Family friendly cities: Visit D.C. for monuments & museums
More than the seat of government, Washington, D.C., is a place of history and culture that can be riveting for adults and kids alike. A visit to the nation's capital will remind you--and show your kids--how democracy got started and why it's important. It won't cost you much, either, because almost all of D.C.'s sights are free.
America's heftiest symbols of democracy are the monuments that flank the National Mall and Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C. But you can do more than Instagram them. Although the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument is closed for renovations until 2019, there are frequent talks and walks led by National Park Service rangers at the monuments, which also include the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II, Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials.
Once visitors leave the Reflecting Pool monuments, they can reflect on the nation's history inside the National Mall's eight Smithsonian museums, the world's largest museum collection. All are open daily except on Christmas, and like the monuments, all are free. Anyone with a sense of curiosity could spend hours in each of them. They include the Air & Space Museum, Museum of Natural History, Museum of American History, American Indian Museum and African American Museum. Another family favorite—three blocks from the Mall, although it's not a free Smithsonian museum—is the International Spy Museum ($15-$22), which traces the history of espionage from Revolutionary War spies to modern-day moles, with exhibits sure to fascinate older kids and adults.
The National Zoo
Some would say the real weasels and sloths are across town, but never mind that—the Smithsonian National Zoo is one of America's finest zoos. And it's free. The 300 species include the beloved giant pandas (Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and male cub Bei Bei), the American Bison (the zoo's first species when it opened in 1887), African lions, Sumatran tigers, a Great Ape House and Amazonia—a re-creation of the Amazon River biome with titi monkeys in the trees and turtles in the water. Scheduled often are elephant-training demonstrations, meet-a-reptile sessions, lemur feedings and more.
Rock Creek Park
The National Zoo is only one of the attractions in Rock Creek Park, a national park for 43 years that's still administered by the National Park Service. A nine-mile-long bike path and 32 miles of hiking trails follow the wooded creek through the park between the Potomac River and the Maryland border. Park visitors can rent a bike ($11/hour) or a kayak, rowboat, pedal boat or standup paddleboard ($16-$22/hour) for use in the park, or do a trail ride at the park's equestrian center. The park also features historic fort ruins, a nature center, a planetarium and a public golf course.
The White House
A White House tour takes some planning, but it can be the highlight of a D.C. visit. The self-guided East Wing tour lets visitors see the State Dining Room, White House movie theater and nine other rooms. Requests for the free, first-come/first-served tickets must be made to your member of Congress at least three weeks ahead. If no tickets are left, you can still check out the White House Visitor Center, which is free, open daily, and showcases White House artifacts and films.
If you go
United Airlines offers hundreds of flights to Washington Dulles International Airport from dozens of cities, and MileagePlus Rewards can help pay for your car rental and a family-friendly hotel room once you arrive. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your getaway.
If you can't get to Mars, what's the next best thing? Apparently Iceland. A team of renowned explorers and researchers recently journeyed to Iceland to test a Mars analog suit in a Martian-like environment.
The United sponsored expedition, led by The Explorers Club — an internationally recognized organization that promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space — and in partnership with Iceland Space Agency, involved the team venturing inside the Grímsvötn volcano and across the Vatnajökull ice cap. The group traveled to the remote location and lived for six days in the Grímsvötn Mountain Huts and endured harsh weather conditions and unstable terrain.
Helga Kristin Torfadöttir, Geologist and glacier guide, using the LiDAR system to map the ground and test the suit's capabilities on the glacier.
The objective of the mission was to explore the potential of concept operations at the Grímsvötn location while testing the suit in an arctic environment similar to what would be found on the surface of Mars. "This mission was an important test of the design of the MS1 suit, but it was also incredibly helpful to understand the how to conduct these sorts of studies in Iceland," said Michael Lye, MS1 designer and NASA consultant and RISD professor. "No matter how thoroughly something is tested in a controlled environment like a lab, studying it in a setting that accurately represents the environment where it will be used is absolutely essential to fully understand the design."
The suit was designed and constructed by faculty and students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with input and guidance from members of the HI-SEAS IV crew and NASA's Johnson Space Center Space Suit Engineering team. At 50-60 lbs, the suit is similar to what a planetary exploration suit would weigh in Martian gravity. The suit was originally designed to be used in the warm climate of Hawaii, however the martian climate is much closer to what would be found on top of the glaciers in Iceland. The data collected will inform the future of habitat and spacesuit design that can be used to train astronauts on Earth.
Today, we remember the colleagues, customers and every single victim of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
I know each of us in the United family marks this difficult moment in our own way. Still, we all share a common commitment to honor how our brothers and sisters left us and also celebrate what they gave to us during their lives. We remember their professionalism and heroism. We cherish their camaraderie and friendship. We carry with us the examples they set forth, especially in the heroism and bravery displayed by so many on that terrible day. Above all, we understand a simple truth: While thousands of our fellow human beings lost their lives in New York City, Arlington and Shanksville, the attacks of September 11th were aimed at all people of peace and good will, everywhere. They were attacks on the values that make life worth living, as well as the shared purpose that make us proud of what we do as members of the United family: connecting people and uniting the world.
We may live in times scarred by discord and disagreement, and we know there are those around the world who seek to divide us against one another. But, on this day – above all – we come together, as one. We affirm our core belief that far, far more unites us as citizens and fellow human beings than can ever divide us.
Let us embody that belief as we go about serving our customers and one another – on this day and every day – as we continue to help building a world that's more united. Let that be our memorial to the sisters and brothers we lost, eighteen Septembers ago.