America has plenty of patriotic holidays to celebrate and Veterans Day is one of them. While Veterans Day doesn’t get the same level of attention as say, July Fourth, it is still a great holiday to recognize those who have served and protected American freedom. Military veterans are a part of living history and many have been involved, whether directly or indirectly, with historic American events.
Here’s USAMM’s top 10 places to go for Veterans Day.
1. Places to go for Veterans Day on the East Coast
Washington D.C. is probably the best place to celebrate Veterans Day. For starters, there are military memorials at just about every turn. Head down to the National Mall and there will likely be some commemorative event being held to mark Veterans Day.
The Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials are within walking distance of each other and while these two memorials ordinarily attract large crowds during the Memorial Day weekend, they still have a lot of buzz around them on Veterans Day as veterans who survived those wars gather with friends and family to mark Veterans Day.
About 15 minutes away via leather personnel carrier (those are boots for the uninitiated), is the World War II Memorial which is also a gathering place for those who are celebrating their service, or the service of others during Veterans Day.
You can also witness the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery which happens every Veterans Day, or celebrate at the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial or the U.S. Navy’s Memorial.
In addition, some of the military branches offer entertaining tattoos which include performances by military bands and drill teams. The point is, there are numerous opportunities to celebrate Veterans Day in Washington D.C. With a little planning, you can make an already memorable day truly special for you or your family and friends.
2. Places to go for Veterans Day on the West Coast
U.S. Navy and Marine Corps veterans will agree, San Diego is definitely a sea branch town. With bases peppered all over San Diego, the Navy and Marine Corps presence is tangible.
If you’re a retiree or you are still serving in one of the components, check the bases for Veterans Day activities. Many installations hold golf tournaments and many are designed to raise money for veterans’ organizations and charities.
There are also plenty of parades, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, as well as other recognition events to attend. Many times, these events include veterans, like Medal of Honor recipients, who speak to audiences about their service. If you’re lucky, maybe one of the local bases has a graduating class and you can attend the graduation ceremony.
3. Places to go for Veterans Day in the Midwest
If you’re lucky enough to live in or near Chicago, Illinois, or if you’ve always wanted to visit the city, then make sure you visit the Pritzker Military Museum and Library during Veterans Day. If you’re active duty, call ahead, but the museum sometimes offers free admission to military members. If you go to the museum on Veterans Day, call ahead to verify, but they used to give everyone free admission on Veterans Day.
This is a wonderful museum to spend time in marking Veterans Day. If you can, try to visit the Veterans Day commemorative events at Soldier Field where the NFL’s Chicago Bears play. That event is usually held in the morning, which gives you time to head over to the Pritzker and take in all it has to offer.
4. Places to go for Veterans Day in the Central U.S.
As a Texas company, we’re a little partial to Texas, but the truth is, Texas really loves its veterans and there seem to be Veterans Day events, military museums, historic sites all over the state.
Fort Hood, home of the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division in Killeen has an amazing military museum as does Camp Mabry in Austin. Drive a little farther into the countryside and you can check out the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, hometown of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. All of these are wonderful museums with amazing artifacts on display. The Texas Military Forces Museum is a great little place to spend the day and the camp is accessible to the public.
5. Places to go for Veterans Day in the Mountain Time Zone
The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is a beautiful place to visit and it is open to the public (check with base officials as COVID has limited access). Set in the foothills of the Rockies, the Academy’s famous chapel, visitor center and many static displays make for a great way to celebrate Veterans Day.
Sometimes Air Force plays football the weekend of Veterans Day. These games are a blast and there is a lot of tradition at these games. Tickets are generally reasonable in price and there are a lot of pre-game tailgate activities. During the games, plan on seeing Air Force Falconry cadets cut loose some low flying falcon mascots that buzz the stands and pre-game there is usually a flyover to honor veterans for Veterans Day.
6. Places to go for Veterans Day in your Local Community
Regardless of size, many towns have Veterans Day parades or activities to honor those who have served. For example, the City of Orlando, Florida has a yearly parade that includes members of the reserve, National Guard and some active-duty units that parade in the streets. Men and women in uniform march in formations while others drive military tactical vehicles.
Places in Central Florida, like theme parks, offer special rates for veterans too. In some cases, Defense Department ID card holders can get free admission. Ensure to call ahead first before you make the trip. Conditions change and while something might have been offered a year ago, it might not be offered in the current year.
7. Places to go for Veterans Day if You Know Someone Who Has Served
This is a no brainer. If you know someone who is a veteran, go see them. There are surprising amounts of veterans in many places. Down the street, quietly living on the block, that guy with the Vietnam Veteran sticker on his truck might not mind a neighborly visit.
Someone in your family or a friend who has served who might not be nearby can be called. Forget the text and e-mail. Call them. One of the employees here at USAMM has a high school friend who served in the Army in the 1980s and every Veterans Day he calls him. They catch up on what’s been happening in their lives, but the USAMM employee is able to thank him for his service and reminisce about high school.
If you don’t know anyone who has served, which is possible given only a fraction of Americans serve in the military, check out local organizations which might be sponsoring a meet and greet where you can go and chat with a veteran.
8. Places to go for Veterans Day if You’re Near a Veterans Organization
There are quite literally hundreds of veteran service organizations with varying missions that serve the veteran community. Organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, American Legion, and others, all have veteran members and many of these organizations have posts that hold Veterans Day events open to the public.
Some of USAMM’s veteran employees belong to local veteran service organizations that hold yearly barbeques that not only provide great food, but are a great way for the organization to raise money for a particular veteran charity. Not to mention, these cookouts or Veterans Day events are a great way to interact with living history as many veterans have seen or been a part of many of the things most of us read about in U.S. history books.
9. Places to go for Veterans Day a Local Military Cemetery
While remembering the fallen who died in service to their country is usually reserved for Memorial Day, Veterans Day is about remembering any veteran who honorably served, living or dead. Military or National Cemeteries are appropriate places to visit on Veterans Day.
Many cemeteries will have a Veterans Day event to mark the occasion, but you can also avoid the crowds and pay your respects quietly away from any ceremony. At the Texas State Cemetery, for example, famous Texan veterans like Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and NFL Coach Tom Landry are buried at the Austin, Texas cemetery.
10. Places to go for Veterans Day to Help the Homeless
Lastly, if you are looking for a way to help veterans on Veterans Day, stop by and talk to a person identifying themselves as a homeless veteran. Ensure you can do this safely.
Veterans account for about 10 percent of homeless Americans and each night approximately 40,000 veterans have no place to live. While there are numerous programs to help, there is always a need.
The key here is to plan ahead. Don’t just drive around looking for homeless people because that can be unsafe. Instead, get involved with a veterans’ service organization that might need volunteers for the day. Many veteran groups have programs that target homeless veterans on Veterans Day, so helping with the assistance of professionals is the recommended way to go.
Wherever you choose to go on Veterans Day, remember that the day was created to honor those men and women who have served in our nation’s military forces. Try to do something that pays it forward.