Although America's history pales in comparison to Old World countries, there are still plenty of cities to visit with a wealth of historical importance. While there are historical sites located across the country, the early colonial settlements established along the Eastern seaboard are of special interest, given the contributions that helped create the United States of America. In addition to enjoying the contemporary amenities of a major metropolitan area, a great way to enhance a trip is to follow the footsteps of America's Founding Fathers. The following are five of the best historical trips in the United States.
Boston is just one of several New England cities with a rich American history. Some of the most significant events leading to the birth of the nation occurred in Boston, including the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and the midnight ride of Paul Revere. A number of Boston tour operators specialize in sightseeing excursions to all of the city's most prominent sites, such as the Old North Church, Old State House, Bunker Hill, Boston Harbor and Paul Revere's home. But many travelers might choose to stroll along Boston's Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, brick-lined pathway that leads to all of the city's most important historical landmarks from Boston Common through Old Boston, then across the Charles River to the Bunker Hill Monument. While in Boston Common, first-time visitors might be interested in visiting some of the park's monuments, particularly the Boston Massacre Memorial and the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, who became further immortalized in the 1989 Academy Award-winning movie "Glory."
Charleston, South Carolina
Named after Charles II of England, Charleston was the site for a number of significant battles during the Revolutionary War, most prominently the Battle of Sullivan's Island and the Siege of Charleston. But Charleston also played a pivotal role in leading the country into the Civil War, with the first shots fired upon a Union naval ship in Charleston Harbor in January 1861. Months later, the Battle of Fort Sumter took place in Charleston Harbor, signaling the beginning of the War Between the States. In November, Charleston was named the Top US City from Condé Nast for the third consecutive year, describing South Carolina's oldest city as "a consistent hit with travelers who venture to this gracious and beautiful city."
New York City, New York
Many firsts occurred in this city affectionately known as the Big Apple; it was the nation's first capital under the US Constitution and the inauguration of George Washington was held in 1789 at Federal Hall, later known as the site of the nation's first capitol building. The nation's most populous city also has more than 100 National Historic Landmarks, including many of the most iconic structures in American history, like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station and Trinity Church. Among the several National Monuments in the city, the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island is clearly the most prominent. Visitors should consider visiting Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants yearning to breathe free. Because visiting many of New York City's most historical sites can be an exhausting ordeal, taking in a guided tour of the city might be a good idea, especially for those who are first-time visitors to the city. If time permits, a side trip to Coney Island or Yankee Stadium takes under an hour when using New York's subway system.
The City of Brotherly Love is arguably the single most important historical location in the entire country. In July 1776, America's original 13 colonies proclaimed through the Declaration of Independence that a new nation was born. Founding fathers of the United States signed the historical document at Independence Hall, now an integral part of the National Park Service. Also part of Independence National Historical Park is the world famous Liberty Bell, like Independence Hall, an iconic symbol of the American Revolution. Other sites in Philadelphia of historical significance are the Betsy Ross House, Christ Church and the Christ Church Burial Ground, the Declaration House and Elfreth's Alley, the oldest residential street in the country.
The nation's capital should be high on anyone's list of historic trips. First-time visitors to Washington, DC should make time to visit many of the nation's most revered landmarks located within the enormous National Mall - the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. From the Wright Brothers airplane and the Spirit of Saint Louis at the National Air and Space Museum to distinguished portraits of George Washington at the National Gallery and the Star Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History, the National Museums are also well worth visiting and not just because there is no admission fee. Also not to be missed is a visit to the National Archives, home to original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill Rights. For visitors interested in touring the White House, requests must be submitted through one's Member of Congress or embassy three weeks to six months in advance.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.
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