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Why is the National WWII Museum in The Big Easy? (All photos: National WWII Museum)

Between Pearl Harbor and the end of the Second World War, railroads provided more than 40 million rides to Americans on active military service.

With that statistic in mind, the National World War II Museum will mark Veterans Day Nov. 11 with the opening of a stationary railroad car of 1940s vintage.

According to Clem Goldberger, a vice president at the museum, visitors on the Pullman car will feel like they’re actually moving — thanks to modern computer wizardry.

National WWII Museum railway

WWII train depot, recreated at WWII Museum.

“Everyone went off to war by train,” says Clem Goldberger, “and those who came back returned home the same way. Our train car will feature a video scrapbook and have vintage music. It’s going to really feel like it did during the war. Our guests will see 1940s America going by.” About the only thing missing will be the soot from the steam engine, she adds.

Now that you’re intrigued, you’re probably wondering: Just why is the National World War II Museum located in New Orleans in the first place?

The massive National World War II Museum, officially recognized by Congress, is located in New Orleans because founding historian Stephen Ambrose of Band of Brothers fame wanted to pay tribute to Andrew Jackson Higgins, the New Orleans-based designer of the amphibious landing craft that proved so decisive on D-Day, the day the Allies invaded Nazi-occupied Europe.

Pullman car at WWII Museum in New Orleans

Inside the Pullman car at the WWII Museum.

The boats were manufactured in The Big Easy.

Called the D-Day Museum before its enormous expansion, the National World War II Museum features several films, USO shows, 40s-style restaurants, and hundreds of exhibits and artifacts as well as a gift shop. A special Veterans Day program is planned for today.

A newly created website, www.myveteransday.org, is hoping to collect a million thank-yous for veterans who served in the American armed forces.

Learn more about the National WWII Museum at www.nationalww2museum.org.

 

About the Author: Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ, is travel editor of Sirius XM’s Maggie Linton Show and New Jersey Lifestyle Magazine. He is also the author of 36 baseball books.


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October is Family History Month, and with it there’s ample opportunity to dig deeper into your family roots. An estimated 80 million Americans are following that interest, making genealogy one of the most popular hobbies in America. For travelers, a focus on genealogy can also translate into a deeper travel experience — check out these tips from genealogist D. Joshua Taylor of FindMyPast.com for uncovering your family history while traveling:

• Contact the local genealogical society in advance of your visit, they might have evening hours or be willing to open their doors for you to help with your research. Local volunteers often know cemeteries, historic sites and other key areas.

• Use old city directories at the public library to find the address where your relatives might have lived. Go visit (but be sure to check older maps in case street names have changed).

• Search for local newspaper indexes – or the newspapers themselves – at local libraries.

• Take some crayons and large paper along to make rubbings from gravestones. Preserving symbols and inscriptions can be a wonderful “keepsake” when you return home.

• When visiting capital cities, visit the state archives or historical society to conduct research. Always, always, always check the family files at local archives and societies. They often contain one-of-a-kind resources not found online.

• It never hurts to schedule a few moments with distant relatives – who knows what letters or diaries they might have!

• Keep coins nearby – many local libraries and other repositories require payment for copies in change.

Every October, normally family-friendly amusement parks transform into terrifying Halloween-themed attractions. Get your adrenaline pumping by taking a trip on an already-hair-raising ride – but in complete darkness. Then, try not to scream like a 14-year-old girl when a “scareactor” attempts to freak you out.

Scarywood

At Silverwood Theme Park’s Scarywood, parents are not encouraged to bring their children during the month of October because it’s … scary. Real scary. Watch out for the ghouls and other “scareactors” that roam the grounds, looking to frighten unsuspecting park-goers. For a particularly harrowing experience, hop aboard the Zombiewood Express, and watch as a group of “zombie killers” picks off the freaky creatures trying to attack the train.

Here’s what you can expect:

Howl-O-Scream

What’s freakier than a super-freaky haunted house? Going through it completely and utterly alone. Start your tour of Busch Gardens Tampa’s Howl-O-Scream with a terrifying tour of the Alone House. After the approximately 20 minutes of horror, you’ll be properly primed for your creepy experience at the Halloween-ified amusement park.

Check out the other thrills Howl-O-Scream offers:

For even more amusement parks-turned-Halloween-playgrounds, be sure to tune in for Halloween Night Frights, premiering tonight at 10|9c.

Start your moon gazing. Sept. 19 marks this year’s Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which commemorates the end of summer … and the advent of a new season, similar to the American Thanksgiving. According to Chinese tradition, this annual harvest celebration occurs on the 15th day of the eighth month, on Chinese calendars, typically in September or early October, around the autumnal equinox.

That timing spells a good reason to hit up NYC’s diverse neighborhoods: In NYC’s Chinatown, you’ll want to try to the sweet tasty mooncakes, which have been flying off pastry-store shelves over the past few days in anticipation of the holiday. The round cakes are a symbol of the full moon and good fortune. And who wouldn’t want to eat to that?

On the West Coast, LA Chinatown will host its 75th annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival on Saturday, Sept. 21. The festival, which will take place in Chinatown’s Central and West Plaza, will include hands-on cultural workshops and cultural performances, as well as a busy Asian night market.

Can’t make it to LA or NYC? Check out these other top things to do in September to round out the month. One way or another, look out your window tonight: There’s bound to be a bad moon rising.

See how some of the Travel Channel editors spent their Independence Day. Then, show us how you spent yours! Instagram your photos with the hashtag #TCJuly4th and we’ll feature our favorites on the blog!

Fourth of July

Top Row, Left to Right:

“Happy July 4th from Kensington, MD!” - Jessica Menk, Digital Editorial Designer

“Sitting on the steps of Department of Labor, waiting for fireworks to begin on the National Mall.” - Vanessa Mack, Photo Editor

“Here’s a shot of Mike Espenshade resting before the start of Civil War reenactments. He’s been a re-enactor for the past 30 years, and this week he’s joined 40,000 compatriots to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and a “new birth of freedom” – the Fourth rocked in Gettysburg!” - Lisa Singh, Interactive Producer

Bottom Row, Left to Right:

“There’s no better way to celebrate America’s birthday than by watching America’s favorite pastime! Cold beer, a great game and a cone of soft-serve vanilla ice cream made for the perfect Independence Day.” – Allee Sangiolo, Interactive Producer

“Even under repairs, the Washington Monument glows in anticipation of 4th of July fireworks on the National Mall.” – Robin Bennefield, Managing Producer

“No cookout would be complete without a patriotic blueberry pie! But the credit goes to a friend — I’m a terrible baker.” - Sara Gilliam, Senior Interactive Producer

Fourth of July

We want to know: How are you celebrating the most patriotic day of the year? Will you be commemorating America’s independence by taking in one of the best fireworks displays in the US? Are you lucky enough to be spending the holiday at one of the best hotels for 4th of July celebrations? Whether you’re celebrating with a picnic, a party or plenty of pyrotechnics, we want to see! Instagram your photos with the hashtag #TCJuly4th, and we’ll feature some of our favorites on the blog.

Here’s to the red, white and blue!

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We asked our Instagram followers to send us photos of their Memorial Day weekend trips, and after browsing all your awesome shots … we have a serious case of wanderlust! Our fans did everything from participating in a Color Run to visiting the USS Constitution Museum to exploring the island of Oahu. We’re impressed! Check out some of our favorite photos, and follow us on Instagram for more chances to be featured on our blog.

Top Row, Left to Right
USS Constitution Museum- Jordanraynor; Tampa Color Run- cheryllwebb; Stamford, CT-mdonuk

Second Row, Left to Right
Colombia- bb_heartbeat; Portland Head Light- Jordanraynor; Solelydefined

Third Row, Left to Right
Santa Barbara- dcg; Old Mission Santa Barbara- ckmercier; Pipes Beach- hedder02

Fourth Row, Left to Right
Ocean City, MD- Teddyburr; Oahu, Hawaii- mskabukimono; Pat’s King of Steaks in Philly- rachel_haan

Last Row, Left to Right
Galenaonthefly; Cape Hatteras- fofagacademy; Mt. Shasta- natsten

Mother's Day Travel Ideas

You read that right. So don’t find yourself standing in a grocery store Sunday morning staring blankly at the picked-over cards and flowers. Whether you meant to get her a gift last week, just made a brunch reservation yesterday or completely forgot (whoops), we’ve got you covered.

Does your mom already have the travel bug? Help her take her yoga practice on the road with a eKO SuperLite Travel Mat or stay warm on the plane with the Sofia cashmere travel set. Our Mother’s Day gift guide is chock full of travel products sure to bring a smile to her face.

Or treat her (and yourself) by planning an escape you’d both enjoy. What better way to spend time together than on a gourmet chocolate tour of San Francisco or at a formal tea at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia?

And those of you who are mothers yourself, our hosts have a very special message for you:

April Fool's Quiz

Did you hear Richard Branson announced Virgin Atlantic is launching the first-ever glass-bottomed plane? That there are plans to turn 5,000-year-old Stonehenge into a glorified billboard at night. Or that YouTube is shutting down after 8 years? Here at Travel Channel we’d never stoop so low as to play a cruel April Fool’s joke on you.

In fact, in honor of this fun holiday we’ve rounded up the wackiest, most bizarre travel stories we could find. Are they true or false? You tell us and if you get them all correct you’ll win a $100,000 trip of a lifetime …

April Fool’s! We already did that. Sorry, we’re not above the fray after all.

However, ace our quiz and you can stand taller with the smug satisfaction of knowing that you’re smarter than your travel-starved peers. Good luck!

With St. Patrick’s Day falling over a weekend this year, parades, festivals and celebrations are planned across the US. Here are 5 cities with uniquely Irish-themed soirees in the works.

Boston

If pretty much everyone you walk by is wearing a scally cap or a Dropkick Murphys shirt, then you must be in Boston. More than 600,000 people line the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade route as it winds through South Boston – (but call it Southie if you want to sound like a local). Plus, scores of the political and politically-connected will gather for the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast at the Boston Convention Center (a chance to roast one another in the spirit of the day).

Best Craic: The World Championships of Irish Dancing at the Hynes Convention Center, March 23-31.

Chicago

Each year, 40 pounds of green dye are added to the Chicago River, turning it a bright emerald green – head to the east side of the Michigan Avenue bridge for the best viewing. Hundreds of thousands of people also show up at the parades that wind through Chicago’s streets, including the Southside Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 10, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 16. This year, city leaders are working to have the Windy City named as the US headquarters of St. Patrick’s Day as part of its ShamROCK Chicago campaign.

Best Craic: Celtic punk by the Tossers at Metro, Saturday, March 16.

New York City

Plenty of cities claim to have the best, but there’s no question as to whose parade is the largest. New York City’s annual procession up Fifth Avenue, started in 1762 by Irish soldiers in the British army, will draw nearly 2 million spectators. Step inside Molly’s Shebeen (287 Third Ave) after for some renowned lamb stew or shepherd’s pie. A white stucco exterior topped with shingles, sawdust floors and a warm fireplace make this watering hole one of New York’s most authentic.

Best Craic: McSorley’s Old Ale House at the 8 a.m. opening – everyone is still sober, friendly and excited about the day at this point.

Washington, DC

The Shamrock Festival is a massive celebration of all things Irish. On Saturday, March 16, visitors will jam the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds in Washington, DC, to experience more than 40 bands across 9 stages, beer trucks spanning the length of 2 football fields, a pub row and strolling entertainers. The Irish Village will provide step dancers, pipers and games. The city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade steps off the next day and will make its way up Constitution Avenue at noon.

Best Craic: Legendary traditional Irish group The Chieftains at the Kennedy Center, March 14-16.

San Diego

Swarms of revelers are expected to squeeze into San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the 18th annual shamROCK. Live Irish bands will perform on the main stage – including this year’s headliners the Young Dubliners – and a 150-foot Irish pub will be accessible streetside on F Street between 5th  and 7th avenues. Plus, there’ll be 80,000 square feet of green turf covering the streets of San Diego.

Best Craic: The Smiling Irishman contest at the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Balboa Park on Saturday, March 16. The winner takes home a special hat and a Blackthorn walking stick.

- Bill Burke 

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