After the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key was so moved by the American victory over the British that he rewrote the words to a hearty English drinking song and came up with "The Star-Spangled Banner" to honor the fact that Americans thenceforth would have the guaranteed right to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" as if they had been drinking heartily (see videos, below).
Baltimore itself is commemorating the War of 1812 bicentennial in a big way, well beyond a mere salute to the National Anthem, with the Star-Spangled Sailabration, a week's worth of free patriotic events, June 13-19. Among the activities: An international flotilla of more than two dozen warships and tall ships; a Blue Angels air show; fireworks recalling the Fort McHenry battle; an aircraft display (and a chance to get the autographs of the Blue Angels pilots); and a newly written patriotic symphony at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
As you’ve no doubt heard, today marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. Besides being a great writer, Dickens was a believer in travel. He did not always put a happy spin on his voyages (On crossing the English Channel: “I am bumped rolled gurgled washed and pitched into Calais Harbour..” or on the world’s great capitals: “Naples is hot and dirty, New York feverish, Washington bilious, Genoa exciting, Paris rainy…”), but he is just as eloquent about the joy of experiencing the world around you:
He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.
And the enduring benefits of travel:
The more man knows of man, the better for the common brotherhood among us all.
Happy Dickens Day!
Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo of Dickens World, a theme park in Kent, England, by Robert Bird/Alamy.
As the Dead Sea vies for a spot as one of the New7Wonders of Nature, the biggest archeological discovery it yielded has settled into a temporary new home. Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times premiered at New York’s Discovery Times Square on October 28—the same venue that has housed other historic exhibitions like Titanic and King Tut. It marks the most comprehensive collection of ancient artifacts from Israel ever organized in North America, including the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible and a scale recreation of part of the Western Wall. With a video feed broadcasting activity at Jerusalem’s iconic Temple Mount, it’s perhaps the closest experience to the religious pilgrimage as one can make without making the 5700+ mile journey.
This fall, after many of the 3.7 million annual tourists have packed their cameras and left Yosemite National Park, the National Parks Service will begin culling young trees to open up views of the iconic granite faces and dramatic waterfalls that ring the valley.
When this package came across my desk, I couldn't help but be intrigued.
Turns out it contained my set of orders for RevQuest: Sign of the Rhinoceros, a new alternate-reality game going on through the end of the August at Colonial Williamsburg. Geared toward "spies" ages eight and up (though history-geek adults like me apparently make up a huge chunk of the players), RevQuest begins with a top-secret mission that is explained in hushed tones by Agent 368 at Mr. Prentis's Shop.
This month’s Contest Watch has a mixture of innovation and history. Honor the Titanic’s 100th anniversary with a grand trip to Ireland or look to a social-media startup to get you to Thailand. Inspired by past, present, or future, these prizes are guaranteed to get you traveling.
Ring in spring at the historic 1885 Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. From April 2 through May 26, the property will host its 26th Annual Festival of Flowers. Come tiptoe through over 100,000 tulips planted across 8,000 acres of the Olmstead-designed land.
Events throughout the six-week celebration include live music, gardening Q+A sessions, flower-arranging and cooking demos, and a grape stomp at the on-site winery. Families are invited to join Peter Rabbit, children’s musicians, and face-painters for an Easter Egg hunt on April 24th.
The Newseum, an interactive museum in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to the role of journalism in history. Sound dull and preachy? Not at all. In fact, it was declared the “best museum ever” by my three under-10 companions this past weekend.
Where else can you peer inside Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s stark cabin? Or stand in front of a real television camera and give your own fast-paced sports report? Or feel the breeze on your face as you ride the ferry to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island alongside investigative reporter Nelly Bly?
Though I’d be lying if I claimed to be an avid history buff, I am absolutely enamored with exploring old structures, browsing through authentic, antique/ancient artifacts, and feeling as though I'm traveling to another time, even if for just a few moments. And now, thanks to the efforts of the local authorities in the town of Moulins—about 190 miles south of Paris—I now feel compelled to travel to central France for just such an opportunity.
After about 100 years of sitting locked up, untouched by the outside world, a townhouse built in the late 1800s is open to the public, after a $4.7 million dollar restoration.