More things to do in the national parks this weekend

Spend the Fourth of July weekend in a national park!Earlier this week we recommended a number of fun things to do this long Fourth of July weekend in the national parks. Those suggestions included fireworks displays on the National Mall and a picnic at Valley Forge, amongst other things. It turns out we were just scratching the surface, as here are even more great events happening in the parks this weekend.

Colorado National Monument will once again play host to their annual July 4th rock climbing event, during which skilled climbers will scale the 450-foot tall Independence Monument to plant an American flag at the top. Climbers are encouraged to bring their gear and join in on the fun, while others can simply enjoy the spectacle and take part in the ice cream social and jazz concert.

On Saturday, the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways, located in Missouri, will play host to a good old fashioned Midwest picnic in the form of the “Alley Independence Day” celebration. The event, which is held at Alley Springs, will include music, games, food, and more, all in a turn of the 20th Century setting.

Visitors to Cowens National Battlefield in South Carolina, can celebrate the holiday a few days early with fireworks and live music on the 2nd. Throughout the day there will be Ranger-led walks across the battlefield and demonstrations of Colonial-era weapons, as well as other educational activities for the kids. Fireworks begin promptly at 9 PM.In Maryland, the Antietam National Battlefield, site of one of the most important battles of the Civil War, will hold their festivities on the 2nd as well. They’ll begin the evening at 7:30 PM with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra performing a “Salute to Independence” concert. That will immediately be followed up with a fireworks display at 9:45 PM.

Finally, the birthplaces of two of America’s most important presidents will also be holding special events on the 4th as well. In Kentucky, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park will host a concert performed by the Saxton’s Cornet Band beginning at 11 AM. Not to be outdone, George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument will be holding a costumed interpretation events and other hands-on activities for the kids.

Needless to say, there will be plenty to do in the national parks this weekend. Thanks to the National Park Foundation for these suggestions and checkout NPS.gov for more events in the parks near you. Enjoy the weekend!

Drinking like George Washington – reasons to visit historic Mount Vernon this holiday weekend

george washingtonIf there’s drinking involved, there’s a good chance that a we’re all over it. When the chance to combine drinking (rare liquors), history, and a holiday weekend arises …. well, we’re even more intrigued.

In honor of the country’s most patriotic holiday, Mount Vernon is displaying a rare 18th century letter penned by the first President and country’s most famous distiller, George Washington, at the George Washington Distillery at Mount Vernon in honor of the July 4th holiday weekend. The public display coincides with the release of a limited George Washington Rye Whiskey produced at the distillery and based on the founding father’s recipe.

Just prior to his death in 1799, Washington wrote the letter to his nephew, Colonel William A. Washington, a noted cavalry commander during the Revolution. In the letter, Washington stated “the demand…is brisk” for his locally produced Rye Whiskey.

As part of Mount Vernon’s July 4th festivities, 400 bottles of the limited edition 18th century style George Washington Rye Whiskey will be available for purchase starting at 10 a.m. at Mount Vernon’s main gift shop and at the Distillery site, located three miles from the estate. Visit on the Fourth and you’ll find patriotic events including a naturalization ceremony, daytime fireworks and military drills – it’s a great reason to bring the entire family.

The limited edition run was produced in the reconstructed distillery according to the General’s own grain recipe discovered by historians in the mansion’s extensive records. Each 375 ml bottle will retail for $95 and must be purchased in person.

If you’re near the area and like whiskey, this sounds like a great opportunity.

Turkey with presidential pardon not going to Disneyland

Pardoned turkey at DisneylandEach year just before Thanksgiving, the president pardons a turkey in a ceremony at the White House, saving that turkey from its likely fate atop a dining table. But this year, that turkey is not going to Disneyland.

Disney started flying the pardoned turkeys to California in 2005, when Disneyland was celebrating its 50th anniversary. The turkey has served as grand marshal of the the Disneyland Thanksgiving Day Parade (“The Happiest Turkey on Earth”) each year since, except for 2007, when the bird went to Walt Disney World instead.

Disney officials told the Orange County Register that this year, the lucky bird just doesn’t fit into its theme parks’ new promotion, “Let the Memories Begin.”

So the turkey that President Obama pardons this Wednesday will live out its life at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, rather than Mickey Mouse’s house.

Three previously pardoned turkeys still live in a coop at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch petting zoo.

[Image credit: Flickr user Myrna Litt]

See the financial crisis on this unusual Wall Street tour

It’s rare that you get a guided tour through still unfolding carnage. Imagine walking through Aceh right after the tsunami or New Orleans while the rains from Katrina still fell. Lower Manhattan‘s financial crisis tour doesn’t involve as much bad weather or physical danger, but it does give you the chance to learn about the most profound financial disaster in decades in the place where it all started.

This is “The Wall Street Experience.”

Guided by a former Wall Street insider, you’ll spend the 90 minute tour learning how some traders raked in billions in profits while entire banks came to an end. Also, you’ll be introduced to a “shadow banking system” that the government ignored until it was too late.

It’s not all mayhem down on the Street, though.

The tour will give you an overview of the history, architecture and trivia for this part of the city. The culture of the trader is wrapped up in these walls and streets – and you’ll hear all about it. But, did you know that this was once the political center of the United States? A statue of George Washington stands in front of the building from which he governed the country, staring across the street at a world of financial engineering he’d probably never be able to understand.

The tour guide, Andrew Luan, is a former Deutsche Bank vice president and traded what are now called “toxic assets.” He charges $40 a person, though children are free. Part of the proceeds goes to increasing financial literacy. Financial illiteracy is at crisis levels right now, so I applaud Luan for this. If you have become a victim of the financial crisis, The Wall Street Experience does offer weekly tours for those who can’t afford to pay.

See how the presidents live away from home

There’s more to the presidency than the White House. From Camp David to presidential libraries across the country, there are plenty of portals into the lives of those who have held the most powerful office in the world. In fact, the real insights may come not from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but from these other homes. A recent article on CNN offers five prime locations.

Lincoln’s Birthplace: Run by the National Park Service, you can soak in the spirit of our 16th president through exhibits and walking tours. You can even explore a replica of Lincoln’s birth cabin.

Reagan Library: Start at the 40th president’s final resting place, in Simi Valley, CA. In addition to holding President Reagan’s official documents, you can peek into his history, including his college letter sweater and memorabilia from his earlier career in Hollywood.

Mount Vernon: Our first president, George Washington, spent most of his adult life on this estate, which has been open to the public since 1860. Since then, nearly 80 million visitors have passed through. Go on Presidents’ Day, and admission is free.

Hermitage: Stroll through President Andrew Jackson‘s mansion, enjoy the gardens and even enjoy the original log cabin where he lived for a bit with his family. See a piece of “Old Hickory” that rarely makes it into the public eye.

Check out a video of Lincoln’s Birthplace following an ice storm after the jump.

[Via CNN]