Many people love Memorial Day because it’s a sign of the beginning of summer. This holiday, however, is meant to celebrate a lot more than nice weather and warmer days. Memorial Day was first instated as “Decoration Day” honoring those who died during the Civil War in the late 1800’s. In 1971, Decoration Day became Memorial Day and was declared a national holiday, celebrating not only those who fought in the Civil War, but also in World War I and World War II. If you’re torn between celebrating our country’s history and making the most of a long weekend, why not do both? Here are a few destinations, near and far, that have played a big role in our country’s history.
The infamous Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most critical of the American Civil War. On June 5th, 1863, General Robert E. Lee lead his troops onto Union soil, into what would be one of the most monumental battles of the Civil War, and no small part of the victory of the North. Today, the historic Gettysburg Battlefield remains a historic landmark that draws thousands of visitors annually. They offer a wide range of tours ranging from exploring the park on horseback, to guided walks, map and app-based tours and more. This town also has a variety of other historic attractions including the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum, Pennsylvania Civil War Trails, and many more.
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
No tour of our country’s history is complete without a visit to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, you can tour this historic destination year round. Across the street, you can also visit the Liberty Bell, a renowned sign of Independence and freedom. And best of all these attractions are free!
World War II Memorial, District of Columbia
The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. was dedicated to the over 16 million soldiers who fought in World War II, the over 400,000 who died, and everyone who supported the war efforts from American shores. From junior ranger programs, to guided tours, to ranger-led walks, there are a wide variety of events and tours in which to participate. Whatever your interests, this is a great opportunity to learn about our country’s efforts in World War II from the experts.
A few overseas destinations to add to your bucket list
There are many great sites to see in the continental U.S., but if you have a bit more time and sense of adventure, a few additional destinations to visit include:
Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii
If U.S. history is your calling, a visit to Pearl Harbor is probably already on your bucket list. The museum and memorial that sits on the harbor that was the setting of America’s tipping point into World War II, this area is home to a historic experience that’s hard to beat. Whether you’re hoping to tour the bay by boat or check out the Pearl Harbor Pacific Aviation Museum, this historic destination is well worth a visit.
American Air Museum in Britain
If you’re headed further overseas, the American Air Museum In Britain is well worth a visit. A dynamic storytelling experience, this museum tells the story of two allied nations from World War I until allied victory nearly four decades later. With a specific focus on aircrafts and aviation, this museum is well worth a visit for historians and aviation buffs alike.
Point du Hoc, Normandy and Memorial de Caen Museum, France
While many who visit France come and go while catching only a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and streets of Paris, seeing France’s Normandy Beaches, will truly take your breath away. As the sun rose on June 6, 1944, over 150,000 allied troops stormed the beaches of the Normandy coast in Northwest France. This historic battle turned the tables of World War II, tilting it in favor of the allies. Few things illustrate this chapter in our history like the breathtaking beaches and memorial field of white crosses, American flag flying high in the background.
If the beaches aren’t enough, the Memorial de Caen Museum, just a short ways from the Normandy Beaches, should do the trick. This incredible museum tells the story of the second great war as it pertains to the entire world, and how various countries fought, won, and lost. A beautiful piece of multimedia storytelling, this vault of the stories of World War II is well worth a visit.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.com.