If you’re making plans for an epic historic road trip or just looking for ways to honor those who’ve served their country, planning a road trip that covers the history, lives and sacrifices of those who protect our nation’s freedom is one of the best ways to do so.
To help you plan such a trip, we put together three routes with stops to see some of the country’s most impressive military treasures and memorials. This collection of national cemeteries and memorials includes great sites for any history buff, veteran or fellow citizen wanting to celebrate our armed forces.
Whether you rent a car in San Diego and start your trip at Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial or you’re near D.C., you’re sure to feel thankful and inspired by the courage of the men and women in our armed forces.
Northeast Memorial Road Trip
For the ultimate memorial road trip, there’s no better place than the Northeastern states. Below, we highlight a few war memorials in Washington D.C., Virginia and Pennsylvania to honor our fallen soldiers. From Civil War and WWI memorials to those specifically honoring women and African Americans in the military, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in the country’s history.
Arlington National Cemetery – Arlington, VA
Housing nearly 400,000 graves of soldiers who fought battles as far back as the Civil War, the National Cemetery in Arlington is a good historic spot to visit notable graves, take tours and witness ceremonies. It has 28 major and 142 minor monuments and memorials, and it’s the only national cemetery to hold the graves of servicemembers from every war in U.S. history. Some notable graves include those of John F. Kennedy, Charles Young and Thurgood Marshall.
A famous landmark is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, also known as the Tomb of the Unknowns, with graves of unknown soldiers from WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. While there, watch the changing of the guard ceremony which happens in front of the tomb every 30 minutes to every hour depending on when you visit.
Women in Military Service for America Memorial – Arlington, VA
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the only major memorial that honors all women in the armed forces both living and deceased since the American Revolution. The mission of this memorial isn’t just to honor all women in the military, but to tell their stories and show how their contributions are equal to those of men.
While there, you can check out their Exhibit Gallery, Hall of Honor, theater, Court of Valor and the computerized memorial register with over 250,000 stories of women service members.
Flight 93 National Memorial – Stoystown, PA
Although not necessarily a memorial for American soldiers, we include this stop because it honors the courageous civilians who fought the hijackers of the United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and prevented an attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The memorial is located at the site of the crash and features the Tower of Voices — a 93-foot tall musical instrument that holds windchimes to honor the passengers and crew of Flight 93 — the Wall of Names, Flight Path and the Memorial Plaza. The National Park Service also hosts a yearly observance on September 11th.
Midwest Memorial Road Trip
The midwest is home to some memorable monuments and memorials that honor our vets. Below, we highlight a few war memorials in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan to give you some background on what these spots represent and who they honor. From our brave K9 soldiers to the only memorial in the U.S. that honors every and all veterans, you’re sure to put together an inspiring trip.
National Veterans Memorial and Museum – Columbus, OH
The only museum in the country to honor all veterans from every branch of our armed forces throughout the nation’s history. The National Veterans Memorial creates a unique experience for its visitors by offering various types of interactive displays including photos, letters, multimedia presentations and exhibits.
Indiana World War Memorial – Indianapolis, IN
The Indiana World War Memorial is part of Indiana’s incredible collection of memorials scattered throughout the city. The building has a neoclassical inspired design and stands to honor Hoosier veterans of WWI.
The building has three main floors where you can check out the Shrine Room supported by 24 blood red pillars, the Star of Destiny made of Swedish Crystal and the Altar of Consecration.
Michigan War Dog Memorial – South Lyon, MI
We couldn’t complete this list without including a memorial that honors our four-legged service members. The Michigan War Dog Memorial is a great spot to pay tribute to all of the loyal K9 soldiers who served their owners and country from WWI to Iraq.
While there, stop by the 16-ton granite monument that honors all war dogs and the Vietnam K9 Memorial Wall.
West Coast Memorial Road Trip
West Coast Highlights
Last but not least, a war memorial road trip on the West Coast is sure to provide an excellent historical overview and spectacular ocean vistas. Read some of the highlights below and get ready for an unforgettable trip along the coast to honor soldiers from the Vietnam War to the War on Terror.
Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial – La Jolla, CA
One of the most unique spots on our list is Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial — it’s the only memorial that features a photo of each one of the veterans it honors, both living and deceased. It was originally created to honor veterans of the Korean War but has now expanded to honor veterans from the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terror. Some notable plaques include Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Regan and Ford.
U.S. Submarine Veterans World War II Memorial West – Seal Beach, CA
Pay tribute to over 3,000 submariners who never returned from war by visiting the U.S. Submarine Veterans Memorial in Seal Beach, CA. The memorial houses 52 plaques for all U.S. submarines lost during WWII and features a torpedo at the front of the site.
If you’re interested in a tour, be sure to plan your visit on the last Saturday of the month.
California Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Sacramento, CA
Inscribed with 5,822 names, the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays tribute to all fallen Californians from this conflict. It features 22 panels with the names of all the men and women killed or missing in action, as well as several life-sized bronze sculptures depicting the life and sacrifices of these brave service members.
Whether you simply want to find a quiet place to remember and honor the men and women who fought and died serving, or learn all about the history and sacrifices of these courageous soldiers, this trip will be one for the books. Don’t forget to rent a car, book your hotels and plan your itinerary in advance so you don’t miss out on any unique ceremonies or events at these sites during Memorial Day or Veterans Day.