History is a major travel motivator, driving millions of visitors every year towards these top U.S. historic destinations. Try one out for size, or even two or three, on a whirlwind tour of the U.S. to learn and experience as much history as possible.
1. Washington, D.C.
The most obvious choice for this list, our nation's capital sits as one of the most historically significant regions in the country. For starters, hit the National Mall first where you can visit the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Capitol Hill in a row then stray to the sides for a look at several Smithsonian museums, the Jefferson Memorial, and a handful of smaller monuments. Also, stop by and take a tour of the White House if you get the chance.
Purportedly the birthplace of our nation, Boston stands as an intensely concentrated historical city covered head to toe in Revolutionary and Colonial landmarks. Make your way through the sites by following the Freedom Trail, hitting all of the major landmarks including the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere's House, and more. The USS Constitution, aka Old Ironsides, also resides still in Boston Harbor where the legendary Boston Tea Party came to fruition.
The legendary city of liberty where independence was written, signed, and passed into being, Philadelphia, like its sister-city Boston, remains a metropolis of living history. Independence National Historical Park is the perfect place to start. Here you can see the Liberty Bell, walkthrough Independence Hall where the Declaration and Constitution were signed, and also see Congress Hall where George Washington (his second term) and John Adams were sworn into office.
The first shots of the Civil War took place here at Fort Sumter but even before that fateful battle, Charleston was remembered as a fruitful antebellum commercial seaport. Full of colonial history, Charleston's best attractions include the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site where the ship Adventure is moored, wander the enchanted paradise of Magnolia Plantation, and explore on foot the cobblestone streets preserving over 300 years of history.
5. New Orleans
From the founding of this French parish onward, New Orleans has been a beacon of colorful heritage, dark histories, and enigmatic energy. While the iconic French Quarter has some stories to tell, make sure you also visit the St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica which seems too beautiful to be real and also its cemeteries holding New Orleans celebrities like Marie Laveau, a high Voodoo priestess.
Few American cities can boast the amount of history that Savannah keeps hidden under her petticoats. Held by the British during the Revolutionary War, stampeded - but not burned - by General Sherman during the Civil War, and wracked with influenza epidemics, small pox, and the fall out from emancipation, Savannah has had a rough past. See the birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low, the Davenport House Museum, Forsyth Park, and Bonaventure Cemetery.
The grand living history museum of Colonial Williamsburg is famous for its broad scope, attention to detail, and collection of museums and artifacts but Williamsburg, Virginia holds more to it. See the original Historic Jamestowne, an ongoing archaeological dig park on the site of the first Fort James, as well as Jamestown Settlement, a second living history park set over a hundred years earlier than Colonial Williamsburg.
The capital of the Confederacy, Richmond was, and is, magnificently important in the scheme of historical preservation. Check out the White House of the Confederacy, home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Historic Tredegar where you can find the American Civil War Museum and other landmarks, and several battlefields among others. The city itself is historic and only needs discovering so a walking tour of the historic district is recommended.
9. New York City
The original U.S. capital city, New York and its sophisticated metropolitan ways are often overlooked as being historic. However, New York has played a huge role in the evolution of our country from the Revolutionary War onward. Visit Ellis Island and learn about the largest American immigration movement, see the Flushing Quaker Meetinghouse, the Hamilton Grange, and the Federal Hall Memorial where the Bill of Rights was presented to Congress.
A smaller city compared to the others on this list, Charlottesville may be tiny but it's also home to Monticello and several other presidential homes. Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison, and Woodrow Wilson all lived near Charlottesville and whose homes are open for touring. Monticello, President Jefferson's home, is perhaps the most beautiful with incredible gardens, Jefferson's iconic architectural style, and more.
11. San Francisco
Although San Francisco was founded by Spanish settlers in 1776, it wasn't until the Gold Rush of 1849 that the city boomed into the glorious metropolitan commercial district it is today. Almost overnight, San Francisco grew exponentially, acquiring citizens of all backgrounds and heritage. San Francisco's Chinatown, for example, is the largest outside of Asia while the rest of the city grew up in Victorian glory. While you're here, see the city's oldest intact building Mission Dolores, Angel Island where hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens were detained upon entering the U.S., as well as the famed prison island of Alcatraz.
12. San Antonio
Explored by the Spanish in 1691 and founded in 1718, San Antonio was the first official settlement in Texas. Filled with passionate influences of clashing cultures, San Antonio is replete with historic landmarks from religious ruins to battlefields of the Mexican-American War. Visit the Alamo for starters, the legendary site where a handful of brave Americans held the fort against a much larger army, as well as the San Antonio Missions Historical Park, River Walk, and the Steves Homestead Museum in the King William Historic District.
Not only was Honolulu the site of Pearl Harbor (which should definitely be visited) but it was also the U.S.'s only capital housing a royal monarchy. Honolulu's historic landmarks include America's only royal palace, 'Iolani Palace and Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau, once considered Oahu's largest religious site and the site of supposed sacrificial ceremonies. You may also want to check out Queen Emma's Summer Palace and the various statues commemorating Hawaii's early leaders.