Explore the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City

Bill Grant / Alamy Stock Photo

Travel counterclockwise through the Main Gallery and its two sections for a chronological journey through World War I. The first section focuses on the period before the United States entered the conflict ( 1914 to spring 1917), including six life-size recreations of trenches. They offer a ground-level view of the dreary underground network (reinforced by the ambient sound of gunfire) which, if laid end to end, would have stretched for 35,000 miles. Dubbed “the long grave already dug” by British poet John Masefield, the tunnels were a final resting place for millions of soldiers.

You’ll also see many war relics, including French death certificates, authentic Austrian mourning cards, bags of Belgian bread the soldiers used to carry their rations, and an antique brass Christmas gift box from the Princess Mary containing the sweets, pencils and cigarettes of a British infantryman. . Memories like these help you imagine young soldiers sharing smoke and memories of loved ones as they fought for survival away from home.

United States joins the fight

Before entering the second section of the main gallery, the focus of which begins on April 6, 1917, the day President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany, make sure you don’t skip the 15-minute film. thought-provoking and showcasing America’s entry into the conflict. Although the United States vowed not to get involved in the war, it had no other choice than when news broke that the German Foreign Minister had secretly offered to fund Mexico in a war. against America, as the film reveals. Below the screen is a poignant replica of “No Man’s Land” – the barren desert of tree stumps and barbed wire between enemy forces.

Visitors can walk around the recreated environment of a French farmhouse turned into a shell crater and admire an original 1917 Harley Davidson, one of 20,000 motorcycles sent to support the war effort in Europe. Elsewhere in this section, lesser-known stories reveal unannounced details of the Choctaw code speakers (who used Native American languages ​​for the military code to deceive the Germans), the Black Rattlers (the notorious 369th Infantry Regiment of Afro- Americans) and the Gold Star Mothers, who took post-war pilgrimages to the graves of their sons and husbands.

Before leaving this gallery, you can design your own propaganda poster on one of the interactive counters and then email it to yourself to print at home.

In the museum’s other galleries, rotating exhibits frequently focus on niche topics related to World War I. Until September 6, “Silk and steel: French fashion, women and the First World War”, currently the museum’s special exhibition, highlights the importance of women’s fashion. to morale, savings and war allegiances through vintage capes, coats, hats, shoes and dresses from revered French designers. The exhibition “Votes & Voices” (no end date set) celebrates the movement for women’s suffrage and the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

End your visit to the NWWIMM by climbing the Liberty Memorial Tower (when it reopens after the COVID pandemic) for panoramic views of the Kansas City skyline, a must for able-bodied people. (To reach the open-air viewing platform, you first take an elevator, then you have to climb 45 steps.) If you can’t climb, the tower glows just as well from the ground.

Where to stay

Crossroads Hotel: You’re steps from the museum at this 131-room downtown property in the Crossroads Arts District. The 100-year-old brick-built bottling warehouse converted into a hotel is the former playground of Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast. Venture to its panoramic rooftop for the views and a beer garden. Rooms from $ 189

Home2 Suites Kansas City Downtown: Reserve a room at this 114-suite property for a budget-friendly stay in the Crossroads area. The Kansas City Streetcar, a free downtown shuttle service, stops right in front of the hotel, giving you easy access to downtown attractions, such as the restaurants and shops of the River. Market. It doesn’t stop at the museum, which is within walking distance of the hotel. Rooms starting at $ 99

Where to dine

The barbecue pivots: When in KC, do like the locals and eat what many barbecue enthusiasts consider to be the best barbecue in the country. At Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, which tops most city lists – and some national ones – you can’t go wrong with the pulled pork sandwich or any of the slow-cooked meats. For the best surroundings, head to Joe’s original location at a former gas station on West 47th Avenue, about 5 miles south of the museum.

The ribs at Arthur Bryant’s barbecue on Brooklyn Avenue drew chops from Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama – and Harry Truman, during his lifetime. It’s an easy drive 2.5 miles northwest of the museum.