International Assassinations!

Murder has always been a common method of taking out enemies, whether it be a personal rival or political foe. When the murder is planned out in advance and executed in cold blood, it’s often referred to as an assassination.

Here are some of the most interesting and notorious international murders in history.

Franz Ferdinand-Sarajevo, Bosnia

While all deaths are tragic, the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the hands of a separatist assassin actually led to a world war and the deaths of more than 16 million people.

On June 28, 1914, the Archduke and his wife were traveling in Sarajevo, in the province of Bosnia-Herzegovina when a member of the Black Hand separatist group attempted to murder them with a grenade, which failed. Later in the day, they were riding to visit some victims when their driver got lost and drove into an ambush where the Archduke and his wife were shot and killed by another member of the group. The incident led to a series of treaties being called into force, leading to all the major countries of Europe and eventually the United States in the most destructive war the world had ever seen.

Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination (Google Maps)
Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination

Thomas Becket-Canterbury Cathedral, England

Thomas Becket was a British nobleman and eventually Chancellor to King Henry II. He was so trusted by the king that when the Archbishop of Canterbury died, he appointed Becket as the new Archbishop even though Becket wasn’t even a priest! However, Becket took his religious calling seriously and refused to bend the will of the church to that of the king, who eventually allegedly called for him to be assassinated.

On December 29, 1170, four knights of the king’s service approached Becket in Canterbury Cathedral and stabbed him to death. After his murder, religious followers throughout England and Europe began to venerate him and he was canonized a saint in 1173. Pilgrims and well-wishers can visit Canterbury Cathedral, although Becket’s bones were destroyed by King Henry VIII.

Canterbury Cathedral (Bing Maps)
Canterbury Cathedral

Gandhi-New Dehli, India

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in India, and while living abroad in South Africa, became an activist for civil rights. He led India’s movement for independence from Great Britain using only nonviolent means, and in 1947, the country was granted its independence. However, many people felt his methods were too accommodating to Great Britain and Pakistan during the post-liberation negotiations.

Gandhi was shot three times by Nathuram Godse in New Dehli on January 30, 1948. He died immediately or nearly immediately, and the entire country mourned his death. Over two million attended his funeral procession. The site of his death was turned into a memorial so that the country could continue to pay their respects to their country’s liberator.

The Martyr's Column (assassination of Mahatma Gandhi) (Google Maps)
The Martyr's Column (assassination of Mahatma Gandhi)

Caesar-Rome, Italy

“Beware the Ides of March” is an old saying that warns of bad things happening in the near future. According to legend, Julius Caesar, the first dictator of ancient Rome, was given this warning from a seer, foretelling he would be dead before the day was over. As Caesar made his way toward the Senate, a group of his friends and peers who were upset with his recent power grabs accosted him and stabbed him 23 times.

As Caesar was stabbed, he is said to have remarked to his favorite protege and follower “et tu, Brute?” meaning, “You too, Brutus?”. Once he realized that even his faithful follower had betrayed him, he surrendered to his fate.

Caesar’s murder was one of the most famous, and most impactful in history, as it led to an entire change in the political direction of the Roman Empire.

Julius Caesar's Murder Site (Google Maps)
Julius Caesar's Murder Site

Pope John Paul II-St. Peter’s Square, Vatican

Pope John Paul II was a very popular and well-regarded leader of the Catholic faith from 1978-2005. He was born in Poland in 1920, and grew up under Nazi rule in Warsaw. Through the years, he was elevated in the ranks of the Catholic Church, eventually becoming elected Pope in 1978 after the untimely death of Pope John Paul I.

On May 13, 1981, he was entering St. Peter’s Square in an open vehicle, greeting the crowd when a lone gunman Mehmet Ali Agca shot him three times, severely wounding him. However, apparently the man of God was watched over that day, because he survived the attack and even forgave his shooter. No concrete motive or theory could explain the shooting.

St. Peter's Square (Google Maps)
St. Peter's Square

One significant result of the shooting was that from then on, the Pope nearly always traveled in a specially designed vehicle that allowed the leader to be visible to his followers while protected by bulletproof glass. Because of the unique design, the vehicle was nicknamed the “Popemobile” and it traveled with the leader wherever he went in the world.

Popemobile of 2016 (StreetView)
Popemobile of 2016

If nothing else, these tragic murders (and attempted murder) show that these crimes happen for mundane, random and insane reasons, and can have impacts that literally change the course of the world.

Cemeteries Across the United States

It’s October, the perfect time to spend time among the cemeteries, give ourselves a little spook, safe from the computer. Most cemeteries in the United States are peaceful resting places for our dearly departed loved ones, but there are some that stand out due to their historical importance, fame, reputation, or serenity.

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Arlington Cemetery is “America’s Cemetery”, the final resting place for over 400,000 military members, their families and renowned civil leaders including President John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Thurgood Marshall.

Arlington National Cemetery (Google Maps)
Arlington National Cemetery

The cemetery is known for its rolling hills and uniform white headstones. Visitors can access maps and databases to locate their loved ones’ final resting places. The most hallowed portion of the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which houses unidentified remains of soldiers from several conflicts, and is watched over by a military guard day and night, rain or shine, including the brutal summer heat, terrible snow storms and even hurricanes.


Photo Credit: AP

Bonaventure Cemetery, Georgia

Just east of Savannah, GA is the Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous in the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and long acclaimed for its beautiful graves and tombs. Over 150 years old, the cemetery has large oak trees and Spanish moss, unique statues and tombs, and landscaping that evokes a time long past and a respect for those beyond the grave.


Photo Credit: Bonaventure Historical Society

Most famous is the “Bird Girl” statue featured in the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, but the statue has since been moved to a local museum to better feature the statue while maintaining a respectful and peaceful atmosphere in the cemetery.

Bonaventure Cemetery (Google Maps)
Bonaventure Cemetery

Key West Cemetery, Florida

This cemetery on the edge of the United States was established in 1847, after an 1846 hurricane damaged other cemeteries on the island and bodies needed to be reburied quickly. It has an eclectic mix of residents, some having died long before the cemetery was created, others being unknown slaves, Cuban revolutionaries from the 1800s, and soldiers who died in the Spanish-American War on the USS Maine. There is a meaningful memorial to those Africans who died on the transatlantic journey to the United States to be sold as slaves.

Key West Cemetery (StreetView)
Key West Cemetery

The cemetery has a unique feel, blending a peaceful respect for the dead with well-known laid back island attitude famous to Key West. Pleasant palm trees and bright blue sun are contrasted with austere and ornate vaults, tombs and statues intermingled with broken and crumbling carvings tombstones and monuments. The cemetery is the final home to over 100,000 individuals, far surpassing the 30,000 living residents of the island.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York

Located in Sleepy Hollow, New York, this cemetery is one of the most storied final resting places in the United States. Rolling hills, large trees and ancient statues contribute to the “haunted” feeling made famous in Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” that takes place in the old village.  Walking the winding pathways in the fall, one almost anticipates running into a headless horseman.

Sleepy Hollow cemetary (Google Maps)
Sleepy Hollow cemetary

Tours are available of historical sites within the cemetery, as well as of resting places of famous individuals including Washington Irving, Elizabeth Arden, William Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.

Photo Credit: SleepingHollowCemetary.org

These are just a few of the many interesting cemeteries across the country. If you’re not close to one of these, you can certainly go exploring in your own hometown and find unique, memorable or interesting stories in any cemetery!

This Month in History: October

There’s a lot going on in the world these days, and sometimes it can seem like things that happen now are more important than anything in the past. It’s nice to look back and see what important things have occurred in the past to make our world better, and what things have happened that we’ve survived.

Let’s look at some of the things that happened in Octobers past.

Panama Canal Returned to Panama

The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel, bridging the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the narrow isthmus of Panama in Central America. The United States began the project in order to cut the travel time from the East Coast to the West Coast by 6,000 miles.

The United States constructed the canal and maintained control for more than 60 years. But, after much protest by Panamanians wanting local control over the canal, the two countries agreed to give control of the canal back to Panama, starting October 1, 1979.

Panama Canal (Google Maps)
Panama Canal

Uganda Gains Independence from Great Britain

The people who live in what is now Uganda in Africa were first exposed to European traders and missionaries in the 1860s and 1870s, when they came looking for the source of the Nile river and trade routes. Shortly thereafter, Ugandan people were put under the “Ugandan Protectorate” by Great Britain.

This protectorate status lasted until October 9, 1962, when under Queen Elizabeth II, the country was granted independence and embraced as part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Since that time, the country has been independent, but often experiences political unrest and struggle for power.

Parliament of Uganda (Google Maps)
Parliament of Uganda

Nikita Khrushchev Pounds his Shoe at United Nations

After World War II, a “cold” war broke out between democratic countries led by the United States, and communist countries led by the Soviet Union. At a meeting of the heads of state of the members of the United Nations on October 12, 1960, the delegate from the Philippines was speaking out against communism, which enraged Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union. According to reports, he was so furious he removed his shoe and banged it on his table. This famous outburst was one of many, including the leader claiming that the Soviets would “bury” the Americans and win the war of global competition.

United Nations Headquarters Building (Google Maps)
United Nations Headquarters Building

Yale University is Founded

Fewer than 100 years after settling the area, colonists in Connecticut founded the first college in their colony, and the fourth in the entire colonies on October 16, 1701. The school formally changed its name to Yale College in 1718 after a benefactor. Since that time, Yale University has become one of the premier educational institutions in the world, and has educated five US presidents, as well as countless political leaders and business icons.

Yale (Google Maps)
Yale

Battle of Saratoga

The Battle of Saratoga in 1777 helped to turn the tide of the Revolution. British General John Burgoyne had a strategy to divide and conquer the American army, but he failed in two attempts in September and October, and was forced to surrender to American General Horatio Gates on October 17, 1777.

While this was just one of many battles, it showed French leaders that the American upstarts had a chance against the might of their enemy, the British, and joined the war on the side of the Americans. Their involvement was a critical point in helping America win her freedom from the British.

During the battle, American soldier Benedict Arnold was wounded in the leg. Later, he betrayed the country he fought for, but there’s still a monument to his service, in the shape of a boot no less!

Benedict Arnold's Boot Monument street view (StreetView)
Benedict Arnold's Boot Monument street view

US Invades Grenada

As dawn rose on October 25, 1983, US troops landed at the airport on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Over the previous few weeks, political instability had come to a breaking point, the leader overthrown and killed in riots, and unrest was growing worse. Grenada’s government requested international help, and because there were more than 600 US medical students on the island, President Reagan sent about 7,600 troops to restore peace to the country. The military action was over within a few days and with relatively few casualties.

Democratic elections were held in 1984, and the country has been democratic ever since.

Grenada Island (Google Maps)
Grenada Island

Shootout at the OK Corral

At 3:00 on October 26, 1881, the most famous gunfight in the Wild West took place in Tombstone, Arizona. After an old feud came to head between an outlaw gang and the police authorities in the small territory town, the five members of the Cowboys faced off against town Sheriff Virgil Earp, his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and friend Doc Holliday. After 30 seconds of shooting, two outlaws were dead, the rest of the gang had scattered.

The feud didn’t end that day, and the two sides continued to settle scores for years.The shootout did not actually take place at the OK Corral, but down the street. Nonetheless, the OK Corral and Tombstone have become famous in American lore.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (StreetView)
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

These are just a few stories from the vault of history showing us that important, interesting, and outlandish things happen all the time.

Assassinations!

Politicians, civic leaders and royalty are often idolized, followed and even revered. Tragically, these leaders are sometimes stalked, harassed or even murdered in cold blood. When that happens, the scene of the assassination becomes a memorial to the victim, a place where mourners can honor and remember the dead.

Here are the sites of several famous assassinations.

Abraham Lincoln-Ford’s Theater, Washington, D.C.

Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. was a new and popular destination when Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln went to the theater on April 14, 1865. In the middle of the performance, Lincoln was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth, an embittered supporter of the Confederacy. Lincoln was carried across the street to the Peterson House, where he died early the next morning.

Ford’s Theater later fell into decline and disrepair. It was partially opened as a museum in the 1930s and as fully renovated museum and theater in 1968.

Now, many visitors come each year to learn about and pay respects to the 16th president.

Ford's Theatre - Lincoln Assassination Site (StreetView)
Ford's Theatre - Lincoln Assassination Site

John F. Kennedy-Dealy Plaza, Dallas, Texas

John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline traveled to Dallas, Texas in November 1963. They were part of a public motorcade as they traveled to a luncheon event. As they turned onto Elm Street on Dealy Plaza, the President was fatally shot. Governor Connally was also shot but survived.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder, but was himself assassinated two days later by Jack Ruby.

View from JFK's car (StreetView)
View from JFK's car

Visitors and mourners can see the exact spot of the shooting, which is memorialized by an X on the street. Conspiracies still circulate widely about the truth behind the events that day.

The X marks the spot where President Kennedy was shot (StreetView)
The X marks the spot where President Kennedy was shot

Martin Luther King, Jr.-Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great civil rights leader fighting for racial equality. He traveled to various cities to lead nonviolent protests and marches. He was such a frequent traveler to Memphis that he was a regular at the Lorraine Motel, staying in the same room every time he was in town.

On April 4, 1968, King was in Memphis to organize a nonviolent protest. While standing outside his hotel room, he was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. Ray escaped to London, where he was arrested and send back to the United States for prosecution. He pled guilty and died in prison in 1998.

MLK, Jr. assassination site/Lorraine Motel (Birds Eye)
MLK, Jr. assassination site/Lorraine Motel

The room was never again used for guests, and the entire hotel was turned into a National Civil Rights Museum in 1991, where visitors can learn about the history of civil rights in the United States since the 17th century.

Malcolm X-Audubon Ballroom, New York, New York

Malcolm X  was born Malcolm Little in Nebraska. While  in prison, he became a member of the Nation of Islam, which advocated for black self-reliance, racial segregation and Islamic teachings. He changed his last name to “X” to be rid of the name given his family by white slave owners.

Malcolm X became well-known throughout the United States, but eventually became disillusioned with the organization. After leaving the organization, he clashed with it and received serious death threats for months. On February 21, 1965, he was preparing to speak at a meeting at the Audubon Ballroom, he was shot 21 times by three individuals associated with the Nation of Islam. His life and death and the aftermath were all controversial, but his death was nonetheless tragic and difficult for the communities he loved and helped through his works.

Malcolm X Assassination (site) (StreetView)
Malcolm X Assassination (site)

Robert Kennedy-Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Just a few short years after his brother’s death at the hands of an assassin, Robert Kennedy was running for president on a platform of social justice and equality. He was campaigning in Los Angeles on California’s primary election day on June 5, 1968. After receiving the positive election results, Kennedy gave a speech at the Ambassador Hotel and then left through the hotel kitchen when he was mortally wounded by Sirhan Sirhan.

Kennedy’s death rocked the country, following on the heels of Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder and so similar to his brother’s tragic and public murder.

His death, while witnessed by many, is still surrounded by conspiracy and confusion as to specific details of the crime.

Ambassador Hotel (former) (Google Maps)
Ambassador Hotel (former)

These are just a few of the many politically and personally motivated killings that have rocked the world, and each one leaves a mark on their family, the community, and often even the world.

Beautiful Parks Around the World

There’s nothing more refreshing than spending time outside, among beautiful trees, animals, and fresh air; and this year has taught us to appreciate the outdoors more than ever! Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful city parks around the world.

Central Park

Central Park in New York City is hands down the most famous urban park in the world, and one of the biggest. It is very diverse, with lakes, ponds, hills, wooded areas, as well as sports complexes, theaters, and places for families and kids to play. More people visit Central Park than any other park in the world, and with all it has to offer, it’s no wonder why.

Everyone coming to New York must take a break in the park, whether it’s to lie on the grass or play in one of the many parks. As you step away from the street, it feels like you’re leaving the city and entering a whole new place where you can relax and take a break from the busiest city in the world.

Central Park (Google Maps)
Central Park

One of the most popular areas of the park is Strawberry Fields, a memorial to John Lennon of the Beatles. He lived at the Dakota building on the border of the park, and was shot and killed outside the building in 1980. The memorial area in the park is adjacent to his apartment building.

Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial) (Birds Eye)
Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial)

Tuileries Gardens

The Tuileries Gardens in downtown Paris, France, are some of the most beautifully landscaped urban gardens. Originally commissioned in the 1560s, it was the biggest and most elaborate garden in Paris. Over the years, it has been expanded and enhanced, and was opened to the public in 1667.

Since then, it has been a popular gathering place for the city’s residents. They come here to relax, walk, enjoy entertainment, and spend time in nature within the city limits. The Tuileries Gardens fit the Parisian personality perfectly: chic, classy, and understated. They are a great place to visit if you’re lucky enough to spend some time in the City of Lights.

Jardin des Tuileries (Google Maps)
Jardin des Tuileries

Griffith Park

Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America, even larger than Central Park. Griffith Park has a varied landscape, from remote caves amid rugged hills to the famed Griffith Observatory, from the iconic Hollywood sign to the Los Angeles Zoo.

Griffith Observatory (Google Maps)
Griffith Observatory

Griffith Park is central to the identity of Los Angeles, and is a great place to spend a day, whether you’re hiking in the rough hills, interacting with animals at the zoo, or taking in a performance at the Greek Theater. As far as parks go, this one is extraordinary.

Griffith Park and the L.A. Skyline (StreetView)
Griffith Park and the L.A. Skyline

Lumphini Park

While not as big or diverse as Griffith Park, Lumphini Park in downtown Bangkok, Thailand, is an integral part of city life. There is a beautiful lake, two miles of walking trails, many varieties of birds and wildlife to observe, and more. The park is especially important in the densely urban area because it provides social services including a library, apprentice schools, and education center to help homeless children.

Lumphini Park (Google Maps)
Lumphini Park

El Retiro, Spain

Parque del Buen Retiro, known as El Retiro, in Madrid, is perfectly named because the park is a wonderful retreat from the bustle of Spain’s capital city. The park started out as grounds for a palace in the 1500s, but eventually became public by 1868. The park has a large pond, free weekly outdoor concerts, multiple playgrounds, and many lovely walking paths.

There are several buildings that host exhibitions; the most famous of which is the Crystal Palace. The Palace is constructed of glass and iron, including a curved glass ceiling, which is an architectural marvel.  Being inside the palace, but seeing the sky and trees all around is simply enchanting.

'Palacio de Cristal' by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco (StreetView)
'Palacio de Cristal' by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco

Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, Australia, was established in 1816, and is both an important scientific institution as well as a beloved cultural and recreational center for the city. It has carefully cultivated gardens and less structured park areas, with both native and exotic wildlife. The Garden extends to the Sydney Harbor, and features a beautiful hand-constructed seawall.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney (StreetView)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Along the harbor edge of the garden is the world-famous Sydney Opera House. It is a wonderful cultural institution, but it’s probably more famous because of it’s breathtaking, unique design. The shell-inspired design is recognized the world over.

Sydney Opera House (Birds Eye)
Sydney Opera House

These are just a few of the beautiful parks around the world. There are parks everywhere, so you don’t have to travel to a big city to enjoy a little respite from the busy world.

This Month in History: September

From a presidential impeachment to a global pandemic, from murder hornets to a presidential election, 2020 seems like the year that has it all. But looking back throughout history, we are reminded that many important, and world-altering things have happened before. And we’ve always survived, moved on, and become stronger from our experiences.

Let’s take a look back on some important events from Septembers past.

Luis XIV of France Dies

Louis XIV of France was king for more than 72 years, wearing the crown from the age of five until he died at age 76 on September 1, 1715. The 72 years of his reign were eventful, and impactful on all of Europe. He was one of the most powerful leaders in European history, and ruled France with absolute authority. His most enduring legacy may in fact be the absolutely stunning Versailles which he developed and turned into the grandest palace in Europe.

Palace of Versailles (Birds Eye)
Palace of Versailles

Assault on Israeli Athletes in Olympic Village

The 1972 Summer Olympics were held in Munich, Germany, and were supposed to be a global event focused on non-violence and global unity.

However, on September 4, several terrorists from the Palestinian Liberation Organization attacked the apartments of Israeli athletes, killing two and taking nine hostage. After a tense day of negotiations, as the terrorists and their captives were about to leave the country by helicopter, a shootout erupted. The remaining nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight terrorists and a West German police officer.

The event led to significant changes in Olympic security, as well as a years-long hunt by Israel’s Mossad to track down and eliminate everyone responsible for the attack.

Olympic Village (Google Maps)
Olympic Village

Unites States Attacked by Terrorists

If you live in the United States, it’s hard to forget the importance of September 11, 2001, when more than 3,000 men, women, and children were killed in terrorist attacks. In the 19 years since, the country has done so much to commemorate those who died that day, and to make sure something so terrible doesn’t happen again.

There is a beautiful memorial at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to commemorate those who died on the flight and on the ground.

Pentagon Memorial (StreetView)
Pentagon Memorial

Just outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania is the memorial to those who died on Flight 93 as they thwarted an attack likely aimed for the U.S. Capitol.

9/11 Flight 93 Crash Site and Memorial (Google Maps)
9/11 Flight 93 Crash Site and Memorial

In New York City, at the site where the Twin Towers once stood is a large and peaceful memorial for those who died on the airplanes, those who died in the towers and on the ground, and those brave first responders who died or were injured trying to save others after the attacks.

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Battle of Baltimore and Writing of Star Spangled Banner

The Revolutionary War wasn’t the only battle between the United States and Great Britain. In 1812, the two countries went to war again. American lawyer Francis Scott Key was on a British ship to negotiate a prisoner exchange when the Battle of Baltimore broke out. As he watched British ships bombard Fort McHenry on the night of September 13, 1814, he focused on the American flag flying over the fort.

When he woke the next morning, a larger American flag was flying, showing they had not surrendered during the overnight battle. He was so inspired that he wrote a poem, which later became the “Star Spangled Banner”, the country’s national anthem.

Fort McHenry (Birds Eye)
Fort McHenry

Battle of Antietam

The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest day of fighting during the Civil War. Between the two sides, nearly 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or went missing. It was fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and was the first battle in the eastern hemisphere of the war to be fought on Union soil.

While the battle was fought to a draw, it was a tactical win for the Union, as the battle discouraged France and Great Britain from recognizing the Confederate States of America as an independent country. The battlefield has been turned into a national historical site and is a great place for families to visit and learn more about the sacrifices made by individuals during the Civil War.

Antietam National Battlefield (Google Maps)
Antietam National Battlefield

Sandra Day O’Connor Joins US Supreme Court

When Republican President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to the US Supreme Court in 1981, it was groundbreaking. She was the first female nominee to the highest court in the United States. She was approved by the Senate by a vote of 99-0, and was sworn in as an Associate Justice on September 25, 1981. She served as a swing vote for many important cases, and is a role model to young women everywhere, reminding them that they can achieve anything if they get a good education, work hard, and never give up.

US Supreme Court (StreetView)
US Supreme Court

James Dean Dies in Car Crash

James Dean was an American heartthrob in the 1950s, even though he only starred in three movies in his career. His celebrity icon status endures even to this day. James Dean rocketed to fame after starring in East of Eden in 1955, and quickly cemented his status in Rebel without a Cause later in the year.

On September 30, 1955, James Dean was driving his Porsche Spyder in the California desert when he collided with another car and was killed in the accident. Dean was nominated for an Academy Award in 1955 for his work in East of Eden and in 1956 for his work in Giant.

James Dean crash site (StreetView)
James Dean crash site

These are just a few of the memorable, tragic, and world-changing events that have happened in history. It’s cool to think that the experiences we have will someday be considered important history. And even if they don’t end up in the history books, they’re important to all those experiencing them.

Awesome Amusement Parks That Aren’t Disney World

Now that many places, especially outdoor locations such as amusement parks, are opening, this is the perfect time to plan a vacation, virtual or in real life. Let’s take a look at some amusement parks across the US that are not Disney!

Hersheypark

One of the happiest places in the world is not Disneyland, but Hershey, Pennsylvania. The town is named after a real-life Willie Wonka chocolate maker, and is home to the Hershey Company research facility and production facility, and literally smells like chocolate.

What makes it even better is Hersheypark, a theme park in the town that has roller coasters, kids rides and even a zoo, as well as chocolate themed activities and specialties throughout the park.

Hersheypark (Google Maps)
Hersheypark

It has a dozen roller coasters, other amazing rides and even a fun water park. In 2009, it expanded the water park to include The Shore, a large wave pool.

'The Shore' waterpark (StreetView)
'The Shore' waterpark

Hersheypark’s Kissing Tower, the 330 foot observation tower, looms over the park, allowing for a great view of the park and the surrounding areas.

Kissing Tower (Birds Eye)
Kissing Tower

Cedar Point

Cedar Point takes its reputation as the roller coaster capital of the world very seriously. Located in Sandusky, Ohio, it is the second oldest amusement park in the United States, has the second most roller coasters in the world, and has the most rides of any amusement park in the United States. This amazing park holds too many US and world records to count!

Cedar Point (Google Maps)
Cedar Point

The insane Millennium Force roller coaster opened in 2000, setting records as the fastest, tallest and steepest in the world.

Longest Steel Roller Coaster in the US (Birds Eye)
Longest Steel Roller Coaster in the US

The daring Corkscrew opened in 1976, and was at the time the first coaster to have three inversions. It spans the park’s midway, making it exciting for both passengers and spectators on the ground!

Corkscrew (Cedar Point) (StreetView)
Corkscrew (Cedar Point)

Knott’s Berry Farm

A smaller park in Southern California, Knott’s Berry Farm is a great place to visit with a family. Started by the Knott family in the mid 1900s, the park has steadily grow over the years to include several rides and roller coasters, themed attractions including Knott’s Bear-y World and Soak City, and a reputation for delicious dining that dates back to the earliest days of the family’s business.

Knott's Berry Farm (Birds Eye)
Knott's Berry Farm

Now owned by the same company that owns Cedar Park and other parks, the Farm has an excellent variety of rides and entertainment for every type of visitor.

Knott's Berry Farm Soak City San Diego (Birds Eye)
Knott's Berry Farm Soak City San Diego

Kings Island

As far as outstanding amusement parks are concerned, Ohio is where it’s at. Also owned by Cedar Fair, the company that owns Cedar Point, Kings Island is an epic place to visit.  It has over 80 rides, 15 roller coasters and a huge water park.

Beach Waterpark, The (Google Maps)
Beach Waterpark, The

Additionally, the park is known for it’s Eiffel Tower replica built at one third scale of the original version in Paris. This is just a fun and quirky feature of the park.

Eiffel Tower replica at Kings Island (Birds Eye)
Eiffel Tower replica at Kings Island

Son of Beast, named after the original Beast roller coaster at the park, opened in 2000 with several record-breaking features. However, after years of delay, redesign and two public incidents, the ride was closed in 2009 and never reopened. In 2012, it was officially closed and removed from the park.

Son of Beast Rollercoaster (Google Maps)
Son of Beast Rollercoaster

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens has two locations on the East Coast, but the Tampa Bay Florida site is the original. The park has an “African” theme, with rides designed and named after locations in Africa and African cultural themes.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (Google Maps)
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens has several excellent roller coasters, including SheiKra, a steel dive roller coaster that is 200 feet high and reaches speeds of 70 mph.

Sheikra Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens (Birds Eye)
Sheikra Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens also has an expansive zoo, being regarded as one of the largest in the United States, with over 2,700 animals. Visitors can take safaris through the park to have up close and personal experiences with animals.

It also promotes a more humane habitat for the animals, more closely recreating native habitats for animals than most zoos are able to do. Because of it’s size, the park is also a major conservator of endangered and at risk species.

Elephants at Busch Gardens (Birds Eye)
Elephants at Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens was named after the original parent company, Anheuser-Busch, but it was sold in 2009. The sale ended the free beer samples given away in locations within the park and the tradition of giving employees two free cases of beer each month.

Coney Island

No list of amusement parks would be complete without Coney Island. Coney Island is not an amusement park like the others in this article, but has a reputation as a funky, unique and fun amusement and entertainment area. Coney Island is a neighborhood in New York that developed as an entertainment center and seaside resort community for the surrounding area. In the 1940s and 1950s, it became run down but has recently had a resurgence in popularity and has expanded and redeveloped to increase attendance at the various sites.

There are two small amusement parks in the neighborhood, but several additional rides, attractions and food and entertainment vendors operate independently.

The Wonder Wheel Ferris wheel is nearly 100 years old, and has both rocking and stationary cars. At night, it is illuminated with neon lights that glow for everyone to see.

Coney Island Wonder Wheel (StreetView)
Coney Island Wonder Wheel

The Parachute Jump was a famous ride in the 1900s, but has been defunct for several decades. In 2004 it was cleaned and painted, with the intent to light it up regularly, but that has not taken place since 2009. It is often referred to as Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower.

Coney Island Parachute Jump (Birds Eye)
Coney Island Parachute Jump

The most important contribution of the Island may in fact be the Nathan’s hot dog, which was originally sold at Nathan’s on Coney Island, and is still the site of the annual hot dot eating contest.

Nathan's Famous Frankfurters original store (StreetView)
Nathan's Famous Frankfurters original store

No matter what type of amusement you’re looking for, you can find it at these parks. From great food to fun rides to thrilling roller coasters, these parks have got you covered.

Places to Check Out for Family Fun Month

August is officially “Family Fun Month” which is perfect as families squeeze in one last vacation before the official end of summer and the start of school. Let’s take a look at some of the classic family vacation destinations across the US, reminisce about family road trips gone by, and maybe even make some plans for the future!

Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach in southern Virginia is a great place to visit year-round, but especially fun for families in the summer. The area has many beaches with fun boardwalks and entertainment for families, and campgrounds for those really wanting to enjoy nature.  Along the beach are lighthouses and other cool attractions.

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First Landing State Park commemorates where the English landed before going on to settle Jamestown. It is a beautiful park full of walking trails, camp grounds and cabins, and public beaches.

First Landing State Park (StreetView)
First Landing State Park

Just across the bridge in Virginia Beach’s sister city, Norfolk, are the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, with beautiful landscapes, amazing blooming azaleas, and other natural wonders to enjoy.

Norfolk Botanical Gardens (Google Maps)
Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Historic Southern Virginia

If you’re a history buff, you should vacation in southern Virginia. With many major historical sites within minutes of each other, you’ll find this an educational, and entertaining, vacation.

Yorktown, where the British surrendered to General George Washington, ending the Revolutionary War, is about 60 minutes north of Virginia Beach, and is a well preserved national park. Visitors can take a guided tour and get a a feel for the immense scale of the battle, which played such a pivotal role in American history.

Yorktown Surrender Field (Google Maps)
Yorktown Surrender Field

Jamestown, the first English settlement in North America, is about twenty minutes from Yorktown, and is an active historical site. Archaeologists and other scientists are constantly working to excavate the original fort and understand more about what the first European settlers in the area experienced.

Jamestown Fort (Google Maps)
Jamestown Fort

Just up the road is Colonial Williamsburg, which is a living history museum. The entire colonial town has been recreated and has knowledgeable staff playing roles of specific colonial individuals, right down to the attire, personality and back story.

The Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg (Birds Eye)
The Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg

Nearby is Thomas Jefferson’s plantation home Monticello. The Founding Father and third president spent much of his time developing his plantation, and lived out his days here after helping to organize and establish the United States.

Monticello (StreetView)
Monticello

San Diego

San Diego in southern California, is a great place for a family vacation. With lots of beaches, family activities, and cool entertainment, this city is the perfect west coast destination. The US Navy has left a big imprint in the area, and there are several historic ships that you can tour at the Maritime Museum, including HMS Surprise from the film “Master and Commander”.

HMS Surprise (Birds Eye)
HMS Surprise

The San Diego Zoo is a must-see, with more than 3,500 animals, and is a pioneer in the design of open-air exhibits with natural habitats for the animals. Its amazing landscape, wide animal diversity and great climate make it one of the best zoos in the world.

San Diego Zoo (Birds Eye)
San Diego Zoo

Don’t forget Sea World, which is an amazing place to learn all about marine life! It’s a great place to take kids to learn about what’s going on under the water, and it’s even fun for adults.

'Dolphin Discovery' show at Sea World (Birds Eye)
'Dolphin Discovery' show at Sea World

Yellowstone

Yellowstone is a large national park that covers land in three states. It is famous for its gorgeous mountain vistas, geysers and geothermal activity, and amazing wildlife including buffalo, moose, and bears. The park is so beautiful and easy to enjoy, even from a car. Breathtaking sites like Gibbon Falls are viewable from the road!

Gibbon Falls (StreetView)
Gibbon Falls

Old Faithful is possibly the most popular attraction. It’s a geyser that blows boiling hot water and steam about 145 feet into the air for more than two minutes on a predictable schedule. It’s truly a sight to behold, and especially enjoyable because an eruption usually happens every 90 minutes.

Old Faithful Geyser (Google Maps)
Old Faithful Geyser

There’s even a hotel you can stay at right by Old Faithful, and you can see eruptions from the lobby!

Old Faithful Inn (StreetView)
Old Faithful Inn

Hiking in Yellowstone is a wonderful experience, and a great family bonding activity. There are hikes for all ages and abilities, and the views along the trip and at the destination are rewarding for everyone. There are several hikes that take you to mountain waterfalls, like Mystic Falls.

Mystic Falls (StreetView)
Mystic Falls

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is the opposite of Yellowstone, with deep gorges and desert landscapes, but like Yellowstone, it’s at the top of the list of must-see sites for every family.

Grand Canyon (Google Maps)
Grand Canyon

Visitors can hike down the basin of the Grand Canyon, and camp along the way. They need to be prepared for major temperature changes, with really hot days and very cold nights, common for the desert even in summer.

Grand Canyon from Bright Angel Trail (StreetView)
Grand Canyon from Bright Angel Trail

If you’d prefer to see it from a car, there are many special viewing places, including the $40 million dollar Skywalk.

Grand Canyon Skywalk (Google Maps)
Grand Canyon Skywalk

If you want to stay in the Canyon, but don’t feel like camping, you can stay at one of a few hotels, like El Tovar Hotel. Staying there is pretty epic, as the hotel is just 26 feet from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

El Tovar Lodge (Google Maps)
El Tovar Lodge

Dollywood

American treasure Dolly Parton grew up in the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee area. There was a small amusement park attraction for many years, but Dolly Parton became involved in the 1980s, and the amusement park has since grown to be the largest in the state and a wonderful family destination.

Welcome to Dollywood (StreetView)
Welcome to Dollywood

The amusement park complex is continually expanding, with roller coasters and other rides, theaters, museums, and a children’s interactive play area.

Dollywood Theme Park (Google Maps)
Dollywood Theme Park

Pigeon Forge is a destination itself, with additional musical theaters, other entertainment, and the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Truly, there is something for everyone.

Welcome to Pigeon Forge (StreetView)
Welcome to Pigeon Forge

Any of these destinations would make for a family vacation to never forget. And if you’re not taking a vacation this year, at least you can look through this list and make plans for next year, and every year until your bucket list is complete!

Election 2020

Now that Joe Biden has announced Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, the 2020 presidential election is officially in full swing.

Let’s take a look at the candidates we’ll be voting for on November 3, less than 100 days away, and where they’ll all be living come Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden has been serving in public office since he was 28 years old. He rocketed from a county council position to U.S. Senator from Delaware just two years later, as one of the country’s youngest senators ever! He served as a senator until he was elected to the office of Vice President when Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. He declined to run for office in 2016, but is now the presumptive Democratic nominee in 2020. He will formally accept the nomination at the end of the four-day Democratic National Convention on August 20.

Joe Biden has always maintained a residence in Delaware since he moved there after law school. Even when he was a senator, he never owned or rented a home in DC; always taking the train back home to be with his family.

He and his wife Jill have lived in a Wilmington suburb for decades. The 6,000 square foot home sits on more than four acres, has six bedrooms and seven bedrooms, has a pool, and backs up to a lake.

Joe Biden's House (Birds Eye)
Joe Biden's House

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris, like Joe Biden, has spent her career as a public servant. She was a district attorney in northern California before being elected the state’s Attorney General. She was elected to the US Senate in 2017, and ran for president in the Democratic primary in 2019. In December 2019, she bowed out of the race and endorsed Biden, the eventual nominee.

Harris lives with her husband Doug Emhoff, a high-powered attorney, in the LA suburb of Brentwood. The couple share a three bedroom, 3,500 square foot home in a tony neighborhood, perfect for a power couple. The home set Emhoff back at least $2.7 million when he bought it, and some estimate its current worth at more than $4 million.

Kamala Harris' House (Google Maps)
Kamala Harris' House

Donald Trump

Donald Trump has always been a fixture in the New York City scene, but since being elected he has been spending more and more time at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida. He has also officially indicated that he will make Florida his official residence after he leaves the White House, whether that’s in 2021 or 2025.

It’s not entirely clear that he’ll live at Mar-A-Lago due to some legal technicalities of it being a resort not a residence, but it’s certain that Trump will certainly have an extremely lavish home when he leaves office.

Donald Trump's house (Mar-A-Lago) (Birds Eye)
Donald Trump's house (Mar-A-Lago)

Mike Pence

Before Mike Pence was elected vice president, he was a member of the House of Representatives, and then governor of the state of Indiana. When he was elected governor, he sold his Columbia, Indiana home and moved into the governor’s mansion.

Indiana Governor's Mansion (Birds Eye)
Indiana Governor's Mansion

As far as we know, he doesn’t own another personal residence, although he may still own a home he bought in Arlington, Virginia, way back when he was a Congressman.

U.S. Capitol

The new president will be sworn into office on January 20, 2021, on the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building. The swearing in is usually officiated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and attended by many senators and congresspeople, as well as D.C. elites, political supporters, and thousands of members of the public.

US Capitol Building (Google Maps)
US Capitol Building

The White House

Whoever wins the election on November 3 will reside in the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. for the next four years. The house has been the official residence for every president since John Adams in 1800, and is a symbol of the institution of the presidency and the relationship the president has with the people of the United States.

The White House (StreetView)
The White House

Naval Observatory

While the White House has been the official residence of the president for two hundred years, the vice president didn’t have an official residence until 1974, though it’s still officially “temporary”. The house is located about two miles away from the White House in Northwest Washington, D.C. Unlike the White House, the Naval Observatory is secluded and out of the public eye. The house is on the grounds of the still-active Naval Observatory, which provides information to the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense.

Number One Observatory Circle (Vice President's House) (Birds Eye)
Number One Observatory Circle (Vice President's House)

While it’s not the reason they run, the White House and Naval Observatory are some wonderful perks that come with being elected to the highest offices in the land. It’s going to be an intense campaign, and whoever wins on November 3 will certainly look forward to some time away at their private homes before picking up and settling into public life come Inauguration Day in January.

 

This Month in History: August

We’re making progress in the most interesting year in awhile, but 2020 isn’t the only time things have been wild. Let’s take a look back in history and see some important historical events.

Iraq Invades Kuwait

Tensions between Iraq and its neighboring country Kuwait were simmering for awhile over oil production issues when, on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within two days, the small country’s military was completely overrun, and shortly thereafter the country was annexed by Iraq.

Soon, a US-led coalition declared war on Iraq in what became known as the Gulf War. They started bombing Iraq on January 16, 1991, and after a five week ground assault, Kuwait was liberated from the Iraqis.

While the Iraqi military leadership had declared a retreat, a unit stationed at the Kuwait International Airport did not receive the message, and engaged allied forces in a several-hours long standoff before they surrendered.

Kuwait International Airport (Google Maps)
Kuwait International Airport

Lizzie Borden’s Parents are Murdered

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife Abby were found gruesomely murdered by an axe in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Andrew’s 32 year old daughter Lizzie Borden was the prime suspect, and tried for their murders.

While she was acquitted of the crimes, she lived the rest of her life under a haze of suspicion, and the macabre rhyme about the crime has ensured she will be remembered for many years to come. “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Lizzie Borden axe murder home (StreetView)
Lizzie Borden axe murder home

Marilyn Monroe Is Found Dead of a Drug Overdose

Marilyn Monroe was an actress, singer, and sex symbol in the 1950s and 1960s, starring in several popular films and capturing the attention of many American men, including, allegedly, President John F. Kenned. However, she was plagued by depression, drug addiction, and other maladies.

On August 5, her housekeeper found her dead, and it was determined that she passed away on the evening of August 4, 1962, of an intentional drug overdose.

Fans the world over mourned her death, and she is still beloved by many, and considered one of Hollywood’s brightest stars.

Marilyn Monroe's Last Residence (Birds Eye)
Marilyn Monroe's Last Residence

Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima

By the summer of 1945, the war in Europe had come to an end, but the war between the Allies and Japan continued to rage on. It became clear that to defeat Japan, it would cost many more American, and Japanese lives. The decision was made to use a new, catastrophic, weapon against Japan in an effort to expedite the end of the war.

On the morning of August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, killing up to 166,000 civilians. As a direct result of the bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, which was dropped three days later, Japan surrendered to the United States on August 15.

Hiroshima was nearly entirely destroyed that day, but the surviving residents rebuilt the city into a thriving, vibrant metropolis. The city has not forgotten its history, and a beautiful memorial park and museum serve to honor the dead and tell the story of that day.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (StreetView)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Berlin Wall Erected

After the end of World War II, Germany and its capital Berlin were divided among the Allied victors: the US, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. However, after years of deteriorating relations between the former Allies, the Soviets erected a wall to divide their sector from the sectors of Berlin on August 13, 1961. They claimed it would keep westerners out, but it was clearly designed to keep East Germans trapped and unable to escape.

This wall became a symbol of the divide between “east” and “west”, communism and democracy, until it came down on November 9, 1989. While the wall is mostly gone, some pieces have been preserved as living symbols of the division, and unity, of the country.

Remains of Berlin Wall (Mühlenstrasse) (Google Maps)
Remains of Berlin Wall (Mühlenstrasse)

Mount Vesuvius Erupts

Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy near Naples is an active volcano.

Its most famous eruption began early in the morning of August 24, 79 AD. It destroyed several nearby cities, including Pompeii and Herculaneum. The volcano began by spewing ash, giving residents of nearby cities a warning that the volcano was beginning to erupt. By the afternoon, the volcano shifted to violent and deadly eruptions, killing some people in an instant from the heat of the ash and lava.

It is estimated that more than 16,000 people died, some instantly. Many bodies, as well as much of the cities, have been preserved in remarkable condition due to the ash and lava that fell down on the cities. Sites are continually being excavated, and scientists and anthropologists are learning so much from the incredibly well-preserved sites. Tourists can visit the destroyed cities as well.

Pompeii - House Of The Faun (Birds Eye)
Pompeii - House Of The Faun

Princess Diana Dies in Car Crash

Diana Spencer became a princess when she married Prince Charles in 1981, and became a global icon over the next decade, earning the nickname “The People’s Princess”. The couple divorced, but Diana continued to be one of the most famous, and most photographed people in the world. Every aspect of her life was public fodder, and she was hounded by aggressive paparazzi wherever she went.

On August 30, 1997, she and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, were in a car crash in Paris, France. Early the next morning, she was declared dead at a local hospital, plunging the world into shock and mourning.

Alma tunnel where Lady Diana died (Google Maps)
Alma tunnel where Lady Diana died

Even now, more than 20 years later, she is still known around the world for her popularity, charity work, and kind personality.

This year may feel unique in terms of crazy events, but when we reflect on things from our past, it helps to put our challenges, and successes, in perspective. Here’s hoping that the rest of 2020 will be memorable for the best of reasons!