Presidents Day is upon us. Actually, Washington’s birthday, or is it Lincoln’s? Somewhere along the way, the holidays and celebrations became entwined. But, it gives us an opportunity to celebrate our Presidents, those bigger than life and those who coped with the office. Those who changed the country for better and those who muddled along.
Fortunately, no President has destroyed the country. Our system of checks and balances combined with the glacial pace that change takes place in Washington, DC, has protected us from disaster.
This holiday is a chance to reflect on our leaders, to think about how each of them changed the country or continued our traditions. Here are a collection of some of the most inspiring monuments to our Presidents. From their houses to giant marble statues, from busts carved into mountains to resorts where they relaxed, these sights provide a chance to reflect on those who have led this country through the centuries.
Mt. Vernon, Virginia
This is the home of George Washington, the first president of our country. The more one learns about Washington, more impressed one is with his humility and his ability to be a leader. The more impressed one is at how one man can make a gigantic difference.
Just across the Potomac from Washington D.C. the palatial home, farm and gardens of George Washington sit overlooking the impressive river. Mt. Vernon provides a glimpse into the life and times of Washington as a politician, a general and a farmer.
Seeing the beautiful setting and wonderful house and the surrounding buildings makes Washington’s sacrifice for his country more impressive. He gave up this luxurious lifestyle to lead the Colonial army during the Revolutionary War and then again to serve as the first President of the United States. At the end of his service, he only had two years to enjoy his retirement here at Mr. Vernon before he passed away.
The Mount Vernon Estate is open 365 days of the year!
April through August, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
March, September, and October, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
November through February, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
These three monuments to Presidents are built the way a monument should be. Well, the Lincoln and Jefferson monuments are. I have mixed feelings about the FDR Memorial — built to walk through, it doesn’t have the grandeur that the monumental edifices of Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials project.
That being said, all three are worth the time to visit and can be visited in a morning if sightseers don’t mind walking a bit.
Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia
A two-and-a-half hour drive southwest of Washington, DC, Thomas Jefferson’s home stands majestically above some of the more beautiful countryside one could imagine.
This masterpiece created by Thomas Jefferson has become the blueprint for many public buildings. His energy that wasn’t spent founding the country and serving as our third President, went into creating this house and landscaping and farming its surrounding lands. This is a journey into the world of a genius who was fascinated with everything new but was grounded in the timeless classics.
Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota
Mt. Rushmore in the South Dakota Black Hills is a 20th Century creating to celebrate American Presidents and to bring tourism to South Dakota. Sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln represent the first 130 years of the history of the United States. These 60-foot-high busts are carved into the granite of the tallest mountain in the region.
No one who comes to Mt. Rushmore can claim that this monument is less than impressive. From the sheer grandeur of the concept to massiveness of the sculpture to the stark surroundings of the Black Hills, the National Park inspires awe.
If you know of any other exceptional Presidents Day destination that highlight the country’s executive, please add them in comments to this story.
Lincoln Memorial photo by Leocha; Mt. Vernon photo by rwiedower, Flickr Creative Commons; Jefferson Memorial by Kevin Burkett, Flickr Creative Commons; Monticello photo courtesy Monticello; Mt. Rushmore photo by Ed Menard NPS