Today is Memorial Day, a holiday dedicated to remembering those who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. Throughout the years it’s turned into the de facto start of summer with BBQs and pool parties abounding, but at its core this is a holiday with more solemn roots. But you can combine having fun outside with paying respect to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in our country’s defense by visiting these patriotic destinations around the country that are fun to visit in their own right.
Almost everyone knows of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona memorial, but visiting the entire site home to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is an experience so moving that I was taken aback. Located in the always fun to visit city of Honolulu, the Monument actually includes memorials to the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma and the USS Utah. Visitors take a boat out to the USS Arizona Memorial itself, where tears of oil still bubble to the surface from the watery tombs. It’s a somber experience but an important one not only to recognize the sacrifices made, but also to remember why such a conflict must never be allowed to happen again.
Did you know that Annapolis, Maryland was one of the country’s early capital cities? Most people don’t, and that’s only one aspect that makes visiting this small but homey community a lot of fun. An easy drive from nearby Washington, DC, Annapolis feels like a world away with its quiet streets lined with restaurants and shops and a beautiful waterfront where massive boats line up in what is locally known as Ego Alley. Annapolis is also home to the US Naval Academy, which visitors can tour to learn more about this military academy and its impressive history. Annapolis is a wonderful place to visit in its own right, but even more impactful when you realize the importance it has played in American history.
Another well-known American landmark, Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota and may be our country’s most unlikely tourist site. Taking nearly 15 years to carve from the hard granite, the massive statues in the hillside honor four American presidents - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. This is a fun place to visit and the surrounding region is one of the most beautiful in the country.
The American story started in Williamsburg, Virginia and this legacy can thankfully still be experienced today. Colonial Williamsburg is a meticulously recreated version of the town that was at one time the capital of the Virginia Colony and whose House of Burgesses was the inspiration for the form of government we enjoy today. Visit museums, talk to the period-dressed docents and try your own hand at colonial tasks. Afterwards walk over to nearby College of William and Mary, the 2nd oldest university in the country with its own impressive history to share. To round out your visit, enjoy some modern entertainment with a visit to Busch Gardens - an outing all members of the family are guaranteed to love.
Located in Kansas City, Missouri, the World War I Museum and Memorial is our country’s shrine to those who gave their lives in this first, most terrible war. It’s an unlikely location, but the city has embraced it adding a state of the art museum to the older, art deco inspired memorial. The museum takes as long to explore as you have the time, and I wished I had much more than an hour. I finished the tour by ascending the massive tower at the center of Liberty Memorial, which affords stunning views of the city. It was a perfect reflective moment to conclude my visit to one of the most important monuments in the country.
Where are your favorite patriotic places to visit around the country?
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A luxury adventure traveler at heart, Matt Long shares his experiences with thousands of readers every day through his travel blog, LandLopers.com. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Matt is a Washington, DC based travel writer/photographer and has been featured on many other web sites and publications including BBC Travel, CNN GO, Huffington Post, AFAR Magazine and National Geographic Intelligent Travel. His work is also syndicated on the Flipboard and Pulse apps. Follow Matt on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Google Plus.
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