ALL POSTS IN [History]

Alaska Day: Annual flag raising ceremony in Sitka, AK (Photo: Sitka CVB/William Greer)

Hooray for Alaska Day! All the talk of American exceptionalism may have taken a little hit lately, especially from our friends in Russia, but today there’s something to cheer about: In commemoration of the official transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States in 1867, a special ceremony will take place in the southeastern Alaskan town of Sitka. Down goes the Russian flag and up goes Old Glory at Castle Hill, one of the most historically important sites in Alaska, once occupied by the Tlingit, an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, and later by the Russians.

A Little Russia … in Alaska
No word on whether Putin will be on-hand for all the Alaska Day festivities. But hundreds of locals will be — receptions, auctions, barn dances, kayak races and a whole lot more are all planned, capping off a month-long series of events that have already included a hat tip to our Russian counterparts, like a Russian food festival (check out our own Russian food tour), as well as performances of traditional Russian folk dances and a tea break at the Russian Bishop’s House, one of the few surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in the US.

But let’s be real: You didn’t come to Alaska to see Russia … not primarily, anyway. A trip to the Last Frontier State is probably on any outdoor lover’s bucket list. But just in case you can’t take advantage of all the Alaska travel discounts that typically accompany October, fear not — this is a good time to start planning a trip to America’s 49th state over the coming months. Here’s a primer of the best times to visit Alaska and special anniversaries ahead:

Winter Travel: November to April
November is a great time to see Alaska’s northern lights and share in the excitement of the Trail Sled Dog Race (the “Last Great Race on Earth,” from Anchorage to Nome). Plus, you can watch the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks (Alaska’s “Golden Heart City”). This season is also a great time to enjoy outdoor Alaskan activities such as heli-skiing in Alaska, as well as snowmobiling, snowshoeing and dog mushing.

Peak Season: Mid-May to Mid-September
You’ll be among the many visitors to Alaska during peak season, but for good reason: The days are at their longest, and the temperatures their warmest, affording plenty of opportunity for hiking, river-rafting, camping, fishing and flightseeing, as well as a chance to take an Alaska road trip.

Alaska’s Marine Highway System turned 50 this year. (Photo: State of Alaska/Reinhard Pantke)

Alaska Marine Highway System: Turns 50
Explore 31 ports of call in Alaska, courtesy of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Spanning an amazing 3,100 miles, this ferry service, which turns 50 this year, operates along Alaska’s south-central coast. Upon arrival in ports, offers visitors a variety of activities, such as authentic native culture (totem carvings, dances, traditional music and more), as well as day cruises with local tour operators, fishing charters and more.

Under-the-Radar National Parks
Sure, Denali is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But don’t forget Alaska’s other national parks, especially in 2014, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the 1964 federal law that protects nearly 110 million acres of wilderness in states throughout the US and is now considered one of America’s greatest conservation achievements. About 32 million of those acres can be found in Alaska — more than anywhere else in the country. Check out under-the-radar national parks like Gates of the Arctic, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias.

You May Also Like:

Brown bears, bald eagles — explore Wild Alaska.

Delve into geologic history at Glacier Bay National Park.

Travel in style aboard a luxury cruise in Alaska.

What lies beneath: For 30 years, the Greenbrier Resort’s west wing was home to a top-secret bunker for Congress. (All Photos: Greenbrier Resort)

It only took 16 days, millions of dollars in lost revenue, and the threat of a credit downgrade. But with the shutdown countdown finally underway, all eyes are on Congress like never before. Among the potential solutions that could have expedited the 2-week government standoff was this nifty idea from one American: Lock Congress in a bunker out in West Virginia until they could all hash out a plan to end the latest round of government gridlock. Not just any bunker, either: The Greenbrier Bunker.

For more than 30 years, this vast underground bunker (picture, bottom) existed beneath the Greenbrier Resort, located just outside the town of White Sulphur Springs, in Greenbrier County, WV — all completely unknown to the outside world. It all began in the late 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, when the US government approached the swanky, 1,500-acre West Virginia resort, which opened back in 1858, about building an emergency shelter for Congress in the event of a nuclear fallout.

Greenbrier Resort, home to Greenbrier Bunker

Bunker sketch: Artist’s once-classified rendering of what the underground bunker would look like in relation to the West Virginia Wing of The Greenbrier. The bunker’s construction stretched from 1959 to 1962.

The thinking went that no one would ever suspect Congress was hiding out in plain view, under one of America’s most famous resorts. And with Washington, DC, just a few hours away by car (and a stone’s throw from a nearby airport landing strip and train, the latter conveniently located next to the resort) – as well as the surrounding Allegheny Mountains to catch nuclear fallout debris — the idea for a bunker beneath the resort (codenamed Project Greek Island) seemed to make a whole lot of sense.

The only thing is the worst never happened, and Congress never got a chance to settle into the top-secret digs. But for 30 years, a small staff, known as the innocuous-sounding Forsythe Associates, kept the massive, 112,544-square-foot bunker in a state of constant operational readiness: Medications for every member of Congress were kept current; food rations were routinely rotated; sheets on bunk beds in the 18 dormitories routinely changed (see picture, bottom) and the maintenance and upkeep of medical, entertainment (like TVs) and exercise equipment were continually updated with the latest models. All of this at the taxpayer’s expense, to the tune of $14 million to build and several times that amount to stock with the needed provisions through the years.

Bunk up: Original bunk beds, intended for members of Congress, in one of the 18 dormitories at the Greenbrier Bunker, beneath West Virginia’s famous Greenbrier resort.

That all changed in 1992, when the Washington Post ran a cover story exposing the Greenbrier Bunker – and questioning whether taxpayer money was wisely being spent on a nuclear fallout shelter that had never been put to use. The bunker was soon decommissioned, and in the years to come it was opened to the public for tours — among the highlights are the Governor’s Hall, which was originally built as a chamber for the US House of Representatives; the cafeteria, which could feed 400 people in 1 seating; and the press room, with a tapestry image of the Capitol ready for any live TV shots. The vast facility is also used as a data storage site for a private sector company, CSX Corporation, which allows tours under the proviso that the public not photograph the premises.

Data storage is great and all, but the whole idea of gathering up Congress for a sit-down session might do wonders for expediting negotiation in the event of future shutdown scenarios. In our view, there’s something about being 720 feet deep into the West Virginia hillside, without the light of day, that may just make an elected official want to hurry up, get the job down and … maybe end a potential shutdown. Who knows, maybe the $14 million cost for this hideout could be well-spent after all.

Check out Travel Channel’s intriguing tour of the Greenbrier Bunker:

Courtesy of Siemens AG, Munich/Berlin

Starting Tuesday, Oct. 8, Londoners will get a first glimpse at the future of the Tube in London. The lnspiro — a full-size model of a futuristic train created by Siemens, the company behind the idea — will be on display at The Crystal exhibition center in Royal Victoria Dock to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.

The world’s first underground railway opened in 1863 between Paddington, in central London, and Farringdon, just north of the city, using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. Today, the Underground is a public rapid transit system serving 270 stations, including a large part of Greater London and parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex counties.

Siemens sees the Inspiro as the Tube’s future. And it’s probably no coincidence that the news of this futuristic prototype comes at a time when the government just awarded funding to the Transport for London to improve the tube service across the capital.

So in a nutshell, here’s quick rundown of the new train’s perks:

  • 30% more space on the train by adding dividing doors between carriages
  • 30% more energy efficient than current models
  • Full air-conditioning across all of its spacious carriages
  • 20% brighter with use of LED lights

Courtesy of Siemens AG, Munich/Berlin

The train can be operated without a driver, which may ruffle feathers at the trade unions if London were to use them in the future. And no word yet on whether the city will make a bid to use the prototype across London. So until then, locals will have to deal with overcrowded trains.

With Hispanic Heritage Month now underway, mark the month-long commemoration with a weekend trip. Hundreds of national park sites and cities nationwide, from Florida’s Ybor City to California’s Santa Barbara Mission, highlight the rich cultural heritage and contributions of Latino-Americans with roots in Spain, the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South Americas. Here are some of our top picks for Latino-American heritage sites worth exploring in both the continental US and its territories.

1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Go sightseeing in San Juan and explore colonial-era forts like Castillo San Cristóbal, powder houses, bastions and even an old city wall. Only 12 national park areas in the United States (and its territories) have been named World Heritage Sites; this is one of them. Dating back to the Spanish Colonial era, San Juan was one of the key frontiers of Spanish conquistadors due to its prime location at the western edge of the Caribbean.

2. Santa Barbara Mission, California
See the “Queen of All Missions” in Santa Barbara, CA. In the late 1700s, Spanish Franciscans founded the Santa Barbara Mission, the tenth of 21 missions to be founded by the order. Today, the mission continues to be an active church. Take a tour of the grounds, including the mission’s historic cemetery, which serves as the final resting place for Native Americans and early settlers of Alta California, as well as the historic garden, which contains plants representative of the Mission era (1769 to 1836), including olives, grapes and citrus trees.

3. San Antonio, Texas
Texas’ most-visited city is imbued with Hispanic heritage, having been founded by a group of Spanish explorers and missionaries in 1691. Some of San Antonio’s top attractions speak to its Hispanic and Latino heritage — see Historic Market, the largest Mexican shopping center in the city, and Mission Concepcion, founded in 1716 by Franciscan friars (and the best-preserved of the Texas missions). Plus, enjoy these other fun things to do in San Antonio, and chow down at the best San Antonio River Walk restaurants before checking into any of these San Antonio River Walk hotels.

4. Castillo de San Marcos (St. Augustine, Florida)
Constructed by the Spanish between 1672 and 1695, Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the continental US — complete with plenty of ghost tales. Located on the shores of Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine, FL, the fort’s dark history includes inquisitions, massacres, starvation and one twisted love triangle, in short a great lockdown investigation for the Ghost Adventures team. Learn all about Castillo de San Marcos’ history, as well as the unsettled spirits at the old St. Augustine fort.

5. Ybor City, Florida
Known as Tampa’s Latin Quarter, this historic neighborhood northeast of downtown had to make our list. Founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers and their thousands of immigrant workers predominantly from Spain, Cuba and Italy, Ybor City still holds tight to its cigar-making roots. Take a trip to Tampa to get a history lesson in cigar making — plus, sink your teeth into a Cuban sandwich at local favorites like La Tropicana.

6. El Morro National Monument
Head to New Mexico to see El Morro National Monument. In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors discovered this shaded oasis in the western desert; today, see graffiti left behind by previous visitors — signatures, names, dates and (sometimes embellished) stories of their travels on the great sandstone promontory.

For more places to visit nationwide, check out this list of American Latino Heritage sites.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. put the finishing touches on a speech in his hotel room before walking across the National Mall to deliver those words before a crowd of more than 250,000 people. On Wednesday, President Obama will be among the leaders gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that late August day in 1963, when Dr. King shared his vision of equality for all Americans.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, events have been unfolding across Washington, DC, over the past week. Slated for Wednesday, Aug. 28, a “Let Freedom Ring” Commemoration and Call to Action will take place at the Lincoln Memorial, with featured speakers including President Obama joined by former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Get the full list of events at MLKDream50.com. Due to the large crowds anticipated for the event, stay current on DC Metro details.

When you make your way to the Lincoln Memorial, think about its own dedication: Hard to imagine now, but when the Lincoln Memorial was completed in 1922, the dedication ceremony called for African Americans in attendance to sit in a segregated section. It wasn’t until 1939, when an African-American contralto, Marian Anderson, sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, after having been turned down at nearby Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, that the memorial came to symbolize much more than the reunification of North and South. Then in 1963, Dr. King sealed its new standing as a place to come to reflect on the meaning of equality and freedom for all Americans.

Nearby, see the memorial that stands in dedication to Dr. King himself. More than 20 years in the making, the memorial’s construction effort was led by Dr. King’s fraternity brothers at Boston University. Located on the western rim of the Tidal Basin, Dr. King stands resolutely, arms crossed, looking out to the Jefferson Memorial just beyond — a symbolic statement since one man wrote the words “All men are created equal,” while the other fought to make sure those words were realized for all.

The MLK Memorial itself is based on a line from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” While there, make sure to take a good look at the walls on either side of the sculpture. As you read the various quotations from Dr. King’s speeches etched on those walls, see if you can figure out the 2 most commonly used words. Chances are we still need to make good on them.

Plains Indian Museum Powwow

Plains Indian Powwow (Photo: L. Singh)

We love Wyoming. On July 10, 1890, the Cowboy State entered the Union, and with it a million travelers’ dreams were made. Including this one’s. Standing on Mirror Lake Highway, under the massive “Forever West” sign, puts it all in perspective: This is a place where you can roam free. And you’ll do a lot of roaming here. With just over 500,000 people — in a state roughly the size of the United Kingdom — Wyoming is the least populous of all the states.

Your first stop in this great expanse of the American Wild West is Cody, WY. Granted, this is a tourist hub, as the western-wear-and-trinket shops along Sheridan Avenue attest. But you sort of expect that: The town’s namesake, after all, was the late-great western showman Buffalo Bill Cody, who helped found this rugged stretch of northern Wyoming in 1895. See his apparition at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a complex of 5 museums that tells the story of the American west through western art, firearms exhibits and stories of the Plains Indians.

The world of Native American culture comes to life every summer, just beyond the museum’s doors. For more than 30 years, the Plains Indian Museum Powwow has showcased dancers and drum groups from Northern Plains tribes. Members of Native American tribes come from neighboring states, such as Idaho and Nevada, and in addition to performing, they sell Indian jewelry, bead and quillwork, clothing and more. Try the fry bread, hand-made by Arizona native Mary Sounding Sides. She’s been making fry bread at the powwow for the past 10 decades. What’s her cooking secret? “No secret,” she says, “just something I learned as a girl.” Make sure you stay for the grand finale: Flanked by American and Native American flags, dancers march away; they may wave to you and invite you to join the march as well.

Hotel Irma’s Gunfight (Photo: L. Singh)

More western lore comes to life at the town’s landmark, Hotel Irma. Buffalo Bill built this hotel in 1902, and named it after his daughter. The afternoon I swung by, I pulled a seat up to the cherry-wood bar that was given to Buffalo Bill by Queen Victoria — complete with an antique cash register from the early 1900s. You never know who you’ll meet as you sip a beer or lemonade; my bar buddy for the afternoon was a local Native American man named Oliver who told me about an upcoming powwow at nearby Wind River Reservation.

Stay ‘till the evening. It’s a little cheesy, but you’ll want to stay for Hotel Irma’s free gunfight show. Be patient with the sound system — this is live theater, folks, and sometimes the mics cut in and out. But you’ll get the basic gist, especially once you see “Wyatt Earp” shoot up outlaw cowboys Billy Clayton, and Tom and Frank McLaury.

Your next step: breathtaking Yellowstone. But you’ll need a full day for that. Check back later this week; we’ll give you the lowdown.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Travelers visiting Washington, DC, will notice something different about the city’s skyline. Although it’s closed for repairs, the Washington Monument is now lighting up the night sky. The National Park Service has installed 488 lamps on the scaffold surrounding the monument.

The rehabilitation is part of a welcome change. On Aug. 23, 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the 555-foot-tall monument, cracking and chipping stones near the top and shaking the mortar loose. The lights are expected to stay on until the popular tourist attraction reopens in spring 2014.

The Big Apple more your style? If you’re heading to NYC, there’s exciting news for tourists who want to check out Lady Liberty. Yep, after being hit by Superstorm Sandy last fall, the Statue of Liberty has once again opened to the public after a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 4th.

You may recall that the National Park Service closed Liberty Island following Hurricane Sandy; however, the Statue of Liberty’s crown reopened after a year of renovations. Last October’s storm flooded and damaged New York Harbor docks and Liberty Island’s walkways, buildings and electrical systems, but the 126-year-old iron statue made it through the storm unscathed.

Looking for more sightseeing recommendations for these cities? Check out our list of Washington DC Attractions and Top 10 Attractions in NYC.

Photo: Lisa Singh

You need to visit Gettysburg this Sunday.

While the past week has already seen dozens of events at Gettysburg coinciding with the battle’s 150th anniversary, the real epic event — the must-see attraction — is Sunday, July 7. That’s when upwards of 40,000 reenactors from all over America, and as far away as Canada, will descend on the fields of Redding Farm, near the historic 6,000-acre battlefield in southern Pennsylvania, to recreate what many historians call the turning point in the Civil War: Pickett’s Charge.

Just imagine: It’s July 1863, the country is already 2 years into the war, with casualties mounting on both sides, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee makes a calculated risk: to head into the heart of Union territory, near the town of Gettysburg, PA. Battles have been raging for 2 days, and by the third, Confederate victory is within reach. Lee orders an infantry assault against Union positions on Cemetery Ridge, and 12,500 men soon advance over wide-open fields for 3/4 of a mile. They don’t stand a chance: Heavy Union artillery and rifle fire burst forth, and within 1 hour some 5,000 Confederate men lay dead. While the Civil War will rage on for another 2.5 years, the Confederacy never fully recovers from the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge.

This watershed moment in the Civil War will be reenacted Sunday at 3:30 p.m. — just punch “1085 Table Rock Road, Gettysburg” into your GPS, and hit go. Plenty of parking spaces can be found on the edge of the wide-open field. (Visit GettysburgReenactment.com for more details.) Bring water, bring sunscreen, bring plenty of earplugs for the kids — because with 40,000 reenactors firing off Springfield rifles and cannons, you’ll need ’em!

Reenactor pauses before the start of battle. (Photo: Lisa Singh)

Now, granted, Civil War reenactors have a reputation for being a little … intense. But this isn’t some Dungeons and Dragons dork fest. (Check out this must-read from the NYT, Why the Civil War Still Matters — if that doesn’t fire you up for the Civil War, nothing will.) You owe it to yourself to spend time with some of these guys — I did and learned a ton! For one thing, I learned what soldiers actually ate. Heading back to Confederate camp with one reenactor offered that view. (Turns out, these guys and gals don’t usually stay in nearby hotels, but in tents, for days on end … with no showers!)

Cooking up johnnycakes, a staple of Civil War soldiers’ food. (Photo: Lisa Singh)

The evening I swung by the camp, one Civil War reenactor, John Hollinrake of New Hampshire, was firing up some johnnycakes on an open skillet — that’s 3 parts cornmeal, 1 part flour and 1 1/2 parts brown sugar. All cooked in bacon grease, leftover from the cured bacon that Hollinrake had fried up.

Hungry for more? Take a tour of historic Gettysburg, and see our roundup of more Civil War battlefields.

French bombshell Brigitte Bardot wears a bikini in a boat near Saint-Tropez, France, in 1968. (Photography by Robert Cohen/RDA/Getty Images)

This weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and with that comes the unofficial start to bathing suit season. Whether that gives you cause for excitement or dred, it’s the time of the year to bare it all. To kick off the start of bathing suit season, we took a look back at how this article of clothing (in more recent times, a very itty-bitty, teeny-weeny article of clothing) has caused such a stir throughout history.

The first modern-day bikini debuted in 1946. (Photography by Keystone/Getty Images)

If the swimsuit has caused such a stir, then the bikini has caused a cannon-ball-sized splash. The first bikini debuted at the Piscine Molitor swimming pool in Paris in 1946. The bikini’s designer, Louis Reard, a French automobile engineer, named the 2-piece sensation after the Bikini Atoll where the US had recently conducted nuclear tests. The model, a 19 year-old dancer, forever changed swimsuit history that summer day by donning the original bikini, made from 30 inches of newsprint fabric.

Over 65 years after the original bikini debuted, another important swimsuit moment occurred this year: The Sports Illustrated 50th Swimsuit issue. Every year fans eagerly anticipate SI’s swimsuit issue to see what bikini babe will grace the cover, and this year was no exception. Travel Channel was there as SI combed all 7 continents, crisscrossing the globe from Easter Island to Africa to find the most exotic and sexiest shoot locations. This year’s anniversary issue also included another first — the first fashion shoot on ice-covered Antarctica. Who would have thought the snow-covered beaches of Antarctica would be steamy enough to grace the anniversary’s iconic cover? We imagine model Kate Upton’s physique had something to do with heating up the icy cover shot, too.


So whether you’re ready for bikini season or not, dive back into history with us as we look at Swimsuits Through the Years.

You May Also Like:
SI Swimsuit 2013
SI Swimsuit Destinations
Swimsuits Through the Years
Models Bare It All in Africa

Photo by Thinkstock

Recently, I went to St. Louis to visit a friend, where we shared a room at the Hyatt right downtown, directly across from the Arch. That first day, we ate a late lunch at a great Irish pub about 4 blocks from the hotel. After a lot of walking around and shopping, we ended the evening by eating at the Brewhouse restaurant in the hotel. The atmosphere was very festive, as the Blues Hockey team was in town and on TV. They won and the bar flooded with happy attendees shortly after. St. Louis is a great sports town and we experienced it firsthand.

The next day, we got up early and walked about 2 miles to the famous Soulard Farmers Market, where we enjoyed people watching and drinking the best Bloody Marys I have ever had. Afterward we ate a great breakfast at a local hot spot, where we sat by the window watching people preparing for the annual Tap ‘N’ Run 4K.

After breakfast, we walked to the Busch Brewery and took a great tour, enjoying libations at the end. While walking all the way back to the Arch we definitely enjoyed the antics of the 4K runners along the way.

That evening we went to another hotel for a drink accompanied by a beautiful view of the Arch, then headed to another local hot spot for dinner, ending up at Laclede’s Landing where we enjoyed a great dueling piano bar.

Up again early the next day, we ate breakfast at a great local hot spot that specializes in all local foods before heading to the Arch. No trip to St. Louis is complete without going to the Arch. Unfortunately, my claustrophobia did not permit me to partake, but my companions did go inside and enjoyed it very much.

Before heading to the airport, we traveled to the quaint town of St. Charles where they were having their first monthly “Sunday Funday” of the year.

This was a great, quick, local flavor trip and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

- Written by Connie Schmid

Latest Pins on Pinterest

  • Queenstown, New Zealand as seen from the air.

  • Paro Valley, Bhutan

  • St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

  • Cuenca, Spain