Some people travel to relax, others to let loose and then there are some who travel to learn. These travelers are your history travelers, who love to learn about a place and the unique, appalling or quirky stories from its past. Almost every city or destination in the U.S. offers something for U.S. history buffs, but some cities are just more significant than others in the scheme of America — and we’ve compiled them in a list just for you.
Washington D.C. is a U.S. history lover’s dream destination. As the center of government, it holds all of our most precious artifacts from the founding of the country from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution. Plus, it’s a hot bed of history museums with exhibits that relate to the U.S. like the Smithsonian, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Postal Museum and even the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.
“The British are coming!” is perhaps one of the most widely-known quotes in American history, so it makes sense that Boston, where Paul Revere said such words, has to be on the list. As one of the oldest cities in the U.S., Boston offers plenty of historical sites like the Paul Revere House, the USS Constitution (the world’s oldest naval vessel still afloat), Trinity Church and the Old State House.
San Antonio is over 300 years old and it highlights a section of U.S. history when Spain and Mexico ruled part of the country. Explore this part of American history by visiting the UNESCO heritage site, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park which are a set of historical Spanish missions, the Spanish Governor’s Palace and the San Fernando Cathedral. Last but not least, “Remember the Alamo,” and visit a site that was decisive in Texas Independence history.
Witchcraft and religious persecution were a huge part of American history, perhaps none more so than Salem, Massachusetts, home of the infamous Salem Witchcraft trials. Explore this dark side of U.S. history in Salem by visiting The Witch House, the Salem Witch Museum and the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. If you tire of witch history, check out the New England Pirate Museum or The House of the Seven Gables a 1668 colonial mansion which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name.
New Mexico is overflowing with U.S. history, most of which pre-dates America as a country. Explore Native American history throughout the state at Pecos National Historical Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park or at one of the many active pueblos (Native American reservations). Learn about Spanish colonial history at El Santuario de Chamayo and at the Palace of Governors or military history at Fort Selden Historic Site, the Fort Sumner Historic Site and at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. And if weird U.S. history is more your style, then you can’t miss a visit to Roswell, New Mexico, site of the supposed 1947 UFO crash.
Charleston is beloved by travelers today for its historic districts, cobblestone streets and how it keeps the style of the Antebellum South alive. In Charleston, you can learn about plantation life and slavery at the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and the Old Slave Mart Museum, U.S. military history at Fort Sumter National Monument and Patriots Point, and explore America’s first museum at the Charleston Museum.
New York City
New York City is a fantastic U.S. history destination because it’s been the center of multiple historical movements since its founding. The Big Apple played a significant role in the Industrial Revolution, the LGBT rights movement, and music, TV, film and art history. Some of its most notable historic sites are the Federal Hall National Memorial, General Grant National Memorial, Stonewall National Monument, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
The French had a hand in American history which displays itself perfectly in the cultural and historical sites of New Orleans. See French remnants like the St. Louis Cathedral and the Old Ursuline Convent Museum. Learn how the architecture of most of the buildings in the French Quarter are actually Spanish in design. Discover the history of American jazz at Preservation Hall or at the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. Additionally, the National WWII Museum is one of the best in the country. Whether you choose to take a historic walking tour or just stay in a historic hotel, New Orleans offers plenty of U.S. history in a charming setting.
The Gold Rush put San Francisco on the map, but that’s not the only reason history lovers should visit the city. San Francisco is a gem because it has a diverse set of U.S. history museums you might be surprised to discover like the Mexican Museum, Maritime Museum, the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, the San Francisco Railway Museum and even the Walt Disney Family Museum. If all that wasn’t enough, places like Alcatraz and the Palace of Fine Arts all speak to other unique parts of San Francisco and U.S. history.
Philadelphia played a big part in the American Revolution which is why Americans flock to visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall each year. Independence National Historic Park is comprised of 20 blocks of museums, captivating the heart and attention of any U.S. history buff. Be sure to explore other significant sites in Philadelphia like the Betsy Ross House, Elfreth’s Alley, and the Eastern State Penitentiary.