ALL POSTS IN [History]

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a trip to one of America’s stunning national parks? Explore the awe-inspiring rock formations of the Grand Canyon, wander through the spindly cartoon-like Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park, get inspired at FDR’s Hudson River estate and presidential library, go gator-spotting in the Florida Everglades or watch the waves crash against the national seashore. All of these incredible historic sites and natural wonders have been lovingly preserved by the National Park Service, often called “America’s Best Idea.”

National Park Freebie

Starting Saturday (and ending Sunday, April 29), more than 100 of the national parks that typically charge an admission fee will be completely free to enter, and a visit to any one of them will inspire you to help preserve all 84 million acres of them. If you’d like to get involved and help out with a project, visit Saturday for Volunteer Day. Or take your kids on April 28 to participate in National Junior Ranger Day, when kids will be taught to “explore, learn and protect” the parks and landmarks that we have inherited. READ MORE

Each year, half a million spectators line the streets of 8 consecutive Massachusetts towns to cheer on the 25,000 runners attempting to finish the winding, hilly 26.2 miles that make up the Boston Marathon. Held on Patriots’ Day — a Massachusetts holiday commemorating the beginning of the American Revolution — Boston’s marathon is the oldest and one of the most famous in the world.  

But the marathon, in recent years, has obscured some other – much older – Patriots’ Day traditions.

Friday Freebie- Patriots' Day

Get a free dose of history this weekend at one of the many battle reenactments and demonstrations going on in the picturesque towns of Lexington and Concord. This Saturday, watch as 300 British and Colonial troops demonstrate the “Bloody Angle Battle.” Or get an up-close look at Parker’s Revenge when the Lexington militia company ambushes a group of British soldiers. Hartwell Tavern and the Captain William Smith House –2 historic sites that have been restored to revolutionary-era glory — will also be free and open to the public this weekend. READ MORE

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

On MLK Day, we remember the life and struggles of Martin Luther King Jr., an African-American civil rights leader, who pushed the envelope, with countless others, to demand equal treatment of African-Americans and people of color.

Remembering the passionate, non-violent champion for civil rights is extra special today. For the first time, visitors can reflect on the man and his life, at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, located on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Dozens of people flocked to the memorial for a ceremony to remember King. Harry Johnson, the president and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial this morning.

Rev. Al Sharpton and senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar attended the ceremony. You may recall that Salazar recently gave the National Park Service a month to fix an abbreviated version of a quote, etched into the statue centerpiece of the memorial. The quote is from King’s 1968 sermon, The Drum Major Instinct. Writer Maya Angelou and other critics said the current version of the quote made King sound uncharacteristically egotistical.

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African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

If you’re in town over the long MLK weekend, chances are you may see the major memorials and monuments on the National Mall: Vietnam, Korean, Lincoln, Washington, maybe World War II, FDR and Jefferson, too. But don’t let those be your only sightseeing destination. Beyond the National Mall, DC is home to dozens of memorials with equally stirring stories — they may get less attention than the big names, but they’re no less compelling. Here are several worth paying a visit:

African American Civil War Memorial: The Civil War saw African Americans granted the right to fight in defense of their country. The African American Civil War Memorial, at the corner of Vermont Avenue, (pictured) honors the 209,145 such men who fought for the Union.

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MLK Memorial

As our country’s history of racial inequality and segregation recedes slowly into the past, generations of future Washington, DC visitors will find it hard to fathom a time when African-Americans did not have the same rights as white Americans. But the civil rights movement isn’t just history. It’s part of the recent past, especially for those who can still recall a time when they had to move to the back of the bus, attend different schools and drink from separate water fountains.

We all learn about Lincoln and Jefferson in school, but none of us were alive to witness their accomplishments. That’s what makes the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial so unique. For many visitors, the struggle for racial equality is an all-too-recent memory. It’s deeply personal, especially for those who lived through the marches and heard the speeches of the civil rights movement.

Jim Abercrombie, a DC resident who has visited the memorial many times since it officially opened this past August, says, “[The memorial] means more to us because of the struggle we saw [MLK] go through to try to bring people together and have peace, and he finally got recognized for it.”

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

With the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opening to the public just last summer, this will be the first MLK Day you’ll be able to visit the memorial. If Monday draws even a fraction of the thousands of people who attended the memorial’s dedication in August, plan ahead and prepare for crowds.

Here’s what you’ll need to know when planning your visit:

Location
Off the Mall, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is located in a remote and beautiful 4-acre site in West Potomac Park along the Tidal Basin. It’s close to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and on a direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials (which makes for a fantastic view and plenty of photo ops).  The official address of the memorial, 1964 Independence Ave, SW, commemorates the year that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.

How to Get There
Like all the memorials on the National Mall, parking is extremely limited so your best bet is to take public transportation and prepare to walk a bit. The closest Metro stations are Smithsonian and Foggy Bottom. For a longer but more scenic walk, get off at Arlington National Cemetery and walk over the Arlington Memorial Bridge, crossing the Potomac with the Lincoln Memorial ahead of you. Metro has helpful walking directions from all these spots, which you can find here.

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 blog_son-of-sam.jpg

In the “life is unfair” category, this one stands out: When it comes to serial killers, the victims are usually relegated to a number — faceless and forgotten. Like, “6 dead, 7 wounded.”

You’ll hear that number in tonight’s episode of Hidden City: New York City, at 9/8c: Host Marcus Sakey revisits the summers of 1976 and 1977, when a lone gunman — the Son of Sam, as he came to be known — accosted young couples in parked cars and shot them, point blank, in the head with a .44-caliber pistol.

6 dead, 7 wounded…

Who were the dead? Years ago, I tried to find out. READ MORE

mysteries-at-the-museum_ishi

The year’s almost over, but don’t let it pass by without a nod to this historic milestone: 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Ishi. Who was this mysterious man? Learn the amazing story of this Native American in tonight’s episode of Mysteries at the Museum. Here’s the backstory:

It’s the summer of 1911, and a man in a fur cape emerges from the wilderness on the outskirts of a California gold-mining town. “To find a wild person in 1911 was extraordinary,” says Christiaan Klieger, curator of The California Museum. Even more extraordinary was the story this man’s life pointed to: He was, anthropologists determined, a member of a lost Native American tribe. But how did Ishi survive all alone? And was he really the last survivor? Learn the full story tonight at 9/8c!

black-dhalia

The bright lights of Tinseltown have lured their share of young women. Among them was a raven-haired girl from Massachusetts who hoped to make it big in Los Angeles. But in the end, Elizabeth Short came to be known as the tragic Black Dahlia. In tonight’s episode of Hidden City: Los Angeles, at 10|9c, host Marcus Sakey explores Short’s mysterious death, which culminated in the gruesome discovery of her mutilated body in a vacant lot in 1947.

Sadly, Short was hardly the only woman whose life ended young — and, in several cases, under mysterious circumstances. Call it the Black Dahlia Club. If you’re planning a trip to Los Angeles, take a detour down these haunted streets; echoes of lives cut short still resound (hat tip: Esotouric and photographer Derek Hutchison): READ MORE

MLK Memorial
Photo: Reuters

Hundreds of people lined up today to be the first to visit MLK Memorial, a national landmark dedicated Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. King is the first non-president and first African-American to be memorialized on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

The Memorial includes a 30-foot statue of the civil rights leader, and 14 quotes from his speeches hand-carved into a 450-foot granite wall.

President Obama is scheduled to speak at the memorial’s formal dedication on Sunday, Aug. 28. Organizers believe more than a half million people will attend the dedication ceremony this weekend.

Plan your next vacation to see other historic sites in the US. Check out Travel Channel’s History USA travel ideas.

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