As I mentioned in my very first American Nomad post , my mother and I once embarked on a three-week journey along America's East Coast. It was the summer of 1988, when I was just shy of 12 years old, and it was one of the most influential experiences of my childhood. Although Mom and I took a slew of road trips together over the years, this particular vacation solidified my passion for travel – and inspired my later desire to be a travel writer.
From our home in New Orleans, we ventured to such places as Colonial Williamsburg, Washington, D.C., Boston, New York City, Montréal, and Niagara Falls. While I admittedly enjoyed exploring the Smithsonian , seeing the Statue of Liberty , hearing live music at the Grand Ole Opry , and experiencing countless other treats with my mother, I was probably most moved by our encounters with the varied monuments, memorials, and attractions dedicated to those who have made a significant impact on America's history. Some of my favorites included George Washington's Mount Vernon , Thomas Jefferson's Monticello , and the monuments and memorials that pepper the National Mall . Beyond striking landmarks like the monolithic Washington Monument  and the dome-shaped Thomas Jefferson Memorial , I remember being impressed by all the statuary inside the U.S. Capitol , including a bronze bust  of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (1929-68) in the Rotunda.
So, last week, while the nation celebrated the legacy of this well-respected activist on the aptly named Martin Luther King, Jr., Day , I couldn't help but remember my first encounter with his serene, contemplative face on a hot August day in Washington, D.C., and I realized that, while a commemorative holiday like the third Monday of January does much to preserve King's legacy and inspire others to activism, it's certainly not the only time that we can celebrate his existence and the qualities – such as peace, tolerance, and solidarity – that he embraced. In fact, America features several peace-loving attractions, including:
Dayton International Peace Museum 
208 West Monument Avenue, Dayton, Ohio, 937/227-3223, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, free
Opened in 2005, the relatively new Dayton International Peace Museum (DIPM) offers non-partisan programs and exhibits about international relations, social justice issues, and nonviolent conflict resolution. Recent exhibits have explored modern-day human trafficking, Ohio's history of peace, Pete Seeger's folk music and social activism, the United Nations, and the fabric art of Holocaust survivor Ester Nisenthal Krinitz. For more information about attractions in Ohio, consult David K. Wright's Moon Handbooks Ohio .
Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site 
450 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta, Georgia, 404/331-5190 or 404/331-6922, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily mid-August to mid-June, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily mid-June to mid-August, free
Established in 1980 and located in the heart of Atlanta , the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site encompasses several sites that were once significant to Dr. King, including the restored home in which he was born on January 15, 1929, and subsequently raised until the age of 12. Here, you'll also find Atlanta's oldest standing firehouse, King's relocated gravesite, and the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was baptized and ordained into the Baptist ministry. This historic church, where King served as the co-pastor from 1960 to 1968, was also the site of his civil rights strategy meetings as well as his eventual funeral. In addition, the visitor center presents films and interactive exhibits about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. For more information about attractions in the Atlanta area, consult Tray Butler's Moon Atlanta .
Museum of Tolerance 
9786 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 310/553-8403 or 310/772-2505, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Friday November-March, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday April-October, $15 adults, $12 seniors 62 and over, $11 children 5-18 and students, children under 5 free
Situated in the Simon Wiesenthal Plaza in Los Angeles , the Museum of Tolerance (MOT) opened to the public in 1993. Since then, it's earned international acclaim as a human rights laboratory and educational center, dedicated to helping visitors understand the Holocaust, face modern-day forms of prejudice and discrimination, and take action against such hate. Besides hosting special exhibitions, discussions, film screenings, and other events, this one-of-a-kind museum features three main exhibit areas: the interactive Holocaust section, which uses multimedia exhibits to present the stories of victims and survivors; the Tolerancenter, which focuses on issues of intolerance, terrorism, human rights violations, and America's civil rights struggle; and an immersive exhibition called “Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves,” which explores the personal histories of several famous Americans, from Carlos Santana to Billy Crystal. For more information about attractions in the Los Angeles area, consult Moon Metro Los Angeles .
Someday, you may also be able to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial  in Washington, D.C., the Envision Peace Museum  in Philadelphia, and the National Peace Museum of Conscientious Objection and Anti-war Activism  in San Francisco, three attractions still in the planning stages. Admittedly, the King Memorial, where construction has already begun, and the Envision Peace Museum, which will launch a welcome center in early 2012 and a major museum by 2015, are both a few steps ahead of the National Peace Museum, which has yet to secure its preferred location: the stockade building of San Francisco's Presidio. Nevertheless, it's important to note that such places of peace, justice, and social change are being considered at all. For other peace-related museums around the world, consult the International Network of Museums for Peace .
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo / Text © 2011 Laura Martone
Laura Martone is Moon’s American Nomad  and the author of Moon Florida Keys , Moon Michigan , Moon Baja RV Camping , and the upcoming Moon New Orleans, which will be published in Fall 2011.