Textbooks and lectures can be droll. Give your history lesson a makeover and spice up your education as you embark on an exciting journey through time with our guide to some of the best historical cities in the United States.

1. Philadelphia

Philadelphia City Hall from Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia City Hall from Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Taken by K. Kiernan via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Philadelphia may not be our nation’s oldest city, but it’s the site of many other historic firsts in the United States. For instance, Philadelphia is home to the United States’ first library, hospital, zoo, and medical school, and it was our nation’s first capital city. Many historical moments took place across this city, including the meeting of the First Continental Congress and the writing and signing of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Visitors to Philadelphia can take a step through history and stand in the footsteps of our founding fathers during tours of Independence Hall and Congress Hall. You can also view one of the most iconic symbols of freedom in United States history, the Liberty Bell, which stands as a proud focal point at Independence Mall.

2. New Orleans

Street Jazz, French Quarter in New Orleans
French Quarter in New Orleans. Taken by J. Francisco via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Experience the beauty and flair of French architecture and culture without ever leaving the U.S. New Orleans is a fascinating city with a rich history. The famous French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in the city; it contains many popular historic sites, including Jackson Square and Bourbon Street.

Other New Orleans historical sites include the St. Louis Cathedral—the oldest cathedral in the United States—and the former home of renowned artist Edgar Degas. Visitors to New Orleans can also experience the fascinating history and traditions of Louisiana voodoo. Famous voodoo spiritualists, such as Marie Laveau, made their home in New Orleans, and there are still many shops and museums dedicated to these traditions today.

3. New York City

low-angle photography of Statue of Liberty, New York City
Low-angle photography of Statue of Liberty, New York City. Taken by G. Krishnan via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Nowadays, the Big Apple may be better known for the bright lights and high-end technology of Times Square, but New York City is also host to several historical sites. Some of the more well-known historical locations in New York include the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

A ferry tour to the Statue of Liberty allows you to view the site in much the same way immigrants did from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Touring Ellis Island and the adjoining museum is a great way to learn about the history of immigration in the United States, and it even provides visitors the opportunity to trace their own ancestry.

4. Boston

Fan Pier Park in Boston, MA at night
Fan Pier Park in Boston at night. Taken by V. Wallet via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Known as “the Birthplace of the American Revolution,” Boston is indisputably one of the best historical cities in the U.S. Famous for such events as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, this city has certainly never been one to shy away from confrontation, especially when freedom and liberty are at stake.

Visitors to this seaside city can take a stroll along the Freedom Trail, where they can spot historic treasures such as the Paul Revere House, Bunker Hill Monument, and the Granary Burial Ground. An original Revolutionary War ship, the USS Constitution, is even docked in Boston Harbor at the site of the famous Boston Tea Party protest.

5. St. Augustine

aerial view over part of St. Augustine, Florida
Aerial view over parts of St. Augustine, Florida. Taken by L. Asper via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

This may come as a surprise, but the oldest city in the continental United States is actually a small coastal town in Florida. Spanish conquistadors first founded St. Augustine in 1565. Several of the forts built to protect the town, including Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas, still stand today and have been designated as national monuments.

As you travel inland and stroll through the streets of St. Augustine, you’ll likely come across a number of other historical sites. The oldest wooden schoolhouse in the United States, for instance, stands proudly in the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district, as does the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, which was once believed to be the site of Ponce de León’s fabled Spring of Eternal Life.

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