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On Veterans Day, we take time to honor all those who have served in our country’s armed forces. But amid ads for Veterans Day sales, days off of school, and preparations for the busy holiday season, it’s easy to lose the meaning of the day. This year, cut through the clutter by planning a special trip to help families learn more about our veterans and their service to our nation. Try one of these destinations recommended by travel experts all over the nation to honor the heroes who keep our country safe.
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If you’re looking for a place to take the kids to understand the importance of Veteran’s Day, look no further than Los Angeles! The Battleship USS Iowa Museum is hosting an event where it’s docked in San Pedro that includes a tour of the ship, a ceremony on the fantail, a concert, and food. It’s an up-close look at the ship, which was commissioned in 1943.
Manhattan Beach hosts an annual Veteran’s Day ceremony. The tribute includes the participation of the Manhattan Beach Police Department Honor Guard, school groups, and Boy Scouts. It’s a great way to see the community come together, and there are plenty of things to do in Manhattan Beach to spend the rest of your day.
The Reagan Presidential Library also hosts a Veterans Day celebration with live music, a Civil War encampment, a military vehicle display, and a program honoring all branches of the military. Make sure to check out the full-sized reproduction of the Oval Office and walk through the plane that served as Air Force One for six presidents.
Recommended by Jenifer from The Evolista
San Francisco is a great destination to visit with your family on Veterans Day, with plenty of events and activities to add to your San Francisco itinerary. The city hosts its annual Veterans Day parade in Fisherman’s Wharf on November 6. On November 11, there is a three-hour cruise on the San Francisco Bay aboard the historic presidential yacht USS Potomac, which is a floating National Historic Site.
The San Francisco Bay Area has several military museums that are perfect to visit on Veterans Day. Fort Point, near the Golden Gate Bridge, was a military fort built in the 19th century to protect the bay, and it is now a National Historic Site. The USS Pampanito is a World War II-era submarine on Pier 45 and is open for tours. In Alameda, you can tour the USS Hornet, a World War II aircraft carrier that served as a recovery ship for the Apollo 11 and 12 moon missions.
For a mid-range, family-friendly hotel that is centrally located to the Veterans Day parade, try the Courtyard San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf.
Contributed by Anu Agarwal of Destination Checkoff
In 1953, Emporia citizen Alvin J. King suggested that Armistice Day be expanded to include all veterans, and Kansas congressman Ed Rees took the proposal to Congress. It passed and became law when President Eisenhower signed the bill, and the first national observance of Veterans Day took place in 1954. Every year, Emporia, Kansas, has led the celebration in honoring our armed forces with an All Veterans Tribute Week including a FreedomFest, concerts, memorial services, and their famous Veterans Day parade.
Don’t miss the All Veterans Memorial Park, which honors all veterans from the Civil War through the Gulf War and features a Sherman tank and a Huey helicopter. Be sure to check out historic downtown Emporia, including Commerical Street, the Lyon County History Center, and the Emporia Arts Center. Plus, Emporia is the Disc Golf capital of the world, so try a game while you are there!
This Bed and Breakfast is a unique place to stay, and features lots of cozy amenities.
Recommended by Lelan Dains of Visit Emporia
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Discover San Diego’s rich military history this Veteran’s Day with museums, monuments, and more. The USS Midway Museum aboard the decommissioned USS Midway aircraft carrier is the most visited of the 100-plus historic naval ship museums in the continental United States. Berthed at Navy Pier along San Diego Bay, the Midway is a floating tribute to the hundreds of thousands of men who served their country aboard the ship for nearly 50 years. Highlights include self-guided audio tours; more than 40 exhibits and displays, including many restored aircraft; and access to the mess deck, berthing spaces, hangar deck, flight deck, and island superstructure.
The San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park is home to a massive collection of classic military aircraft ranging from the dawn of flight through WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the jet age, and beyond. The museum also features an International Aerospace Hall of Fame, honoring the inventors, engineers, pilots, and industrialists who created and built airplanes.
Along the paths of Cabrillo National Monument sit the remains of coastal defenses built to protect the approaches to San Diego Bay. While visiting the park, you will find base-end stations, fire control stations, searchlight bunkers, and other remains of troubled times. Housed in an old radio station, the exhibit “They Stood the Watch” shares the story behind these remains, and ranger talks are often given on weekends.
The Port of San Diego showcases an inspiring collection of military heritage artworks dubbed the “Greatest Generation Collection” along its Embarcadero. For example, the “USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial” is a striking monument commemorating the distinguished World War II service of San Diego’s namesake cruiser. The “Homecoming” sculpture depicts the happy return of a sailor from the sea, reunited with wife and child. The black obelisk and bronze sculptures of the “Aircraft Carrier Memorial” honor all who’ve served on the Navy’s aircraft carriers. The Admiral Sprague bust presides from its pedestal over the “Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial,” a fitting remembrance of one of the most desperate and heroic naval actions in U.S. history. Lastly, the “Military Tribute to Bob Hope” honors the famed entertainer’s efforts. All artwork is located in a beautiful waterfront park on Harbor Drive at the G Street Mole in downtown San Diego.
For lodging, book Intercontinental: San Diego, located one block from the USS Midway Museum and the USS San Diego Memorial.
Recommended by Jordana from the San Diego Tourism Authority
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There’s much more than music and beignets in this energetic city. The creativity runs deep and every bit of it seems to have gone into the National WW II Museum. We didn’t have much time when we visited and that was a mistake. The couple hours we spent going through the immersive exhibits taught me more about this war than I had learned in years of school. Lots of newly declassified information put into visually pleasing exhibits. Lots of personal moments shared publicly for the first time. These faceless men and women we send off to fight our wars have all the loves, and inner turmoil that we have, and this museum gives us the big picture and slides right into the most private of moments too. The National WWII Museum is much more than just the Holocaust, which is how I largely know WWII. It’s about military strategy and how the Allies fought against Hitler and his horrible henchmen. Despite the occasionally gruesome topic matter, it’s a museum I would definitely bring my young boys to visit. Exposing our young generation to this topic matter is the best insurance we have against it happening again. The museum is enormous. Four separate pavilions, a restaurant, and teaching hall surround visitors with the sights and sounds of the war. Each pavilion has multiple floors. There’s even a 4D theater showing a documentary that speaks to the turn of the war. The National WWII Museum is at once thoughtful and inspiring and easily a weekend experience.
Starting on Veteran’s Day 2022, a brand new nighttime exhibit called Expressions of America showcases the war through a light show, 1940’s inspired music, and personal accounts of the struggle. Don’t miss the vintage cocktails! Other Veterans Day activities include ‘Feed the Troops at Higgins Hotel‘ and the annual Victory Ball, a lavish reception featuring cocktails and culinary creations, live music, and entertainment.
The museum has dinners and big band shows and is constantly expanding and building upon the arts and contributions of this era. Check the show page to see what’s available before you go. Plan your visit by dedicating the first part of the day to exploring the past and then head out to appreciate the freedom these men and women ensured through the culinary, artistic, and toe-tapping delights for which New Orleans is famous.
Next door, the Higgins Hotel is an art deco luxury masterpiece stewed in decorations of this time. Rooms are decorated in bright colors and sharp furnishings with paintings that are tributes to our veterans. There is no better way to immerse and enjoy an intentional weekend in New Orleans and walk away with a piece of history.
Recommended by Rina Baraz Nehdar of LAFamilyTravel.com
Chicago is the perfect city for a mix of history, fun, and culture this Veteran’s Day. The National Veterans Art Museum is an excellent way to view art inspired by military service and combat, all by artists who are actual military veterans. Some of the exhibits change, but permanent galleries include those dedicated to Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried and Kurt Vonnegut (both authors are bound to show up on your child’s summer reading list).
The Pritzker Military Museum & Library, which also features rotating exhibits, is dedicated to preserving and teaching military history. The highlight, however, is permanent: the Medal of Honor Gallery. Read about the gallantry and valor of the heroes who have earned this prestigious award while in combat.
If you’re looking to stay in the city, the Hilton Chicago is a perfect option for families. The hotel offers one- and two-bedroom suites plus quick access to Grant Park, Shedd Aquarium, and much more. Since it’s a large travel hub, there are numerous flights, buses, and trains to Chicago daily, meaning the hardest part of getting your family to Chicago is getting them out of the house on time!
Recommended by Rachel of Bucket List Places
Philadelphia is one of the most family-friendly places to visit to learn about the history of the United States. The Museum of the American Revolution is the perfect place for kids to learn and see history come to life. There are living history demonstrations, theatrical performances, history-inspired crafts, and free coloring books. This museum shows how the country started with the fight for independence from England. If you can’t make it in person, the museum offers a virtual field trip that takes kids beyond the battlefield. There are learning kits for school-age kids in grades 2-8.
A cherished institution in the city is the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This memorial honors the brave 648 hometown heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and features granite slabs etched with reproductions of photographs from the war.
The memorials of Washington, D.C., are impactful places to see the cost of freedom. While these tributes honor those who gave their lives in the service of their country, the sites also are fitting reminders of the bravery of all veterans who have served. The World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Korean War Veterans Memorial are centrally located near the National Mall. Visit Arlington National Cemetery to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the nearby U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and Military Women’s Memorial.
While the well-known Smithsonian Air & Space Museum features some military memorabilia, discover more in-depth military history at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the United States Navy Memorial Visitors Center, and the National Guard Memorial Museum (which has a musket from 1775!). If you’re unsure where to start, book a tour by veteran-owned DC Military Tours. While you are in D.C., you might even get the opportunity to take a peek inside the workings of our current military by touring the Pentagon.
Holiday Inn: Washington Capitol – National Mall is an excellent place to stay due to its affordability and central location.
Recommended by Christy of L.A. Family Travel
Honor brave Tuskegee pilots and see one of the best parks in Alabama by visiting the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama.
The park features Airmen Hanger 1 and Hanger 2, where you can learn all about the historical contributions of the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC). These incredible individuals were trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama and flew to both Europe and North Africa during World War II.
Learn about the Tuskegee Airmen and their missions as you explore over 20 outdoor and indoor exhibits that detail fascinating facts about their military contributions. You can also picnic near a scenic overlook and enjoy historic buildings from the 1940s.
For lodging, spend the night at the Days Inn by Wyndham in Shorter, Alabama. It’s nothing fancy but is a nice, budget-friendly hotel that is well-located near the site.
Recommended by Victoria of Southern Trippers
If you’re looking for an educational place to commemorate Veteran’s Day, Pearl Harbor is undoubtedly one of the best. Located close to Honolulu, Pearl Harbor National Memorial teaches visitors about one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the nation—the bombing of Pearl Harbor and how it led the United States into WWII.
Visiting Pearl Harbor’s grounds and museums is free, but it does cost extra to visit some of the memorials and sights there. In addition, reservations are encouraged as it is difficult to see the USS Arizona Memorial without them. You will also need to make reservations on the National Parks website to see the USS Oklahoma and the USS Utah.
There are plenty of other Honolulu attractions worth visiting that are also good places to learn more about the U.S. military and our fights for freedom. The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii is located at Fort DeRussy Military Reservation in downtown Honolulu and is a great place to visit for those looking to learn a bit more. Other sights on Oahu worth checking out are the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Tropic Lightning Museum, Brewseum & Home of the Brave Museum in the Kakaako neighborhood, and the various observation stations around the island.
The vintage White Sands Hotel is beautiful and affordable and has recently renovated rooms.
Recommended by Megan of Next Is Hawaii
Gettysburg National Military Park is one of the best places to celebrate Veteran’s Day with kids as they learn about the Civil War and see where one of the most famous battles took place. In the visitor’s center, families can see the uniforms worn by both Confederate and Union soldiers and learn about the equipment used during the time. Make sure to check out any special programs going on for the day, as sometimes there will be weapon demonstrations or other interesting events.
For touring the battlefield, you can either book a guided tour through the visitor center or buy one of the excellent audio guides in the gift shop to do your own driving tour. Plan to make several stops to get the most out of your visit.
If you can’t make it until after Veteran’s Day, consider going on Dedication Day (November 19), which is the anniversary of when President Lincoln dedicated the Gettysburg cemetery by delivering the famous Gettysburg Address speech. There will be a parade of Civil War reenactment soldiers through town as well as an evening ceremony in the cemetery where lanterns are placed by all the graves and the names of the soldiers are read.
For a convenient and family-friendly place to stay during your visit, consider Country Inn & Suites by Radisson. This hotel has free breakfast and an indoor pool and is only a three-minute drive from the battlefield.
Recommended by Kristin of World on Wheels
The aptly named Patriots Point is a naval museum in Charleston, South Carolina, with the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier as the centerpiece. Touring the aircraft carrier gives kids an idea of what it takes to serve in the Navy, with tiny bunks, mess halls, and every inch of space used as efficiently as possible. The main hangar deck of the carrier is filled with historic planes and fascinating exhibits that share tales of daring military exploits, from the brave pilots of the Doolittle Raid to the amazing sailors who brought disabled ships safely back to port after battle.
At Patriots Point, families also can explore the USS Laffey destroyer and see the immersive Vietnam Experience Exhibit. While you are there, book a ferry ride out to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. And don’t miss Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, which has been the site of U.S. defenses since the American Revolution.
The Mills House is a beautiful hotel in the middle of historic downtown Charleston. It’s within easy walking distance of the Charleston City Market and only a 15-minute drive from Patriots Point.
Recommended by Christy of L.A. Family Travel
When planning a trip to honor veterans, don’t forget to look close to home. Some military bases allow visitors, and many have unique museums offering perspectives on military history. Just three hours away from Los Angeles, Fort Irwin offers a glimpse into army training procedures with its community tours (even lunch is an MRE, a Military Meal Ready to Eat). The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, hosts an impressive collection of aircraft (and the Blue Angels practice nearby!), although currently, the museum is open only to Department of Defense cardholders and their guests. The museum at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, a National Historic Landmark, is open to the public, who only need to stop by the base’s visitors center and show an ID.
This Veteran’s Day, plan a special trip to honor the heroes who keep our country safe. Check out these destinations recommended by travel experts across the nation.
Veterans RV Meetup
One group of veterans has found a special way to commemorate Veterans Day by spending it together. Special Military Active Recreational Travelers, or SMART, is a nationwide RV travel club for veterans. They host meetups throughout the country, including regional musters for Veterans Day.
Bo and Karen DeBlieux have been a part of SMART since 2013-2014, and this year they are hosting a Veterans Day muster in Louisiana. Bo, a U.S. Army veteran, says members of SMART benefit from the camaraderie and friendships that are formed through the group.
The Louisiana muster includes opportunities for sightseeing and area activities, as well as nightly dinners and games. There will be a flag retirement ceremony and an Army vs Navy baseball game.
SMART’s slogan is “Seeing the Country We Defend,” and membership is open to all active, retired, and honorably discharged veterans from U.S. and Canadian armed forces. To join, visit SMARTRVing.org. For tips on getting started with RV travel and choosing the right vehicle, visit GoRving.com.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for Veterans Day to put these spots on your travel list. Use these ideas for your itinerary to add history and gratitude to your next vacation. And if you’re staying close to home this Veterans Day, remember to reach out to those who have served and thank them for their service.
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