beaches but only had 15 minutes at the Cemetery. We had a car so we returned the next day and spent hours there. We found the location of the Niland brothers, from upstate NY, that were the basis for the Tom Hanks movie, "Saving Private Ryan". General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr, the 4th Division commander that led the division ashore on D Day at Utah Beach, is buried there after dying of a heart attack in July 1944. He has a Medal of Honor grave marker worth seeing. We're glad we only had a one-day tour and spent the entire next day following up places we'd rushed past or skipped on the tour. The visitor center takes an hour at least. Go to abmc.gov for details of all American cemeteries in Europe and elsewhere and get more details about the Normandy American Cemetery above Omaha Beach near Colleville-sur-Mer, about 20 minutes from Bayeux or 16 km. If you visit Paris, there is an American cemetery at Suresnes, just across the Seine east of the Eiffel tower with WW I dead and unknown dead Americans from WW II. You'll likely have it to yourselves. Good luck.

Posted by
422 posts

While many people rave about taking a tour in Normandy, I never have, and never felt I missed anything. But a tour that only spends 15 minutes at this cemetery is crazy and points to why, even if you take a tour, you should have a car to go back to certain places, or visit some that aren't in the tour. I've never spent less than two hours at the American Cemetery.

Posted by
16123 posts

But, PharmerPhil, you've mentioned before that you make annual visits to Normandy. You are highly knowledgeable and not a typical tourist. Most of us don't arrive in Normandy with a clear understanding of what happened at each spot there. The museums are very well done (I've been to five of them), but there's not much information posted at the actual invasion sites themselves. I needed a guide to paint a picture for me of what happened, and I think many, many other visitors do as well.

I absolutely agree that the stop at the American Cemetery on my one-day Overlord Tour was too short for a good visit to both the cemetery and the visitor center, but for me the overall tour was extremely worthwhile.

Posted by
1828 posts

Our September 2019 Overlord Tour spent at least an hour at the American cemetery - but most of us skipped the visitor center. The guide pointed it out to us an option, and it's where the bathrooms are. The family that spent the entire time in the visitor center had taken a cab to the cemetery the day before, and wanted more time in the visitor center. They were very impressed with it.

Posted by
422 posts

acraven,

Most of us don't arrive in Normandy with a clear understanding of what
happened at each spot there.

I know. And that is a problem for many visitors. Seriously, most people spend tons of time planning their vacation, and making reservations, etc. But if you want to visit Normandy, you owe to to yourself to do just as much research into the history of where you are visiting. How much time does it take to read one of many good books, or at least watch a 2-hour movie or two before going? It is a very small investment, and will add immeasurably to your visit.

Posted by
202 posts

"The Longest Day" would be a very good movie to watch before visiting the D-Day sights.

Posted by
73 posts

Many of the scenes from "The Longest Day" were filmed at the exact location where they took place. After our trip to Normandy last Fall, I found myself watching the movie again and comparing the photos I took to the scenes from the movie.

Posted by
338 posts

I would definitely make an extra trip to the Visitor Center. We found the exhibits to be quite worthwhile. A previous poster mentioned walking the trail to the beach. We did that on our first visit, but when we were at the American Cemetery two years ago, that path was closed. Not sure if that closure was temporary or permanent. On our last visit, we were there when "Taps" was played and that is quite emotional.

Posted by
16 posts

We are planning to do 1 day tour; but are having trouble deciding between the British/Canadian sector and the American. Whichever one we don’t do, we will try to visit a couple of the spots on our own with our car. Reading above, it seems like this might be a good candidate to visit on our own since we can spend as much time as we want there? Any recommendations? We are Canadian if that helps.

Posted by
422 posts

trophy_23 , Yes, it is well worth going there with a chunk of time. There are also sights heading down the bluff just to the East of the cemetery beyond the parking lot with several monuments to allied attacking units, and remains of some "zig-zag" German Trenches. Also, since you are Canadian, you already hopefully know this, but the tiny Bény Sur Mer Canadian Cemetery in Reviers, just inland from Juno Beach (which was the Canadian sector) is one of the loveliest and contemplative places in the area. I have visited Normandy eight times, and I almost always include a visit to this pretty, and hallowed piece of Earth.