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How to survive the holidays during a pandemic

By Kylie Ruffino
January 12, 2022
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The holidays are a hard time of year for lots of people. We have some tips and resources to help you through this rough year.

It's tough to know exactly how the holidays will impact the spread and effects of COVID-19, but we can certainly agree the season is unfolding differently this 2020. There's a lot to know about what is going on this year and not entirely in ways you expect. This article will take you through all the ways COVID might make the holidays tougher, what to know, and what to do.

In America, loneliness and isolation affect the health of millions across the country. The Census Bureau started the Household Pulse Survey, to capture the impact of COVID-19 on mental and economic health. Even before the pandemic, loneliness links to poorer health conditions for at-risk individuals. Last year alone, 47 million people reported having a mental illness. The added physical, mental, financial, and social burdens of COVID-19 make the stress, worry and isolation of this holiday season particularly tough.


If you are grieving a loss...

There will be many families grieving their first holiday without a loved one this year. It’s essential to recognize emotions will run high. Parents and children tend to want to close themselves off or "be brave," but with normalcy being so hard to come by, this might not help families cope. It is okay to process slowly or intensely as families struggle with unprecedented circumstances and uncertainty. 

Things to consider: Think about having a virtual meeting with all family members involved to see where everyone stands in participating in the holidays this year. Helping to set a level of expectation can give you some footing. Then discuss ways to honor your loved one. How did they usually contribute to the holiday spirit? Can you honor that in some way? It's important to stay connected. Social isolation during the pandemic makes this more challenging to attain but much more important. 

The loss of routine: Even without losing a loved one to the pandemic, doesn't necessarily mean you aren't grieving. Mayo Clinic discusses how the loss of routine can also be upsetting and debilitating. It is important to give yourself space to cope with this type of coronavirus grief. While we have been dealing with this for roughly six months now, the holiday season poses a new wave of emotions. Firsts, no matter what, are difficult. 

What to do: Dr. M. Katherine Shear, founding director of the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University, suggests using the tenants of the serenity prayer. Since traditional forms of processing and moving through the death of a loved one, like funeral services or shivas, aren't taking place right now, the prayer helps you accept the things you cannot change. It is important to your wellbeing to ground yourself amid all of this uncertainty. Go back to things that align with your values or make you feel deeply connected to others or the world. 


If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide...

According to JAMA psychology research, suicide rates in the United States have increased over 35% since 1999 and adds to another global health crisis. Unfortunately, data around suicide, due to stigma and lack of national reporting systems, don’t reflect real-time data. There is no way to know the immediate effect of COVID-19 on suicide numbers in the US or anywhere else. However, psychologists are worried about "several risk factors linked to the pandemic." 

COVID-19 Risk Factors: The decline in mental or physical health, social isolation and loneliness already indicate potential for difficulty. Struggling with suicidal ideation can be made worse with financial losses, the disruption of daily life like remote work or school, loss of loved ones or milestones and increased alcohol consumption. In the US, an increase to the availability of drugs or firearms from sheltering in place is also cause for concern. 

What to do: Suicidal thoughts make you or your loved one's health an emergency. Some signs include extreme mood swings from being very sad to very calm, talking about hopelessness or feeling trapped, feeling there aren't any solutions, and talking about dying. If you or a loved one seem off or more isolated than normal, it is essential to reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). If you are a friend or family member, follow the National Institute of Mental Health's five steps: ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide, keep them safe by reducing their access to harmful means; be there to listen; help them connect to a therapist or a hotline; lastly, stay connected. Research suggests talking about suicide can actually help to reduce it.


If you or someone you know might experience domestic violence...

The stay-at-home orders made to protect the public concerns domestic abuse advocates that victims will be trapped with their abusers. The limited mobility and heightened uncertainty can lead to more triggers and increase abuse. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, domestic violence hotlines expected to see an increase in activity during quarantine, but actually, the calls decreased by nearly fifty percent. This concerns experts even more to know the rates of violence aren't decreasing, but actually, victims are unable to find a safe way to get help. 

Risk factors amid COVID-19: Hotels and shelters long provided alternative and emergent housing, but with closures, safe havens are harder to find. Domestic violence disproportionately affects minority women of color; 1 in 4 women experience intimate partner violence (IPV). Before COVID, unstable childcare, financial hardships, unsafe housing, or lack of social support can increase risk, but now, these are a given. The pandemic seriously limits a victim's financial independence to get out of the situation safely. Many families hold "essential jobs" and don't have childcare capabilities to get their kids connected for school. This added stress can lead to instances of child abuse too.

What to do: Most people don't seek help when suffering from IPV. If you think you've experienced abusive behavior, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you identify abuse and a safe plan of action. This holiday, make it a mission to check in on the ones you love. Often victims of violence will isolate themselves from fear or shame. If you suspect abuse happening to your neighbor or friend, keep a journal of anything you've seen or heard to provide evidence if they ever choose to prosecute. Calling the police isn't always a good idea. Read more about why here. Instead, you should make a call to a local or state violence center for further steps. 


If you’re struggling to stay sober...

Retail alcohol sales increased roughly 40% at brick and mortar establishments after bars and restaurants closed for stay-at-home orders. According to Winsight Grocery Business, online sales for alcohol skyrocketed at 339%. Alcohol misuse is already a public health concern across the US. COVID-19 may worsen these behaviors long after the pandemic. The director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said we could look at other catastrophic stressors like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. During times of stress, the added anxiety and uncertainty of the future can lead people to consume more alcohol. 

Risk factors amid COVID-19: Consuming alcohol in larger quantities will affect your immune system and the body's ability to fight viral infections, especially in the lungs. Drinking alcohol to cope with stress, sleep disturbances, and even boredom increases the chance for alcohol use disorder. Recovering alcoholics live with their condition daily. Over 2 million members participate in Alcoholics Anonymous and well over 100,000 groups worldwide. Recovery takes a wide network of social support. With social distancing, a lot of this has gone away, but there are still things to do and ways to help. 

What to do: There are online AA meetings available like the Token Shop. Finding ways to connect with friends and family, even your sponsor, will help keep you grounded. These interactions are vital to stay safe these holidays. Whether you are struggling with diagnosed alcohol use disorder or not, be aware of new triggers. Be mindful of your mental health.


If money is really tight this year...

Many Americans were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic, but a record number of 40 million Americans filed for unemployment during April. The long-term impact of COVID will show families facing worse financial burdens, the ability to get a job or make ends meet, foreclosures, and evictions in the months to come. There is no worse time to deal with money stress than during the holidays. 

Risk factors among COVID: Minorities are disproportionately more affected with financial burden caused by the pandemic. Families struggling to make ends meet and are also trying to put their kids through online schooling. They are struggling to make it work. There are roughly 42 million Americans without access to the internet at home. Because of social distancing and closures, many people have difficulty finding work, going to school, teaching their kids, and staying connected without the internet. 

What to do: Ask for help. There are organizations and nonprofits set up to help families provide gifts to their children during the holidays. Keep your holiday small. Keep your kids' priorities focused on family and find other ways to show them support. In turn, this might relieve some of your own stress because you would have found ways to cope and participate in self care. While the white house is still working on another stimulus bill, there are other programs that cab help. Food Stamps can help alleviate some stress when grocery shopping. There are also programs helping to reduce internet costs. 

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Inspiration

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel Picks for 2021 Reflect a New World for Travel

Global travel authority Lonely Planet has today unveiled a radical reimagining of its much-awaited Best in Travel picks for 2021, reflecting an unprecedented year of disruption in the travel industry. For the first time, this year's list spotlights not only places but also people and communities who are transforming the travel industry. In 2021, Lonely Planet is looking ahead to the important changes taking place globally, from sustainability to diversity, and shining a light on the future of travel. "Travel is a much more considerate exercise in 2021 than it has been ever before," Lonely Planet CEO Luis Cabrera said. "With travelers cautiously re-engaging with the world and focused on ensuring their impact is safe and positive for host communities, we have decided to highlight destinations and individuals that truly enable visitors to have transformative experiences and make genuine contributions." Travel is always changing. Best in Travel 2021 champions people who make travel a force for good, all the more essential in a year when COVID-19 has disrupted and deprioritized travel. Best in Travel 2021 reflects how travel contributes to sustainability, community, and inclusivity and ponders how we can best explore the world responsibly. Rather than delivering a destination bucket list, Lonely Planet focused on how people travel now: outdoors; in family groups; purposefully; with careful attention to the communities they will explore. After a tumultuous year for travel, Best in Travel also symbolizes Lonely Planet's commitment to these values. "We are taking the chance to re-emphasize what we are here for and why: our mission remains to be a trusted travel companion. One that inspires, informs, and guides, while being in sync with your travel wants and needs," said Cabrera. Lonely Planet started the process for the 2021 Best in Travel list by seeking nominations from Lonely Planet's vast community of staff, writers, photographers, videographers, bloggers, publishing partners, and more. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and, like the rest of the travel world, Lonely Planet hit the pause button. But other things changed, too. The conversation surrounding diversity took a decisive shift. The future of travel moved towards small-group engagement and decades-old issues like overtourism came back to the forefront. As a result, Lonely Planet's picks fit this new approach and are tailored for travel in 2021 — a year that's going to be like no other. Highlights in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel List for 2021:Sustainability Discover the remarkable people and places transforming travel and making the world a better place - for now and future generations. Winners include: Soraya Abdel-Hadi Le Vie di Dante (Roads of Dante) Rwanda Antigua & Barbuda Rocky Mountaineer Greece Virginia Mountain Bike Trail Grootberg Lodge, Namibia Palau Gothenburg, Sweden Diversity Everyone has a different story to tell. Celebrate the people and places that illuminate the mosaic of stories and perspectives found around the world. Winners include: Gabby Beckford, Packs Light Costa Rica El Hierro, Spain Hiakai, New Zealand Jeff Jenkins, Chubby Diaries Wheels of the World Karl Krause and Daan Colijn, Couple of Men Gullah Islands, USA San Diego, USA Amman, Jordan Community Who knows best what kind of travel will benefit their communities? People who live and work there, of course, offering authentic and unforgettable experiences that give back to local communities. Winners include: Invisible Cities, U.K. Kazakhstan Faroe Islands Medellín, Colombia Tesfa Tours, Ethiopia Australia Hesham Moadamani, Refugee Voices Tours Footprints Café, Cambodia Burren EcoTourism Network, Ireland Georgette Jupe, Girl In Florence The Best in Travel list is a two-way street in 2021, as well. In January, Lonely Planet will announce readers' nominations of their own favorite people and places that are shaping the future of travel this year and beyond. Reader's Choice voting begins today and can be found on the Best in Travel landing page. For those interested in visiting one of the destinations in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel list, KAYAK's suite of COVID-inspired tools, including its flexible filters, Explore feature, and Travel Restrictions map can help travelers do it smartly. For more information on the Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2021 list, go to www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel. Award destinations can also be explored with Lonely Planet's Guides app for free and on social media channels via #BestInTravel.

Inspiration

Can’t Get to Europe? These U.S. Destinations Will Make You Feel Like You’re There

With much of Europe off limits amid the current pandemic, Americans will have to wait longer to travel to and throughout the continent. However, they can find resemblances to some European countries a little closer to home. Here are locations across the U.S. that make you feel like you’ve set foot in a European destination with no passport required. Greece Tarpon Springs, Florida More than one in 10 residents in this Gulf Coast city claim Greek ancestry, with Greek immigrants arriving in the late 19th century. They also gave Tarpon Springs the moniker, “The Sponge Capital of the World,” in that divers would apply the Greek Islands tradition of diving for sponges to Floridian waters. Nowadays, Greek heritage can be seen with locals in coffee shops along Athens Street. Along Dodecanese Boulevard, shop at Getaguru Handmade Soap Company and dine at Mykonos and Hellas Greek Restaurant. Pella, Iowa. The Netherlands Holland, Michigan Founded in the mid-19th century, this city on the shores of Lake Michigan makes you feel like you’ve set foot in the Netherlands. Experience a Dutch wonderland at the Windmill Island Gardens, with a windmill that grinds West Michigan sourced wheat into flour, while Nelis' Dutch Village shows the traditional making of wooden shoes. Every May, take in its Tulip Time Festival; later on in the year, do your holiday shopping at Kerstmarkt. Pella, Iowa Another Dutch destination, this Iowa location is all heritage museums, Dutch architecture, and the Vermeer Windmill, the tallest working grain windmill in the U.S. Then there’s Klokkenspel, a carillon clock going off on odd hours and with historic figurines coming in and out. And cuisine options are plenty, from Dutch bakeries’ Jaarsma Bakery and Vander Ploeg Bakery to Dutch Fix, serving up Dutch street food. Denmark Solvang, California Referred to as the “Danish capital of America,” this village in Santa Ynez Valley gets quite festive with its Solvang Julefest, a holiday event; Solvang Grape Stomp, a wine harvesting celebration; and Solvang Danish Days, a full-blown heritage festival. Regularly, you can see a copy of Denmark’s famous Little Mermaid sculpture and Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, whose exterior resembles an 18th-century Danish farmhouse. But be sure to try Danish pastries at bakeries including Aebleskiver Café and Birkholm's Bakery & Cafe. St. Augustine, Florida. ©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock Spain St. Augustine, Florida As the nation’s oldest city, this former Spanish settlement is still noted through Colonial-style architecture and historic venues. Avile Street is the oldest street in the U.S. and is now an arts district with galleries and restaurants and historic venues. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, an old Spanish fortification built to protect their claim on the Atlantic trade route, is now overseen by the National Park Service. Poland New Britain, Connecticut Nicknamed “Little Poland,” this Hartford County city’s section of Broad Street continues the legacy built by Polish immigrants coming to work in factories over two centuries ago. It’s known for its annual Little Poland Festival, which holds cultural and family-friendly activities. Do some shopping in Polmart, a store with all things Polish, or for pierogis and stuffed cabbage at Roly Poly Bakery. Or order a meal at the highly recommended Staropolska Restaurant. Basque Region Boise, Idaho With the most concentrated population of Basques living in the U.S., the “Basque Block” is a downtown section along Grove Street reflecting this legacy dating back two centuries. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center tells the history behind these emigrants from this northern Spain. The Basque Market carries Txakoli, Basque and Spanish wines and is known for weekly preparing giant paellas on the street. Go pintxo hopping at Txikiteo and Bar Gernika Basque Pub and Eatery. Switzerland New Glarus, Wisconsin Referred to as “America’s Little Switzerland,” this Wisconsin village showcases its Alpine-style architecture and a Cow Parade of statues depicting these dairy-producing animals. Established in 1845 by Swiss immigrants, New Glarus holds a Harvest Fest in October, where daily routines and responsibilities of the past – cheese making, blacksmithing, yarn spinning, you name it – are re-created. And at Emmi Roth Käse Cheese Factory, a Swiss-owned cheesemaker, take a self-guided tour. Helen, Georgia. ©SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images Germany New Braunfels, Texas Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels arrived in what’s now the Texas Hill Country to motivate the founding of this 19th-century German colony. His royal presence lives on in murals depicting him and other key figures in The New Braunfels Historic Outdoor Art Museum. Head to Krause’s Cafe for its Biergarten and German fare, and the Gruene Historic District is where German farmers lived but now has a hopping’ dance hall, general store, and restaurant. Every November, Wurstfest serves up a German food-focused celebration. Leavenworth, Washington In the 1960s, officials decided to make this Deadwood-looking town into a Bavarian village to attract visitors. Today, its architecture is full of beamed houses with other German features ranging from restaurants (try the Bavarian Bistro and Bar) to German named gift shops (with European ornaments at Kris Kringl). Helen, Georgia This Georgia town is tucked into the Blue Ridge mountains, and has been designed to look and feel like an Alpine village in Bavaria. You'll spend the day visiting charming shops and walking on cobblestone streets. Roadtrippers will enjoy having access to the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway that highlights the beauty of the Blue Ridge and starts in Helen. Sweden Lindsborg, Kansas Known as “Little Sweden, USA,” this city in Kansas’s Smoky Valley was settled by Swedish immigrants in the 1860s and Lindsborg still celebrates its Scandinavian roots through Swedish traditions year-round. Their event calendar includes St. Lucia Festival in December; Våffeldagen, which celebrates Swedish waffles in March; and Svensk Hyllningsfest, a biennial celebration. Spot sculptures of the Swedish Dala Horse around town and purchase a hand painted one from Hemslöjd. Napa Valley. ©Michael Warwick/Shutterstock Italy Napa Valley, California Giving a Tuscan landscape vibe, this wine-producing destination boasts wineries whose architectural features make you feel like you’re in Italy or another similar European countryside. To start, the Castello di Amorosa gives off the feeling of exploring a hill town in Tuscany or Umbria, with its 13th-century-style winery. Napa Valley is also noted for producing another associated Italian export -- oil olive -- and sample the bounty produced at Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company. New Orleans French Quarter. ©mixmotive/Getty Images France New Orleans While bounced between the Spanish and influenced by indigenous peoples and African Americans, New Orleans was first founded and settled by the French. Their imprint lingers within nearby Cajun country, with those speaking “Louisiana French,” and in NOLA’s French Quarter, the city’s most famous neighborhood. Here, dine on fine French and Creole cuisine at Arnaud’s, Galatoire's, and Antoine’s Restaurant. England Alexandria, Virginia Founded by Scottish merchants in 1749, this city outside of Washington, D.C. gives off a Colonial English vibe within its Old Town District. Captain’s Row is a cobblestone streetscape, while the brick-lined King Street has many shopping ops. The Old Town Farmers’ Market has been in existence since before the American Revolution; George Washington sent produce grown at nearby Mount Vernon to be sold there.

The short daylight hours and cold temperature invite us to stay indoors but venturing out to a National Park in the midst of winter has its own benefits—less people. The swarming crowds of summer are gone, offering a chance to see these splendid parks at your leisure and appreciate the landscape, often blanketed in snow. There are plenty of winter activities inviting you to enjoy the snow, such as hiking, tubing, sledding or cross-country skiing. Visiting in winter requires being extra prepared with proper hiking shoes and adequate clothing for freezing or below zero temperatures so make sure to pack your gloves, scarves, ear muffs and rain gear. Big Bend National, Texas Big Bend National Park, located in the western region of Texas and bordering Mexico, encompasses part of the Chihuahuan Desert and Rio Grande. The park was created in 1944 and there are fossils dating over 130 million years ago that highlight the expansive geological diversity. The Chiso Mountains are a special part of this park because the entire mountain range—spanning 40 square miles—is within the confines of the park and formed from volcanic activity in the Eocene epoch. Snow isn’t common in the winter and day time temperatures are often in the 70’s, making it great weather for hiking. Though be prepared for near or below zero weather as the cold sets in as soon as the sun goes down. Hop in the car and enjoy the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that leads to Santa Elena Canyon, a 1,500-foot vertical chasm made of limestone and is along the border between Mexico and Texas. Stop frequently on this 30 mile road, where there are plenty of overlooks and monuments or turn off and hike on one of the many well-marked trails. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah Bryce Canyon is magical in winter with layers of snow set against the red rock hoodoos and spires. Located in south central Utah and established as a park in 1923, ponderosa pines and fir-spruce forests thrive along with plenty of wildlife in this amphitheater shape of plateaus and meadows. The park has 56 square miles to explore. Some roads, including Fairyland Road and Paria View Road are left unplowed where you can traverse the expansive snow with snowshoes or cross-country skis. Sections of the Rim Trail are open as well where you can enjoy the vistas of the Main Amphitheater and the Bristlecone Loop Trail. You can also opt for sledding above the rim, one of the few areas where this is possible. If you want a break from the snow, hop in your warm car and stop along at some of the main vista points to take in the views. Bryce Canyon in winter. Credit: Mike Nielsen, Flickr creative commons Glacier National Park, Montana Glacier National Park, created in 1910, has over a million acres with an ecosystem that has been protected and mostly undisturbed. Snow blankets the mountain peaks and glaciers and the coniferous forest of larch, firs and spruce trees serve as a backdrop for Lake McDonald. Mountain goats, Bighorn sheep, beavers, nine species of bats, as well as Grizzly Bears are just some of the 71 different types of mammals that live in the park. Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the highlights—spanning 50 miles with challenging, hairpin curves. This is the only road that crosses the park and passes through the Continental Divide, though during the snow filled months only certain parts of the road are accessible. Upper Lake McDonald is a popular snow area where you can ski up to McDonald Falls or Sacred Dancing Cascade. Visit Marias Pass, known by the locals as the “summit,” where skiing and snow activities are often ideal. There are plenty of routes for cross-country skiers and snowshoe fans who want to experience the solitude in this vast oasis. Olympic National Park, Washington Covering almost a million acres and spanning from sandy beaches to mountain peaks to lush fir and cedar tree rainforests, the geography of this park is unique. Created in 1938, it is designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and as an International Biosphere Reserve. In the colder months, Olympic National Park is beautifully draped in snow with a myriad of activities to partake in. Hurricane Ridge is a haven for snow lovers, offering downhill skiing and snowboarding and an area for tubing and sledding or just playing in the snow. There are several trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoers, who prefer to head into the backcountry or connect with nature as they traverse the white powdery snow. There are frequent storms on the Pacific coast in winter so being attentive to weather conditions is fundamental. Between bouts of harsh weather, low tide is an optimal moment to take a stroll along the sandy beach. Visit the Hoh rainforest in the north of the park where you can surround yourself among a variety of trees, including Red Cedar, Big Leaf Maple and Douglas Fir or go towards the southwestern area of the park and hike in the Quinault rainforest with a distinct geography of alpine meadows, lakes and peaks carved by ice. Because of the geography of this park, the weather can change at a moment’s notice so keep this in mind when planning your trip and once you arrive with your day to day plans. Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park. Credit: Steve FUNG, Flickr creative commons Yosemite National Park, California Waterfalls, meadows and the granite wall of half dome makes Yosemite famous. The park was first protected in 1864 and became part of the National park service in 1890. The beauty of visiting in the colder months is experiencing this 1,200 square mile park when crowds have dissipated, offering plenty of solitude.Yosemite Valley and Wawona are accessible year-round by car but many roads close due to the snowy terrain, making traversing by foot one of the best ways to enjoy the park. Many trails are open with various options from easy and low-key hikes to more challenging ones where you can navigate through coniferous forests filled with ponderosa and sugar pine, incense cedar, white and Douglas fir trees or stare up at Giant Sequoias. Yosemite in Winter. Credit: Yūgen, Flickr Creative Commons Temperatures can be mild during the day, although freezing temperatures and snow are common. If you time your visit when there is snowfall, typically between December- March, winter wonderland options abound from sledding, tubing, snowshoeing or snowboarding and skiing down the oldest slope in California on Badger Pass. Curious about snowshoeing? Take a ranger-led snowshoe walk where you’ll be in a good company while you learn about the sights, although be prepared for sore muscles afterwards because it’s more challenging than it appears. Disclaimer: Make sure to check the park website to ensure the activities and areas of the park you wish to visit are open and accessible. Some roads and park areas have been closed due to Covid and/or to inclement weather. Please also respect measures to prevent the spread of Covid, including passing through towns en route to your destination.

Inspiration

11 cities where you can honor veterans in the United States

Nearly 30 years after armistice was officially declared, formally ending World War I, a veteran named Raymond Weeks suggested turning the relatively new national holiday dedicated to world peace into Veterans Day to honor all US service members. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a World War II veteran and five-star general, officially signed the observance of Veterans Day on November 11 into law in 1954. Veterans Day joined Memorial Day, established in 1868, and Armed Forces Day, first observed in 1950, as opportunities for Americans to honor the men and women who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard. But you don't have to wait for a national holiday to learn more about the contributions of veterans to US history – indeed, there are numerous museums, memorials, national parks, and national cemeteries around the country dedicated to telling the story of the country's military. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor © Pung / Shutterstock Honolulu, Hawaii The US Navy has had a significant presence in Hawaii for 200 hundred years, particularly on the island of Oahu where Pearl Harbor naval base was developed in 1899. When the infamous Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 drew the United States into World War II, it cost 2,403 U.S. personnel their lives and another 1,000 were wounded. Today you can learn more about the history of the US Navy in Hawaii, and honor the casualties and veterans of Pearl Harbor at several sites throughout Honolulu, including the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum Park, the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial, and USS Oklahoma Memorial. There are also numerous tours you can take that combine several of these sites together with expertise from a local guide – and even offer line-hopping privileges so you can stay focused on the history at hand. The Navajo Code Talker monument in Window Rock Navajo Reservation © ullstein bild via Getty Images Window Rock, Arizona Native Americans enlist in the military at five times the national average, with the highest per-capital participation of any other population group in the country and a history of service that dates back to the first days of the United States' existence. Learn more about the contributions of Indigenous veterans at the Navajo Veterans Memorial Park, which honors the Dine code talkers who were the backbone of Marine Corps efforts to use Indigenous languages to create secret, uncrackable transmissions during World War I and World War II. Note: the Navajo Nation has currently closed its borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the Liberty Memorial in front of a crowd of over a hundred thousand in 1926 © Davel5957 / Getty Images Kansas City, Missouri Kansas City is home to the National World War I Museum, selected in 1921 in part because the city's rail station had proved quite the crossroads for thousands of soldiers criss-crossing the country as they prepared for, shipped out to, and returned from the front. Indeed, the handsome art deco Liberty Memorial Tower sits right across from Union Station. But it's the museum itself where you can really linger – rather than focusing only on the US troops, the museum's collection includes items from every nation which participated in World War I and is one of the largest collections of WWI artifacts in the world. Originally members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, the name Buffalo Soldiers eventually stuck to all Black regiments who served in the US military © Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo Houston, Texas In 1866, Congress passed the Army Organization Act, allowing for the formation of four regiments of Black calvary who initially served out of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and soon spread across the western frontier. The men serving in these units soon came by the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" when they encountered Native Americans across the plains, and the name stuck to the 10th Cavalry from the Civil War through numerous other conflicts, including the Spanish American War and Philippine-American War, and on through the Korean War. Some of the most famous Buffalo Soldiers include boxing great Joe Louis and ground-breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson. Even after the traditional regiments were effectively disbanded and integrated with white troops, their legacy lived on in songs by musicians like Bob Marley, The Flamingos, and Quincy Jones. You can learn more about the proud and complex history of these tenacious troops at a museum dedicated to their achievements in Houston, Texas – the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. Cannon at the Gettysburg Battlefield at sunset © drnadig / Getty Images Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Gettysburg remains an important touchstone for Americans even 157 years after one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War was fought here and President Abraham Lincoln's famous address on national unity. At the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, you can learn more about why it was such a significant – and bloody – campaign that cost 8,000 soldiers their lives. Take a tour of the battlefield itself, whether self-led, with a park ranger, or on a guided bus tour, and pay a visit to Dobbin House, an important stop on the Under Ground Railroad in the region and the oldest surviving home in the area. Last but certainly not least, pay your respects to the 3,500 Union soldiers who are interred at the Getysburg at the National Cemetery. While it's just an hour and a half from Washington DC to Gettysburg, you can make a day trip or a weekend of it by booking a stay at the nearby. You can actually rent abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens' log home – built in 1790 and beautifully restored as a vacation rental – which is close to numerous historic sites like the Shriver House Museum and Jennie Wade House. Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois © Ray Laskowitz / Lonely Planet Chicago, Illinois Best known as the home of the Chicago Bears, it's sometimes easy to forget that Soldier Field is a memorial to those service members who gave all in World War I. But that's not all Chicago has to offer veterans or those who want to learn more about service members' contributions. Pay a visit to the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, founded by Colonel Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG as a non-partisan institution dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding of military history and the many individuals who played a part. You can also visit the National Veterans Art Museum, which for 35 years has collected over 2,500 artworks by those who have served in combat, not only in the US, but around the world. The powerful works in the collection range from paintings and sculptures to intermedia pieces and installations that reflect on themes from PTSD to portraiture, reentry to revolution. In 2017, the National World War II Museum received a US$370 million makeover that included several exciting new exhibits © Carol Barrington / Alamy Stock Photo New Orleans, Louisiana You might be surprised that the National World War II Museum is in New Orleans rather than, say, Washington DC. But it was Louisianan workers who designed and constructed the amphibious Higgins Boat landing craft that helped US soldiers succeed in campaigns like the famous storming of Normandy on D-Day. Today, the World War II Museum has a slew of artifacts in their collection, from preserved documents and footage to a restored watercraft, aircraft, submarines and more. If you really want to immerse yourself in history, you can book a tour that includes a ride on the PT-305 torpedo boat on Lake Pontchertrain. R2WA23 A group of Maryland Army National Guard soldiers attended the reopening of the Army Womens Museum, Fort Lee, Virginia, Nov. 2, 2018 © Alamy Stock Photo Fort Lee, Virginia While women weren't officially allowed to join the military until the Army Nurse Corps was created in 1901, countless women served served their country since the American Revolution – and some like Cathay Williams even disguised themselves as men to get into active combat. You can learn more about the long history of women in the military at the the US Army Women's Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia. This unique institution first got its start in 1955 in For McClellan, Alabama, but has since lived a few different lives in a few different locations before settling down in Fort Lee Virginia in 1999 and expanding in 2018. Today, it's home to over 1.5 million documents, as well as uniforms, photographs, and other artifacts that paint a vivid picture of the oft-overlooked heroines of the US military. The Museum of the American Revolution opened in 2017 © Jumping Rocks via Getty Images Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Go back to the beginning of US military history at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. It's one of the most popular attractions in a city already packed with history, and goes beyond what you might have read in your elementary school textbooks to include the stories of women, African-Americans and Native Americans. You can get a broad overview of the Revolution and how it unfolded, as well as more personal, in-depth look at figures like Richard St. George, who is the focus of a new exhibit called Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier. Visitor looks for a name at the the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington DC © Rick Gerharter/Lonely Planet Washington DC Last but certainly not least, the nation's capitol is, naturally, full sites honoring veterans lives and contributions. From the National World War II Memorial to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Women's Memorial to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, many are well-known, thoughtfully designed tributes to those who lost their lives fighting for their country. Others, like the American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial honor a different sort of sacrifice, while the United States' oldest and best-known resting place for veterans endures at Arlington National Cemetery. There are also tours that combine some of the city's most significant memorials and give you a chance to hear their stories in detail from a knowledgable guide. But there are numerous museums, too, where you can learn about US military history and the veterans who took part. The African American Civil War Museum tells the story about the men for whom military service was not just an act of patriotism, but also a path to freedom. For a particularly moving experience, opt for an African-American history city tour of DC that includes a stop at this unique museum. The National Guard Memorial Museum encompasses nearly 400 years of this unique wing of the Department of Defense – and you can even take a virtual tour, too. American Sailors are honored with their own collection, too, at the National Museum of the US Navy, though as of October of 2020, the museum is closed while a new campus is constructed outside the current location in the Washington Navy Yard, allowing improved access. And, of course, the National Air & Space Museum and National Museum of American History have much to offer those interested in military history, too.