Culture Guide USA - May
With spring in full swing and summer right around the corner, it’s an exciting and busy time in America! This is great news if you’re ready to leave winter behind, get outside, and enjoy more of what the country has to offer.
In this issue of the Culture Guide we look at a day honoring Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, two of the country’s most legendary sporting events, and an iconic landmark.
So let’s get to it, welcome to May!
It began after the American Civil War (1861-1865); a holiday to commemorate the more than half a million soldiers who died on both sides of the conflict. Today, Memorial Day is a time of remembrance, honoring every American that has given their life serving in the military.
In observance of the day, many cities across the country have parades and wreath-laying ceremonies at cemeteries and war memorials. In Washington D.C., the National Symphony Orchestra gives a concert on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, and the President visits the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Memorial Day weekend also marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season in the U.S. and is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. Many people take advantage of the day off by heading to the beach, having barbecues, and gathering with family members and friends.
Race day in America
There’s something about spring that makes Americans feel "the need for speed." The month of May plays host to two world-renowned races: The Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500. Here’s what you need to know about each:
For over 135 years, crowds have gathered at Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday in May to watch “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”: the Kentucky Derby. The Derby is the most legendary horserace in America and first leg of the U.S. Triple Crown—a series of three races run in May and June. To win the Triple Crown, a horse must win each of the three races. It’s an incredibly difficult feat; one that hasn’t been completed since 1978!
The traditions surrounding the Derby are as interesting as the race itself: from spectators wearing enormous, elaborate hats and drinking mint juleps, to the race organizers draping the winning horse in a blanket of roses. So on May 4th, gather your friends, grab yourself a big hat, and place some friendly wagers on which horse will win “The Run for the Roses.” Send a photo of you and your friends in your best Derby outfits to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in the next Culture Guide!
While the Kentucky Derby is a quick sprint towards a finish line, the Indianapolis 500 takes much longer. Held annually on Memorial Day weekend since 1911, the Indy 500 is one of the oldest, most famous, and popular car races in the world. During the event, more than 30 drivers race 500 hundred miles around a massive oval track in incredibly fast open-cockpit cars. Running at speeds up to 225 miles per hour, the race typically lasts between 3 and 3.5 hours. If that sounds like a long time to watch people drive around in a circle, you could always just watch the first and last five minutes—two of the most exciting parts of the race.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Spanning the Golden Gate, a narrow strait in California where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most beautiful and recognizable structures in America: The Golden Gate Bridge.
The iconic orange bridge that connects San Francisco with its counties to the north celebrated its 75th birthday last May. And while it no longer holds the title of the longest suspension bridge in the world (as it did when it opened in 1937), it remains an enduring symbol not only of the city, but the state of California, and of America. Its elegant Art Deco style and stunning natural surroundings have made it the most photographed bridge on earth!
The bridge took just over four years to complete and during the construction a number of new building practices were pioneered. One was the introduction of mobile safety netting, fitted beneath areas where people were working to prevent fatal falls. Despite this safety measure, 11 people died during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you find yourself in San Francisco this year, you should visit the bridge. You and your friends could walk it, jog it, bike it, or join an expert for a guided tour. There’s a visitor’s center with information about the bridge’s history and a number of picturesque lookouts where you can take photos. What’s more, the bridge touches two sides of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the world’s largest urban national parks!
If you’ve already visited the Golden Gate Bridge, or you visit it this month, send a photo and story of your experience to email@example.com and you could be featured in the June edition of the Culture Guide!
Redwood National Park
Located where the forests of northern California meet the Pacific Ocean, Redwood National Park is home to breathtaking stretches of shoreline and a variety of ecosystems and wildlife. But the real stars of the park are the massive trees that give it its name: the coast redwood.
Measuring well over 300 feet tall, redwoods are the tallest species of tree on Earth. These evergreens have a reddish bark and can grow to be almost 30 feet wide—that’s more than enough room drive a car through. And Redwood National Park is one of the only places on the planet you can see them. In fact, the park houses 35% of the remaining coast redwood forests in California.
Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or a more demanding day hike through these ancient forests, Redwood has miles of trails for hikers of all abilities. You could watch seabirds nesting at a wildlife refuge, spend the night camping out with your friends, and explore life within the forest or below the waves on a nature or tide pool walk led by a park ranger.