If you’re a history buff, you’ve probably found yourself wishing you could travel back in time: so, why not do the next best thing? Apart from bending the space-time continuum, following our list of must-see historical sights in the US is as close as you’ll get to time travel. From the civil war to the gold rush, these destinations really do bring the past to life.
1. See where it all happens on Capitol Hill
One of the most significant sights in US history has to be Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. In this compact neighborhood, you’ll find the United States Capitol (you might recognize it as the building on the $50 US dollar bill), the Library of Congress (where you can see an actual Gutenberg Bible, one of only 49 in the world), the Supreme Court building, the Congressional Cemetery, the Marine barracks, and more. With so many significant buildings in such a small area, a walking tour is by far the best option — pick one with a knowledgeable guide who can fill you in on local history as you stroll.
2. Remember the past in New York City
New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty is a must-see, but the Ellis Island Immigration Center at the statue’s base is equally unmissable. Uncover the fascinating personal stories behind the history of American immigration — and, to make sure you’re not competing with the crowds, opt for an early-access tour. Then, pay your respects at another, more recent historical site: the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero is a moving experience.
3. Channel your inner revolutionary in Boston
In 1773, the Boston Tea Party kicked off the American revolution: so where better than Boston to get a taste of revolutionary history? The world-famous Freedom Trail links significant sites from this period in time. See the monument where the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought, visit Paul Revere’s house, and visit the graves of revolutionary soldiers in the Granary Burying Ground. Our tip? Take a tour led by skilled storytellers, who bring the stories of the Freedom Trail to life!
4. Feel the freedom in Philadelphia
Remember when we said that the US Capitol in DC was a must-see? Well, before it moved to Washington, the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania was the US Capitol. Like DC, it’s filled with fascinating historical sites, such as Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was first signed. Make the most of your time in Philly with a hop-on hop-off bus tour. You’ll be able to take in the US Mint, visit Ben Franklin’s house, and see the Liberty Bell. Pro tip: lovers of cinematic history won’t want to skip the Rocky steps.
5. Enjoy southern charm in Savannah
Founded in 1733, Savannah, Georgia is one of the US’ oldest — not to mention, most classically beautiful — cities. Savannah has witnessed the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Great Depression. And yet, it’s never lost its old-world Southern charm. For a glimpse of the antebellum South, take a leisurely trolley bus tour through the city’s picturesque cobblestoned streets.
6. Walk through history in Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina is a city with many charms. Chief among them? Its well-preserved French Quarter. Built by French settlers, this district still retains a uniquely European flavor. Travel in the footsteps of Washington and Lafayette with a tour that takes in City Hall, the County Courthouse, and the French Huguenot Church that dates back to 1681.
7. Dance through New Orleans
Charleston isn’t the only city in the US with a French Quarter. The French Quarter in New Orleans is famous for its history, architecture, and vibrant music and arts scene. Get a taste of the Big Easy’s beloved French Quarter on a tour that also takes you off the beaten path: you’ll visit historic cemeteries, churches, and more.
8. Visit the oldest Spanish settlement in St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida is the site of the oldest Spanish settlement in the US. If you’re interested in uncovering the stories of this fascinating chapter in US history, don’t skip this charming city. Tick off all the major historic landmarks — like the Old Jail and the Ximenez-Fatio House — on a trolley tour through the old town. You’ll even get the chance to drink from the spring thought by Spanish settler Ponce de Leon to be the mythical Fountain of Youth.
9. Pay tribute to the past in Honolulu
The bombing of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii prompted the U.S to join WWII — and thus shaped the course of 20th-century history. Visit the place where it all began: the USS Arizona Memorial Museum brings this period to life through personal memorabilia and dramatic photographs.
10. Take a bite out of history in San Diego
San Diego is California’s oldest city and backdrop to two of the US’ most colorful historical eras: the Mexican period and the American Gold Rush. Satisfy your appetite for history and local cuisine with a Tequila, Tacos, and Tombstones Tour. Stroll through the old town with a knowledgeable guide, who’ll fill you in about bull-fights, pistol duels, rebellions, and more — and sample some of San Diego’s finest tacos along the way.
11. Cruise past Chicago’s architecture
If you love historical architecture, then you probably don’t need us to tell you to put Chicago on your itinerary. The city boasts one of the first modern skylines and is famous for its Art Deco skyscrapers. See the Tribune Tower, the Willis Tower, the Wrigley Building, and more on a relaxing cruise down the Chicago River.