With Thanksgiving coming up I have been getting excited about all the new traditions I get to start this year at Annabelle’s First Thanksgiving. I started thinking about how grateful that I am that I live so close to Plymouth and can bring her to Plimouth Plantation to learn about the native americans, the pilgrims and how their courage changed our country. There are so many great historic locations right at my doorstep that got me thinking about all the other places I would like to take her to visit to learn and appreciate our past. I hope you will enjoy this list of historic destinations I can not wait to bring my daughter. Starting with my hometown, of course!
Home, sweet home. I love the storied history of my city. I love walking down the streets and seeing how everything has built up over the years, with each brick telling a story. Boston is home to a lot of the countries firsts and oldest and with the Freedom Trail it is presented in a very easy to consume way. The 2.5 mile red line walks you through some of the cities historical sites including the site of the Boston Massacre, Old North Church and Bunker Hill Monument. There is so much revolutionary history in downtown Boston alone but to learn even more you can plan day trips to Salem, Plymouth or Concord to get an even fuller picture of colonial life. You can also visit Fenway Park, America’s oldest ballpark, the JFK Presidential Museum, USS Constitution or even nearby Lowell, a big player in the Industrial Revolution to experience other points in our country’s history.
The closest you can get to time travel, Williamsburg offers a genuine glimpse of the past. The Colonial Williamsburg attraction is the nation’s most beloved living history museum, and it features meticulously re-created 18th Century streets teeming with tradesman, shops and taverns that will both educate and entertain. Beyond the world’s largest living history museum there are spas, golf courses, award- winning restaurants, theme parks and more. Williamsburg together with Yorktown and Jamestown make up what is called the Historic Triangle. You could also pair a trip to Williamsburg with nearby Richmond, Virginia or even our honorable mention Washington, DC.
From the precise spot where the Civil War began to grand antebellum mansions, South Carolina’s oldest city is a must visit for any history nerd. There are many places in this city that highlight an era in American history that every person should better understand to continue to grow and move forward as a nation. A visit to the Old Slave Mart Museum, Charleston Museum (the oldest museum in America) or Bloone Plantation highlight the hardworking people who helped build our country. Civil War history is also an attraction with Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were shot right in the harbor. Also popular are rides on horse-drawn carriages, tours of Charleston’s historic churches, or visits to nearby plantations or downtown antebellum homes. Charleston also has a vibrant culinary scene with the city boasting the most restaurants run by James Beard award winners outside of New York City.
A trip to Pennsylvania is a great way to experience the progression of American history. Philadelphia is the place where American independence was declared. Visit the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall or the Museum of the American Revolution. Continue on to Gettysburg to the most visited historic destination in America, Gettysburg National Military Park. With 1,300 monuments, markers and plaques honoring the three-day battle it is a sobering place to remind us of the power of war. Return to Philly to learn more about the Industrial Revolution, tour a factory, watch money be made at the US Mint and eat an authentic Philly pretzel at Reading Terminal Market—established 1893.
Remember the Alamo! San Antonio is actually one of America’s oldest cities. Settled by the Spanish in the early 1700s, San Antonio is a great place to learn about the country’s Spanish colonial history. The rich layers of this city makes it an incredible place to visit. Start at the Institute of Texan Cultures to learn more about the indigenous, Spanish colonial and adventurous frontiersman who made the city what it is. While it’s not all about the Alamo in San Antonio, this legendary structure should still be the first stop for history buffs. San Antonio is the home to four UNESCO listed Spanish missions and the only remaining Spanish aqueduct in the United States. Of course no visit is complete without a trip to the Alamo.
While many think of the Big Apple as the ultimate modern city, New York is full of history. While much of the city’s colonial past has been rebuilt Ellis Island is a library of stories of the people who made our country what it is. It is the precise place where millions began their quest for the American Dream. Walk down Wall Street to learn about our financial system, stop at the Statue of Liberty and scale the Empire State Building or one of the many other art deco skyscrapers that were once architectural marvels.
You may have noticed that this list is very loosely structured chronologically. You may be wondering why New Orleans is last, after all the city was founded by the French, controlled by the Spanish and heavily influenced by African slaves. This unique heritage can be seen in its architecture, tasted in its cuisine and heard through its jazz music. But the place that I think will be most adored by history aficionados is the National World War II Museum. It is a hidden gem that we stumbled upon on a rainy day during our last visit and ended up being the highlight of our visit. It is such a well curated museum that celebrates that tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.
I try to keep my lists to 7 destinations. There are 7 wonders of the world, right? But no list of historical destinations would be complete without our nation’s capital. It didn’t fit neatly in the chronological list because it has been a part of so much since it was founded in 1790. From the Burning of Washington during the War of 1812 to the March on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement and everything in between DC is the cornerstone of our country. The Smithsonian Institute is home to artifacts that tell the story of our country one item at a time. The city is made up of monuments and museums and each day lawmakers, diplomats and interns that call the city home are making history.
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