The travel section of USA Today is running a poll on the best presidential attractions, and because I’m on the email lists of pretty much all of them, I’m being inundated with vote requests.
Most of the choices are pretty well-known – the White House, Ford’s Theater and the Lincoln Memorial are all on there, for example – though there are a few wildcards, including The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home and plantation in Nashville, and Montpelier, the home of James Madison (which is listed in Charlottesville, although it’s actually about 40 minutes away in Orange). The Disney Hall of Presidents is on there, too, if that’s your kind of place.
As for me? As much as I enjoy the well-known sites – I’m planning a trip back to Monticello as I write this – I want to give a shout out to some of the lesser-known but no less interesting sites. You’re probably going to see these better-known ones, so why not head off the beaten path a little?
If you’re in DC and you’ve had your fill of the crowds at the Lincoln Memorial, head northwest to the Washington National Cathedral – visit Woodrow Wilson inside and see the gargoyle of Darth Vader outside. Then drop by the magnificent and slightly inexplicable James Buchanan Memorial, an impressive memorial to the least impressive Chief Executive. And, of course, test your mettle in an escape from Theodore Roosevelt Island.
The JFK Library is certainly a worthy spot to visit – but there are many other great options in the presidential system if you’d like to get weird. Don’t miss the disco dancers that kick off your tour of the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, has an animatronic, joke-telling President Johnson.
Finally, if you get an opportunity to visit East Tennessee or the city of Buffalo, go. Presidential buffs will not be disappointed. And, of course, come up to our neck of the woods and see Franklin Pierce, after a trip through good old downtown Concord.
So much to see, so much to do. The best attraction is to see them all.