World War II Valor in the Pacific

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World War II Valor in the Pacific, a National Park, is a must visit for every Oahu visitor. The National Park is located at Pearl Harbor and includes the U.S.S. Arizona and two museums along the harbor. The December 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Park houses many japanese-airplaneartifacts, short movies and interactive exhibits.

There are plenty of tours advertised around Oahu which will take you to Pearl Harbor. The advantage of a paid tour is knowing you will have a seat on the boat out to the U.S.S. Arizona. Those who want to save the money can arrive at the park early in the day and receive free tickets. The Visitor Center only provides 1,300 tickets per day. With over 4,000 visitors to the park per day the tickets go fast. The entrance to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free. Access to the two museums along the harbor are also free. Parking is also free. No bags are allowed in the park. There are warning signs in the parking lot that a lot of break-ins occur. There is a manned bag checking station available for a nominal fee.

Insider tip-if tickets are available for the day but not for a time you want, still get them. Walk over to the tour bus operators at the park entrance, be nice and sometimes they are willing to swap tickets for an ideal time.

ticketsPrograms run every 15 minutes and tickets are for a specific time. At the appointed time ticket holders gather in a staging area. From the staging area ticket holders move into an auditorium to watch a 23 minute video prior to boarding the boat. The U.S. Navy operates the boats that travel to and from the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. If there are high winds all boat trips are cancelled.

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Flowers left from the 75th anniversary

The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial symbolizes the lives lost during the attack. Young men that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Visitors should remember they are visiting the resting place of these soldiers and be respectful with their behaviors.

As of January 8, 2017 there were only 5 U.S.S. Arizona survivors, ranging in age from 94 to 97 years old. These men all reside on the mainland. (The local term for the rest of the United States.) Of the five survivors, four of them made the journey back to Pearl Harbor for the 75th anniversary in December of 2016.

Upon arrival there is a short guided tour by a park employee before allowing time to explore. My mother’s heart was struck this visit by the 38 sets of brothers on board the U.S.S. Arizona at the time of the attack. 63 of the 79 brothers died during the attack. There was only one set of brothers who both survived the attack. There were 3 sets of three brothers on board and only 1 brother from each family survived. Also killed in action on the U.S.S Arizona was a father and son pair. I imagine when the brothers became shipmates the family found relief knowing the brothers could watch over each other, never imagining the unthinkable would happen.

The U.S.S. Bowfin and U.S.S. Bowfin museum has a nominal fee and is based at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The U.S.S. Missouri, is nearby and has a fee to access the boat. Finally, the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor is also nearby and has an access fee.

 

 

 

The National Cemetery of the Pacific

 

The National Cemetery of the Pacific, the Punchbowl or Puowaina is nestled above Honolulu in an extinct volcanic tuff cone. It is a must see!

lady-columbiaWe wound our way through the curvy, poorly marked streets, by poorly marked I mean you have to be alert and have your game on. The signs are quite close to where you need to turn and we missed one. Trying to navigate turning around on the narrow, busy streets adds to the adventure.

The first glimpse of the National Cemetery of the Pacific is breathtaking. An American flag flows in the gentle breeze. In the distance stone stairs lined by the Court of the Missing, lead to the 30 foot white statue of Lady Columbia as she greets visitors. The Court of the Missing has 10 marble walls listing the names of over 29,000 U.S. service members whose remains were never recovered from battle. Lady Columbia represents all grieving mothers. There is an inscription from Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, a mother who lost five sons in the Civil War. Behind Lady Columbia are buildings with maps and descriptions of different battles.

A short drive up the hill to the left of the entrance are restrooms, a computerized system to look up buried service members and a walkway to a stunning lookout. The walkway is wheelchair accessible. Looking south I saw Diamond Head, the hotels along Waikiki beach, Honolulu’s business center and the airport. A few steps in the opposite direction were views of the National Cemetery of the Pacific. It is easy to see why the National Cemetery of the Pacific is nicknamed the Punchbowl. The grounds are immaculately groomed. Grass is kept short, leaves are removed, dead flowers are removed and there are strict rules as to what is allowed to be placed at each grave site.

 

Historically, Puowaina, the Hill of Sacrifice, was used for human sacrifices to the Hawaiian gods. During World War II, the military used the area for coastal defense. Shortly after WWII, Congress approved the location as a cemetery. Some of the first to be interred were those military members that lost their live during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The National Cemetery of the Pacific is the second largest military burial grounds.

The National Cemetery of the Pacific is a must see. There is no admission fee and it serves as a reminder the number of military personnel who made incredible sacrifices so we can continue to enjoy our freedom.

The Riverboat Discovery- a Peak into Alaska History

The high pitched whistle from the Riverboat Discovery echoes through out Steamboat Landing, signaling it is time to board the boat.  We hand our tickets to a local college student and move up the gangway to the boat. We grab a free donut and cup of coffee as we head up to our favorite spot in the fresh air on the port side of the top deck. The Riverboat Discovery tour is a brief immersion into life in Alaska. Lots of history is shared with the passengers by a local host. There are video monitors so everybody can see the action- and there is lots of action.

 

Float Plane
Float plane

The first stop invokes goose bumps as a float plane takes off and lands on the river next to the Riverboat! Bush planes are essential to access the remote areas of Alaska.Side bar-my own love affair with Alaska began in the late 70’s when my dad returned from Alaska and told me about landing on a gravel bar in the river. My father helped the pilot turn the plane around so the pilot could take off. The challenges and dangers of being a bush pilot intrigued me, especially as I was afraid of heights. Years later this story would influence my decision to move to Alaska. I now have my Private Pilot license and Float Plane Rating. But I digress.. .

Trail Breaker Kennel
Trail Breaker Kennel

Just a little further down the river, the boat guide interacts with a musher at the Trail Breaker Kennel. We had the pleasure of listening to Dave Monson. He shares a glimpse into the life of a musher and kennel owner. Dave is the real deal with thousands of miles of mushing through the uninhabited wilds under his sled. He has won the arduous Yukon Quest Race and is a regular in the Iditarod Race, both are 1000+ mile races.  The sled dogs have boundless energy and are eager to run.

There are a few more exciting stops before disembarking at the Chena Indian Village. The Chena Indian Village has three presentations before guests have free time to wander about and discover the gems in the village. The presentations are given by people connected to Alaska. They often weave their personal experiences in the presentation. Each presentations is informative, thoughtful and well done. Be prepared to have your breath taken away as you see the beautifully sewn fur coat and ruff.

Three whistle blasts indicate it is time to board the boat and return to Steamboat Landing. The crew brings out delicious hand made salmon dip. This is a highlight for my 10 year old daughter as well as my 76 year old father.  Fortunately, the crew doesn’t mind people heading back for seconds after everybody has had a chance to try this delectable treat. The canned salmon used in the dip is so good that we often will give it as a gift. It is that scrumptious!Steamboat Landing

Insider tips:

  1. Sit on the left hand side of the top deck
  2. There is a 2 for 1 coupon in the back of a visitor book
  3. Eat the doughnuts
  4. Eat the salmon dip
  5. Enjoy the tour and learn some Alaska history

We love sharing the Riverboat Discovery with visitors.  Do you have a favorite place to take your out of town visitors? What are your insider tips?

 

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own. I did not receive any compensation, monetary or otherwise, for this review. All photos are the property of this blog.

Six Things to Do in Cincinnati

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Cincinnati, OH. Cincinnati is rich with history, culture and things to do. I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this amazing town and look forward to returning.

I have an interest in the history of the United States, the good, the bad and the ugly. I was excited to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  The exhibits at the center are well done and very informative. I had a general knowledge of slavery but had no clue as to what life was like for the slaves. The Freedom Center helped enlighten me.  I naively thought the Slavery Pen was a secret newspaper for slaves. I felt sick to my stomach when I read what it actually was. I cannot even begin to fathom the inhumane acts the slaves endured. Emotionally I was only able to walk through half of the museum before I had to stop. I would like to return and finish the next time I am in the area. Insider tip: the Emancipation Proclamation is currently the special exhibit.

Friday evening I had the opportunity to dine at Taft’s Ale House near Washington Park.  The place was hopping. The former 1850 Protestant Parish turned brew pub is charming. There were only a few gluten free options. I chose the Tri Tip Steak with a salad to replace the potatoes and gravy. The food was delicious and worth the wait. Insider tip: street parking can be difficult. There is an underground parking garage at Washington Park, just a block or two away.

Washington Park is a gem and has something for everybody. There was live music playing and a beautiful set of fountains to splash in. People of all ages were wandering around trying to collect their next Pokémon in Pokémon Go.

The night life scene in this area is very busy. There are many restaurants and pubs in the area. We made our way to Graeter’s Over the Rhine for the most amazing locally made ice cream. They offer free samples to help narrow your selection. It was so delicious that I slurped it up before I could take a picture.  Insider tip: request a cup and get your second scoop of ice cream at a discount price!

Right outside of Cincinnati there are two places I visited that are worth mentioning. The Bluebird Bakery and Chamoda’s Candy Cafe, located on  Chester Road.

The Bluebird Bakery has beautiful pastries and my companions said they were delicious. I opted for a gluten free Buckeye and a tuna salad that was delicious. The service was wonderful and worth a return.

The owners at Chamoda’s Candy Café make you feel like family as soon as you walk in the door. They offer free samples of all their homemade candy.  All the candy is handmade. What makes this place extra special is the story behind this candy store. Chamoda was a UC football player that passed away. He inspired his dad to open this candy store. To honor his son a portion of the profits go to the Chamoda Kennedy-Palmore Scholarship Fund. Insider tip: try the free samples!

Cincinnati is an amazing place and three days doesn’t do it justice. What are your recommendations for when I return in 2018?