I think every American should be required to visit Normandy, France, once in their lifetime. Our Greatest Generation helped free Europe from tyranny during World War II. Without them, our world would not look the same as it does today. Oftentimes I wish those men and women were still here today to speak their wisdom, truth and sense of dedication to justice into our world.
In late July 2020, we packed our station wagon with bikes, food, dog and child and set off across the English Channel via Le Tunnel to visit Normandy. The tunnel experience was surprisingly simple and stress-free. We drove right onto a train car and after 30 minutes we exited in Calais, France. It was then a 4.5 drive to our destination. Similarly, the drive from Paris is about 3.5 hours. We rented a simple apartment in a converted barn on the grounds of a stately French farmhouse near Carentan, a small town we highly recommend as a homebase. It proved to be the perfect location for easy access to the many museums and D-Day beaches we wanted to visit.
While many people try to squeeze a trip to Normandy into a couple of days from Paris, I would urge you to dedicate at least four days to experience the slow and reverent atmosphere of this hallowed corner of northwest France. We spent a week there, including our days of travel, and it was the perfect amount of time to soak in the history and enjoy the landscape.
Where we visited in Normandy is relatively flat, so bicycles are a wonderful way to enjoy the scenery while visiting the sites. Vast farmlands and two-lane roads connect tiny French villages together, but if you take the quicker, more direct highway you lose some of the region’s charm. Even when driving, choose the backroads.
With time on our side, we visited one museum a day so we could digest as many stories and details as possible. We spent afternoons at the beach or riding bikes and even took a few days to explore further afield in the car. Here are our top recommendations in Normandy for American families.
D-Day Museums and Experiences
- D-Day Experience
- Overlord Museum near Omaha beach
- Normandy American Cemetery
- Airbourne Museum, St. Mere Eglise
- Utah Beach Landing Museum and beach
More of Normandy beyond D-Day