9 Places to Relive American History
These U.S. travel destinations tell the nation’s story through preservation, research, and reenactment. From prehistory to modern times, this is a bucket list for American history buffs.
Built by ancestral Puebloans between A.D. 1200 and 1300, the towers of Hovenweep are a fascinating display of early masonry located at the border of Colorado and Utah, about 25 miles from the Four Corners. Hiking trails in the park offer views of the ruins as well as the canyons surrounding the Cajon Mesa. Hovenweep’s remoteness also yields brilliant stargazing opportunities from the onsite tent camp.
Minute Man Park
A wealth of American history lies in this National Historic Park that stretches from Concord to Lexington, Massachusetts. The five-mile Battle Road Trail leads visitors through various sites of the first battle of the American Revolution, and at the North Bridge you can relive “the shot heard ’round the world.” The Wayside, a preserved Colonial home, housed authors Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney throughout the 19th century, and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond is located just south of the site.
Alexander Hamilton’s Harlem home was moved twice before landing in its current spot in Saint Nicholas Park in Manhattan. The controversial Founding Father completed the home in 1802 on his 32-acre estate in upper Manhattan. Hamilton Grange tells the story of Hamilton’s self-made career and influential vision of industry. The recent restoration of the mansion was completed, inside and out, to replicate Alexander Hamilton’s original furnishings and landscaping.
Homestead National Monument
Abraham Lincoln’s Homestead Act of 1862 provided 270 million acres of free land to Americans eager to start a life out West. The Homestead National Monument was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in southeast Nebraska to commemorate the impact of Lincoln’s law on the economic and cultural development of the West. The site features 211 acres of prairie and woodlands preserved to represent the plains before settlement. You can tour an 1867 cabin and the Freeman School, a one-room schoolhouse that served students from 1872 to 1967.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
The First Battle of Bull Run, the start of the Civil War, took place on the well-preserved grounds of Manassas National Battlefield Park. Civil War history buffs can experience reenactments and cannon-firing at this site just 25 miles from Washington D.C. Antietam, Harpers Ferry, and Fredericksburg battlefields are a short drive from Manassas as well.
Henry Ford Museum
The largest museum complex in the country houses a plethora of artifacts from American history, particularly from the Industrial Revolution. Thomas Edison’s laboratory, JFK’s presidential limousine, and the bus on which Rosa Parks took a stand all reside at the museum’s campus in Dearborn, Michigan. Most notable is the museum’s collection of cars that spans the history of automobiles in the United States.
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
Located in Louis Armstrong Park just blocks away from the French Quarter, the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park is a new kind of national park that offers programs and tours to educate visitors on the birthplace of jazz. Rangers guide groups through jazz walks of the city as well as interactive demonstrations. The park also offers free concerts at a venue in the French Quarter.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
The BCRI strives to act as a “living memorial” to the civil rights story of Birmingham, Alabama. Dramatic and interactive exhibits depict the civil rights movement in Birmingham as a necessity for understanding present and future human rights, as well as the past. The museum is situated in downtown Birmingham, close to other key sites from the Birmingham movement.
From 1945 to 1992 the USS Midway was an active aircraft carrier, but now the vessel rests in San Diego as a museum ship. Guided tours, flight simulators, and 29 restored aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm are aboard the massive carrier.