If you’re looking for travel ideas this year, why not pick a destination that holds particular significance in 2020?
It’s been exactly 100 years since the 1920s ushered in transformations in music, a Great Migration of Black families from the Southern United States and a generation lost in the post-World War I years. This year marks the centennial of the start of Prohibition and the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave many women in the U.S. the right to vote.
Here are five ideas for memorable, commemorative vacations you could take this year to celebrate significant historic anniversaries.
Have a drink, toast those bootleggers, stay close to home!
- Commemorative date: Jan. 17, 1920
- Event: 100th anniversary of Prohibition
D’Arcy Island, British Columbia — Have a drink aboard the Seattle-to-Victoria ferry and visit nearby D’Arcy Island, where Seattle’s own “gentleman bootlegger” Roy Olmstead used to smuggle his goods to the city.
Why go there:
The U.S. went dry on Jan. 17, 1920, after the 18th Amendment instituted Prohibition, banning the import, purchase and sale of alcohol nationwide. Consequently, bootleggers and speak-easies sprang up to keep Americans buzzed. Here in the Pacific Northwest, Roy Olmstead was the man for the job.
Olmstead was a Seattle Police Department lieutenant when he was busted for illegally smuggling liquor into Washington at Meadowdale Beach in March 1920. SPD fired Olmstead, who promptly reinvented himself by becoming Seattle’s most successful bootlegger.
The secret to Olmstead’s success was a secret route through the Haro Strait, where he picked up shipments of Canadian liquor on strategic D’Arcy Island. Surrounded by boat-wrecking reefs and home to a leper colony, D’Arcy Island wasn’t exactly drawing droves of visitors.
Today, D’Arcy Island is no longer a leper colony and it makes for a great weekend kayaking trip.
Prohibition lasted 13 years, and the era (which ended in 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment) became known for the speak-easies and secret bars that popped up everywhere.
Commemorate the 100th anniversary of Prohibition by having a perfectly legal drink (or two!) aboard the Seattle-to-Victoria ferry, then top off your glass and hearken back to the days of speak-easies at the Victoria Event Centre’s Speakeasy Tuesdays. In Victoria, you’ll be a short boat ride away from the infamous D’Arcy Island that helped Olmstead keep Seattle tipsy during the dry years. Now a national park reserve, D’Arcy Island is a beautiful place to camp overnight and savor a glass of something boozy as you toast the bootleggers who, under cover of night, kept Seattle sipping.
Keep the drinks flowing back in Seattle at one of several speak-easy-themed bars, like the reservations-only Needle & Thread on Capitol Hill, which is accessed through a bank vault and where bartenders can make you a personalized cocktail tailored to your tastes.
Celebrate the Roaring ’20s in Minnesota, Alabama or New York
- Commemorative date: April 3, 1920
- Events: 100th anniversary of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s marriage, the dawn of the Jazz Age, the Lost Generation and the Harlem Renaissance.
Depending on what about the ’20s most appeals to you, pick one of these three places.
St. Paul, Minnesota — Tour St. Paul, Minnesota, to see the places that F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald lived and wrote in together.
Montgomery, Alabama — Visit Zelda Fitzgerald’s hometown, where the famous couple fell in love, and stay in a house-turned-Fitzgerald Museum where the couple worked on their novels.
Why go there?
Whether you’re a fan of sparkling fashion, a lover of jazz or a Black history buff, 2020 is the perfect opportunity to revisit the art, culture and drama of the 1920s, the beginning of an era so tumultuous it earned monikers like the “Roaring ’20s” while its youth became known as “The Lost Generation.”
St. Paul, Minnesota
Looking for an excuse for a romantic getaway with your history-buff beau or belle? Head to the unlikely destination of St. Paul, Minnesota, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of one of the most epic, if perhaps turbulent, marriages of the 1920s — the union of Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
During the day, see the sites in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s hometown and take advantage of the many tours and events in honor of the famous author. Cap off the night with a show at the eponymous Fitzgerald Theater — the city’s oldest theater.
If you’re a bigger fan of Zelda than F. Scott, Montgomery, Alabama beckons. Montgomery is Zelda’s hometown and the place where the couple fell in love. At the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, you can also spend the night in a room where the Fitzgeralds wrote parts of “Save Me the Waltz” and “Tender is the Night.” On April 3, the museum will host an open house in honor of the couple’s centennial anniversary. On April 25, the museum will host a gala to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, “This Side of Paradise,” which earned Scott enough money to support his wife-to-be.
Harlem, New York City
If it’s jazz that draws you to the ’20s, head to Harlem for a look back at the city that inspired a new chapter in Black culture, arts and politics with the Harlem Renaissance.
At the Harlem Flophouse, you can sleep in authentic Harlem Renaissance style in the Thelonious Monk or Chester Himes rooms, complete with claw-foot bathtubs, antique brass and old radios (fair warning: only the Duke Ellington room has a private bath). The Flophouse is an old Victorian house that was converted to a hotel in the early 20th century to house Harlem’s growing population as more than a million African Americans made their way north during the Great Migration.
Then, hit the Harlem streets to explore some of the theaters, clubs and restaurants that inspired a generation of Black artists, writers, musicians and changemakers. Music and entertainment lovers can visit the famous Apollo Theater and the Paris Blues Jazz Club. History fans can dive into the archives at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture or the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
At the Studio Museum of Harlem, you can see some of the ways the art of yesterday has influenced the art of today.
Celebrate Earth Day in style
- Commemorative date: April 22, 1970
- Event: 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day
Glacier National Park — Hop on the train for a more carbon-friendly way to visit the national parks through Amtrak’s national parks program.
Why go there?
On April 22, 1970, 20 million people in the U.S. mobilized to let their government know they cared about protecting the planet they live on. This first Earth Day launched a decade of sweeping changes in environmental policy and conservation, including the passage of the Endangered Species Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fifty years later, the fate of our planet has become an increasingly worrisome issue, and the imminent threat of losing natural wonders to climate change has motivated many to visit these wonders before they’re gone.
The best way to honor the spirit of the first Earth Day on its 50th anniversary is to participate in an Earth Day action event to show your support. But you can also embark on an Earth Day-inspired getaway.
Several national parks have held special celebrations for Earth Day in years past, sometimes including exhibits about conservation efforts and volunteer cleanup opportunities.
If you decide to visit your nearest national park, choose a travel option with a lower carbon footprint, like public transit, biking (if it’s close enough) or taking the train.
From Seattle, you can take Amtrak directly to Glacier National Park. Amtrak even offers getaway packages if you’re not much for planning. Or if you’ve got your eye on more southerly destinations, hop on the train to Merced, California (a little more than 30 minutes from San Francisco), and take a two-hour trip on the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System to the famed Yosemite National Park, which celebrates its 130th birthday in October.
Salute to women’s rights
- Commemorative date: August 18, 1920
- Event: 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave many women the right to vote.
Seneca Falls, New York — Visit this small town in upstate New York, where the first women’s rights convention was held.
Why go there?
The 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, giving some women in the U.S. the right to vote. (Many Black women were still kept from the polls due to racist laws, violence and discrimination — sometimes even from within the women’s voting-rights movement itself — so keep that in mind while visiting these sites. It wasn’t until the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which celebrates its 55th anniversary this year, that all women gained the right to vote. Visit with a critical eye and maybe arm yourself with a copy of women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech.)
Washington, D.C., is probably the more obvious choice for a getaway to commemorate this momentous occasion. But the ratification of the 19th Amendment might not have been possible without the two-day women’s rights convention held July 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, which helped launch a widespread movement for voting rights as a major tenet of the women’s rights movement.
Every July, the town hosts Convention Days to commemorate the event (this year, “Legacy of our Foremothers” will be held July 17-19, and Coline Jenkins, the great-great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, is the keynote speaker). In honor of this year’s centennial, Seneca Falls is holding a yearlong celebration that will feature many special events.
Seneca Falls is home to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park and also the Women’s Hall of Fame. It’s also just a 10-minute drive to Auburn, New York, where you can pay homage to another great woman in U.S. history at the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, where the famous liberator lived out her life.
If you want to take a break from all this history, drive 30 minutes to Finger Lakes, New York, where you can stay at a cozy bed-and-breakfast, ski if it’s the season or just relax by the lake. Alternatively, camp out at the nearby Cayuga Lake State Park, fish for trout or bring your birding binoculars to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.
Happy birthday, Bruce Lee!
- Commemorative date: Nov. 27, 1940
- Event: 80th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s birth
San Francisco and Oakland, California — If he had stayed with us, the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee would be celebrating his 80th birthday this fall. Visit the Bay Area for a glimpse at Lee’s birthplace and the site of one of his most famous fights.
Why go there?
Seattle proudly claims the years Lee spent here as a martial arts student and teacher, and as a husband and father. But if you’re looking for a weekend getaway to celebrate Lee’s beginnings, head to the Bay Area, where Lee was born in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Pro tip: Pick up a copy of Charles Russo’s “Striking Distance” and use it as a guide to Lee’s years in the Bay Area.
Visit the 95-year-old Great Star Theater in Chinatown where, rumor has it, Lee’s father used to perform as an opera star, and where Lee made his film debut as a newborn in the movie “Golden Gate Girl.” Occasionally, the theater plays old martial arts films. If you’re brave enough, sign up for a class with one of Lee’s former classmates at the U.S. Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy.
Just across the Bay is Oakland, where Lee famously faced off with the Bay Area’s martial arts establishment in a fight with Wong Jack Man. Legend has it that San Francisco’s traditional martial arts elders took issue with Lee teaching martial arts to non-Chinese students at his newly opened studio (at 4175 Broadway). If Lee had lost the fight to Man, he would no longer have been allowed to teach non-Chinese students. Accounts vary as to how it was won, but the fact remains: Lee won. The fight was recently captured in the 2017 film “Birth of the Dragon.”
Also, stop for refreshments at some of the Bay’s iconic Chinese restaurants. Brave the line at Tao Yuen pastry in Oakland for dim sum to-go, or take your time poring over the massive menu at Great Eastern in San Francisco. If you’re looking for a place that was around when Lee was growing up in the area, check out the Hang Ah Tea Room. The humble, cozy little spot squirreled away in a Chinatown alley celebrates its 100-year anniversary this year.