While many religious pilgrimages and journeys are thought to take place overseas in places like Jerusalem, Mecca, France and beyond, many Americans don't recognize the religious wonders in their own backyard. Throughout the U.S., various religious monuments, temples, cities, and destinations make the perfect getaway for your religious or spiritual travel group.
Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, California
Built based on traditional Chinese design, this Buddhist temple makes travelers feel they've arrived in the Far East. Constructed in 1988, the temple's architecture aligns with Ming and Ch'ing dynasty styles. The temple shines from its golden tiles, holds protective figurines on its roof, and a meditative courtyard. From above, the building is shaped like a bodhi leaf, honoring the tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment. Inside is an art gallery with both Eastern and Western paintings, ceramics, photographs and Buddhist artifacts.
Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, Florida
This beautiful memorial has an even more beautiful story behind its existence. The church was built in 1889 in honor of Louise Benedict, the daughter of wealthy man named Henry Morrison Flagler. Flagler was a religious man particularly fond of St. Augustine and he donated much of his wealth to the city. His daughter Louise died during childbirth and Flagler decided to erect a church in her honor. He and his whole family now find their final resting place in the church. The architecture of the building is influenced by many churches of Europe, specifically Venice's St. Mark's Basilica with its wood-carved walls, stained-glass windows, sanctuary and a large dome.
Temple Emanu-El in New York City
One of the largest Jewish temples in the world, this religious sanctuary stands 103 feet tall, 100 feet wide and 175 feet long and seats 2,500 people. The colors inside are vibrant and beautiful, with ceilings painted and gilded, arches lined with glass and marble mosaics, and more than 60 stained glass windows. There's also a museum within that collects artifacts important in Jewish history. Temple Emanu-El has had members worshiping in New York since 1845.
St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City
St. Patrick's Cathedral may be smaller than the skyscrapers surrounding it, but the cathedral has an old-world architecture that's very rare in New York. The design is based on Neo-Gothic styles featuring soaring spires, detailed marble exteriors and bright stained glass windows, all inspired by great cathedrals of Europe. St. Patrick's Cathedral has been in its location since 1879 to accommodate a growing Catholic population in the city.
Palace of Gold in Moundsville, West Virginia
With a name like Palace of Gold, this Moundsville wonder doesn't disappoint. Indian-inspired, the palace is massive and lined with marble floors, decorated with crystal chandeliers, flourishing with stained-glass windows, and features wood-carved furniture and walls covered in leaves of 22-karat gold. Landscapes surrounding the building include a rose garden, a fountain, hundreds of varieties of bushes and a lotus-filled lake. Opened in 1979, the Palace of Gold was initially intended to be a house for the community's founder. In 1973, West Virginia members of the Hare Krishna movement wanted to build a home for their leader, but when he died in 1977, the disciples instead turned the home into a memorial, which then became the elaborate structure it is today.