Some families observe the long Presidents’ Day weekend in February by hitting the road for a well-deserved vacation while others take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of Washington, Lincoln and other presidents. While D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston are go-to destinations for that heady blend of fun, patriotism and learning, there are many fascinating lesser-known spots where Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, the Roosevelts and other presidents left their mark before and after their tenure as president.
With Select Registry Properties, a family taking a longer Presidents’ Day weekend jaunt can venture beyond tours of the Capitol, White House and Mt. Vernon to trace the paths of Madison, Monroe, Jefferson and Washington. The multiday drive through Williamsburg, Charlottesville and Washington, D.C., takes travelers on a trip through time from Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields to Jefferson’s home, and stays at various former homes and inns steps from where history was made. Examples of Select Registry’s unique properties include Charlottesville’s Prospect Hill Plantation (dating back to 1732); The Richard Johnston Inn in Fredericksburg, Va., built in 1770 by John Taylow, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence; Gettysburg’s Inn at Herr Ridge (1813) which served as a Confederate hospital; and the John Rutledge House, a National Historic Landmark building built by John Rutledge, Charleston’s first governor and signer of the U.S. Constitution in 1763.
- Kennebunkport, Maine is the favorite stomping ground of the presidential Bush family. The Kennebunkport Inn is open year-round, kid-friendly and literally right in the center of town, steps from popular local haunts as Waterhouse Center for ice skating and Wells Reserve for snow-shoeing. Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Va., meanwhile, was a playground for 20th-century presidents. It has a storied history of lavish parties, elegant estates, horse races, fox hunts and acres of emerging vineyards and wineries enchanting early politicians and gentrified land owners to John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and many present-day politicians, celebrities and CEOs.
- The Kennedys are a first family of sorts in the Newport, R.I., community (they married at its St. Mary’s Church) as is George Washington, who was on hand for the state’s May 1790 ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Visitors today can explore historic grand estates like The Breakers, The Marble House and Rough Point, take a stroll on the famed Cliff Walk or take in its history as the “sailing capital of the world” with sailing lessons and water activities like seal watching available for families to take to the seas! Amid all the Americana, Hotel Viking provides the perfect place to relax and unwind during a stay in Newport, with many attractions available on site — including on-site award-winning restaurant One Bellevue.
Beyond Philadelphia, freedom rang out on a regular basis in BucksCounty, Pa., during the Revolutionary War. The area’s highlights include Washington Crossing Historic Park, Thompson-Neely House and Bowman’s Hill Tower. Later on in presidential history, President Grover Cleveland was a regular at the Black Bass Inn, a historic lodge along the Delaware River.
© Visit Bucks County
- REI Adventures offers a package called the Mount Washington Winter Climb, which consummate conservationist and outdoorsman Theodore Roosevelt would have appreciated. The three-day adventure takes travelers mountaineering up Mount Washington — the highest peak in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in New Hampshire — led by world-class mountaineering guides who teach travelers crampon techniques, tips for snow and ice travel, ice axe use and navigation, among other skills. Two-night hotel accommodations, equipment, breakfast and permits are included in the price.
- Right before he transitioned out of office, former president Barak Obama dedicated Beaufort, S.C., as a national monument site to commemorate the Reconstruction Era. South Carolina’s second-oldest city played a critical role in both the Civil War (as a much-needed Union-occupied territory in the middle of Confederate country) and the Reconstruction Era that followed. Obama’s decision to name Beaufort as the site of a Reconstruction Era National Monument brings light to a piece of American history that has, until this declaration, slipped through the cracks.
- The 4,600-acre expanse of Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri has a few special touches of American history and surprising presidential surprises amid its luxury resort offerings and rustic outdoor activities. The recently expanded Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at Top of the Rock at Big Cedar Lodge brings guests face-to-face with prehistoric creatures and astounding collections of Native American artifacts and artwork as well as expansive galleries showcasing the American West and Civil War, including Abraham Lincoln’s desk and other presidential artifacts. Guests can also request a stay in Jack’s Cabin, dating to the Civil War era.
- Abilene, Kan., was the boyhood home of 34th President Dwight Eisenhower, who was a World War II five-star general as well as the president that personified the 1950s. The five-building Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum complex features multiple galleries, a research library, a Visitors Center with gift shop and introduction film and the Place of Meditation — the President’s final resting place. It fittingly sits within the 5 Star Museum District, which also includes the Greyhound Hall of Fame, Old Abilene Town, Abilene and Smoky Valley excursion train and Dickinson County Heritage Center, all within walking distance.
- San Diego was and is a popular West Coast retreat for modern-era presidents looking to catch a bit of California sun. The iconic Hotel del Coronado was not just the glamorous film set for the classic Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot, but also a destination of presidents including Benjamin Harrison, William H. Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. The U.S. Grant Hotel, meanwhile, is one of the most historically significant destinations in San Diego. It was developed in 1910 by Ulysses S. (“Buck”) Grant, Jr. in tribute to his father, Ulysses S. Grant (the 18th President of the United States). Since opening, the distinguished inn has played host to 15 U.S. Presidents and five First Ladies, from Woodrow Wilson to John F. Kennedy, George Bush, Sr. and Dwight D. Eisenhower.