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11 cities where you can honor veterans in the United States

By Meghan O'dea
November 9, 2021
Shutterstock Rf 445161796
These are 11 cities from Philadelphia to Honolulu where you can engage with the history of military service members and thank veterans for their sacrifices.

Nearly 30 years after armistice was officially declared, formally ending World War I, a veteran named Raymond Weeks suggested turning the relatively new national holiday dedicated to world peace into Veterans Day to honor all US service members. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a World War II veteran and five-star general, officially signed the observance of Veterans Day on November 11 into law in 1954.

Veterans Day joined Memorial Day, established in 1868, and Armed Forces Day, first observed in 1950, as opportunities for Americans to honor the men and women who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard. But you don't have to wait for a national holiday to learn more about the contributions of veterans to US history – indeed, there are numerous museums, memorials, national parks, and national cemeteries around the country dedicated to telling the story of the country's military.


Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.

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USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor © Pung / Shutterstock

Honolulu, Hawaii

The US Navy has had a significant presence in Hawaii for 200 hundred years, particularly on the island of Oahu where Pearl Harbor naval base was developed in 1899. When the infamous Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 drew the United States into World War II, it cost 2,403 U.S. personnel their lives and another 1,000 were wounded.

Today you can learn more about the history of the US Navy in Hawaii, and honor the casualties and veterans of Pearl Harbor at several sites throughout Honolulu, including the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum Park, the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial, and USS Oklahoma Memorial. There are also numerous tours you can take that combine several of these sites together with expertise from a local guide – and even offer line-hopping privileges so you can stay focused on the history at hand.

Navajo Code Talker monument in Window Rock
The Navajo Code Talker monument in Window Rock Navajo Reservation © ullstein bild via Getty Images

Window Rock, Arizona

Native Americans enlist in the military at five times the national average, with the highest per-capital participation of any other population group in the country and a history of service that dates back to the first days of the United States' existence. Learn more about the contributions of Indigenous veterans at the Navajo Veterans Memorial Park, which honors the Dine code talkers who were the backbone of Marine Corps efforts to use Indigenous languages to create secret, uncrackable transmissions during World War I and World War II.

Note: the Navajo Nation has currently closed its borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kansas City skyline and Liberty Memorial
President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the Liberty Memorial in front of a crowd of over a hundred thousand in 1926 © Davel5957 / Getty Images

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City is home to the National World War I Museum, selected in 1921 in part because the city's rail station had proved quite the crossroads for thousands of soldiers criss-crossing the country as they prepared for, shipped out to, and returned from the front.

Indeed, the handsome art deco Liberty Memorial Tower sits right across from Union Station. But it's the museum itself where you can really linger – rather than focusing only on the US troops, the museum's collection includes items from every nation which participated in World War I and is one of the largest collections of WWI artifacts in the world.

Buffalo soldier. T.R. Clarke, 8th US Volunteer Infantry, standing in front of tent, during the Spanish-American War. ca. 1898
Originally members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, the name Buffalo Soldiers eventually stuck to all Black regiments who served in the US military © Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo

Houston, Texas

In 1866, Congress passed the Army Organization Act, allowing for the formation of four regiments of Black calvary who initially served out of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and soon spread across the western frontier. The men serving in these units soon came by the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" when they encountered Native Americans across the plains, and the name stuck to the 10th Cavalry from the Civil War through numerous other conflicts, including the Spanish American War and Philippine-American War, and on through the Korean War.

Some of the most famous Buffalo Soldiers include boxing great Joe Louis and ground-breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson. Even after the traditional regiments were effectively disbanded and integrated with white troops, their legacy lived on in songs by musicians like Bob Marley, The Flamingos, and Quincy Jones. You can learn more about the proud and complex history of these tenacious troops at a museum dedicated to their achievements in Houston, Texas – the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.

Gettysburg Sunset
Cannon at the Gettysburg Battlefield at sunset © drnadig / Getty Images

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg remains an important touchstone for Americans even 157 years after one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War was fought here and President Abraham Lincoln's famous address on national unity. At the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, you can learn more about why it was such a significant – and bloody – campaign that cost 8,000 soldiers their lives.

Take a tour of the battlefield itself, whether self-led, with a park ranger, or on a guided bus tour, and pay a visit to Dobbin House, an important stop on the Under Ground Railroad in the region and the oldest surviving home in the area. Last but certainly not least, pay your respects to the 3,500 Union soldiers who are interred at the Getysburg at the National Cemetery.

While it's just an hour and a half from Washington DC to Gettysburg, you can make a day trip or a weekend of it by booking a stay at the nearby. You can actually rent abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens' log home – built in 1790 and beautifully restored as a vacation rental – which is close to numerous historic sites like the Shriver House Museum and Jennie Wade House.

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Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois © Ray Laskowitz / Lonely Planet

Chicago, Illinois

Best known as the home of the Chicago Bears, it's sometimes easy to forget that Soldier Field is a memorial to those service members who gave all in World War I. But that's not all Chicago has to offer veterans or those who want to learn more about service members' contributions.

Pay a visit to the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, founded by Colonel Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG as a non-partisan institution dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding of military history and the many individuals who played a part.

You can also visit the National Veterans Art Museum, which for 35 years has collected over 2,500 artworks by those who have served in combat, not only in the US, but around the world. The powerful works in the collection range from paintings and sculptures to intermedia pieces and installations that reflect on themes from PTSD to portraiture, reentry to revolution.

Louisiana Memorial Museum Atrium is the entry area for the The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louoisiana. Floor displays include the Higg
In 2017, the National World War II Museum received a US$370 million makeover that included several exciting new exhibits © Carol Barrington / Alamy Stock Photo

New Orleans, Louisiana

You might be surprised that the National World War II Museum is in New Orleans rather than, say, Washington DC. But it was Louisianan workers who designed and constructed the amphibious Higgins Boat landing craft that helped US soldiers succeed in campaigns like the famous storming of Normandy on D-Day.

Today, the World War II Museum has a slew of artifacts in their collection, from preserved documents and footage to a restored watercraft, aircraft, submarines and more. If you really want to immerse yourself in history, you can book a tour that includes a ride on the PT-305 torpedo boat on Lake Pontchertrain.

A group of Maryland Army National Guard soldiers attended the reopening of the Army Women?s Museum, Fort Lee, Virginia, Nov. 2, 2018. The museum has approximately 50,000 visitors each year and the reopening ceremony marked one year of renovations that dou
R2WA23 A group of Maryland Army National Guard soldiers attended the reopening of the Army Womens Museum, Fort Lee, Virginia, Nov. 2, 2018 © Alamy Stock Photo

Fort Lee, Virginia

While women weren't officially allowed to join the military until the Army Nurse Corps was created in 1901, countless women served served their country since the American Revolution – and some like Cathay Williams even disguised themselves as men to get into active combat. You can learn more about the long history of women in the military at the the US Army Women's Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia.

This unique institution first got its start in 1955 in For McClellan, Alabama, but has since lived a few different lives in a few different locations before settling down in Fort Lee Virginia in 1999 and expanding in 2018. Today, it's home to over 1.5 million documents, as well as uniforms, photographs, and other artifacts that paint a vivid picture of the oft-overlooked heroines of the US military.

Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum of the American Revolution opened in 2017 © Jumping Rocks via Getty Images

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Go back to the beginning of US military history at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. It's one of the most popular attractions in a city already packed with history, and goes beyond what you might have read in your elementary school textbooks to include the stories of women, African-Americans and Native Americans.

You can get a broad overview of the Revolution and how it unfolded, as well as more personal, in-depth look at figures like Richard St. George, who is the focus of a new exhibit called Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier.

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Visitor looks for a name at the the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington DC © Rick Gerharter/Lonely Planet

Washington DC

Last but certainly not least, the nation's capitol is, naturally, full sites honoring veterans lives and contributions. From the National World War II Memorial to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Women's Memorial to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, many are well-known, thoughtfully designed tributes to those who lost their lives fighting for their country.

Others, like the American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial honor a different sort of sacrifice, while the United States' oldest and best-known resting place for veterans endures at Arlington National Cemetery. There are also tours that combine some of the city's most significant memorials and give you a chance to hear their stories in detail from a knowledgable guide.

But there are numerous museums, too, where you can learn about US military history and the veterans who took part. The African American Civil War Museum tells the story about the men for whom military service was not just an act of patriotism, but also a path to freedom. For a particularly moving experience, opt for an African-American history city tour of DC that includes a stop at this unique museum.

The National Guard Memorial Museum encompasses nearly 400 years of this unique wing of the Department of Defense – and you can even take a virtual tour, too. American Sailors are honored with their own collection, too, at the National Museum of the US Navy, though as of October of 2020, the museum is closed while a new campus is constructed outside the current location in the Washington Navy Yard, allowing improved access. And, of course, the National Air & Space Museum and National Museum of American History have much to offer those interested in military history, too.

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Take an adventure in Door County, Wisconsin

There are fields upon fields of lavender, and orchards ripe for cherry picking. The root beer floats sold in the 1950s-era diner are known across state lines, and the beaches are some of the finest in the midwest. But to get to this spot in Door County, Wisconsin, you'll have to hop on a ferry and cross Porte des Mortes, AKA Death's Door. It's a stretch of treacherous water linking Lake Michigan with Green Bay, and it sits between Washington Island and the tip of the peninsula. Below the water - where your fancy ferry crosses - is literally an underwater cemetery. More than 250 ships sank on this short turbulent stretch of beautiful water, which today is home to the most stunning vacation cottages, lavender gift shops and historic hotels that money can buy. It all started in the 17th century, when a battle between Potawatomi Indians left the islands north of the Door County peninsula to attack the Winnebago Indians on the mainland. Poor weather and ridiculously strong currents capsized the ships, hundreds of people died and the stretch of water was deemed “Porte des Mortes.” But that’s not all. Legend has it that unpredictable weather and rough waters have capsized many a shipwreck since. The tally? No one knows, but it’s believed that thousands of ships have sunk on their short journey through Death’s Door. There's a tour for those interested in Door County’s deadly maritime history: the water here is so frigid that many of the sunken ships are still intact, and some can be spotted by snorkelers in the shallow depths. But if you want a less gruesome vacation - as long you don’t visualize the literal skeletons under the water - you can hop on the Washington Island Ferry which transports people year-round from Door County to the 22-mile Washington Island ($14 per person) in 30-minutes flat. In 75 years of operation, they haven’t had any near death experiences. Once you get to Washington Island, you’ll see why so many people attempted crossing Death’s Door to arrive. Continue your relaxing journey by heading to Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm & Shop (the island is tiny, so nothing is too far away). The lavender farm was created by Martine Anderson, who lived in the south of France and dreamed of one day owning a lavender garden. Dreams have a way of shifting and changing, so it wasn’t until she retired and moved to Wisconsin’s Washington Island with her husband, that she finally opened her lavender garden - which is actually a field containing 20,000 lavender plants, complete with a UPick lavender section. And yes, the scent is so heavenly, that if you look at the ground, you’ll see all the bees that are literally passed out drunk from it, no joke. About a minute away from the lavender fields by car or bike (cycling is a very popular form of transportation on the island) is the Stavkirke, a church inspired by one built in Norway in 1150 AD. This newer version was built by hand taking about a decade, and while it’s closed due to COVID, you’ll be at peace simply by wandering around the outside of the building, which is a work of art. Reward yourself post-ferry ride back to Door County’s mainland (you made it once again across Death’s Door!) with the most legendary root beer float in the midwest at Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, a classic since 1906. Lautenbach’s Orchard Country, you can snag all things cherries, along with cherry wine. Not sure which wine to buy? Here, they offer five wine samples for just $3 - or try a wine flight for $10. Cheers to Door County survivalists.

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Burlington, Vermont

After Birkenstock sandals, the most common accessory in Burlington is the coffee cup. Every third store on Church Street, the four-block pedestrian area up the hill from Lake Champlain, seems to be a coffee shop. If people aren't sitting and sipping, they're walking, riding extra-long skateboards, or even pedaling bicycles with java in hand. The thing about Burlington is, all that caffeine apparently never kicks in. No one ever seems in a hurry. Droopy-eyed shopkeepers, artists, and college kids always have the time to chat, play Hacky Sack, pet somebody's dog--or grab another coffee. The most popular coffee comes from Speeder & Earl's. The tiny Church Street branch (now moved to Pine street) offers around 10 brews that change daily, often with three or four from Central America alone. The roasting takes place at a bigger location a few blocks away. As with Bartles & Jaymes, there's no real Speeder or Earl; the name derives from a 1950s song by the Cadillacs. But the company's logo is a sort of metaphor for Burlington's split personality. On every cup is a cartoon of two men: a thin dude with slick black hair and a leather jacket, and a David Crosby type with a mustache and long hair. The mountain-man beard is alive and well in Burlington, but the town also has its edgier side--perhaps the result of the five area colleges, which attract tons of out-of-state students. You'll spot a fair share of tattoos and black clothing. Good music and good food are priorities, and big reasons why so many students stick around for years after graduation. On any given night, a handful of bands will take stages within a few blocks of Church Street, playing anything from Allman Brothers covers to hip-hop originals that are more hippie than gangsta. Red Square, a labyrinth of a place with multiple interconnected rooms, and Nectar's, stomping grounds for the jam band Phish, score points for reliably talented musicians who experiment to keep things interesting. For lunch, the Red Onion (moved to Charlotte, VT) Cafe's signature sandwich--hot turkey, thin apple slices, tomato mayo, smoked Gruyère, and red onion on your choice of homemade bread--is legendary. Vermont Pub & Brewery serves excellent bar food and the best pints in town. There's even homemade root beer. It seems like a waste to visit Vermont and not take in fresh air, green mountains, and lakes. Knock out all three by renting a bike at non-profit Local Motion, and go for a ride on the converted rail path that borders the lake. To really escape into the country, bring your bicycle on the scenic hour-long ferry and explore the winding mountain roads across the lake in Port Kent, N.Y. The country vibe continues back on the Vermont side at Willard Street Inn, despite the fact that the converted mansion is just four blocks from Church Street. Guests wake to breakfast in a handsome room with a piano and checkered marble floors, overlooking evergreens and a huge garden dotted with Adirondack chairs. For more information visit Vermont Vacation site.

Inspiration

There’s never been a better time to visit Alaska

With COVID-19 vaccines readily available across the US, there’s never been a better time to cross off your Alaska bucket list trip than now! Alaska is HUGE and that can be intimidating for visitors planning a trip. We’ve put together a handy guide to help you plan your Alaska vacation, using the beautiful Anchorage, Alaska as the best place to organize your adventure. credit: JodyO.Photos, Visit Anchorage Getting there Flying: Anchorage boasts the biggest airport in Alaska, supporting around 240 flights each day from all around the world. Direct flights to Anchorage are available from most major airports across the US. A floatplane soars over Anchorage. Credit: JodyO.Photos | Visit Anchorage When to go Summer and winter offer very different experiences! Anchorage is so far north that in summer, the sun doesn’t set until midnight! Summer in Alaska leaves plenty of daylight hours to pack in as much outdoor adventuring as possible. Winter provides some great opportunities to see the northern lights, go dog-sledding, and experience the snow. We recommend at least a 7-day stay to fully appreciate the variety of things to do. Where to stay Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, and is our favorite jumping-off place for a ton of Alaska adventures. The city promises to offer plenty of things to do for city-dwellers, nature lovers and families. Anchorage combines the wild beauty of Alaska with all the convenience of urban comfort. Budget travelers can find affordable accommodations in several local hostels, and motels. There are also quite a few hotels and resorts for those who want to splurge or book with points. Hikers enjoy the view of Portage Glacier from Portage Pass Trail outside Anchorage. Credit: JodyO.Photos, Visit Anchorage. Getting Around Anchorage is the central point for air travel in Alaska. Air travel is such a common way to get around this huge state, that there are more pilots per capita than anywhere else in the USA! Taking a sightseeing plane from Anchorage is the best way to visit Alaska’s national parks. The Alaska Railroad is also a great way to see the expanse of Alaska! The railroad operates year-round (though service varies seasonally), and connects almost 500 miles of track from Seward in the south to Fairbanks in the north. Seasonally themed routes will show visitors the aurora borialis, or tour the glaciers that formed so much of the landscape. Watching a late summer sunset on the Coastal Trail. In summer, Anchorage gets up to 22 hours of sunlight per day. Credit: Roy Neese, Visit Anchorage What to do Alaska offers so many varied activities that it’s impossible to list them all! Using Anchorage as a jumping off point to explore the best that Alaska has to offer. Anchorage features 60 glaciers within 50 miles of its downtown core, six mountain ranges, and 300 miles of wilderness trails for outdoor adventurers to explore. Visitors can see bears, whales, and other native wildlife. In the summer, there is an urban salmon stream for some of the best fishing opportunities. In winter, go dog-sledding and see the aurora. Take a scenic drive into the mountains or down the coast to see some of the best views Alaska has to offer. The Chugach Mountains are Alaska’s most accessible natural area. Several of its top trailheads are located within a 20 minute drive from downtown. This huge mountain range is one of the largest state parks in America, and offers 9000 square miles of outdoor adventures. You can go hiking, rafting, biking, kayaking and fishing. Denali National Park contains the highest peaks in the USA. Credit: Ashley Heimbigner, Visit Anchorage National Parks Did you know that Alaska has more than half of all of America’s national park land? With over 33 national parks and wildlife refuges, it’s nearly impossible to see them all! Anchorage offers a way to see 4 of the 5 major National Parks in Alaska. Take a sightseeing trip to Denali National Park, the home of North America’s highest peak. See the glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park. Visit the fat bears of Katmai National Park (but don’t get too close!). Take a seaplane to the remote wilderness of Lake Clark National Park. Last but not least, explore the massive Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island! In summer or winter, there's never been a better time to visit Alaska! This content was produced in partnership with Visit Anchorage.

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10 best LGBT+ bars across the United States

June is dedicated to Pride month in the United States and around the world to honor and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Get in on the festivities at these 10 best LGBTQ+ bars in the country where queer people can be free to be themselves year round. Support these businesses to help maintain safe spaces for queer folks to gather and celebrate as they please. Unfortunately, lesbian bars have been closing up shop lately. In the 80s there were about 200 lesbian bars in the U.S., today there are fewer than 25. The Lesbian Bar Project aims to support the remaining lesbian bars across the U.S. Queer women and non-binary people need dedicated bars where they can be themselves since they may not always feel welcome at traditional gay bars geared towards men. The Stonewall Inn - New York City Pride honors the Stonewall Riots, a series of protests led by Black and Latinx trans women including Marsha P. Johnson, Zazu Nova, and Sylvia Rivera in June of 1969 after NYPD raided the gay bar The Stonewall Inn. The uprising was a catalyst for the modern gay rights movement. Today, the iconic gay bar partners with The Brooklyn Brewery to create The Stonewall Inn IPA which benefits The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative. The Lipstick Lounge - Nashville, TN What could be more fun than singing karaoke surrounded by queer women and non-binary people? All that magic and more can be found at The Lipstick Lounge in Nashville, TN. Karaoke kicks off every night at 7 p.m. Other weekly events include live music, trivia, and more.Stacy’s @ Melrose - Phoenix, AZ No list of LGBTQ+ bars would be complete without at least one epic spot for a drag queen show. Stacy’s at Melrose in Phoenix, AZ is often hailed as the best gay bar in town. The friendly neighborhood spot is known for the happy hour drag show Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. A League of Her Own - Washington, DC The U.S. capital is home to one of the most celebrated lesbian bars, A League of Her Own. Located in Washington D.C.’s queer-friendy Adam’s Morgan neighborhood, there’s never a cover at this queer drinking hole. Cubby Hole - New York City New York City’s Cubby Hole is a gay bar frequented by lesbians and queer women with a laid-back atmosphere. The epic happy hour special includes half off beer, wine, and well drinks Monday through Saturday until 7 p.m. The Loft - San Diego, CA Located in San Diego, CA, The Loft was rated the best gay bar in the country in 2019. It’s a relaxing spot to sit outside and enjoy the southern California weather with a few ice-cold beers and great company. Big Chicks - Chicago, IL Big Chicks in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, IL is a quirky spot adorned with artwork from local artisans. If you’re looking for a dance floor, go on the weekend when a DJ spins the best songs to groove to with your queer pals. Chill Bar - Louisville, KY As the name says, this relaxed gay bar in Louisville, KY is a chill spot to unwind offering trivia nights, show tune sing-alongs, and more. Chill Bar is also decked out with a beautiful mural declaring to everyone who walks by that love is all we need. The Stable - Providence, RI One of the best gay bars in Providence, RI is The Stable. Don’t miss the Sangria Sunday drag show from noon to 7 p.m. Ripcord - Houston, TX The second oldest gay bar in Texas is also the state’s oldest leather bar. Houston’s Ripcord has been the spot for gay men to gather and mingle since the 80s and is located in the LGBTQ+ friendly Montrose neighborhood.

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