What better way to honor those who have dedicated their lives to defending our country than by visiting one of the city’s best sites for military buffs? You’ll learn some history, tour some old structures, and, most importantly, show your respect for the U.S. servicemen and women throughout the ages. By Jessica Allen.
Nestled beneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Fort Wadsworth has been around for a long, long while, standing guard over New York Harbor. This fort has one of the longest continuous military histories of any fort in the United States. The British first built a fortification on the site in the 1770s. Fast forward a few years and, following the War of 1812, another fort was constructed there and this structure was amended, added to, and used into the 1990s. Today, the area offers great views of the harbor and bridge, along with 220+ acres of space as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
A short ferry ride from Manhattan, Governors Island offers New Yorkers the chance to get away without leaving the five boroughs. You can bike, picnic, visit a working farm, lounge about in a hammock, gawk at some art, people-watch, and discover the island’s importance to the U.S. armed forces. From 1794 to 1966, the island served as headquarters, home, training grounds, and educational facility for the U.S. Army. In the 1970s, the Coast Guard took over and ran things into the 1990s. You can still see forts, including one used that dates to the American Revolution, as well as barracks and earthworks left behind by those who were stationed here oh-so-long-ago.
One of the coolest museums around, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is “dedicated to the exhibition and interpretation of history, science and service as related to its home aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid, a National Historic landmark.” Put another way: you can walk around an actual military vessel, used during World War II, while admiring actual helicopters, planes, and even the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. Check out the Space Shuttle Pavilion, featuring the space shuttle Enterprise. Yes, you can go in!
Manhattan’s oldest house is located uptown, in the lovely neighborhood of Washington Heights. Built as a summer retreat in 1765, the house’s original owners fled during the American Revolution (they were loyal to the British), and George Washington and company moved in. Back then, the house offered amazing views of Manhattan as well as the Harlem and Hudson Rivers. After Washington left, the British moved in — then left — and eventually the house became the home of Aaron Burr, who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. If you can’t get tickets to Hamilton, visiting this mansion might be the next best thing.
You wouldn’t know it today, but the first battle of the American Revolution took place in Brooklyn in 1776. After a long and difficult fight, the British won, forcing the Continental Army, led by George Washington, to retreat through Manhattan and into New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Old Stone House was erected by Robert Moses in Park Slope to commemorate the Battle of Brooklyn. Today it’s surrounded by playing fields and cavorting kids, but the house, a replica of a farmhouse that dated to 1699, boasts a wee museum that gives you some sense of what once was.