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5 Vacations Tailor-Made for Veterans

Here are destinations that offer something extra for those who’ve served

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Choosing destinations that feature military-related sites amongst civilian attractions can add depth and enjoyment to any getaway. 

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You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

Here are five vacation options that combine great sightseeing, military interest and veterans discounts to offer you the best of all worlds. Pack your suitcase!

Our Nation’s Capital — Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C., tops the list of vacations tailor-made for veterans because it’s simply a powerhouse of enjoyment for visitors. A range of museums and sites are free to all, including the National Museum of American History, the National Gallery of Art, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Zoo, and the U.S. Botanic Garden, among many others.

The local museums are joined by a stunning array of sites that will interest military-minded visitors, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery. There are also numerous civil war battlefields within an hour-and-a-half drive, including ManassasAntietam, and Gettysburg.

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The Big Apple — New York City

Summer is a good time for a New York visit because a large number of the city’s museums are free to military families all summer under the Blue Star Museums program. You get free access to some of the museum world’s heavy hitters: the American Museum Of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, along with many others. 

Other NYC attractions provide freebies and discounts to veterans, including free entry to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, a 30 percent discount to shows at Carnegie Hall, and half-price tickets at the New York Aquarium. And there are many other activities to help make your New York vacation one to remember, including Broadway plays, fine dining, a trip to the Statue of Liberty, or a walk in Central Park.  

California Dreamin’ — San Diego

A central reason to visit San Diego is the famous SeaWorld, which provides veterans and up to three dependents free admission once each year through the Waves of Honor program. But this sunny SoCal locale has far more to offer. A number of the city’s museums are among those free to military families all summer under the Blue Star Museums program, including the San Diego Museum Of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the New Children’s Museum. 

There are also a slew of military-related museums and sites in and around town, enough to satisfy a hankering for some historical exploration. The options include the USS Midway Museum; the San Diego Air & Space Museum; the Cabrillo National Monument, a park with remains of coastal fortifications; Liberty Station, an old naval training center; and the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park.

The Big Easy

New Orleans is a sight in itself, especially if you visit on Mardi Gras, but the city also has a whole lot of military-specific attractions that can keep veterans entertained between visits to jazz clubs and po’boy shops. Don’t miss the National WWII Museum, free to military families all summer under the Blue Star Museums program, along with the New Orleans Museum of ArtOgden Museum of Southern Art and the New Canal Lighthouse Museum.

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There are also many historic military sites around town to occupy enthusiasts: Jackson Barracks, an early Confederate post; Chalmette National Cemetery, where Jackson defeated the British in 1815; and Fort Pike State Historic Site and Fort Macomb, both 19th-century forts. Take a ghost tour to get spooked at haunted sites with a military tie, including Hotel Provincial, once a military hospital. 

Everywhere America … Don’t Forget the National Parks

Veterans can now get a free lifetime pass to all 63 U.S. national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests and grasslands — 423 sites in all. The pass also covers lands managed by a number of federal agencies. So, get those hiking boots on and hit the trail, wherever you happen to find yourself.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.