Tag Archives: World War II

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area


Established in 1996, there are 34 separate sites encompassed within Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.  Not all of the areas are islands, some, like Worlds End, are the tips of peninsulas with roads accessing them from the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts.  The park is a managed by a hodgepodge of agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boston Light on Little Brewster Island (open to ranger-led tours in the summer months).


Worlds End, Governors Island, Webb Memorial State Park, Spectacle Island

Must-Do Activity

It is probably best to pick one island and thoroughly explore it by catching a ferry from Long Wharf North in downtown Boston, Hingham Shipyard, or Pemberton Point in Hull.  We chose Georges Island which is mostly taken up by Fort Warren, which dates back to 1850.  During the Civil War, the fort served as an artillery base and a prison.  The National Park Service (NPS) operates an excellent museum on the island and shows a film on its history.  Georges and Spectacle Islands are the only two islands that offer food for sale, plus they have water taxis leave from each dock to access many of the other islands.

Best Trail

Spectacle Island has five miles of hiking trails and also contains the highest point within Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area at 157 feet in elevation.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The site of the first lighthouse in America, Boston Light on Little Brewster Island can be seen from Georges Island and is open to guided tours in the summer.

Peak Season





Passengers ferries charge fares, but there is not an entrance fee to the islands or Webb Memorial State Park.

Road Conditions

Most of the islands do not allow private vehicles, but you can bring your bicycle onto the ferries.  Webb Memorial State Park, Deer Island, Worlds End, and Nut Island are accessible by paved roads in the Boston area.


There are yurts on Peddocks Island and tent camping is allowed on Bumpkin, Grape, Peddocks, and Lovells Islands from late June through Labor Day.  Backcountry permits are required for stays on undeveloped islands.

Related Sites

Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts)

Gateway National Recreation Area (New York-New Jersey)

Explore More – During the Civil War, who wrote the lyrics to “John Brown’s Body” while serving at Fort Warren?

National Mall


Part of Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 design for Washington, D.C., his “grand avenue” was not fully realized until the 1900s when a train station was removed to fully open up two miles of grass between the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial.  Today, America’s front lawn is lined with National Park Service (NPS) monuments and Smithsonian museums.  The 2003 Reserve Act declared the National Mall a completed work of civic art and restricted further construction after completion of the World War II Memorial.  However, in 2014 the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial was dedicated at its eastern end.


Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument, Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, U.S. Capitol

Must-Do Activity

There is no official visitation count kept for the National Mall, but if there was its 24-million annual visitors would make it the number one busiest site in the entire NPS system.  Not far from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he gave his most famous speech in 1963, is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, one of the numerous NPS sites located here.  The National Air and Space Museum is one of several awesome galleries of the Smithsonian Institution, containing Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of Saint Louis, an Apollo Lunar Module, and the original Wright Brothers flyer used in 1903.  There is so much to see and do, you could easily spend more than a week exploring.

Best Trail

One of the greatest overlooks of the National Mall is from the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (part of George Washington Memorial Parkway), located across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia.  It is a bit of a walk from the National Mall, but the view is especially breathtaking at night.

Instagram-worthy Photo

At some point during your visit, do yourself a favor and come after dark.  It is nicely decorated each December (but you might need a tripod for photographs).

Peak Season

Summer, and also weekends during the National Cherry Blossom Festival (March-April)





Road Conditions

As with most NPS sites in Washington, D.C., it is easier to walk or take the Metro than find parking for your car.


There are no NPS campgrounds in the Washington, D.C. area, so it might be best to head for Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Related Sites

Lincoln Memorial (District of Columbia)

Constitution Gardens (District of Columbia)

Korean War Veterans Memorial (District of Columbia)

Explore More – The Tidal Basin (home to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial) is considered part of the National Mall, so when were the famous cherry trees (a gift from Japan) planted there?

Top 10 Patriotic NPS Sites

The National Park Service (NPS) system preserves some of the most important locations in American history.  Visiting many of these sites has left us feeling very patriotic and proud to be citizens of the United States of America.  Here is a list of our favorite patriotic NPS sites (click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists).

10. Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah)

On May 10, 1869 Americans (mostly immigrants) completed the monumental task to lay 1,776 miles of railroad track linking west to east

9. Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

“The shot heard ’round the world” happened here, but the events really started in nearby Boston National Historical Park

8. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Maryland)

A huge American flag flies over the site that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem in 1814

7. Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

We found the story of freezing and starving American troops more patriotic than nearby Independence National Historical Park where aristocrats signed a piece of paper

6. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

“Double Victory” was the goal of these civil rights pioneers, who never would have flown if not for…

5. Wright Brothers National Memorial (North Carolina)

…the momentous 12-second flight that occurred here on December 17, 1903

4. Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park (California)

America was successful during World War II because every citizen made sacrifices for the greater good

3. National Mall (District of Columbia)

The nation’s front lawn is home to the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, and numerous other American monuments

2. Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York-New Jersey)

Lady Liberty is beautifully symbolic, but Ellis Island represents the gritty truth of the American dream

…and finally the #1 patriotic NPS site:

1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

Inspiring during the day, but for the full effect do not miss the Evening Lighting Ceremony offered May through September

Honorable Mentions

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (Oregon-Washington)

There are numerous good museums celebrating the Corps of Discovery along the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail that ends here on the Pacific Coast

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio)

A 352-foot tall memorial tower celebrates less the naval victory of 1813 and more so the world’s longest undefended international border

Colonial National Historical Park (Virginia)

Victory at Yorktown ended the Revolutionary War in 1781 near Jamestown, site of the first successful British colony in America

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve


As the only National Historical Reserve in the National Park Service (NPS) system, Ebey’s Landing is a unique 17,000-acre site under federal, state, county, town, and private ownership.  Located on Whidbey Island at the entrance to Puget Sound, it is accessible by ferry from the Seattle area and the Olympic Peninsula, or by driving Highway 20 across a bridge from the north (closer to Bellingham).  There are nearly one hundred historical structures protected by the reserve, mostly Victorian houses within Coupeville, Washington.


Jacob Ebey House, Davis Blockhouse, Fort Ebey State Park, Fort Casey State Park

Must-Do Activity

A good place to start your visit is at the Island County Historical Museum (which charges an admission fee) in Coupeville, Washington.  After enjoying the Victorian architecture in town, drive to the Jacob Ebey House, World War II-era Fort Ebey State Park, and Fort Casey State Park where you will find gun emplacements from 1901 and picturesque Admiralty Head Lighthouse. 

Best Trail

Much of Whidbey Island was prairie when it was settled in the 1850s, and remains pastoral, which is great for travelers looking for a glimpse back in time.  Located adjacent to farm fields, Bluff Trail is known for its great views on clear days.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Admiralty Head Lighthouse provides a great photo op in Fort Casey State Park.  Gun emplacements built there became obsolete shortly after their installation due to the rise of the airplane.

Peak Season





None except at the 3 State Parks and Island County Historical Museum in Coupeville, Washington

Road Conditions

The main roads are all paved and any gravel roads are well-maintained.


Both Fort Casey State Park and Fort Ebey State Park have campgrounds, and the latter provides shower facilities.

Related Sites

San Juan Island National Historical Park (Washington)

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (Washington)

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Alaska-Washington)

Explore More – How many islands are there in Puget Sound (with the largest being Whidbey Island)?

Top 10 World War II Sites in the 62 National Parks

The official end of World War II occurred on September 2, 1945 on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri (now docked at Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawai‘i).  To celebrate the 75th anniversary of this event we previously assembled our Top 10 National Park Service (NPS) units dedicated to the war.  This list ranks the best sites within our 62 National Parks.  Click here to see all our Top 10 lists, including our favorite WWII books and films.

For more information on visiting all 62 National Parks, check out our travel guidebook, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

10. Yosemite National Park (California)

The “U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital Yosemite National Park, California” opened in 1943.

9. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Soldiers were sent to recreate at the caverns from Hobbs Air Field, located 100 miles away.

8. Olympic National Park (Washington)

Two of the park’s coast guard and aircraft warning stations still exist.

7. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

In 1942, the U.S. military established a weapons testing range in the Tularosa Basin that still functions today.

6. Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Denali’s rugged terrain was a great place to test soldiers and equipment.

5. Redwood National Park (California)

The Klamath River Radar Station B-71 is a rare early-warning radar station.

4. Haleakalā National Park (Hawai‘i)

The numerous antennas atop Red Hill led locals to dub this WWII radar station “Haleakalā National Forest.”

3. Acadia National Park (Maine)

The park’s Big Moose Island was home to a U.S. Navy radio station during WWII.

2. National Park of American Samoa (American Samoa)

These islands hosted soldiers and provided essential communications operations in the Pacific.

…and finally, our #1 National Park dedicated to World War II:

1. Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

The 10th Mountain Division tested their mountaineering skills and equipment at Mt. Rainier.

Honorable Mention

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (Hawai‘i)

After Pearl Harbor, this federal land on the largest of the Hawaiian Islands held several military installations.

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