From Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to the Freedom Trail in Boston, these are can't-miss U.S. historical sights.
From man-made monuments to natural wonders, we’ve rounded up 10 historic attractions around the U.S. that you have to check out. And, yes, they’re worth traversing the crowds to see.
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
There’s no shortage of tourist sites in Washington, D.C., but the Lincoln Memorial sticks out among the pack. Modeled after the Parthenon in Greece, the 99-foot-tall marble structure features the seated Lincoln sculpture and interior chambers that contain carved inscriptions of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address. Along with representing the significance of Lincoln’s presidency, the memorial was also the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. And the views of the reflecting pool and Washington Monument from the top of the steps are the cherry on top.
Independence Hall, Philadelphia
If you’re a history buff, a trip to Philadelphia is a must. Valley Forge and the Liberty Bell are certainly up there on the list of top attractions, but Independence Hall is truly the birthplace of the United States. It’s where famous figures such as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence, followed by leaders like Alexander Hamilton who signed the U.S. Constitution. Open year-round except for Christmas Day, the UNESCO World Heritage site is free to visit and has a plethora of historical items on display.
Ellis Island, Upper New York Bay
Whether you’re part of the 40 percent of current U.S. citizens that History.com states can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island, or not, the site deserves a trip while in the New York City area. Located off the coast of New Jersey and close to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island often gets skipped in favor of more flashy attractions, but it played a huge role in the history of America. Between 1892 and 1954, more than 12 million immigrants entered the U.S. through Ellis Island, though after 1924, it primarily became a detention and deportation-processing station. It’s now a museum and receives about two million visitors annually.
Missions National Historical Park, San Antonio
Remember the Alamo? Well, the famous Texas Revolution battle site of 1836 isn’t the only historical mission in San Antonio, Texas. There are a total of five Spanish missions, which were established by Catholic religious orders and acted as refuges for Native Americans. The first, Mission Espada, was built in 1690 and the last, the Alamo, was built in 1744. Visitors can ride a bike or drive between the missions, where park rangers are on-site to give free tours. Be sure to cap the day with a big plate of Tex-Mex deliciousness.
French Quarter, New Orleans
The French Quarter in New Orleans isn’t just a spot to get your beignet and slushy-alcohol fix. Originally settled by the Spanish, and then the French, the Quarter features a variety of architecture, including colorful Creole cottages, gorgeous antebellum mansions and buildings that date to the late 1700s. Travelers can take a ghost tour, visit the French Market — the oldest public market in America — tour one of several museums and, yes, of course feast on delicious seafood and Creole dishes. Other must-visits are the Jazz National Historical Park and Preservation Hall, both of which are requirements for learning about New Orleans’ jazz history.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
There are dozens of national parks in the United States, but the unique feature of Yellowstone is that it was the very first. Yellowstone was designated the first national park in 1872 by President Grant, a significant act that helped establish conservation efforts and led to the creation of the National Park Service in 1916. The huge — 2,219,789-acre — park is located primarily in Wyoming but extends into Montana and Idaho as well. Its crowning jewel is Old Faithful, a geyser that erupts about every hour, while the Mammoth Hot Springs and Grand Prismatic Spring are also popular spots. Park visitors can expect to see large herds of public bison and possibly grizzly bears, wolves and elk.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
The attack on Pearl Harbor caused the United States to officially declare war in 1941. Though World War II battles spanned several countries, this was the only one on U.S. soil, and that had a profound effect on Americans. Today, visitors can tour actual battleships and the USS Arizona Memorial, which floats above the sunken ship. The family-friendly memorial allows travelers to learn about the attack, while remembering and honoring those who died.
Freedom Trail, Boston
It’s kind of cheating to include the Freedom Trail on this list since it encompasses several sites (16 to be exact), but Boston is so small it can be done in one day. The trail starts at the beautiful Boston Common, then leads to important sites such as the Old Corner Bookstore, Boston Massacre location and Paul Revere’s house. The two-and-a-half-mile trail gives travelers a better picture of the American Revolution and ends at the USS Constitution, a warship dating back to 1797.
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
While D.C.’s National Museum of the American Indian houses an amazing collection of more than 800,000 items, actually visiting a Native American landmark can have a meaningful effect. Taos Pueblo is located 90 minutes north of Santa Fe, N.M., and it still has an active Native American community. Archaeologists estimate that people have lived there for around 1,000 years and the present buildings were likely constructed between 1000 and 1450 A.D. The homes and ceremonial buildings are made of adobe and 150 Taos Indians currently live in them. Plus, roughly 1,700 more reside in the surrounding area. Guided tours of the UNESCO World Heritage site are available.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, Atlanta
For an in-depth look at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and the Civil Rights Movement, head to Atlanta, Ga. The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site is a collection of his birth home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was a pastor and his gravesite. Free and open to the public, the visitors’ center contains information on the American Civil Rights Movement and the life and legacy of the courageous leader.
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