Every November, Veterans Day brings America together to honor its Military Veterans. But remembrance of their heroic deeds continues year-round, at monuments, memorials, battlefields and forts across the country. And millions of people travel to pay tribute to our Veterans, relearn the historical significance of their sacrifices, and appreciate the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Where do all those people go? Since the National Park Service oversees many of these places, we turned to them for their list of most-visited war memorials in 2016.
The National Mall – Washington D.C.
Three famous war monuments pepper America’s two-mile-long Mall and are within strolling distance of each other. So make a day of it and visit them all: The somber tribute to Vietnam Veterans (5,299,713 visitors), the grand salute to World War II Veterans (4,856,532) and the life-size sculptures honoring those who fought in the Korean War (4,084,298).
Castle Clinton National Monument – New York
This 19th-century fortification can thank the Statue of Liberty for its popularity—boats to visit Lady Liberty (and Ellis Island) launch from here. But linger for a bit; take a park ranger-led tour or bring your lunch. The open-air sandstone structure has stood guard at Manhattan’s southern tip since 1811 and makes for a scenic and historic stop.
Colonial National Historical Park – Virginia
Travel back to the early 17th century as you explore historic Jamestown, America’s first permanent English settlement. Follow the 23-mile-long Colonial Parkway to the Yorktown battlefield, known for the victorious end to the Revolutionary War.
Boston National Historical Park – Massachusetts
Explore the grounds of the Revolutionary War’s first major battle and challenge yourself to the 294-step climb to the top of Bunker Hill Monument. Enjoy the view and make a day of checking out the park’s cannons, portraits, statues and museums.
Valley Forge National Historical Park – Pennsylvania
Put on your walking shoes and embark on the 28 miles of trails to see the park end-to-end; or opt for the 90-minute trolley tour. Either way, be sure to bring the kids and make stops for chatting with park rangers, listening to historic tales and paying respects at the National Memorial Arch.
Escape the state’s capital city and learn about the Civil War’s Atlanta Campaign as you explore this 2,965-acre park. Bring your binoculars for some bird watching, pack a picnic for the family or on weekends, ride the shuttle to the top of the mountain for unparalleled farmland views.
Fort Point National Historic Site – California
Take a close look at a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge and you’ll find this brick structure that kept watch over San Francisco from the 1860s through World War II. Built during the California Gold Rush, the Fort guarded the bay against submarine attacks.
Board a boat to honor the lives of the Sailors and Marines lost on the USS Arizona at this unique memorial in Pearl Harbor, overlooking the sunken ship. Tickets are free, which makes this most-visited spot even more popular. Before leaving the harbor, head to the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Gettysburg National Military Park – Pennsylvania
Known as the location of the turning point in the Civil War, this battlefield was home to the largest battle ever fought in North America. Tour the more than 1,300 of memorials across the park—covering them on horseback is an option—and be sure to visit the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, where Lincoln gave his famous address.
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial – Virginia
The former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee sits squarely inside Arlington National Cemetery (which is overseen by the U.S. Army). After honoring the fallen American Soldiers and other national heroes, stop by for a tour of this 19th-century Greek Revival-style mansion.
Minute Man National Historical Park – Massachusetts
Stand at the starting point of the Revolutionary War, where the first shot was heard at the North Bridge in Concord, Mass. Catch reenactments, musical performances and historical storytelling events as you explore the park’s highlights: the colonial home of Jacob Whittemore, the five-mile Battle Road Trail, and the Hartwell Tavern, a hotspot for travelers during the American Revolution.
Looking for more historical sites to visit? Give this one a try: The Top Secret Military Site You Can Actually Go Inside
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By Mike Dunphy