Memorial Day draws a lot of people to Washington, DC where they spend the holiday remembering those have died while serving in the armed forces. According to Destination DC, "the nation’s capital celebrates with unique and meaningful events and exhibits designed to recognize the selfless service of our active duty military and veterans."
If you are going to Washington, DC for Memorial Day weekend, here are some of the "must see" sights while you are there:
Arlington National Cemetery
The Arlington National Cemetery is the country’s largest military cemetery, with thousands of veterans and members of their immediate family resting there. On Memorial Day, servicemen and women place American flags at more than 250,000 graves, with the Memorial Day Roses Foundation providing free roses to visitors who come in tribute.
Arlington National Cemetery is the home of several well-known historic sites, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is a tribute to unidentified fallen soldiers who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a large white sarcophagus that is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by Tomb Guard sentinels from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, thousands of visitors attend remembrance services in the Memorial Amphitheater.
Iwo Jima Memorial
Located outside of the Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial (aka the Marine Corps War Memorial) is one of the most moving monuments in the area. This breathtaking sculpture depicts the six American soldiers who raised the second American flag at Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945, signifying a U.S. victory in the Pacific during World War II. The grounds of the Marine Corps War Memorial are open from 6 a.m. until midnight, year-round.
The Country's Largest Memorial Day Parade
The National Memorial Day Parade ushers marching bands, youth groups, floats, performers and, of course, veterans, down Constitution Avenue. This televised parade is the largest of its kind in the U.S. and honors those who have served or presently serve in the U.S. military. Arrive early for the best viewing options.
Theparade is a moving timeline of American military history, honoring those who have served and sacrificed from the American Revolution to the present day. It draws on the tradition of Memorial Day parades, going back to the beginning of the holiday just after the Civil War, to create a family friendly event aimed at calling attention to the true meaning of Memorial Day – honoring our fallen heroes.
The Memorials Along the National Mall
The National Mall is America’s most-visited national park, where the past, present and future come together. The monuments and memorials in this park honor American forefathers and heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country.
The National Mall features plenty of ways to honor American servicemen and women. Visit the magnificent National World War II Memorial and its famous effervescent fountain. Stop to pay your respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Admire the steely faces of the 19 servicemen depicted in the Field of Service at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Visit the DC War Memorial, a circular, marble monument featuring the names of DC residents who lost their lives fighting in WWI.
By the time our daughter was 15 years old she finally caught onto what we'd been doing since she was about 5 years old ... educating her while we were on vacations. The summer after she turned 15 we took her on a 14 night cruise through the Panama Canal. We insisted that she be up at 5:00 AM on the day we entered the canal (letting her go back to sleep after we went through the first set of locks). Her complaint was a simple one: "why do I have to learn anything? I'm not missing any school for this cruise." My answer? "Because we're paying for you to be on this cruise." Since she couldn't afford to reimburse us for her share of the cruise, she grudgingly gave in.
The irony was that in the following school year she had to do a 10 page report and in-class presentation in World History. The topic she drew? Yup. The Panama Canal. At that point she regretted not going to any of the onboard seminars with the Panama Canal expert (she did end up emailing her with questions, a lot).
We have always been firm believers of making vacations fun, interesting, and educational. I blame my parents, who were both teachers. It also helped that when my parents took our daughter on summer RV road trips there was always an element of education involved. My mom had our daughter journaling every day they traveled (dictating before she could write); working on basic English skills, grammar, spelling, sentence structure, writing descriptive prose, etc. (my mom was an English major after all). There was also art and photography lessons involved.
Fun, but Educational
It's not too hard to figure out really. A trip to Carlsbad Caverns could turn into a lesson about geology. A stop a The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, would be steeped in history about the war with Mexico and how Texas became a state. Even trips to Disney World can be educational, learning about animals at Animal Kingdom, or about different countries at EPCOT. Disney also offers a range of behind the scenes tours that have elements of education hidden throughout.
People have varying opinions about animals kept in captivity (i.e. zoos, Sea World, aquariums, etc.). Your personal views will determine if you visit these places for educational reasons. One of my nephews, while visiting my parents during the summer, volunteered at a bird sanctuary. He's now studying Marine Biology in college.
Education does not simply mean reading text books and taking tests. When planning your family vacations, focus on what is not covered in school these days, as well as reinforcing what is covered. Sciences, history, social sciences, languages, music and the arts can all be addressed during vacation. You can also find ways to reinforce math and English skills.
Doing a road trip? Map reading is a fundamental skill that you can teach your kids, along with reinforcing math skills (determining how many miles left to your next stop, figuring out how long it'll take to get there based on the average speed driven, etc.).
Depending on your kids' ages, have them research the states or countries you'll be visiting, and let them participate in researching and planning where you'll go, what you'll do and see. You can also spur their interest about places you'll visit by having them read books based on the area. For example, if you were planning a trip to Prince Edward Island in Canada, you might have your child read Anne of Green Gables (if it is age appropriate). If you were visiting Monterey and Salinas in central California, books written by John Steinbeck might be appropriate.
Education can be personal history as well. Did a grandfather or great-grandfather land at Normandy in WWII? Did you have an ancestor tried in the Salem Witch Trials? Or an ancestor that immigrated to the United States from Europe? Vacations can be customized around your personal family history.
Education never has to be boring!
My mom has been working on our family genealogy since I was in high school. And over the decades she has discovered quite a bit of family history. I have several memories of trips that I took to Washington, DC with a list from mom – things she wanted me to find in the National Archives, the Library of Congress, or at the National Museum of the US Navy. She even tasked me with a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
My parents’ “genealogy travel” over the years has taken on more interesting forms (not just digging through old dusty paper files or stinky microfiche). My parents have gone “ancestor hunting” many times over the years – crawling (literally) through graveyards to do headstone rubbings, meeting with potential distant cousins that they’ve found through their research, and of course riffling through endless stacks of documents in city halls, libraries, archives, and churches.
Genealogy travel can take you all over the United States, tracing ancestors back to the Civil War, Revolutionary War, the Mayflower; but it can also take you overseas. Alex Haley may have spurred genealogy travel when he published his book “Roots” as some descendants of slaves have been able to trace their ancestors back to Africa (and have been able to go back to their ancestors’ villages). Holocaust survivors have taken their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to Europe on Holocaust Tours.
Tips on preparing for Genealogy Travel: Donna Przecha provides some great tips on how to prepare for a trek into your ancestral past. Two of her most important tips are to do your homework and make appointments in advance. When spending a healthy sum of money to possibly travel overseas in search of the family roots, you don’t want to waste time (or money) ending up in the wrong village, or getting there to find that the buildng you need to visit is closed, or the person you need to talk to is on vacation.
What to pack for Genealogy Travel: besides the standard travel gear (clothes, toiletries, passports, etc.) there are specific items you should pack for your genealogical research endeavors while traveling:
Genealogy travel or ancestor hunting, whatever you may call it, can be the ultimate in family travel or adventure travel (it all depends on how you define adventure). With good research done beforehand, and careful travel planning, you can make some amazing memories as you research your family’s roots.
At Ships 'N' Trips Travel we have been providing memorable travel experiences for our clients since 2005.