I used to loathe any vacation that didn’t include sandy beaches, a coastal wind, or even a mountain top view so when my parents decided that one of my high school spring breaks was going to be spent in Washington DC, I was less than thrilled. I was a history nerd, sure, but I wasn’t appreciative of the history yet. Now, it’s all I can do not to go up there as often as possible. But there are also many other places where I think every American should visit to learn more about our nation’s history. These are in no particular order.
This is a bit obvious, but I can’t stress my love for this city enough. You can feel it in the air, that feeling of pride, seriousness, and honor. At 14 years old, I could feel how serious these monuments. I was stunned by how much they meant to me even though I didn’t know any of these people personally. Staring up a statutes of men that founded this country, looking at the names of the fallen who gave their life for my protection, and the gorgeous yet modest White House where the leader of the free world resides. There are so many historical artifacts within walking distance of each other and so many museums relating to the history of our country including the National Mall Museums, Holocaust Museum, National Air and Space Museum, and other historical sites like the Capitol, the White House, and all the monuments.
If you’re looking for a tea party of sorts, you’ll find it here. The city is full of dynamic history with many harboring traits – okay, I’ll stop with the puns. Boston has the amazing “Freedom Trail” which is a 2.5 mile path that is marked by red lines that lead you to 16 Revolutionary War sites including the site of the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s house, the USS Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument. There is never a shortage of things to do while in Boston so this trip would be worth it. I would also recommend extending the trip to see Plymouth.
I grew up visiting Williamsburg. I always loved the cobblestone streets lined with old brick homes, candles in windows, costumed characters, and horse-pulled buggies. The old towne charm brings you back to the 1700’s hundreds where you’re inundated with a strange sense of nostalgia even though we didn’t live through this time. They have a ton of interactive activities and you’re not far from Jamestown or Yorktown which have equally as amazing museums. It doesn’t hurt Busch Gardens is in Williamsburg as well so you can knock off your thrill rides and chill times in one trip.
The birth of our nation started in this historic place so you can dive in and see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall where the Constitution was penned and signed, then you can follow the Historic American Revolutionary Trail throughout the city to see more historic sites. You can get a taste of history, but with the true Philly twist by getting a Philly Cheesesteak while walking around the historic area.
Charleston, South Carolina
Much like Williamsburg, Charleston has a nice old towne feel with the cobblestoned roads, the port city winds, the smell of salt water and fried foods, with the colorful homes. This was the first permanent home for many of the settlers in South Carolina. With that classic Southern charm, the streets, the people, and the atmosphere will consume you. In fact, you won’t ever want to leave. Take a nice boat ride over to Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War rang out. I did this tour last summer and it was a smooth ride and wonderfully kept conditions for a place of such history and ability for destruction.
St. Augustine, Florida
Settled in 1513, St. Augustine has over four centuries of American history under its belt. A Spanish sailor, Juan Ponce de Leon found this beautiful territory in hopes of finding the Fountain of Youth – this might be why so many retirees flock to Florida. St. Augustine still boasts the classic colonial architecture and is home to Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. With its Spanish influence, it is quick and eccentric place to visit that you will not want to pass up.
San Antonio, Texas
Known best for being the home of The Alamo, tourists can now expand their experience with new virtual reality interactions here while they get to know about the history and the soldiers, including Davey Crockett. What’s interesting about San Antonio is that this location was close to not being a part of our history and very close to being a part of Mexico’s history. While some people claim to be underwhelmed by their experience with The Alamo, don’t be deterred. The Alamo lives up to the hype if you’re a history buff. If you are underwhelmed, go to the River Walk in San Antonio and you’ll be captured by the lights and water.
New Orleans, Louisiana
If you love haunted history, then New Orleans is the place for you. New Orleans originally being French, then Spanish, then US territory, this slice of land is full of spirit and spirits – both the haunted kind and the ones you find on Bourbon Street. The French Quarter is full of history with its own unique culture built in. There are quite a few battlefields nearby and there is the National World War II Museum. There is also a Museum of Death so if you’re a true crime fan like me, then you know where to go.
New York City, New York
In the city that never sleeps and the first capital of the United States, you can discover a lot about American history. It dates back to 1624 when a Dutch trader set up shop on Manhattan. Places to go visit would include Federal Hall, Trinity Church, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Washington Square Park, General Grant National Memorial, and of course, the 9/11 Memorial. This city boasts some of America’s greatest economic freedoms and while it might not seem like anything more than flashing lights, don’t be surprised when you learn a lot about our country along the way.
Sante Fe, New Mexico
The capital of New Mexico is unique in so many ways and really highlights our western US history. Home to the oldest public building in the USA, the Palace of Governors (1610), Sante Fe is artsy and the artists come from all over to attend the Santa Fe Indian Market in August. Sante Fe draws from the Hispanic culture, as well as the Native American culture. Nearby town of Taos, New Mexico is where you can see the history and modern day clash. It’s adobe dwellings of that beautiful red clay that are believed to have been constructed some time between 1000 and 1450 AD.
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
Mount Rushmore, SD
Yellowstone National Park