The holiday that celebrates discoverer Christopher Columbus has taken a beating over the years, especially since research now shows that the Vikings had a camp in North America over 400 years before Columbus found the Bahamas. Still, the event is a good opportunity to honor the spirit of discovery in all of us. Here are a few ideas:

  • Explore the Pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation (with a tart twist.) A crisp fall weekend is ideal for experiencing the daily life of the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors ( During the Columbus Day weekend, enjoy hands-on crafts and special meals during the annual Harvest Festival. Pucker up for the rest of your Massachusetts visit with a stop at the Cranberry Harvest Celebration ( near Cape Cod, and watch thousands of bright red berries floating in their bogs.
  •  Explore pioneer paths along the Kansas-Missouri border. Start with the National Frontier Trails Museum ( in Independence, MO, crossroads of the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails. Drive to Kansas City and walk through frontier life treasures recovered from the 1856 sinking of the riverboat Arabia ( Yes, those pickle preserves that you see are still edible! Finish up in St. Joseph, MO admiring fast horses and brave messengers in the Pony Express Museum ( Bonus exploration: Stop in Atchison, KS at the birthplace of a modern pioneer, aviator Amelia Earhart (
  •  Explore real American music in its birthplace. Want to be a true guitar hero? Learn about the blues in the heart of the Delta at the Helena, Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival 4-6 October ( The Festival has always been free and boasts musical legends like Pinetop Perkins in this year’s lineup. To take a break from the jams, drive south down legendary Highway 61 (across the river in Mississippi) and visit the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, MS (
  •  Explore the “right stuff” at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL ( Arrive a little early (October 4th) to see the scheduled launch of a Delta 4-Heavy rocket, then get behind the scenes at the Space Shuttle Launch Pad on the reservations-only NASA Up-Close Tour. Make sure you leave room for lunch….with an astronaut, of course. Too much tech? Stop at the nearby Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge ( to see what this area looked like before the space program took off.

 A 3-day holiday is perfect for a short family getaway with a little history or culture thrown in. So, take advantage of honoring our human need to know what’s beyond the horizon, and enjoy the Columbus Day weekend.