We all know the purpose of vacations: to relax, have fun and escape the everyday grind we can all be guilty of. Why not learn a little something while you’re out of town? Below, we’ve compiled a list of a few destinations on the West Coast we think our readers might enjoy.

Monterey Bay Aquarium– Monterey, California

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California

There is something at the aquarium for every family member! Take a virtual dive to the deep sea to discover all the strange and unusual creatures the deep underwater world has to offer. Or, take a look at their largest exhibit, the Open Sea. Here, expect to find lazy sea turtles lofting past and tuna zipping through the water. Just around the corner, you’ll find all kinds of jellyfish hanging in the water and an aviary exhibit for some relaxing bird watching. The aquarium has even put together a program called Seafood Watch where they work closely with chefs and fisherman to promote a healthy ocean. Basically, they’ve made an app where consumers can order their seafood based on Healthy Choices, Good Alternatives and ones to Avoid. In case you aren’t able to make it to the aquarium but truly love underwater life, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has live cameras set up in certain exhibits, so you can enjoy them from wherever you are in the world! They also have podcasts and a blog. Check them out by clicking here.

Museum of History and Industry- Seattle, Washington

Museum of History and Industry – Seattle, WA

Similar to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this museum has something that will interest everyone in the family! (No underwater adventures here, though). The Museum of History and Industry’s permanent exhibit, True Northwest: The Seattle Journey, gives us the real, demystified history of Seattle. From the time when Native Americans came in contact with European explorers to the present where the city is a global hub, find all your answers about Seattle at this museum.

Other exhibits come and go, which always keeps tourists and visitors on their feet and able to learn something new each visit. Past exhibits have included Edible City: A Delicious Journey, which talks about the way people in Seattle eat and The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop, an inside look at one of Seattle’s most colorful cultures. Starting September 1, 2018, the WWl America exhibit opens. The museums’s hope is to be an educational outlet where visitors can learn from the past so they can be their very best individually and as a whole. Click here for more information about the MOHI.

Hearst Castle- San Simeon, California

Hearst Castle – San Simeon, California

We owe this beautiful castle to William Randolph Hearst, a media savvy man who conceived Hearst Castle. There really is no reason as to why the castle was constructed, other than his dream of erecting one similar to the ones he saw in Europe with his mother as a boy. After his mother’s death in 1919. He inherited thousands of acres of land, which gave him the platform to do just that. Perhaps what’s most fascinating is that he, over time, collected about 250,000 acres and with the help of architect Julia Morgan, his dream castle came to life. It took the duo 28 years of collaboration to get as far as they did on the castle, though it was never truly finished. Today it stands with 165 rooms on 123 acres of land containing gardens, pools, walkways and more.

The museum now has about 25,000 artifacts inside, including Egyptian, Greek and Roman statues and antiques. You can also expect to find about 30 painted ceilings from Renaissance Italy and Spain.

Don’t have enough vacation time saved just yet? Visit their website and see the antiques so you’ll know what’s in store for when you visit.

Alcatraz Island- San Fransisco, California

Alcatraz Island – San Francisco, CA

The prison on Alcatraz Island was home to some of America’s most dangerous and high risk felons during its operation from 1934 to 1963. After it was shut down due to high operating costs, the island was occupied by a group of Native American activists. Today, Alcatraz, which was also used for a U.S. military prison from the 1850s to 1933, is visited by about one million tourists each year.

In 1775, a Spanish explorer named Juan Manuel de Ayala named the island Alcatraz Island after seeing how many sea birds flocked around the area. Years later in 1850, Millard Fillmore gave an order which reserved the island strictly for military use. A fortress and cannons were built around the island to protect San Fransisco. It was thought during this time that it was a great place to house prisoners because no inmate could escape and survive the swim to land. The Army gave Alcatraz to the U.S. Justice Department, who wanted a prison that could hold the most dangerous of all prisoners, or those that couldn’t be held at other penitentiaries. The maximum security prison opened July 1, 1934.

The island’s claim to fame is its responsibility for holding gangster Al “Scarface” Capone who was there for four and a half years during the 1930s. It’s a cool place to visit, but not for the faint of heart! Visit their website to see if you can handle it.

Death Valley National Park- Eastern California and Nevada

Moving Stone at Death Valley, CA

This national park is known for its extreme climate: It is the driest and hottest spot in America, and has the lowest elevation on the continent. Because of these insane traits, the park receives over one million visitors a year. In 1849, immigrants that came to search for gold came upon the 120 mile long dessert and for two months endured hunger and thirst. One of the last to leave said, “Good-bye, Death Valley.”

Art of the rocks and simple artifacts suggest human once lived in the area over 9000 years ago. Today, many Native Americans, specifically the Shoshone, found ways to adapt to the dessert conditions. At the valley, you’ll find rocks created by erosion, sand dunes, and a 200-square-mile salt pan enclosed by mountains. An occasional wildflower will bloom along with thousands of varieties of plants if it rains.

Evergreen Aviation Museum- McMinnville, Oregon

H-4 Hercules A.K.A. The Spruce Goose – Photo by By Drew Wallner – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Built mostly from laminated wood to conserve metal during World War ll, the Spruce Goose (a name that was pushed for by the press) was indeed made from mostly birch. Also known as the H-4 Hercules,  the plane’s purpose was to transport soldiers and supplies without the risk of being sunken by German soldiers. In 1942, Henry Kaiser, an American shipbuilder, took on this project and chose to look to the sky for inspiration.

Kaiser recruited a pilot, engineer and filmmaker by the name of Henry Hughes that could help create a flying boat that would carry cargo. Henry Hughes was known for being a perfectionist, thus the masterpiece wasn’t finished even after the war was ended. Many thought the plane would never fly, but on November 2nd, 1947, he haphazardly decided to put his plane to the test. It only flew once, about 70 feet above ground and for only about a mile, and it never flew again. Today, tourists can visit the Spruce Goose in all its glory at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon where it stands alone as the centerpiece.

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Hi! My name is Jessie. I live in a charming one bedroom apartment in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I grew up in a small town called Manchester, Tennessee, but when I was 18, I moved to Chattanooga to pursue my degree in Communications. I chose this major because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted just yet, and I knew this major was super versatile. I did know that I had a way with words, so I chose English: Literature as my minor. I currently work as an Assistant Store Manager for Tilly’s. This gives me a chance gives to learn everything first hand about the business, but my ultimate goal in life is to write. I might not have much else figured out, but writing is what I love, so why not make a career out of it? In my spare time, I enjoy cooking and baking (though I’m really not the best baker). So much so that I decided to start a food blog! I also love playing 90s video games with my two sisters.

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