Every year, a significant percentage of all American travelers head overseas for faith-based vacations. Pilgrimages, missionaries, international worshipers, and religious retreats flood European and Asian countries with devoted followers of the faith.
However, you don't have to take a fifteen-hour flight across the Atlantic to find beautiful and divine destinations. Right here in the U.S. are hundreds of churches, temples, cathedrals and more that evoke a sense of wonder, an aura of divinity, and a spiritual calm in visiting pilgrims. From historic meetinghouses to grand cathedrals, faith-based destinations are rich in American soil. Head to one of these religious destinations on your next faith-based getaway!
Temple Square - Salt Lake City
The Salt Lake City Temple is perhaps the most famous faith-based destination in the United States. Striking in its grand white granite facade, the Temple is the centerpiece and home church of more than 100 nationwide LDS churches. While you have to be a member of the LDS church to enter the Temple itself, tours are available of the magnificent 10-acre complex and include the Historic Lion House, Humanitarian Center, and the Beehive House among others.
Memorial Presbyterian Church - St. Augustine, FL
This historic church represents Florida's first Presbyterian congregation, established in 1824. The current sanctuary was donated by Henry Flagler in 1890 after his daughter died during childbirth. The beautiful building was inspired by St. Mark's Basilica in Venice and holds a unique aesthetic of Spanish influence as well. Whether or not you are interested in the architecture of the building, once you enter the doors you will feel a sense of overwhelming peace and cool tranquility that marks a house of worship.
California Mission Churches
Between 1768 and 1853, 21 Catholic churches were built in the increasingly populated Alta California region. This impressive feat made by Catholic missionaries brought religion to thousands of native Californians and incoming gold miners over the course of centuries. A few of the churches are still in operation and offer worship services though many are only open for tours as museums and historic landmarks. Mission San Luis Rey is the region's most successful and is a beautiful complex once called the "King of Missions."
Wayfarers Chapel - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Located in the hills and redwood trees of northern California is the triumphant glass Wayfarers Chapel, designed by architect Lloyd Wright. Designed to be a "tree chapel," to mix the serenity of nature with the ethereal tranquility of a house of worship, the Wayfarers Chapel emerged from the architect's dreams as an oasis within the pines. The combination of nature, earth, and spiritualism elevates habitual worship to a higher level of praise and adoration.
Episcopalian Cathedral of St. John the Divine - New York
Arguably the world's largest Anglican church, St. John the Divine covers an impressive 121,000 square feet and reputedly could fit the Statue of Liberty under its massive central dome. As you near the cathedral you are struck by the European architecture reminiscent of old Parisian Gothic cathedrals with its grand buttresses, archways, and stained glass windows. It was also the site of celebrity funerals including actor James Gandolfini, author Madeleine L'Engle, and Muppets creator Jim Henson.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis - MO
Constructed in 1914, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis was designated a true basilica in 1997 by Pope John Paul II. One of the most famous features of the cathedral is the mosaic installation inspired by Byzantine art. As you enter the interior of the cathedral, you see the entire ceiling and archways are covered with gold backgrounds, deep blue accents, and representations of the saints and apostles.
Thorncrown Chapel - Eureka Springs, AR
Designed by E. Fay Jones and inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School, Thorncrown Chapel is a brilliant glass church in the Ozark mountains. Surrounded by trees and lit by the sunlight, this beautiful chapel lights up like a prism and illuminates those within in divine light. Like the Wayfarers Chapel in California, Arkansas' counterpart utilizes the beauty of nature with the serenity of spiritual faith to create a higher level of worship and praise. Come during the spring and summer to experience a most beautiful Ozark landscape.
Old South Church - Boston
One of the most historically important churches in the nation, the Old South Church in Boston first convened in 1669 and played a role in the Revolutionary War. The church is part of the city's Freedom Trail and offers tours though it is also open to weekly religious services. Benjamin Franklin was baptized in 1706 and famous members included William Dawes, Phillis Wheatley, and Samuel Adams. Remembering the past, Old South Church is still an evolving center of faith, continuing worship into the 21st century and beyond.
Trinity Church - New York
The first Trinity Church was built in 1698 as a member of the Church of England by order of King William III. Used by soldiers during the Revolutionary War, the church burned in 1776 in the Great New York City Fire. The current church is the third construction and was finished in 1846, remaining to this day as a triumphant house of worship for Episcopalians. The church continues to give weekly Eucharist services and guided tours are offered daily at 2 pm.
Museums & More
There are plenty of faith-based attractions that are not traditionally considered houses of worship. The following are popular and welcoming recommendations for those desiring an educational adventure into Christianity.