In a recent interview, President Obama admitted that his first order of business after his second term will be to “take my wife on a nice vacation — and she has said it better be nice.” He and Michelle might want to consider a trip to one of the 30-plus national monuments and landmarks he created during his eight years in the Oval Office. That number sets a presidential record, and just this week, he announced two more monuments in Alabama honoring civil rights history.
While some feature vast, gorgeous land expanses set aside for conservation, others offer up fascinating slices of history and drool-worthy views in places that may already be on your bucket list.
1. Stonewall National Monument
Stonewall National Monument, the first-ever national monument dedicated to LGBT rights and history comprises the Stonewall Inn, a New York City watering hole (still in operation) where patrons rebelled during a 1969 police raid, as well as a pocket park across the street and several surrounding avenues. Occupying prime real estate smack in the center of Manhattan’s charming Greenwich Village, it’s near loads of legendary jazz clubs, century-old cafes and Washington Square Park. For an uber-chic stay, book a room at the nearby Jane Hotel and a table at The Spotted Pig or the Minetta Tavern.
2. Chimney Rock National Monument
If hiking and history are your jams, you’ll love exploring Chimney Rock National Monument, the breathtaking archeological site in southwestern Colorado, with ruins that date back 1,000 years. Roughly 200 ancient dwellings built by ancestral Puebloans have been preserved for up-close viewing; make the half-mile ascent from the base of the rock to the top and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping, 360-degree views of Colorado and New Mexico. For more beautiful things to look art, go on a gallery crawl in the nearby town of Pagosa Springs, then enjoy a microbrew at Riff Raff Brewing and — to unwind after your trek — visit one of the town’s three hot-springs resorts.
3. Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument
This single brick house, built in 1800 and located in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill, is one of the oldest residential buildings in the capital and served as headquarters for the National Woman’s Party during the suffragette movement. (The name Paul was chosen in honor of Alice Paul, founder of the NWP, while Belmont refers to Alva Belmont, a onetime NWP president and key donor in the movement.) Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument is a stone’s throw from the Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate and the National Mall, but the best Capitol Hill attraction right now may be the food, with a slew of hot new eateries like Rose’s Luxury and Joselito Casa de Comidas.
4. Fort Ord
Coming up with a reason to visit California’s gorgeous Monterey Peninsula isn’t hard, but here’s one anyway! The former Army post-turned-nature reserve Fort Ord boasts 44 species of rare plants and animals that can be enjoyed as you walk, bike or ride a horse along 83 miles of trails. Outside the fort, wine country awaits, as does the lovely coastal town of Monterey itself. Sample the fruits of the region’s labor at The Sardine Factory, with its 32,000-bottle wine list, then check into top-notch accommodations at the Clement Morency or the Monterey Plaza Spa and Hotel.
5. Katahdin Woods and Waters
If a vacation isn’t a vacation until you arrive in the middle of nowhere, Katahdin Woods and Waters is for you. Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby donated the land for this wildlife area that’s a good four hours outside Bangor, Maine. Winter visitors indulge in skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and “fat tire” biking, while in the warmer months, there’s hiking, birding, and camping. Don’t miss the picturesque waterfalls and views of Mount Katahdin as you walk along a portion of the Appalachian Trail. It’s like the East Coast version of Wild!
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