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Oahu

By Jeanne Cooper

Most people refer to the home of the USS Arizona and USS Missouri memorials as simply “Pearl Harbor,” but the official name of the historic compound is World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. It’s a mouthful, but there’s also quite a lot to do here, including free and paid attractions.

FOR ROOKIES
No one should miss a visit to the somber Arizona memorial, an experience that includes a 20-minute documentary on land as well as the short boat ride, for which you need free tickets.

“It’s not as hard to get tickets as before,” notes Carlton Kruse, vice president of marketing of Pacific Historic Parks, a private partner of the National Park Service. Two months out, 325 timed tickets become available on recreation.gov, which also offers 525 next-day tickets each day at 7 a.m.; when the park opens at 7 a.m. daily, another 1,300 tickets for that day are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis, Kruse says.

FOR REPEAT VISITORS
If you haven’t visited Pearl Harbor in the last decade, the massive new visitor center complex that opened in late 2010 will take time to digest. Expanded from 3 to 17 acres, it encompasses numerous new facilities, including two galleries: the Attack Museum, focused on the military and civilian impacts of Dec. 7, 1941, and the Road to War Museum, which provides American and Japanese perspectives.

In January, Pacific Historic Parks debuted the Arizona Memorial Deluxe Tour ($12.50), which allows history buffs to dig even deeper. “You get a smartphone upon check-in, and on it is the Arizona Memorial Narrated Tour,” Kruse says. “At each of the tour stops, you have access to the National Park Service’s World War II Pearl Harbor archives, where you can go into depth and get additional info and videos about the subject matter.”

ADVICE FOR ALL
If high winds or sold-out shuttle tickets keep you from visiting the Arizona memorial, consider virtual reality. The new Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Center in the visitor center courtyard offers a package of three historian-developed tours for $4.95, including headsets and players. Together the tours take less than 20 minutes and staff are available to assist you, Kruse adds.

“The first allows you to walk the deck of the Arizona before the attack, the second to witnesses the attack on Battleship Row with four different timelines, and the last one lets you experience the Arizona memorial — you can read the names on the wall — and go to places where the public can’t go,” Kruse says. “It’s incredible.”

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