There’s a host of top Historic Sites in the United States to visit and among the very best are Independence Hall, Mesa Verde National Park and Gettysburg Battlefield. Other popular sites tend to include Historic Jamestowne, Martin Luther King Jr National Site and Alcatraz Island.
We’ve put together an experts guide to US cultural places, landmarks and monuments, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in the United States, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in the United States?
Independence Hall in Philadelphia is one of the most important landmarks in US history, being the site where the nation declared independence from Great Britain on 4 July 1776. The hall is now part of Independence National Historical Park, which also encompasses a myriad of important sites such as Congress Hall and Liberty Bell Centre sprawled over 55 acres within the City of Philadelphia.
Visitors can choose from a variety of ranger guided walking tours as well as various indoor and outdoor activities. Across the road is the Liberty Bell Centre, housing the famous Liberty Bell, one of the most significant symbols of the American Civil War and formerly hung in Independence Hall’s tower. Congress Hall is next door to Independence Hall.
Mesa Verde National Park is a breathtaking Native American site dotted with over 4,000 archaeological treasures, including 600 exceptionally well preserved cliff dwellings dating back to 600 AD. Mesa Verde National Park was once the home of the Pueblos, a Native American people who lived there for over 700 years before migrating to New Mexico and Arizona.
Some of the sites, such as the Cliff Palace and Balcony House with its over 150 rooms can only be viewed as part of a ranger tour, for which you can buy tickets at Far View Visitor Center before attending the sites. It’s also well worth viewing the large collection of artefacts on display.
Gettysburg National Military Park is brimming with approximately 1,328 monuments, markers and memorials relating to the American Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg raged from 1 to 3 July 1863, resulting in over 51,000 casualties and victory for the Unionists. It marked a significant turning point in the war, followed twenty one months later by the surrender of the Confederacy.
Visitors can follow the route of Battle of Gettysburg, from Seminary Ridge and Culp’s Hill to Cemetery Ridge and Devils Den as well as visiting David Wills’ house, a museum about the town. The National Park Service Museum and Visitor Center is a good place to start as it contains a wide range of Civil War related information as well as a plethora of guided tours and exhibitions.
It was in Historic Jamestowne in 1607 that the English established their first successful colony in America. Previous attempts, notably that of Roanoke in 1587, had been made, but the colony the English formed in Jamestowne was the root of what was to eventually become America.
Today, Jamestowne forms part of Colonial National Park, a historic site which encompasses York Town Battlefield, Colonial Parkway and the Cape Henry Memorial. Visitors can explore the history of the site and that of the country as a whole. Amongst its many attractions, it is worth seeing the Jamestown Glasshouse, a recreation of the first industrial building of the Virginia Company, the London-based company that founded the colony.
The Martin Luther King Jr National Site in Atlanta, Georgia is dedicated to commemorating the life of the leader of the African-American civil rights movement and chronicling his campaign for racial equality.
Visitors to the Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site can visit Dr and Mr’s King’s crypt at the King Centre, view his birthplace and see exhibitions and films about Dr King’s life and the civil rights movement. There are also exhibits about Gandhi, who inspired Dr King and about Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus was an iconic event of the movement.
Alcatraz Island was the site of a notoriously harsh prison based off the coast of San Francisco, California, this isolated position earning it the name of “The Rock”.
Alcatraz Island is today managed by the National Parks Service and offers tours of the old prison. An eerie yet fascinating journey into the workings of this famous site, visitors to Alcatraz Island can make use of audio guides which chronicle its history (45 minutes). The visit usually lasts 2-3 hours.
The Bunker Hill Monument is a memorial of the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place on 17 June 1775 between the British army and the militias of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island early in the American Revolution.
Bunker Hill Monument is an obelisk standing 221 feet high which visitors can enter and even climb to the top for stunning views from its observation deck. The only thing is, there are around 270 steps and no lift/elevator. The nearby Bunker Hill Museum offers a detailed insight into the war, the history of Charlestown and the monument itself, with numerous exhibits and artefacts.
The Statue of Liberty is an iconic copper and steel statue in the entrance to New York Habour and an enduring symbol of freedom and independence. The Statue of Liberty’s total height from ground to torch is a staggering 92.99 metres. Originally built in France in 1884, it arrived in New York in June 1885 and was dedicated on 28 October 1886.
Situated on Liberty Island, there are numerous exhibits and tours available both inside and outside the Statue of Liberty. Upon reaching Liberty Island, visitors can go to the information station to watch a short film about the statue’s history and check the schedule of events for one of 45 minute long ranger tours, which start at the Liberty Island Flagpole.
The Lincoln Memorial is a Greek style monument in Washington DC’s West Potomac Park. The Lincoln Memorial was designed by the architect, Henry Bacon, who also sculpted the statue of Lincoln which visitors can see within its walls.
As the site of many important political speeches and events, Lincoln Memorial has a history of its own, independent from its original purpose. In particular, it was the site where Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech on 28 August 1963.
The memorial stands majestically in National Mall and Memorial Parks, overseen by the National Parks Service and surrounded by other important historical sites. Visitors are free to enter the memorial at all times and it can often become quite crowded.
Ellis Island was the entry point into the United States of America for over twelve million immigrants between 1892 and 1954.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum offers a detailed insight into the island’s history, its role in the country’s immigration procedures and the stories of the immigrants. It is a celebration of immigration, including a wall of honour and many exhibits and artefacts.