Every nation has its history—people, places, and events from times past that helped shape the present. Visiting historical sites serves as a way to connect the past to the present, to better understand where we are now by learning about where we’ve been. The foundation of the United States is largely centered in northeastern part of the country. Many historical attractions here date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, before and during the establishment of the U.S. as its own country. Below are just a few destinations from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts sure to prove educational for the whole family and delight any history lover.
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The city of Boston, Massachusetts, founded in 1630, is a must-see for any U.S. history fiend. The city has plenty of modern attractions in its own right. However, if you want to explore the past, all you have to do is follow the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile (4 km) route through downtown Boston, marked with red brick, that passes through 16 locations important to the history of the U.S.
The trail starts at the Visitor Center on the Boston Common, which features brochures and information on all the destinations to come. Included along the route are the Old Granary Burying Ground (burial place of figures like John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere); the State House; the Old South Meeting House; the Old State House, site of the Boston Massacre; the Paul Revere House, his residence during the Revolutionary War; the Old Corner Bookstore; the USS Constitution, launched in 1797 and the world's oldest still-afloat naval vessel; and the Bunker Hill Monument, an obelisk built in memory of the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Not included along the Freedom Trail but still very much worth visiting are the sites of the Boston Tea Party and the Liberty Tree, the latter of which was an elm tree that served as a rallying point for American colonists in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.
Less than an hour northeast of Boston lies Salem, Massachusetts, another popular tourist destination in the area. Founded in 1626, Salem is best known as the site of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692-1693. However, other attractions focus on the city's maritime history and importance in the early colonial period.
The Salem Regional Visitor Center offers a good overview of the city's offerings, including two introductory films and brochures for self-guided walking tours. The Salem Heritage Trail, marked by a red line along the sidewalk, winds through many of the city's top attractions like the Peabody Essex Museum (the oldest continually running museum in the U.S.), East India Marine Hall, the Witch History Museum, and the Witch House (the family home of one of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials). The Salem Witch Trials Memorial is dedicated to the victims found guilty and executed during the events.
The New England Pirate Museum offers visitors the chance to board a full-size pirate ship and explore a deep cave and just maybe find some buried treasure. The Salem Maritime National Historical Site preserves historic buildings and wharves, and it features various displays and exhibits about colonial sailors, privateers, and merchants.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1682, is similarly home to countless sites and attractions of historical importance. A good place to start might be Independence National Historical Park, a square mile packed densely with an entire textbook's worth of U.S. history. The park houses Independence Hall, the former Pennsylvania state house where the U.S. Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and wrote the U.S. Constitution in 1787. It's also where George Washington was chosen as Commander in Chief of the American army. The Liberty Bell Pavilion is home to the Liberty Bell, open free to the public and accompanied by exhibits and historical videos. The park also contains Congress Hall (the meeting place of the first U.S. Congress), Old City Hall (former home of the U.S. Supreme Court), and the Ben Franklin Museum.
The National Constitution Center presents multimedia and interactive exhibits about the U.S. Constitution. Attractions include a film about this fundamental document and family-friendly activities like reciting the Presidential oath of office and voting for your favorite U.S. president. The center also hosts political speakers and public events.
The Betsy Ross House is where Betsy Ross and her husband lived between 1773-1786. Supposedly, it's the site where she sewed the very first American flag. The building was restored in the 1930s and today serves as one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Ross herself is buried in a nearby courtyard. The house also features a gift shop and a historically accurate Betsy Ross greeting guests in the courtyard.
Jumping forward in time, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg (1863), which many consider to be the turning point in the U.S. Civil War. The battle raged for three days, and more than 50,000 people were killed. After the battle, President Abraham Lincoln visited the site and delivered one of his most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address. Today, the area is known as Gettysburg National Military Park and is another prime destination for fans of U.S. history.
The battlefield itself is scattered with almost 1,400 statues and monuments remembering both armies. Highlights include a statue of five Confederate soldiers in action during Pickett's Charge on Seminary Ridge; a statue of General Robert E. Lee atop his horse; and the Pennsylvania Memorial at Cemetery Ridge, which lists the names of all Pennsylvania soldiers who participated in the battle. There are also bus tours, walking tours, and self-guided tours available.
The Visitors Center and Museum consists of 11 galleries featuring artifacts and displays about the battle and its aftermath, interactive exhibits, and video and oral history accounts from participants. The Soldiers' National Cemetery, dedicated to the 3,500 Union soldiers who died in the battle, stands at the site where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.
Ellis Island, New York City
New York City contains an entire vacation's worth of tourist attractions by itself. However, from a historical perspective, easily the most noteworthy is Ellis Island. Located in New York Harbor, the island served as the primary U.S. immigration station from 1892-1924. During that period, about 12 million immigrants were processed there and gained legal permission to enter the country. Even after immigration services moved into the city itself, the island was used as a detention center for illegal residents and deportees until 1954. Today, Ellis Island is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. In 1966, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service opened it to tourists in 1976, and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened in 1990.
The museum presents a vast array of exhibits about the immigration process at Ellis Island and the broader history of immigration in the U.S. Guided tours or self-guided tours are available. Examples of exhibits include the Baggage Room, the American Family Immigration History Center, "Through America's Gate", the Bob Hope Memorial Library, and a film. An audio tour of the museum is available as part of the price of the ferry ticket. The museum and its website give visitors the chance to search through passenger records and trace their family history back to the first generation of U.S. residents. Ticket holders to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum also have access to Liberty Island, home of the Statue of Liberty. However, entering the statue requires a reservation.
U.S. Historical Sites Travel Insurance
Whether you’re visiting any of these locations individually or all of them as a longer trip, it’s important to secure a good
plan for some extra peace of mind on your journey. Travel insurance is intended to protect against the loss of any prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses associated with your trip. It covers situations like trip cancellation, trip interruption, loss of baggage, flight delays, emergency medical evacuation, and more. Travel insurance plans are available to both U.S. residents and residents of other countries.
Visitors to the U.S. medical insurance helps to protect non-U.S. residents visiting the U.S. for a short duration. Its primary purpose is to provide coverage to those who might get sick or injured during their trip. Standard benefits of visitors insurance plans include participation in a PPO network, coverage for acute onset of pre-existing conditions, emergency medical evacuation and repatriation, return of mortal remains, and accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D), as well as ancillary benefits like trip interruption and loss of checked luggage.
There are several myths and misconceptions about whether travel insurance is necessary and how it differs from regular insurance. Many people believe that travel insurance is only necessary for those participating in dangerous or risky activities. A self-guided tour through Gettysburg or a visit to the Witch History Museum in Salem, admittedly, seem like relatively tame activities. However, any number of normal, mundane things could go wrong there just as easily as they could at home. A car could run a red light as you’re crossing the street, or your hotel room could get broken into while you’re out for the day.
Travel insurance is always helpful to have in your back pocket, no matter how seemingly harmless your destination. If you need help selecting the plan that best fits your needs, don’t hesitate to contact our licensed, experienced representatives via phone or email. Travel safely!