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 (www.plimoth.org). 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 (www.cranberries.org/festival/festival.html) 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 (www.indepmo.org/NFTM) 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 (www.1856.com). 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 (www.ponyexpress.org). Bonus exploration: Stop in Atchison, KS at the birthplace of a modern pioneer, aviator Amelia Earhart (www.ameliaearhartmuseum.org).
- 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 (www.bluesandheritage.com). 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 (www.deltabluesmuseum.org).
- Explore the “right stuff” at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL (www.kennedyspacecenter.com). 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 (www.fws.gov/merrittisland) 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.