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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.

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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A Hug For the World: British runner Kate Treleaven, co-founder of the One Run For Boston cross-country charity relay, stretches out in St. Louis.

The “Stink Mobile” never stops. Barring any unexpected detours, it will have trekked 3,300 miles when it welcomes hundreds of runners Sunday night finishing One Run For Boston — a cross-country relay to raise money for Boston Marathon bombing victims. Event co-founders Kate Treleaven and Danny Bent, friends from England, are taking turns sleeping in their donated 2013 grey Ford Escape, a logistical support vehicle that doubles as a motel.

One Run began in Los Angeles on June 7 and will end on June 30 at Boston Common, a few steps from the Boston Marathon Finish Line. Taking a scenic backroads tour of America, the route meanders through 14 states and is being tracked with a GPS baton along with a 24/7 Live Photo Gallery.

The purpose is to raise money for The One Fund Boston but also to showcase acts of human kindness and generosity in the wake of the April 15 terrorism attacks. Runners also passed through tornado-ravaged parts of Oklahoma and are earmarking that state’s donations to help families who lost their homes.

“This is a much deeper experience than a road trip,” says Bent, a triathlete and author who previously bicycled from England to India to raise money for child poverty. “We’re experiencing America from the inside out. People are inviting us into their homes. Every one hour and forty minutes, we meet a new person. It’s a like a spike of adrenaline.”

Runners from around the country are flying into Boston to join the ceremonial last 8 mile leg of the journey. Strangers have been donating frequent flier miles to each other after meeting on the One Run Facebook page.  Bent and Treleaven, who sometimes run alongside supporters, recently logged a 16-mile stretch to replace a Pennsylvania runner whose father had just died. Their tribute memorial run was coincidentally on the same day as the funeral.

Along with the inevitable tear-jerking moments, the One Run founders are also sharing plenty of lighthearted memories as they stumble across silly roadside attractions and truck stop oddities.

On June 16, the runners passed through Amarillo, Texas, home of Cadillac Ranch, a public sculpture garden where graffiti-covered junk cars are planted nose down into the earth. Bent and Treleaven painted “One Run For Boston” on one of the steel (yes, cars were not always made of plastic) canvases.

Road trippers Danny Bent (left) and Kate Treleaven pretend to spray paint each other at Cadillac Ranch on Route 66 in Texas.

“Every British person dreams about driving across America and seeing all the different landscapes. You can drive across Britain in just a few hours,” says Treleaven. “But we’re not going to the usual tourist places. We actually drove straight past the Grand Canyon!”

“This trip is about meeting people we would otherwise never have a chance to meet,” she adds. “We’re getting under the skin of America and loving every moment of it.”

**

(For more information on donating to One Run For Boston or joining the runners in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts anytime from June 28-30, click here).

– written by Darren Garnick

 

 

Photo by Reuters

Can he do it? This coming Sunday, the world will find out as Nik Wallenda attempts his latest daredevil feat: a walk across the Grand Canyon while suspended a stomach-churning 1,500 feet — more than 4 football fields — above the Little Colorado River.

Wallenda is no stranger to mind-boggling stunts. A year ago, this seventh-generation American acrobat made headlines when he successfully walked across Niagara Falls — a total of 1,800 feet — becoming the first person to do so.

Now Wallenda has his eye on the Grand Canyon, without the tether he wore last year (something Wallenda reportedly wasn’t happy about wearing, but which he did in compliance with the Niagara Falls Commission’s stipulations). This go-round, Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk, on land owned by the Navajo Nation, will occur without a harness, before a live audience (10-second delay notwithstanding). Two wireless point-of-view cameras will also be affixed to Wallenda’s vest.

Don’t think you’d want to duplicate Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk? You can still score bragging rights with your own dramatic adventure. Take a South Rim mule ride through the Grand Canyon, but plan ahead — trips may be booked 13 months in advance. North Rim mule trips are offered from mid-May to mid-October.

If views of deep chasms and astonishingly old geologic formations spread across 1.2 million acres are all the drama you need, hike the Grand Canyon. Or enjoy the dazzling, dizzying view of the canyon from the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bridge walkway that offers a 4,000-foot-high view of the canyon’s floor. Come night, crash at one of the 10 best luxe hotels near the Grand Canyon.

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The Obamas arrived in Ireland on Monday, and while the president attended the G8 summit in Belfast, the first lady and daughters Malia and Sasha were able to fit in a 2-day whirlwind tour of Dublin, exploring their Irish roots.

“There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama,” says the web-hit Irish folk song that went viral back in November 2008.  The president’s great-great-grandfather was born in the Irish village of Moneygall, and Ireland celebrates this connection by always extending a warm Irish welcome to the president and his family.

Michelle Obama and daughters learned more about their Irish ancestry with a special tour of Trinity College, where they viewed archives documenting their family’s Irish origins and saw the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illustrated gospel manuscript.

Other highlights of the first family’s trip included a private tour of Glendalough, one of the most famous monastic ruins in Ireland, and a special Riverdance performance at the Gaity Theatre, where Michelle Obama addressed an excited audience.

And talk about a power lunch … the first lady dined on fish and chips in Dublin with the “first rock star of Ireland,” U2 frontman and world humanitarian Bono.

This wasn’t Obamas’ first visit to Ireland. Back in 2001, the president visited his ancestral hometown Moneygall searching for his “missing apostrophe.” On this visit, the president met his 8th cousin, Henry Healy, now known as “Henry the Eighth.”

 

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REUTERS/Adam Ihse/Scanpix

This past weekend marked another royal wedding: the nuptials of Princess Madeleine of Sweden and American financier Christopher O’Neill. The much-buzzed-about royal wedding took place at the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Stockholm, followed by a reception at Drottingholm Palace, where the Princess was born.

Princess Madeline met her husband-to-be while living in New York, and Mr. O’Neill has declined a royal title so he can keep his US citizenship and continue his banking career.

Well-wishers lined the cobblestoned streets in Stockholm on Saturday as the royal couple traveled in a horse-drawn carriage through Gamia Stan, the medieval old town. The newly wed couple then set sail from Stockholm Harbor on a royal barge to Drottingham Palace for a lavish reception, with royals and celebrities from all over the world in attendance.

A royal wedding isn’t the only reason Stockholm is on our radar this month. Weather-wise this Scandinavian gem shines in June … quite literally. On June 21, thousands of tourists will flock to Sweden to see the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon when the sun shines for a full 24 hours around the summer solstice.

If you’re more of royal watcher than a sun gazer, there’s another big event to look forward to this summer: the much-anticipated arrival of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge’s baby. Kate’s 8-month baby bump is getting bigger and bigger every day, as seen at the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation last week. The royal baby is due mid-July and the world is abuzz with speculation, rumors and bets: Will the royal heir be a boy or a girl? And what will be the baby’s name and title?

Our bets are on Alexandra, Queen Elizabeth’s middle name. What do you think?

 

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World Oceans Day

We, as travelers of the world, have a lot to appreciate the ocean for: Travel and trade, food, medicines, communications, and just about half the oxygen we breathe.  And with concerns of increasing impacts linked to climate change, ocean acidification, diminishing overfished populations and endangered species, and polluted waters — we have many reasons to help protect the ocean, especially during travel.  Join the international celebration on June 8, World Oceans Day, by taking action to keep it healthy and beautiful!

Here are a few tips for making your future travels as ocean-friendly as possible:

Planning:

  • Consider Ecotourism options — Help make the local community a healthier, more beautiful place after your visit.
  • Travel shorter distances — Explore the “hidden gem” destinations around your home and appreciate what your own habitat has to offer.
  • Avoid cruises — Cruise ships are notorious for creating major issues with improper waste management leading to pollution, excessive energy consumption, coral reef damage, and other kinds of environmental degradation to regions visited.
  • Consider purchasing Carbon Offsets — Help balance the impact of energy used to travel by funding an environmental cause.

Transportation:

  • Ride public transit — Rather than using your own car or a rental car, consider trains or buses. These options can be less expensive than flying and greatly reduce the pollution caused by driving long distances. Plus, a train trip can take you through beautiful natural environments that you might never see by car.
  • Get around on foot or bike — Walking and biking around your destination can help you get a true feel for a place.

Where to Stay:

  • Consider staying in a “green” hotel or eco-lodge — Show that you support businesses that exemplify environmental sustainability.
  • Participate in water-conservation programs in hotels — Help save diminishing freshwater resources used for washing linens. If the hotel does not have this program, let the cleaning staff know that you don’t need your towels and sheets changed every day.
  • Borrow or rent from a local — Couchsurfing is a free service that will let you find a couch to sleep on during your trip. Airbnb is another popular site, allowing travelers to find hosts renting their extra bed, room, apartment, or house for travelers. This may give you the opportunity to save money, meet natives, and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Packing & Toiletries:

  • Leave little bottles of hotel amenities untouched — Resist the urge to take the small plastic bottles of soaps and shampoos from hotels. These can create more waste, often ending up in the ocean. Instead, use a refillable bottle from body care products from home.
  • Use multi-purpose, biodegradable soaps — Reduce the number of products you need to pack as well as the amount of chemicals washed down the drain or into local streams. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Castile Classic Soap is a biodegradable, vegetable-based, 18-in-1 uses product for cleaning, shaving, shampooing, and moisturizing.
  • Choose and apply sunscreen wisely — Look for biodegradable, organic sunscreens. Also, apply 30 minutes before going into water or else the sunscreen is likely to wash off right away in the water.  Such sunscreens and other skin lotions are made with chemicals and oils harmful to humans and the ocean.
  • Bring your own reusable bags — Avoid disposable plastic bags. Even when disposed of properly, the lightweight plastic can escape garbage bins and find ways into woodlands, storm drains, and water ways. Plastic bags are of the most dangerous marine debris, accounting for millions of turtle, sea bird, and marine mammal deaths by ingestion, entanglement, and suffocation each year. Even worse, plastic bags do not biodegrade.

Food & Drink:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle Avoid adding empty water or other beverage bottles to the waste stream by refilling your own container from larger sizes.
  • Seek local food — Look for vendors and restaurants with local ingredients rather than consuming goods that must be shipped to your destination from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
  • Only eat sustainably-sourced seafood  Consume fish that is local, not over-fished, or is responsibly aquacultured.

Activities:

  • Educate yourself – Enjoy a new place by learning about its wildlife and unique natural characteristics.
  • Volunteer in the community you’re visiting — This could be as simple as picking up litter in places you visit and disposing of waste properly.
  •  “Leave only footsteps, take only pictures” — Try not to disturb native plants and wildlife. Many countries have established eco-parks that allow tourists to see the natural beauty of a country without harming the environment.

Souvenirs:

  • Be careful what you buy — Don’t buy endangered species products such as tortoise shell, ivory, animal skins or feathers. Don’t purchase star fish or turtle-shell related souvenirs or any creature that may have been put to death for the sake of a gift shop sale. These animals may have been killed specifically for tourist trade.
  • Leave rocks, shells, seeds, and other natural artifacts in the wild — This will prevent any contributions to habitat destruction.

Celebrate World Oceans Day this Saturday by making a promise to protect the ocean or find an event near you!

- Lauren Goldberg, The Ocean Project

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 Travel moves you and so will our Watch Travel Channel App. Travel Channel’s brand-new app for iPad® and iPhone® refreshes daily, offering the full range of our video content wherever and whenever you want.  To watch the latest full episodes, you will need the username and password provided by your television service provider.  The app filters content by show, host, destination or interest, making it tap-simple to get ideas for your next vacation or nearby outing. Watch Travel Channel is a must-have for every fan – and it’s now available to download for free at App Store. We’re working on an  Android   version too; more on that later this summer.

Until then, check out our Mobile Apps page for more info about other Travel Channel apps, including The Layover app.

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.

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