Happy Birthday, Mr. President
When Marilyn Monroe sang the infamous song, it was for John F. Kennedy’s birthday. But this Monday it’s America’s first president who’ll be getting the birthday honors. Turn up the volume on your own celebration with a trip to one of the U.S.’s most presidential sights–South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.
It’s hard to get a sense for Mount Rushmore until you’re right up against it, staring up. The monument is behemoth–a literal mountain sculpted by dynamite–and its sheer size is an almost palpable thing. Standing on the Grand View Terrace you can easily see all four visages carved into the granite, from birthday boy George Washington on the left to honorary Presidents’ Day celebrity Abraham Lincoln on the right. Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt rest in between.
Once you’ve gotten an eyeful of the massive stone relief, you can occupy yourself with some of the park’s education-oriented programs. Check out some of the unique tools used to shape the mountain in the Sculptor’s Shop, or follow a ranger on a 30-minute walk that takes you to the base of the carving.
If you’re up for some adventure, there are also a few not-so-presidential stops in the neighborhood. Jewel Cave–the second longest cave in the world–offers ranger-guided tours, while Crazy Horse Memorial offers a Native American counterpart sculpture just eight miles from Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills.
My name: Kate Beall
How I earn my keep: Writing for Travelocity.
Best meal I've ever had: There are three: the mofongo at Jimmy'z Kitchen in South Beach, the lomito completo at Fuente Alemana in Santiago, and (for the sheer novelty factor) the cuy chactado in Arequipa, Peru.
First thing I do in a new place: Hit the shower. Anything more than an hour in transit gets me fantasizing about soap.
View that took my breath away: Seeing the endless stretch of the Sierras as I flew in to Reno/Tahoe for the first time. In the winter, it's an aching field of white all the way to the horizon, like a world wiped clean. Looking out at it gives you this unmatched feeling of eternity.
Most challenging travel moment: Sharing a pull-out couch in a cramped New York apartment. The heat wave of 2010 was in full, humid swing and the air conditioning was D.O.A. There was nothing to do but soak your clothes in the sink and hope to pass out before they dried. ...then wake up in an hour and do it all again.
Favorite way to get around: On foot. I'm still working on the motorcycle license.