Great Americana

Plan a red, white and blue vacation — from sea to shining sea

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Cardinals Baseball, St. Louis

There's nothing that screams "Americana" louder than a day at the ballpark. The home of the Major League Baseball's 80th All-Star Game is the third park in St. Louis to carry the name Busch Stadium — it replaced the Busch Memorial Stadium (1966-2005), which replaced the first Busch Stadium (1920-1953), also known as Sportsman's Park. On April 10, 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals opened this 46,000-seat ballpark with a win over the Milwaukee Brewers. The team is also the first in almost a century to win a World Series Championship in a new ballpark's inaugural season. The open-air stadium offers great views of downtown St. Louis, including the world-famous arch.

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Disneyland

In 1955, an actor named Ronald Reagan co-hosted Dateline: Disneyland, which brought the opening day of Disneyland to the world. Reagan returned in 1990 as a former president to rededicate the park on its 35th anniversary. Since it opened, on July 17, 1955, the park has played host to every U.S. president. Every day on Main Street, USA, it feels like the Fourth of July, and you can take a ride down the Rivers of America on a steamboat or three-masted ship. And, of course, Sleeping Beauty Castle is the most magical icon of all.

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Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C.

America is a country of triumphs and tragedies. On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln went to see a show at Ford's Theatre and was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln was then carried across the street to Petersen's Boarding House, where he died the following day. At the theater and the Lincoln Museum (located at Petersen House), you and your family can learn the story of what happened that night, and all about what happened before and after including conspiracy plots, trials, attempted kidnappings and how presidential security — and the world — were forever changed.

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Fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas

A city built on lights and colors in the middle of the desert? The spectacle of all Las Vegas Strip spectacles, the dancing fountains of the Bellagio use highly choreographed water cannons synchronized to music. It's like a water chorus line. Where else but Vegas can you see volcanos, the New York skyline, a castle, a palace and a pyramid?

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Grant Park, Chicago

When President Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech at Millennium Park in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008, more than 20,000 people turned out to hear it. The 24.5 acre park along Lake Michigan, part of the larger Grant Park (named for Ulysses S. Grant in the early 1900s), was the site of many a protest during the infamous Democratic Convention of 1968. Millennium Park, built in 2004 on the Northern end of Grant Park, is home to a plethora of activities and architecture, fountains, sculptures, free music festivals and, in the winter, an ice skating rink. Head south along the lakefront and check out the amazing buildings that were constructed for the 1893 World's Fair.

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Hall of Presidents, Walt Disney World

Where else but Walt Disney World will you find all 44 presidents of the United States? At the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents you first enjoy a film about the writing of the Constitution, then, like magic, Audio-Animatronic representations of every president, grace the stage, with each man acknowledged during a roll call — in case you've never seen what Chester A Arthur or William Henry Harrison looks like. Up for more America love Disney World style? Head over to Epcot's American Adventure for a trip through history with Ben Franklin and Mark Twain.

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Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego

"The Del," as the locals call it, is a beautiful, luxurious oceanfront hotel on the Coronado peninsula in San Diego. When it opened in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado was the largest resort hotel in the world — and the first to use electric lights. Among its guests over the past century have been Hollywood stars, presidents, and kings and queens.

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Kennedy Space Station, Florida

President John F. Kennedy was one of the largest proponents of the U.S. space program. During his inaugural speech, he said these words: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth." On May 25, 1961, Kennedy submitted the lunar landing program to Congress. So it is fitting that our nation's largest space center is named for our 35th president. Kennedy Space Center is where your family can enjoy the Shuttle Launch Experience, explore the Rocket Garden and have a blast in the G-Force Trainer.

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Lincoln's Birthplace, Kentucky

While Illinois might be known as the "Land of Lincoln," it is Kentucky that can claim the 16th president as its hometown boy. Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin, known now as Lincoln's Birthplace on February 12, 1809. When he was born to uneducated farmers Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, it made Lincoln the first U.S. president to be born outside the original 13 colonies. The log cabin — which was added to the national park registry in 2001 — and its lore made its way to toy store shelves in the earlier part of the 20th century, when Lincoln Logs were first produced. Even though the Lincoln family moved to Indiana in 1816, the president's Bluegrass past wasn't too far from his thoughts — his wife, Mary Todd, was also from Kentucky.

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Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

When they say some people are larger than life, they might have been talking about the four presidents carved into Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore, designed to promote tourism in South Dakota, took nearly 400 people to carve from October 1927 to October 1941. More than 2 million people every year pay a visit to the Black Hills to see George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — all selected because of their role in expanding territory and preserving the United States (it was President Calvin Coolidge who requested Washington, one Democrat and two Republicans). A fifth face, that of women's rights leader Susan B. Anthony, was supposed to be added, but a bill passed that cut funding that would only allow completion of the ones that had already started.

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The National Mall, Washington, D.C.

When you take a walk through the 309.2-acre National Mall you are strolling past history. The National Mall and Memorial Parks, which was founded in 1791, contains a large reflecting pool; more than 80 historic buildings and 150 historic parks, including the Washington Monument (1848), Lincoln Memorial (1922), Jefferson Memorial (1937), Korean War Veterans Memorial (1995), World War II Memorial (2004), Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982); and several of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. It's also where some of the most famous rallies and speeches in U.S. history have been heard — including Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream."

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Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles

As if screaming down the rails of a rollercoaster isn't exciting enough, here you can do it with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. The Santa Monica Pier is known for its loud arcade and hit-the-clown, win-a-stuffed-animal kind of games. In other words, it's kid heaven. Above the Los Angeles icon is a boardwalk that runs along the beach for miles.

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The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

The legislative branch of the U.S. Government calls the chambers home, but it's the famous rotunda that catches the eys of visitors. Construction on the U.S. Capitol began in 1793 and, since the 1801 inauguration of Thomas Jefferson, every president has been sworn in for at least one of his terms somewhere on the grounds. Starting with Ronald Reagan in 1981, the ceremony has taken place on the West Front steps, of which there are 365 (one for each day of the year).

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Statue of Liberty, New York City

Whether you like autumn in New York or New York in June, nothing tops the Big Apple for American icons. The views of New York City are awesome from the Top of the Rock observation deck and from the Empire State Building. Plus, before or after you ascend to the deck you can explore Rockefeller Center itself. Then grab some famous New York Pizza and hop on a ferry to meet Lady Liberty herself: She was given as a gift from the people of France in 1886 and helped save New York in "Ghostbusters 2." The torch in one hand represents enlightenment; the tablet in the other repesents knowledge  and is inscribed, in roman numerals, with the date the Declaration of Independence was signed.

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The White House, Washington, D.C.

What salute to Americana would be complete without a visit to the iconic symbol of our country: The White House? Every president since John Adams in 1797 has called this Pennsylvania residence home. Today, several parts make up the six-floor White House, which includes the Executive Residence (where the First Family lives), East Wing (office of the first lady and the White House social secretary), the West Wing (which includes the Oval Office, Cabinet Room and Roosevelt Room) and the Old Executive Office Building (the executive offices of the president and vice president). While the White House tour doesn't include visits to the bowling alley, movie theater or tennis courts, the 5,000 daily visitors still apply months in advance to be able to see the majestic Blue Room, Red Room and East Room, among others.

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