Travel + Leisure’s Nilou Motamed shows off six fabulous destinations that will help you relax and regroup if you’re looking to hit the road President’s Day weekend.
For some Americans, Presidents Day is a low-key holiday spent shopping the sales and catching up on sleep. For others, it’s a great opportunity to spend the long weekend visiting historic sites, museums, restaurants and hotels with presidential pasts.
But where to go? You might head for one of the official presidential libraries and museums operated by the National Archives or choose a spot from this list of presidential sites around the country put together by Lonely Planet.
There are also these special Presidents Day events to consider:
In Washington, D.C., Ford’s Theater, the site of the April 14, 1865, assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, is hosting a Presidents Day open house on Feb. 20. Among the free activities scheduled are storytelling, Civil War-themed ranger talks and a presentation by costumed actors that includes a reconstruction of Lincoln’s assassination.
Every Four Years: Presidential Campaigns and the Press, a new exhibit opening at the Newseum Feb. 17, traces the way the media has covered presidential campaigns from “William McKinley’s 1896 front porch campaign to Barack Obama’s 2008 Internet campaign.” In addition to notable TV campaign ads, the exhibit includes campaign artifacts such as handwritten notes taken by John F. Kennedy during a 1960 presidential debate and the “Florida, Florida, Florida” white board used by NBC’s Tim Russert on election night 2000.
Bonus: The Newseum’s exhibit, First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Pets, runs through 2012.
George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee, Alexandria, Va.
An actor portrays General Washington during a previous George Washington Birthday Parade in Alexandria, Va.
As the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents, Virginia proudly calls itself the “The Mother of Presidents” and has dozens of historic sites paying special Presidents Weekend tribute to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson.
There will be free admission on Feb. 20 at George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon, where a costumed General Washington will be on hand for activities to include the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Washington’s Tomb, music and military performances and a (shh!) surprise birthday party.
During Presidents Weekend, actors portraying founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison will be visiting Colonial Williamsburg.
Alexandria will be marking the 280th anniversary of George Washington’s birth with a celebration that includes a Birthnight Banquet Ball (Feb. 18), a Revolutionary War Reenactment (Feb. 19) and the George Washington Birthday Parade (Feb. 20). Historic sites around Alexandria, such as Gatsby’s Tavern Museum, where early patrons included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, will offer free admission on Presidents Day as well.
Bonus: A free, self-guided walking tour of 21 of the 140 sites in Alexandria associated with George Washington is available for free (PDF).
In Boston, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is celebrating Presidents Day with discounted admission from Feb. 18-26. An activity-filled Family Festival Day on Feb. 21 includes the opportunity to meet actors playing presidents and first ladies such as Thomas Jefferson and Dolley Madison.
Sleep like a president
Presidents Day weekend activities can include sleeping where a past president got some shut-eye.
“Every president from Eisenhower to George W has stayed at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, a historic hotel that still brings in weekend splurgers,” says Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet.
Another option: the Presidential Suite at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Every American President since Herbert Hoover has stayed in the suite, which is decorated with the personal desk of General Douglas MacArthur, one of John F. Kennedy’s rocking chairs and other presidential artifacts.
Presidential treatment doesn’t come cheap. A weekend night in a two-bedroom executive suite at the Greenbrier is about $900, while nightly rates for the Waldorf Astoria’s Presidential Suite begin at $10,000 – and include a background check.
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