Veterans Day this year falls on Friday, giving us a beautiful long weekend and plenty of time to honor all the men and women that have served in our armed forces. From the mountains (free parks day!) to the oceans (a parade by the sea) here are our favorite ways for the whole family to celebrate our country, city, history and American heroes.
photo: National Park Service
Free Day at National Parks
America’s best idea—the national parks system—is even better when it’s free! Veteran’s Day is the last free day of 2016 at our local national parks, which turn 100 this year. It’s a great way to honor our heroes and our land by exploring the natural beauty and the government system that protects it. Learn more.
Veterans Day Multi-Generation Event in Manhattan Beach
This annual event features music and festivities and is a celebration for the whole family. So listen to the Great Grandparent’s WW2 stories and spend a family day of remembrance. Event details.
photo: San Diego MOWW
Veterans Day Ceremony in Santa Clarita
Taking place on Veterans Day, this ceremony honors Veterans and people serving in the military and their families, and the whole community is invited to a ceremony featuring musical performers, speakers and changing of the flags at the Veterans Historical Plaza. It’s a beautiful and solemn occasion for kids to witness. Event details.
Veterans Day at Ronald Reagan Library
This presidential library in the Valley hosts an annual Veterans Day event with live musical entertainment, Civil War re-enactments by the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, WWII and current military vehicles, and musical performances by the Armory Band. The event is free, though to tour the museum and Air Force One, regular museum admission applies. Event details.
photo: Richard Nixon Foundation
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
Believe it or not, So Cal is the only place in the country to host two presidential libraries. The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda is chock full of historical sights for mini Woodwards and Bernsteins to learn from, and it just reopened on October 14, after a year-long $15 million renovation. Make sure to grab the camera as your tikes hop aboard Army One, wander through a replica of the Lincoln sitting room in the White House and a see the phone Nixon used to call Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when they landed on the moon. There are no specific events this weekend, but you can tour the library museum and grounds daily. Admission is $6-$16. Learn more.
photo: USS IOWA
If your kids dig the board game Battleship, they’ll freak out at seeing the real live thing in person. As the only battleship on the West Coast, the USS Iowa can’t help but impress even the pickiest pint-sized sailor. Tours include visits to the gun battery, missile decks, officers’ wardroom, captain’s cabin, crew’s mess area and navigation bridge. Veterans Day is a perfect day to visit this local piece of history. Admission is $10-$18 and kids under 6 are free. Learn more.
photo: Drum Barracks via Facebook
Drum Barracks Civil War Museum
You could also learn about the Veterans from an even longer ago war. Did you know that there was a Los Angeles Union Outpost during the Civil War? Yup, it’s now memorialized as the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum, and you can tour it Tuesday-Thursday and on weekends. If you have a group of 6 or more, call to schedule your tour. Learn more.
photo: Nik T. via yelp
Skirball Cultural Center
Our armed forces fight for freedom, so one way to honor their sacrifices is to learn about the quintessentially American idea of immigration. Learn about one culture’s migration experiences with a visit to the Jewish Life in America permanent exhibit at the Skirball. This tour ends in a room with the Statue of Liberty’s arm and a trunk full of the kinds of clothes soon-to-be Americans might have brought with them from far off places. Kids can try on the clothes and look up at Lady Liberty and get a glimpse of what has been inspiring newcomers to our country for centuries. Learn more.
Autry Museum of the West
More history of America—this time the history of the California. The Autry Museum has fully redesigned over 20,000 feet of indoor and outdoor space gallery space and devoted it to exploring our state. Called “California Continued,” this exhibit looks at the past and present of the relationship between people and the California environment. With a mix of Native cultural materials, firsthand perspectives, a hands on ethnobotanical garden and contemporary artwork, kids can learn about the history and future of the environmental issues in California. Learn more.
Speaking of local history: between the Native Americans and the cowboys and 49ers (the settlers, not the football teams) there was another group of people that lived in LA, the early Spanish and Mexican settlers. This house is often considered to be Los Angeles’ oldest surviving home, dating back to 1818 when it was built by the former Mayor of LA, Francisco José Avila. A day of American history in LA wouldn’t be complete without a visit to LA’s oldest street and home. You can tour the house, for free, daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Learn more.
photo: Meghan Rose
Becoming America at the Huntington
If you’ve got a kiddo with the eye of an artist, they may find history more interesting when it’s told through brush strokes and objects. A beautiful new expansion just opened at the Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens on October 22, and it’s filled with early 19th-century American art works, including paintings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics and needlework. Kids can learn about early American history through objects made for daily use and through pictures of the people who used them. Learn more.
How will spend Veterans Day? We’d love to hear your plans in the comment section below!