History classes can be rather dry for younger kids. They don’t often care about what happened way back when. One of the best ways to educate kids about history is to show them and a D-Day tour of Normandy is the perfect place to start.
Talking about what happened in the place where it actually did happen makes it more real for younger kids. Visiting museums and actual sites where events happened are fun and a great educational tool.
Where is Juno Beach?
Juno Beach is in France. It spans from Courseulles, a village just east of the British beach Gold, to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, and just west of the British beach Sword. It is one of five beaches that were active during World War 2 and part of the Normandy landings.
It was defended by the Canadian Army, among others, and is part of a group of Normandy landing beaches that includes Sword Beach, Utah Beach, Gold Beach, and Omaha Beach.
Now, it’s a popular destination for tourists and locals to enjoy the sand, the sea, the sun, and the pier. Whether you are looking for a nice day at the beach or to bask in some history, you won’t be disappointed.
How to Get To Juno Beach
If you are planning a trip to visit Juno Beach and take in the D-Day tour, driving is likely your best option. That way, whether you have your own car or a rental, you can get around easily, visit other sites, and come and go as you please. Our WWII inspired Normandy Road Trip with Kids was an incredible adventure starting from Dunkirk, France and making our way across the Normandy Coast to Juno Beach.
Having your own transportation is always best when you have younger children with you, as they may want to leave, get over-excited, or if you want to go for lunch or back to your room. You can also see other historical sites that you may otherwise miss.
The Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer is 270 km from Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris. The drive is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes in length and includes 250km on the A13 highway. Drivers are encouraged to have change ready for the numerous toll booths along the way.
If you would like to visit Juno Beach Centre by train, you may take the train (TER) to Caen from the GARE ST. LAZARE in Paris. This journey takes approximately two hours. Once you arrive in Caen, you will need to get to Courseulles-sur-Mer, the small coastal town where the Juno Beach Centre is located. The Centre is approximately 25km from Caen. You can take a taxi or use the regional coach service called the BUS VERTS. Once in Courseulles, the Centre is located on the west side of the port, right on the beach.
Map of Juno Beach
How Long Should We Spend at Juno Beach with Children?
If you are planning on taking in all the sights and the museum, plan on spending around four hours. You can visit the museum, walk out on the beach, tour the bunkers and so much more.
If you have young kids with you, the interactive youth circuit at the museum “Explore Juno as a Family” uses interactive touchscreens and is a wonderful way to make the experience more engaging for the whole family. Following the wishes of the veteran founders of the Juno Beach Centre, the museum is adapted to the younger generations and makes for one of the best D-Day Tours of Normandy in my opinion.
Juno Beach Centre: A D-Day Tour of Normandy
If you are visiting the D-Day museum and the Juno Beach Centre in the Courseulles-Sur-Mer in the Calvados region of Normandy, you can make a reservation to visit the centre for up to groups of 40 people.
The museum has permanent and visiting exhibits that depict the contributions made by Canadian soldiers during the war. As I mentioned earlier, the interactive modules meant specifically for kids is a fantastic way to promote engagement. Our boys loved trying to win “poppy points” from interactive games tied to the permanent exhibits. It encourages critical thinking from kids of all ages and allows them to “experience” history of WWII rather than just read about it.
When you first enter Juno Beach Centre, there is a short informational film and then visitors can tour the museum. Expect to spend about an hour and a half inside. Our boys, ages four and six at the time, loved their experience there and we easily spent almost two hours touring the various exhibits.
I found that my boys were especially drawn to the short documentaries where they could sit with headphones and pick which stories they wanted to watch. They were also interested in the uniforms and various equipment used during the war.
In addition to the Juno Centre, Juno Park and the museum, you can simply enjoy your time at the beach. There are German bunkers to look through and a guided tour of the sands where the armed forces claimed the beach during the war. You can also just enjoy a picnic on the beach.
We spent about twenty minutes walking Juno Beach on our D-Day Tour of Normandy after our tour of the bunkers. The facts we learned from the organized tour prompted a lot of questions from our boys during our walk so I suggest hitting the beach afterwards like we did. And if your kids are younger, you can stop and have a quick snack on the beach before heading into the museum.
Take in the guided D-Day tour of Normandy in the park to see where all the action took place. It’s about 45 minutes, and you can visit the German Command Post and the Observation bunker, which are only accessible on the tour.
The park is open to anyone wishing to take in the history or pay their respects and visit the area. The guided bunker tour is great for the whole family and accepts groups of up to 25 people and kids six years and older. I’m not sure if they have changed their age requirements for the tour of the bunkers but my son was four at the time (2019) and was totally enthralled with the tour.
The tours are led by Canadian students who are experiencing life in Normandy while sharing this important part of Canadian history with visitors from all over the world. Perhaps is was the young age of the guides leading the bunker tour, but my boys loved every minute of it. For a four year old and six year old to feel comfortable asking questions in a group of mostly adults, you know the tour was a successful one!
Where to Eat Nearby
If you are looking to enjoy lunch after your time at Juno Beach, we highly recommend checking out Arromanches Les Bains for your meal. The coastal town is also part of the history of D-Day, where an artificial port was built to allow troops to disembark. It is a quick 15 minute drive and allows for a much less touristy area do enjoy your meal.
We ate lunch at Creperie de la Plage which has great views of the beach. The prices are fair and the food was great but the best part was our boys played in the sand on the beach in full view from our table while we waited for our food. We loved Arromanches les Bains so much that we ended up staying for two nights on our D-Day tour of Normandy.
What Services are at Juno Beach Centre?
There is plenty to do at Juno Beach Centre for the whole family. Enjoy a variety of nearby restaurants, a great and educational museum, all with free parking, air conditioning, and it’s wheelchair accessible.
You can find some great keepsakes at the souvenir shop. The gift shop has tee shirts, books, and other items you can buy to remember your visit and to support the centre and the veterans. Find items for yourself and others to help you remember your visit to the Juno Beach Centre and D-Day memorabilia.
What to Pack for a D-Day Tour of Normandy
Bring good walking shoes, umbrellas in case of rain, water, small items for the kids if they need to be entertained, and a bit of pocket money for entrance fees, restaurants, and souvenirs. Snacks and water are always a great thing to pack no matter where you are traveling with kids.
Final thoughts on Educational Travel
Children are so much more capable of absorbing information than we give them credit for. If you take them to places where they can touch, feel and experience history rather than just reading it in textbook, they are far more likely to be engaged. Educational travel has become a staple for our family and we try to do at least one large trip each year.
It is a great way to see the world, promote critical thinking among all members of the family and still have fun doing it.