Celebrate July Fourth On The National Mall

Fireworks over the National MallIf you’re looking for a unique and fun way to celebrate Independence Day today, and you’re fortunate enough to live close to Washington D.C., you may want to drop by the National Mall to take part in the annual festivities. The iconic monuments and memorials that make up the Mall should make for an inspiring backdrop to a full day of events.

Among the more memorable attractions on the National Mall are the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The three presidents to which those sites are dedicated all played a vital role in forging the U.S. as a nation and today they will each be remembered for their leadership.

Activities on the Mall begin with a parade along Constitution Avenue that gets underway at 11:45 a.m. and runs through 2 p.m. Following the parade a group of park rangers will gather at the Jefferson Memorial where they’ll present a portrayal of life in America circa 1776. The nearby Sylvan Theater will play host to activities for the Junior Rangers from 3-8:30 p.m. and a live concert featuring the U.S. Army Band will begin at 6 p.m. Each of these activities will help set the stage for the impressive fireworks display that will take place between 9:10-9:30 p.m.

Directions to the Mall can be found on the NPS website and visitors are encouraged to arrive early. There are no entrance fees to any of the events or monuments and it is sure to be both a fun and educational way to celebrate the occasion.

Happy Independence Day!

[Photo credit: Leafsfan67 via WikiMedia]

Video from inside the Washington Monument during the earthquake

Video from inside the Washington Monument during the earthquake last monthYesterday, the National Park Service released video from inside of the Washington Monument showing just how much the structure shook during that 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the East Coast last month. Startled visitors and park rangers appear uncertain of what to do at first, then begin to calmly and orderly move down the building, with one ranger in the lead and another staying behind to ensure that everyone gets out safely. As the video continues, debris begins to fall, obscuring the view to a degree, and giving an indication of the amount of a damage suffered to the interior.

The Park Service says that the monument is structurally sound, although it is unclear at this time when it will reopen. A team of engineers will begin a comprehensive inspection of the obelisk today by repelling down the side of the structure. That will take about five days to complete, but the overall assessment won’t be finished until sometime later in October. From there, renovations will get underway, while the building also undergoes its annual preparation for winter as well.


Needling replaces planking as the new meme in Seattle

Planking is so early 2011.

At least that’s the case in Seattle where locals and tourists have moved on to “needling,” i.e., posing like the Space Needle. Started about two weeks ago by a few bored PR folks who wanted to “disrupt Seattle’s weather doldrums with a little fun,” the needling meme now has its own Tumblr website Do the Needle, where anyone can submit needling photos. So far, Do the Needle has collected photos of people needling in front of Seattle landmarks, such as the, uh, Space Needle and Pike Place Market, and as far afield as Boston’s Fenway Park.

It’s easy to see how needling could catch some buzz, as it’s far more inventive than planking or the equally silly owling. But I wonder if this show of Seattle pride could lead to modified versions around the world? Maybe by this time next month, we’ll bring you news of people posing like the Burj Khalifa, the CN Tower, or the Washington Monument.

What famous landmark would you like to see turned into a meme? Tell us in the comments below.

[Photo credit: Do the Needle]

Top ten overrated U.S. travel destinations/attractions

Whether or not you’re an American, there are certain places that are on almost everyone’s must-visit list. Some tourist traps, like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland, are worth joining the masses and ponying up the entrance fee (although I just checked the Magic Kingdom’s website, and Mickey and friends are bilking the parents of children under nine for $68 a pop).

Other much-lauded, highly anticipated hot-spots are simply not worth the time and expense. This is, of course, highly subjective: one man’s Las Vegas dream vacation is another’s Third Circle of Hell. It can also be fun to visit certain craptacular or iconic landmarks.

The below list is a compilation of my picks, as well as those of other Gadling contributors, in no particular order. You may be offended, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

1. Hollywood
Unless you love freaks, junkies, hookers, crappy chain restaurants and stores, and stepping over human feces on the star-inlaid sidewalks, give it a miss.

2. Las Vegas
I understand the appeal of a lost weekend in Sin City, really. And I will not dispute the utter coolness of the Rat Pack, Vegas of yore. But in the name of all that is sacred and holy, why does the current incarnation of glorified excess and wasted natural resources exist, especially as a so-called family destination?

[Photo credit: Flickr user Douglas Carter Cole]3. Times Square
A dash of Hollywood Boulevard with a splash of Vegas and Orlando.

4. South Beach, Miami
At what point does silicone become redundant?

5. Atlantic City, New Jersey
The poor man’s Vegas

6. Orlando
Toll roads, herds of tourists, shrieking children, an abundance of nursing homes, and tacky corporate America, all in one tidy package.

7. Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
It’s hard to hate on San Francisco, but the once-glorious Wharf is a shadow of its former self. Hooter’s, Pier 39, seafood stands hawking overpriced, previously-frozen Dungeness crab cocktail, aggressive panhandling, and vulgar souvenir shops kill the mood.

8. The Washington Monument
The nation’s preeminent phallic symbol is admittedly an impressive piece of architecture. It’s also possible to get a great view from the car en route to other, more interesting historic sites and tourist attractions.

9. Waikiki
There is so much more to Hawaii, including beaches that aren’t man-made.

10. Mt. Rushmore
Faces carved into rock. Moving on…

[Photo credits: Times Square, Flickr user Falling Heavens; Waikiki, Flickr user DiazWerks]

Ten Must See Monuments

BootsnAll brings us another excellent list, with the intention of adding yet more destinations to our ever expanding “life lists”. This time it’s their selection of ten magnificent monuments, amazing structures from around the globe, that inspire us to travel thousands of miles just so we can take them in ourselves.

Some of the selections on the list are centuries old, such as the Nubian monuments found in southern Egypt or Stonehenge in England. Others are relatively recent in their construction, like the Washington Monument in D.C. or the Brandenburg Gate in Germany. These monuments were built for a variety of reasons, some religious in nature, like the Reclining Buddha in Thailand, others to commemorate a particular person or event, like the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico. Each of the places on the list include a photo and a nice description of why it deserves your consideration as a travel destination.

One thing that I like about this collection is that not everything on it is well known. For instance, the obvious choice for Egypt is the Great Pyramids or the Sphynx, but BootsnAll went with the temples located in Abu Simbal, far to the south, and far less visited by tourists.

For the traveler who has been everywhere and seen everything, perhaps this list will give you a few new ideas for future adventures. For those just setting out on their travels, this is a great list to start with.