November 11th is more than just a date signaling bank closures and a day off for some government employees. This federal holiday honors the men and women of the armed forces, both past and present. Veterans Day began as Armistice Day in 1918, when it celebrated the conclusion of WWI. By 1938, the date was a federal holiday, and in 1954 it was renamed Veterans Day by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. While it’s easy to let 11/11 come and go with little fanfare, especially when the holiday falls mid-week, we urge you to mark it with a trip to one of these important monuments.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

On December 7th, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii caught military forces unawares and initiated the United States into WWII. The USS Arizona was destroyed, and thousands of lives were lost. Today, Pearl Harbor tours allow you the chance to pay your respects to the service members who perished that day. Tours of Pearl Harbor include a visit to the Battleship Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial, which hovers just above the ship’s wreckage. An opening in the floor affords a view of the middle portion of the ship, and a wall pays tribute to the fallen men who are entombed in the vessel. Back on solid ground, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument has more artifacts, including one of the ship’s bells and an anchor. Nearby, the Punchbowl National Cemetery in Honolulu also has monuments dedicated to lost servicemen.

USS Midway

USS Midway

If you’re in sunny San Diego on Veterans Day, visit the USS Midway Museum. This storied air craft carrier makes its home downtown in the San Diego Harbor, and contains dozens of exhibits. While you’re on the self-guided audio tour, you have the chance to jump into a flight simulator, see the crew’s living quarters, and check out the ship’s jail. Plus, nearly 40 historic aircraft are on full display. The USS Midway allows military veterans free entry on Veterans Day, and all visitors can take advantage of festivities including vintage plane flybys and a parade.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Located on a hill in Arlington, VA, overlooking the nation’s capital and the Potomac River, sits Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery is open to visitors every day, including weekends and holidays. This makes it easier to pay your respects to fallen soldiers and their families, as well as former U.S. presidents including JFK. The sacred site is the permanent resting place for more than 300,000 people. During your full day at Arlington, take advantage of a tram tour, which includes a helpful narration discussing stories of valor. Make sure to stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where you can witness the Changing of the Guards.

Also at the cemetery is the Arlington House, which was the pre-Civil War home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Once the property was occupied by the Union Army, deceased soldiers were buried in his front yard as a reminder of the carnage caused by his wartime leadership. Today, the Arlington House is a Lee museum. During your visit, bear in mind that Arlington remains an active cemetery; show the proper reverence to families who may be attending a funeral or visiting a gravesite with personal significance.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

If you’re on the East Coast this Veterans Day, consider devoting time to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It’s free to spend time at the monument, which displays the names of more than 50,000 fallen servicemen and servicewomen. You can take pencil etchings of names and leave flowers or notes 24 hours a day. After your visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, you can walk to the WWII Memorial and other historic D.C. monuments. A shuttle tour is another way to see important landmarks and patriotic sites, from the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument to the National Archives.

Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg Battlefield

The Battle of Gettysburg was as bloody as it was historic. More lives were lost on this Pennsylvania field than in any other Civil War battle. For all its loss, the combat also enabled the Union to make major strides towards victory, which helped keep the republic unified as the United States. Today, you can visit the Gettysburg Battlefield to see firsthand where the turning point of the American Civil War took place. After beginning your day at the visitor’s center, embark on a walking tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Other points of interest at this historic site include a museum, Farnsworth House, and the famed Gettysburg Cyclorama oil painting.

Veterans Day is about more than discounted apparel at the mall and a day off of work. Why not pay homage to the men and women who have served the nation at one of these meaningful sites?

How will you commemorate Veterans Day this year?