Learning is lifelong and happens well beyond the confines of a classroom environment. One subject in particular, United States history, continues to attract history buffs and novices alike. The US historic site industry is worth about $900 million dollars because history is an evergreen human curiosity. And in-person tours, while not always possible, still provide unmatched firsthand views of the past that can foster new appreciation and perspective.
Consider taking a weekend trip this fall to one of these historical locations in your region. Each place offers unique monuments and cultural experiences that anyone can enjoy.
The Northeast is full of the nation’s oldest history, and most of the thirteen original colonies, which are home to some of the most iconic scenes in early American history. The well-preserved battlegrounds and buildings will have a gorgeous fall foliage backdrop during your trip.
Civil War battles are some of the most studied in US history. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is a historical town lined with small museums, mom-and-pop shops, and walking tours of open battlefields—complete with original restored cannons and trees still standing from 1863. You may even catch a few reenactments on site.
Take a step back to live in the 1700s for a day by visiting Williamsburg, Virginia, also known as “Colonial Williamsburg.” The quaint setup of the town and guides dressed in era-appropriate clothing immerse you in what a person in the Colony of Virginia might have seen and done in their daily lives. From candle-making demonstrations to candlelit dinners, there’s an activity for people of all ages.
The Southern region of the US is known for its delicious, flavorful foods, but it also has a rich, diverse history ready to explore. Expect to return from your trip with a full stomach and an open mind!
Memphis, Tennessee, sits along the Mississippi River and offers unique opportunities to stand where famous American musicians sang their first notes and see where civil-rights icons, such as Martin Luther King Jr., gathered to protest. After grabbing a bite of barbecue, stop by the free-to-visit National Civil Rights Museum and famous Elmwood Cemetery, which is the final resting place of various political and historical figures.
New Orleans is arguably the best place to experience Southern culture. Here you can find blends of French and American cultures in the food, architecture, and music. Take a ride on the historic streetcars throughout the city, and stay to see Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter—the site where president Andrew Jackson declared an American victory in the Battle of New Orleans. At night, Jackson Square’s buildings are decorated with lights and filled with unique artists’ demonstrations, tasty food vendor trucks, and knowledgeable historians ready to welcome tourists warmly.
The Midwest is known as America’s heartland because of its role in pioneering US manufacturing and farming sectors. The open spaces and slow-paced businesses attract tourists to take a stroll in some of the most stress-free parts of the country.
Just a short drive from Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Minnesota, is a state capital you don’t want to miss. Though small, it’s big on celebrating its beautiful historical sites and vibrant traditions. Walk down the longest preserved Victorian-era avenue in the country, Summit Avenue. Stop for some award-winning food at the largest Vietnamese marketplace in the country, HmongTown Marketplace, which has over one hundred different shops. After a satisfying lunch, learn a bit about Native American history at nearby Fort Snelling settled against the Mississippi River.
Aside from its famous barbecue locations, Missouri earned the nickname The Cave State for its thousands of discovered caves. You may even find a hidden gem of your own while exploring the trails of the original state capital, Saint Charles. Step back in time to the early nineteenth century at the now-preserved key location of Lewis and Clark’s expedition—the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Museum, located along the Missouri River. Wander over to another historic house on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Daniel Boone homestead, built in 1799. Here you can walk through and around the dozen buildings that make up this restored village, which sits on three hundred acres. The general store, schoolhouse, and grist mill are popular attractions that offer a peek into life on the Missouri frontier.
Sunshine, surf, and sand are what most people picture when thinking about the West Coast of the US—but there is much more than meets the eye in these states.
The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic landmark you must see in your lifetime. Whether you drive across it or take pictures from the nearby parks, it’s a gorgeous representation of American engineering that you can’t help but gaze at in awe. See Alcatraz Island and hear stories about American incarceration. Afterward, lighten up the mood by taking a famous San Fran streetcar to see the iconic Full House set located at 1709 Broderick Street. Make the most of your streetcar experience by packing sunglasses so you don’t miss the sites outside the window, talking to your driver about the area, and holding on tight if you ride on the side!
Visit the city known for its caffeine and shipbuilding histories, Seattle, Washington. Be sure to bring rain jackets and warm clothes because there’s always a chance of rain in The Emerald City. Start your day with a warm cup of coffee at the original Starbucks store location that opened its doors in 1971 at Pike Place Market, and sip on your brew while you stroll through family-owned shops and bakeries. Take a ferryboat to see the gorgeous shipbuilding docks and stop by the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) to learn details about Seattle’s maritime past. At night, make your way to the hard-to-miss Seattle landmark, the Space Needle, opened in 1961, and look out over the lights of the bustling city from the observation deck and restaurant.
Plan your visit today to one of these must-see historical places near you!