Best Historical Cities to Visit in the USA
Use this list to plan your next getaway to a destination that's rich with history. To determine the best spots in America for history buffs, U.S. News considered the storied pasts, preserved landmarks, notable monuments and tourist-friendly services in each city – as well as votes from users. Vote on your top picks for history lovers to help us determine next year's list.
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America's capital is brimming with affordable things to do. The Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial anchor the National Mall, while the Tidal Basin boasts three of its own memorials dedicated to history-making figures. Various outfitters offer history tours that focus on showcasing the city's past through the eyes of everyone from specific presidents to notable women. What's more, exploring the Smithsonian museums, filled with art and science history, won't cost you a dime.
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Boston is a city of American firsts. The country's first public library, first subway system, first public school and first public park belong to Boston. Here, you can stroll the same cobblestone streets as the Puritans and revolutionaries. Kick off your city tour on the Freedom Trail, which guides visitors past 16 of the city's most historic sites. A few must-see historical attractions include Faneuil Hall Marketplace (built in 1742), the Paul Revere House (built around 1680), the Old North Church (built in 1723) and the Fenway Park baseball stadium (opened in 1912).
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You'll see Benjamin Franklin's name and influence across the United States' first capital city. Visit Independence Hall, where Ben and company signed the Declaration of Independence. Then, pay homage to the famously cracked Liberty Bell. And for a bit of cinematic history, head to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to snap a picture of the famous "Rocky Steps." When you get hungry, visit Reading Terminal Market, one of the largest and oldest public markets in America, to sample everything from smoothies and pastries to cheesesteaks and barbecue.
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Gettysburg Battlefield, the 6,000-acre Civil War military park that witnessed the momentous clash of Union and Confederate forces in 1863, is the star of any visit to this Pennsylvania town. Gettysburg also played a part in the Cold War, which you'll learn about at the Eisenhower National Historic Site that sits adjacent to the famous battlefield. To better understand the town's role in these historic events and more, speak with the knowledgeable curators and peruse the 4,000-plus historical artifacts on display at the Gettysburg Museum of History.
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With its preserved Colonial sites and costumed interpreters, Williamsburg, Virginia, is the definition of a living history museum. Your first stop should be Colonial Williamsburg, where you'll be greeted by the "residents" who once called this Revolutionary city home. Visitors have no shortage of learning opportunities: Williamsburg offers more than 20 guided and self-guided daily tours, ranging from ghost tours to garden tours.
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Walking around the Battery with Fort Sumter in the distance may make you feel like you're in a beautiful antebellum postcard. Should you wish to catch a glimpse of the former 19th-century Southern high society, tour Middleton Place, the Aiken-Rhett House Museum or the Nathaniel Russell House Museum. Another great way to get to know this South Carolina city is on a historical walking tour. Or, simply relax on the wraparound porch of your historic bed-and-breakfast.
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Not so long ago, Savannah stood as the epicenter of Georgia's elite. The upper class built upscale townhouses around quaint squares. While some things have changed, much of Savannah has stayed the same. Explore Forsyth Park to catch sight of the antebellum world, or sign up for a ghost tour to hear about the historic figures that still haunt the city. Don't forget to visit the beautiful Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (built in the 1800s) and City Market, which has welcomed locals and visitors with its vendors, eateries and art galleries since the 1700s.
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Plymouth#8 in Best Historical Cities to Visit in the USA
This coastal town south of Boston boasts its fair share of historic homes, museums and monuments dedicated to the Wampanoag American Indians and the men and women who founded the first New England colony. But Plymouth, Massachusetts, is also home to a bit of 21st-century history: Visitors will find the town's 9/11 Memorial just north of Plymouth Rock. What's more, lodging options range from historic hotels to quaint bed-and-breakfast accommodations.
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This northeastern Florida city was founded by Spaniards in 1565 and offers glimpses of the past through its atmosphere and attractions. You'll find cobblestone streets, Romanesque Revival-style buildings and various memorials and monuments as you wander through the heart of the city. Spend some time exploring the Colonial Quarter to see how 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century residents lived. Then, head to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument to learn more about its role in defending Florida.
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Salem, MA#10 in Best Historical Cities to Visit in the USA
Luring travelers interested in learning about everything from witches and pirates to Colonial and maritime history, Salem was founded in 1626. This small city situated on the northern coast of Massachusetts is best known for its ties to the Salem Witch Trials, which curious visitors can get an overview of at the Salem Witch Museum. Other popular historical attractions to visit include The Witch House, the New England Pirate Museum and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
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