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3 Weekend Getaway Ideas for History-Loving Families

Explore prized landmarks, historic homes and significant sites across the country with the gang.

U.S. News & World Report

3 Weekend Getaway Ideas for History-Loving Families

Mount Rushmore

Whether you're looking for art, architecture and storied landmarks or you want to retrace beloved figure's footsteps, here's where to bring the kids on an adventure to remember.(Getty Images)

There are an abundance of American cities featuring renowned museums, storied sites and history-filled landmarks. Cities such as Philadelphia, Boston and the District of Columbia should, of course, be on every history buff's must-see list, but these three standout destinations with fascinating cultural and historical backstories are well worth a visit, too. Cross these places off your family bucket list in 2017.

St. Louis

From westward expansion to the Civil War to beyond, St. Louis has played a significant role in many historical events. Lewis and Clark started their journey west of St. Louis in St. Charles. Today, visitors can explore the town's historic Main Street to learn more about the duo, and take the tram to the top of the Gateway Arch, which, at 630-feet tall, is the tallest man-made monument in the country. The Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, was built as a monument to westward expansion.

Visitors can learn more about Lewis and Clark's journey in the Old Courthouse, which is also on-site. Once current renovations are complete, an updated museum at the foot of the Arch will feature interactive exhibits highlighting the history of the monument, Lewis and Clark and westward expansion. The Old Courthouse also played a significant role in the start of the Civil War. The Dred Scott Case, one of the most important cases ever tried in the U.S., was heard in this courthouse; the Supreme Court's ultimate decision in 1857 hastened the start of the Civil War. Other Civil War monuments can be found in the St. Louis area at Jefferson Barracks Park, which was a U.S. Army post from 1826 to 1946 and, today, offers the Old Ordnance Room and the Powder Magazine museum, as well as the Missouri Civil War Museum, the state's acclaimed Civil War museum. Another family-friendly attraction, Grant's Farm, also has ties to the Civil War. General Grant once called this land home, and today visitors can find multiple animal exhibits and shows, along with the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses and Grant's Cabin, which was moved and restored by Anheuser-Busch who operates the company.

As for dining, try Mama's on the Hill, which claims to be the home of the famed toasted ravioli, a staple St. Louis dish. For another kid-friendly option, the Fountain on Locust is a fun restaurant and ice cream bar decorated in an art deco style. A stay at the historic Chase Park Plaza Hotel, which opened in the early 1930s, offers an ideal bookend to your trip.

Rapid City, South Dakota

Visitors to historic downtown Rapid City's Main Street are greeted by the "City of Presidents," a series of 42 life-size bronze statues of the nation’s past presidents along the city's streets and sidewalks. The City of Presidents project began in 2000 to honor the legacy of the presidency and includes past presidents throughout the city's historic downtown. Travelers can pick up a map, which includes where each president is located. To bring the presidents to life, the map also details the inspiration behind each statue.

Families can continue learning about U.S. history at Mount Rushmore, which is located just 23 miles away from Rapid City. You'll find several stunning views of the 60-foot faces of George Washington Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson, whether at the stunning Grand View Terrace or on the Presidential Trail. As for lodging, consider Hotel Alex Johnson, Curio Collection by Hilton, which was built in the Roaring '20s by a railroad worker who had a flair for luxury, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For kid-approved dining, try Tally's Silver Spoon, where the restaurant's original blueberry pancake recipe is not to be missed.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

It's no secret Gettysburg is a hot spot for history seekers. History lovers will appreciate that the largest battle ever fought in North America happened here there in 1863, and our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, visited four months later to deliver the famous Gettysburg Address.

To engage families and ensure learning about America's past is fun for younger visitors, Gettysburg is making history come to life through battlefield tours, high-tech iPad technology and state-of-the-art museums. The Gettysburg National Military Park is the town's biggest historical attraction by far. With more than 6,000 acres and 1,300 monuments and markers, it is a great place to learn and reflect.

Another site, Soldiers' National Cemetery, the country’s first national cemetery, is where Lincoln delivered the famous speech. "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," he remarked. Today, the cemetery is a beautiful yet grim reminder of the tragedy that occurred here. More than 3,500 union soldiers are buried here, but most travelers plan a trip in pursuit of retracing Lincoln's footsteps on that fateful day.

But Gettysburg's history doesn’t stop at the American Civil War. One of our country's most admired president actually lived in Gettysburg for many years. Today, the home and farm of Dwight D. Eisenhower is open as a national historic site, offering a rare glimpse into the world of a president living in the '50s. He welcomed world leaders and even ran the country from his Gettysburg home after a heart attack during his presidency.

For dining, try Farnsworth House Tavern, which offers elaborate and simple dishes, brings guests into a 1860s home and an opportunity to taste some of the recipes of the time, including game pie and peanut soup. After sightseeing, settle in at the Gettysburg Hotel – located in the heart of Gettysburg. It's historic, nicely appointed and well-suited for families.

While in Pennsylvania, make the 2½-hour drive from Gettysburg to Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love will become better than ever for history buffs with the April opening of the Museum of the American Revolution, which will tie together the story of the American Revolution. The new museum is steps away from Carpenters Hall (the site of the first Continental Congress), and within close walking distance of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. If you're planning to spend the night in Philadelphia, book early at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, which is conveniently located nearby must-see historical attractions and landmarks.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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