Veterans Day, honoring those who have served in our armed forces, is celebrated annually on November 11. The United States has celebrated Veterans Day since 1919 and falls on the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. Other countries celebrate a day similar to Veterans Day on November 11 (also known as Remembrance Day and Armistice Day). Veterans Day is a perfect chance to visit places that are important to the country’s history and military tradition and to say “Thank You” to those fought for our freedom. Here are our top Veterans Day destinations in the United States:
- Fort McHenry – Baltimore, MD (www.nps.gov/FOMC): Fort McHenry, at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, defended Baltimore from the British navy during the War of 1812. Seeing the “rockets red glare” during the Battle of Baltimore inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem.
- Boston National Historical Park – Boston, MA (www.nps.gov/bost): Boston is home to many important Revolutionary War sites. Visit the Old North Church, where Paul Revere’s famous ride began. Go aboard the USS Constitution and see the oldest commissioned warship in the U.S. Navy. And, be sure to visit nearby Bunker Hill, Lexington, and Concord where colonial “minutemen” fought the British army redcoats.
- Fort Sumter – Charleston, SC (www.nps.gov/fosu): The first shots of the American Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861. Shortly after southern states seceded from the Union, Confederate troops bombarded Fort Sumter and the Union troops surrendered on the second day of the battle. Ironically, no soldiers were killed during the bombardment, but several were killed during a post-battle cannon salute.
- Navy Pier – Chicago, IL (www.navypier.com): Dedicated to the region’s sailors, Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s main tourist attractions. Pier visitors can take advantage of a wide variety of restaurants, amusements, and shops while enjoying beautiful Lake Michigan.
- Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA (www.nps.gov/gett): From July 1-3, 1863, one of the key battles of the American Civil War was fought at Gettysburg and the Confederate invasion of the North was halted. Visit Little Round Top where Medal of Honor winner Joshua Chamberlain saved the Union left flank with his daring bayonet attack, and Cemetery Ridge where Pickett’s Charge failed at the “high water mark of the Confederacy.”
- Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona Memorial – Honolulu, HI (www.nps.gov/usar): On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The sunrise attack destroyed most the fleet, and killed thousands. One of the battleships that sank, the USS Arizona, was never raised. There is now a memorial above the wreckage that serves as a tribute to the Arizona’s 1,177 man crew and all others who lost their lives that day.
- Independence Hall, Liberty Bell – Philadelphia, PA (www.nps.gov/inde): America’s independence was born in Philadelphia. The first Continental Congress met in Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. The Liberty Bell, most famous for its crack, is said to have been used to gather people for the first public reading of the Declaration four days later.
- USS Midway – San Diego, CA (www.midway.org): The decommissioned World War II aircraft carrier is now a museum in San Diego Harbor. There are more than fifty exhibits, and visitors will learn the history of naval aviation; you can even get in the cockpit of a flight simulator. Many visitors stay overnight – a great way to fully appreciate a sailor’s life on board this floating city.
- The Presidio – San Francisco, CA (www.nps.gov/prsf): Used as a fortress by the Spanish, Mexican, and US armies, troops from the Presidio helped to colonize California. The grounds give visitors a sense of military and political life in early California, as well as unforgettable views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Arlington National Cemetery – Washington, DC (www.arlingtoncemetery.mil): Arlington is the country’s largest national cemetery and the final resting place of many prominent military and political figures. Highlights of the visit include John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Another must-see is the nearby Marine Corps War Memorial, with its famous sculpture of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. Of course there are many other monuments and memorials in Washington DC including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall) and the National World War II Memorial.
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