President's Day was originally created to celebrate George Washington's birthday, but it also makes a great excuse for a long weekend just when the February blues seem to hit most of the people in the country. Some people choose to spend the long weekend at home catching up on paperwork, but why not use it as an excuse for a fun mid-winter getaway? Whether you're interested in celebrating the nation's history by visiting historical monuments or by treating yourself to a beach vacation, here are the best places in the country to visit on President's Day. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
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Albuquerque is one of the oldest cities in America, and it offers visitors the chance to enjoy a fascinating multicultural experience without leaving the United States. The culture here has been influenced strongly by the Native American and Hispanic people in the region, but the city is also home to more than 70 other ethnicities that have left their mark on Albuquerque's food, culture, and art. The area also boasts more than 300 days of sunshine every year, so once visitors have had enough of exploring the city, they can head to the nearby mountains to hike, bike, and even ski. Things to Do in Albuquerque
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The capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge is much more than a place to base yourself when exploring nearby New Orleans. The city is an excellent destination in its own right; it boasts plenty of interesting museums, art galleries, and historical sites, and it has more than enough restaurants, bars, and shops to keep visitors entertained for weeks. If you'd like to learn some new information about American history during your visit, good places to go include the Old Louisiana State Capitol, the USS Kidd Naval Museum, and the French Creole Magnolia Mound Plantation near the river. Things to Do in Baton Rouge
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Although not as popular with visitors as its neighbor Dallas, Fort Worth is the place to go if you want to celebrate President's Day in true Western style. There are plenty of cultural activities here that people of all ages can enjoy; some of the biggest highlights include the Modern Art Museum, the Texas Civil War Museum, and the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. It's also well worth taking the time to visit Sundance Square, which covers 35 blocks in the city's downtown core and offers an excellent selection of shopping, dining, and entertainment. Things to Do in Fort Worth
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4.Joshua Tree National Park
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Named after the unique twisted trees found in the park, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best destinations in Southern California. The relatively cool February weather is perfectly suited to recreational activities like hiking, bike riding, and rock climbing, and visitors will be pleased to find that the park is much less busy during this time than during other parts of the year. Accommodation is available in the nearby Coachella Valley, but there are also nine well-maintained campgrounds throughout the park for visitors who would like to spend the night in the great outdoors.
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The Florida Keys are a great vacation destination no matter what the time of year, and Key West is arguably one of the most appealing places in the Keys regardless of whether you're looking to relax or to party. When it comes to celebrating President's Day, it doesn't hurt that the city is sometimes referred to as the "Winter White House" because of its popularity as a vacation spot for American presidents. The clock seems to move more slowly in the Keys, but visitors are still advised to make time for snorkeling or diving in the breathtaking coral reefs that surround the island.
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If you're looking to spend your President's Day drinking, dancing, and gambling, few places in the country are as perfect as Las Vegas. The city's 24-hour casinos and luxurious hotels will ensure that you enjoy your stay as much as possible, and the many excellent restaurants will keep you happy and well-fed all weekend long. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Vegas is only for party animals; the city is always busier than usual on long weekends, but if you don't feel like a rowdy weekend, you can hike Red Rock Canyon or visit the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Best Las Vegas resorts
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Miami is one of the trendiest cities in the United States, and it offers an endless array of things to see and do. Aside from the incredible selection of restaurants, bars, and hip cafes, the city is the perfect base for activities like deep-sea fishing and golf. Another popular activity here is simply lounging on the beautiful white sandy, and beach lovers will be spoiled for choice. Last but not least, architecture enthusiasts are advised to spend some time exploring the Art Deco District, the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, and the beautiful pedestrian-only Lincoln Road.
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The city of Moab is tucked between two national parks: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Most people come here to enjoy the many outdoor recreation opportunities available; some of the most popular activities include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, or simply joining a guided tour of one of the national parks. The busy tourist season doesn't begin until mid-March, so visitors who come during President's Day weekend will be able to enjoy the beauty of the park without having to endure the crowds that flock here during the spring and fall. Things to Do in Moab
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Located right on the Gulf of Mexico, Naples boasts both the atmosphere of a cosmopolitan city and easy access to the natural beauty of the nearby Everglades. The city offers something for everyone; it's filled with high-end shops and wonderful restaurants, and it's surrounded by white sand beaches and excellent golf courses. Popular family-friendly attractions include the zoo, the botanical garden, and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, but most visitors also make sure to spend some time at the Naples Pier, a popular fishing and dolphin watching spot that was originally built in the late 1880s.
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Home to major attractions like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando is an ideal vacation spot for families with children and for the young at heart. There are more than enough theme parks and attractions in the city to keep visitors entertained for weeks; popular destinations include SeaWorld, Legoland, and the Magic Kingdom. If you're looking for something to do outside of the theme park world, the city also offers a vibrant nightlife scene, plenty of excellent bars, a unique interactive ghost walk tour through the downtown core, and more than 50 outlet stores.
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Paia has a reputation as a hippie town, but it has something to offer visitors of almost every age and interest. The February winds are perfectly suited to kitesurfing and windsurfing, and even people who don't participate in either sport can enjoy watching the pros practice and compete. The water is generally too rough for most people to swim during this time of year, and beachgoers are advised to obey all posted signs to ensure their safety. There are plenty of things to do away from the beach as well; the town is overflowing with unique art galleries, boutique shops, and excellent restaurants.
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Boasting warm, sunny weather all throughout the year, Phoenix is a great place to spend President's Day weekend if you're looking to escape the cold. Accommodation options here range from high-end spa resorts to low-cost motels, making it a suitable destination for all budgets. The city also offers a wide range of activities; popular options include playing a round or two of golf on one of the courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, hiking in South Mountain Park, and visiting the Desert Botanical Garden to learn about the cacti and other plants native to the area.
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Sitting on the San Antonio River, the city of San Antonio boasts a rich colonial heritage and plenty of attractions to keep visitors entertained. Visitors who want to get a taste of the city's history are advised to head to Missions National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was created to preserve four beautiful 18th century missions buildings. Another must-see attraction is the Alamo, a unique museum located inside another 18th century mission. Aside from visiting the city's historical sites, visitors can also stroll along the River Walk, attend a show at the Majestic Theater, or enjoy a bowl of the city's famous chili.
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Founded in 1610, Santa Fe is a beautiful city nestled in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. The streets of the old town wind past stunning examples of Pueblo-style architecture, including the Palace of the Governors, which now houses an excellent museum on the history of New Mexico. The city is also a mecca of art and culture, offering plenty of excellent art galleries, more than a dozen museums, and one of the country's most significant art markets. Visitors will also find it incredibly easy to escape the city and venture out into the surrounding nature to hike, cycle, and horseback ride.
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One of the most charming small towns in New Mexico, Silver City has a population of just over 10,000 people. Despite its small size, the city offers a vibrant downtown core with more than a dozen restaurants to eat at as well as an excellent selection of local art galleries and studios. There are also several history museums, golf courses, and wineries in and around the town, but most visitors also make time to get out of the city and explore the nearby Gila National Forest, which offers opportunities to camp, hike, and explore fascinating ancient cave dwellings.
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St. Augustine is much more than just another tourist town; it holds the honor of being the oldest city in the United States, and it boasts some of the country's most impressive Spanish colonial architecture. The National Historic Landmark District encompasses 144 blocks of the city's downtown, and this is the best place to go if you'd like to visit museums, admire the architecture, or explore historical sites. If you're more interested in spending time in nature, you can head to on one of the beaches in the area or take a trip to the nearby Anastasia State Park.
17.St. Pete Beach
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Famous for its white sand beaches and beautiful blue water, the resort town of St. Pete Beach is another fantastic destination for anyone looking to soak up some sun over their President's Day long weekend. The downtown core is full of charming cafes and unique shops, and many visitors choose to spend time in Caladesi Island State Park or take a boat to nearby Shell Key. The town also has plenty to offer anyone interested in art and culture; one of the primary highlights is the biggest collection of Salvador Dali paintings found outside his homeland of Spain.
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Conveniently situated close to both the Howelsen hill ski area and the steamboat ski resort, Steamboat Springs was one of the first ski towns in the United States. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors to the area can enjoy activities like snowmobiling, ice skating, snowshoeing, and walking along one of the town's nature trails. After a long day enjoying the outdoors, there's no better way to relax than a visit to the Old Town Hot Springs near the city center – the water is believed to have therapeutic properties and families will enjoy the swimming pools and water slides.
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Set at the base of Mount Mansfield, Stowe is a cheerful ski town surrounded by beautiful wilderness. Anyone who comes here for President's Day weekend will be in luck, as February is generally when the conditions are best for skiing and snowboarding. However, this also means that it's best if you can plan your trip and arrange your accommodation well in advance. Most visitors come here to enjoy the many snow sports the area has to offer, but other options include visiting the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, strolling along the river, and enjoying the town's innovative restaurants.
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Despite its name, Sun Valley is a great place to go if you want to spend your President's Day weekend skiing, snowboarding, or otherwise enjoying the snow. The town provides easy access to both Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, both of which offer excellent skiing and boarding. There are also plenty of things to do if you're looking for a more relaxing getaway; Sun Valley Village is filled with wonderful shops, restaurants, and cafes, but you can also go for a sleigh ride, go skating at Sun Valley Lodge, or take the gondola up to the Roundhouse Restaurant for lunch.
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Established as a mining town during the Victorian era, Telluride is a bustling mountain resort town that provides access to over 2,000 acres of superb ski terrain. Visitors will still be able to enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding in February, but there are also plenty of opportunities to hike, ice climb, and simply admire the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. In addition to its many recreation opportunities, the town is home to an excellent selection of world-class restaurants, including Alpino Vino, which sits at an elevation of almost 12,000 feet and is the highest-altitude fine dining restaurant in the country.
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Tucson has an incredible 350 days of sunshine per year, so the odds that you'll enjoy good weather over the President's Day weekend are extremely high. The city's surroundings make it easy to get outside and take advantage of the beautiful weather; popular activities include hiking in Saguaro National Park, exploring Colossal Cave Mountain Park, and giving a nod to the city's cowboy heritage by going for a horseback ride. However, the city also boasts more than its fair share of high-end shops, inviting cafes, and trendy restaurants, making it ideal for visitors looking for a more cosmopolitan experience as well.
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Best known for its casinos, Tunica is a tiny town tucked away at the northern end of the Mississippi River. The casinos are undoubtedly the biggest draw to the area; they offer more than 400 table games and almost 14,000 slot machines in total, and they are open 24/7. However, visitors who make time to leave the casino area will be rewarded by the historic core of downtown Tunica, which is home to excellent antique stores and other unique shops, a beautiful park with walking and cycling trails, a good selection of restaurants, and even a pickle factory.
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Tybee Island is a small city located on a barrier island in Georgia, and visitors can rest assured that they'll have a great vacation regardless of whether they're interested in adrenaline-pumping water sports, relaxing on the wide, sandy beach, or even seeing dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat. If you'd like to stay active during your time here, there are plenty of opportunities to kayak, cycle, and hike. The island is rich in history as well, and many visitors enjoy visiting the local museum and making a trip out to the 18th century lighthouse.
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Home to the famous Vail Ski Resort, Vail is an unparalleled destination for winter sports enthusiasts and shopaholics alike. The town gets quite busy over the President's Day weekend, but don't let that deter you from a visit; Vail is North America's biggest ski resort, and there's plenty of room on the slopes and in the village for everyone. Skiing and snowboarding are without a doubt the most popular activities here, but visitors can also go on a snowmobile tour, ride down the mountain coaster, or enjoy a luxurious massage or spa treatment at one of the many resorts.
25 Best Places to Visit on Presidents' Day
- Albuquerque, Photo: Courtesy of Natalia Bratslavsky - Fotolia.com
- Baton Rouge, Photo: Courtesy of Siegfried Schnepf - Fotolia.com
- Fort Worth, Photo: Courtesy of pabrady63 - Fotolia.com
- Joshua Tree National Park, Photo: Courtesy of cherylvb - Fotolia.com
- Key West, Photo: Courtesy of Naeblys - Fotolia.com
- Las Vegas, Photo: Courtesy of Michael - Fotolia.com
- Miami, Photo: Courtesy of Jdubsvideo - Fotolia.com
- Moab, Photo: Courtesy of aheflin - Fotolia.com
- Naples, Photo: Courtesy of Forgem - Fotolia.com
- Orlando, Photo: Courtesy of Javier C. Acosta - Fotolia.com
- Paia, Photo: Courtesy of MNStudio - Fotolia.com
- Phoenix, Photo: Courtesy of lucky-photo - Fotolia.com
- San Antonio, Photo: Courtesy of andreykr - Fotolia.com
- Santa Fe, Photo: Courtesy of James - Fotolia.com
- Silver City, Photo: Courtesy of Brent Hall - Fotolia.com
- St. Augustine, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- St. Pete Beach, Photo: Courtesy of st1909 - Fotolia.com
- Steamboat Springs, Photo: Courtesy of Shelley - Fotolia.com
- Stowe, Photo: Courtesy of SNEHIT - Fotolia.com
- Sun Valley, Photo: Courtesy of John - Fotolia.com
- Telluride, Photo: Courtesy of Jdubsvideo - Fotolia.com
- Tucson, Photo: Courtesy of pabrady63 - Fotolia.com
- Tunica, Photo: Courtesy of Alextype - Fotolia.com
- Tybee Island, Photo: Courtesy of james_pintar - Fotolia.com
- Vail, Photo: Courtesy of Heavyt Photos - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of BlackMac - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Pentagon Barracks in Baton Rouge
Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on the grounds of the Louisiana State Capitol, the Pentagon Barracks are a complex of military and government buildings that have served significant roles throughout the history and development of the United States, including occupation by French, Spanish, and British colonial forces and use as a government site for the Republic of West Florida.
History and Permanent Attractions
The Baton Rouge area was the historic home of the Houma and Bayogoula indigenous peoples, who occupied much of what comprises modern-day Louisiana prior to the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. European occupation of the Louisiana area began in 1699 with the expeditions of Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, who dubbed the area le bâton rouge in reference to a 30-foot red pole erected at Scott’s Bluff, which marked the division between the two indigenous tribes’ hunting grounds. European settlement of the area dates back to 1721, when French colonists established a military post at Baton Rouge, and greatly increased following the 1755 exile of Acadian settlers from Canada’s Maritime provinces. These Acadian refugees would go on to form the basis of the Cajun ethnic group, who have maintained a separate language, culture, and religious faith from other Louisiana residents to this day.
The French retained control of the fort at Baton Rouge until 1763, when the city was seized by British forces. Following the Treaty of Paris at the end of the Seven Years’ War, France ceded its North American territory to Spain and Britain, with British colonists gaining control of all French lands in the eastern United States except for the city of New Orleans. Considering the city of Baton Rouge to be a site of strategic significance, British forces established Fort New Richmond at the site that encompasses the Pentagon Barracks today, which was seized by Spain following the 1779 Battle of Baton Rouge and renamed Fort San Carlos. The Spanish victory resulted in an uprising among citizens of the area, who organized a covert rebellion culminating in an attack of the fort on September 23, 1810. The rebels were able to successfully overcome the Spanish and established the Republic of West Florida, which existed for 90 days until the city was surrendered to United States authorities.
After its transfer to American forces, the barracks were renamed the Post at Baton Rouge, which operated as an assembly point for American troops throughout the early 19th century, assisting with the Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans. From 1819 through 1825, the fort’s barracks were expanded significantly, including the addition of four two-story brick buildings comprising an Arsenal Depot to serve the southwestern United States area. According to the design of Captain James Gadsden, the new construction was to develop the complex into a pentagon-shaped configuration that still exists today, with buildings intended to house enlisting United States Army soldiers. A commissary warehouse was meant to form the fifth side of the building area, but it was demolished a few months after its construction due to building defects and never rebuilt.
The United States Army continued its use of the Pentagon military barracks until the 1861 start of the American Civil War. Near the start of the war, the fort was seized by the State of Louisiana and turned over to the Confederate Army, although it was recaptured by Federal forces during an 1862 battle and renamed Fort Williams, in honor of the battle’s late Union commander. Though Confederate troops continued attempts to seize the fort again, Union soldiers used a Native American mound near the complex as a natural trench space and were able to prevent further turnover during the war.
Following the Civil War, the General Assembly of Louisiana transferred control of the Pentagon Barracks to Louisiana State University according to the regulations of an 1884 resolution. The barracks were used as University dormitory housing until 1951, when the State of Louisiana gained ownership of the barracks complex and converted the complex into government office space. Because of its historic significance, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Though several museums have been housed at the Pentagon Barracks site, the buildings are in private government use today, housing the offices for the state’s Lieutenant Governor, along with private apartment spaces provided for the state’s legislators. As a national historic site, however, visitors may explore the complex’s grounds and retrace the steps of notable American history figures who have stayed at the site, including Robert E. Lee, Ulysses Grant, and President Lincoln. Rows of Doric-style columns adorn the buildings’ facades, supporting the upper floors’ balconies, and a plaza with a fountain connects the complex at its center.
The Pentagon Barracks complex is located within the Louisiana State Capitol grounds. Other nearby historic attractions at the Capitol include the Old Arsenal Museum, which contains exhibits about the state’s military and government history.
959 N 3rd St, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802, Phone: 225-342-7009
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Attraction Spotlight: Old Louisiana State Capitol
Located in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Old Louisiana State Capitol is a restored historic government building that now contains a political history museum and showcases an award-winning 4D theatrical production. In 1846, the Louisiana state legislature approved a move of its governmental seat from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, fearing too much concentration of power in the state’s largest city.
The location for the Old State Capitol building was established the following year, when the city of Baton Rouge donated a blufftop parcel of land overlooking the Mississippi River to the state of Louisiana for governmental use. The building, constructed between 1847 and 1852, was designed by architect James H. Dakin to mimic a Neo-Gothic medieval castle with cast iron elements, earning it local nicknames such as the Louisiana Castle and the Castle on the River.
During the American Civil War, the building was used as a prison and later as a garrison for Union troops, resulting in two fires that nearly gutted the building’s interior. In 1882, the building was completely redesigned and rebuilt by architect William A. Freret, who installed several notable present interior features, including a spiral staircase and stained-glass dome ceiling. The building was used again as a statehouse until 1932, when operations moved to the current Louisiana State Capitol building.
Funds were approved by the Louisiana Legislature in 1990 for the restoration of the building as a public museum. In 1994, the building reopened, renamed the Center for Political and Governmental History.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
Today, the Old Louisiana State Capitol building is a designated National Historic Landmark, preserved for its unique architecture. The bulk of the museum’s space is dedicated to a Museum of Political History, which features rotating temporary exhibits focused on aspects of Louisiana’s political history and how it has shaped the state’s social, cultural, and economic progress. Past exhibits have included A Pilot’s Life for Me: Mississippi River Boat Piloting, highlighting selections from Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi to explore the history of piloting on the Mississippi River, the Campaigning for War retrospective of local World War I propaganda posters, and an exhibit on Louisiana’s first spouses.
Also featured at the museum is the award-winning Ghost of the Castle presentation, an immersive 4D theatrical experience. The 12-minute presentation is narrated by the “ghost” of Sarah Morgan, a Civil War-era resident of Baton Rouge who wrote extensively about the building’s history in her autobiography. Combining local legends of the building’s haunting by ghosts with historical accounts of its many uses, trials, and recoveries, the presentation showcases Louisiana history through a unique multimedia narrative. The presentation has been the recipient of several entertainment and amusement industry awards, including the Themed Entertainment Association’s 2012 Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement.
The building’s noted architecture and interior design serve as an attraction of their own as well. In addition to the building’s castle fortress shape, unique stained-glass dome windows, structured to mimic kaleidoscopes, cover the ceiling of the building’s House Chamber, Senate Chamber, and Rotunda. A donation art program at the museum offers a chance for large-scale donors to “adopt” one of the windows of the domes, commemorating the donation with an architectural rendering of the dome with the donor pane highlighted.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Self-guided tours of the Old Louisiana State Capitol building are offered to the public for free, with audio guides available to explore the building’s architecture and museum exhibits. Guided group field trips for school groups and organizations, including group presentations of Ghost in the Castle, may be scheduled with advance notice. Picnicking is available on the building’s grounds for groups bringing their own meals, and special accommodations can be provided for accessibility needs.
Specialized tours for pre-K through high school students are tailored with activities incorporating Louisiana schools history and social studies curriculum. Young elementary school tours emphasize museum exploration skills, highlighting architecture concepts through the shapes, materials, and colors utilized in design elements. Activities for upper elementary student groups focus on historic artifacts within the building, analyzing the ways artifacts can serve as social commentary on their creators. Tours for middle schoolers divide participants into teams to explore the former legislative purposes of the building and the technology that shaped its functionality, and high school participants are encouraged to think critically about the roles of government in community and state decisions. Activities are also available for older tour groups, emphasizing critical thinking about the ethics of historical preservation and the role of historic buildings in communities.
100 North Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA 70801, Phone: 225-342-0500
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