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10 Historic Sites Every American Must See

From the Underground Railroad to presidential porches, historical sites offer visitors a new experience and a social studies lesson all in one. At historic sites across the nation, tourists can enter into a different time, worldview, or social status with nothing more than a park pass. We can visit some locations to pay our respects to painful pasts, and others to celebrate American icons and pioneers.

Using data from the National Park Service’s Annual Park Ranking Report for Recreational Visits, we identified the most popular National Historic Sites (NHS) around the United States. These include museums, forts, homes, and railways.

America is home to nearly 90 National Historic Sites, stemming from the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Just two years later, the first one was created with the Salem Maritime NHS. In 1966, all NHSs automatically joined the National Register of Historic Places. Today, famous American sites on this list abound from the East Coast to the West Coast and Puerto Rico.

How many of these most popular sites have you visited or planned to visit? From an important military outpost from the 1800s to colonial-era sites in the Caribbean, something on this wide-ranging list is sure to spark some educational inspiration, a memory, or an upcoming road trip. Read on to see the 10 most popular historic sites in the country.

Source: National Park Service

Boston African American National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 419,585 (2.12% increase from 2018)
– Share of total historic site visits: 4.74%

The Boston African American NHS is a chance for visitors to understand 19th-century African American communities in Boston. The site preserves buildings and stories central to the Underground Railroad, Civil War, and abolition era.

Source: Tim Evanson // Flickr

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 41,305 (1.15% increase from 2018)
– Share of total historic site visits: 0.47%

Stand on the iconic porch of President James A. Garfield at this Ohio site. Garfield’s porch is where he met with important leaders and voters during the presidential campaign that would launch him into fame as the 20th president of the United States. Visitors can tour Garfield’s home and learn more about life in the mid-1800s.

gillfoto // Wikimedia Commons

Christiansted National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 103,594 (3.63% decrease from 2018)

– Share of total historic site visits: 1.17%

In the Virgin Islands, Christiansted NHS commemorates the former Danish capital and influence of European architecture and economics in the Caribbean. Visitors to the urban park can take in the 18th-century buildings, which include a fort and a steeple.

Wes Klein // Wikimedia Commons

Fort Point National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 1.42 million (1.49% increase from 2018)

– Share of total historic site visits: 16.06%

Fort Point NHS marks the military outpost tasked with defending California’s coast from foreign invaders. The fort was in service from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s and today overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge.

Wknight94 // Wikimedia Commons

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 572,373 (7.3% increase from 2018)
– Share of total historic site visits: 6.47%

Ford’s Theatre NHS plunges visitors into the scene where America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated in 1865. Visitors can learn about the theatre, Lincoln’s life, and the assassin’s motivation behind the murder.

Eric Pancer // Wikimedia Commons

San Juan National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 1.2 million (31.52% increase from 2018)
– Share of total historic site visits: 13.53%

Learn the importance of Puerto Rico for colonization and global trade at the San Juan NHS. Visitors will tour historic forts, ocean walkways, and colonial-era homes.

Rizka // Wikimedia Commons

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 339,238 (12.9% increase from 2018)

– Share of total historic site visits: 3.83%

A journey to Massachusetts to the Salem Maritime NHS provides visitors insight into the historic role of sea trade and travel in early America. The port there was a hub for new ideas, goods, and services to the budding country.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 197,816 (0.05% increase from 2018)
– Share of total historic site visits: 2.24%

Step into the place Abraham Lincoln called home before becoming the 16th U.S. president. The Illinois site tells the story of Lincoln—not just as a president but as a family man and local community leader.

Adam Jones, Ph.D. // Wikimedia Commons

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 168,918 (13.29% increase from 2018)
– Share of total historic site visits: 1.91%

The Little Rock Central High School NHS is a step into the history of U.S. school desegregation in the 1950s. Visitors can learn about the history of Brown v. Board of Education and the story of the nine Black students who enrolled at Arkansas’ all-white Central High School.

Crunch // Wikimedia Commons

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

– Recreational visits in 2019: 147,109 (4.47% decrease from 2018)

– Share of total historic site visits: 1.66%

See the place where Franklin D. Roosevelt was born and buried in Hyde Park, New York, at the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt NHS. The home is also the location of the first presidential library.

 

 

 

 

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