5 Top Historic Cities in the U.S.

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However short the United States’ history has been, it is full of fascinating stories and events. Because of this, there are many top historical cities in the U.S. to visit for history buffs to visit.

All of these cities have their own storied past to learn from, and plethora of historical attractions to check out. If you’re looking for a trip that is perfect for families or for history buffs, you can’t go wrong with these 5 top historic cities in the United States.

» See more about the top 2 more fascinating historic cities in the U.S.: Boston and Philadelphia.

American flag

Whether your interest is battlefields from the Civil War, or the forming of the Constitution, you’ll find that plus more in these two historic cities. So which one is best for history buffs?

Read on to discover the top reasons to visit each – then you can decide which one is the best destination for history lovers.

» Looking for more travel inspiration in the United States? See our U.S. Summer Vacation Ideas and 12 U.S. National Parks to Visit. Here are a few more fabulous U.S. Cities to visit.

Historic Boston

Boston's historical statues
Boston’s historical statues

Boston plays a major role in America’s history, right from its very beginnings as an early settlement. It was also where the American Revolution was started by the puritans who felt repressed by the British. Some of the major events of early American history took place in Boston.

Although Boston is a very modern city, it still preserve the history that makes it unique, from architecture to the main sights of historic significance. Every good city offers a way to combine history with the food that defines it, and Boston is no exceptions to that rule.

There are many tours that include discovering the food alongside the historical sights.

⇒ Book a Boston History & Highlights Small Group Walking Tour

Top Historic Sites in Boston

The Freedom Trail

freedom trail

One of the top things to do for visitors to Boston is walking the Freedom Trail. The 2.5 mile walk is easy to do and is full of historical information along the way. The tour starts at Boston Common,  the oldest public park in the United States.

This park was where British troops camped in preparation for the Revolutionary War. It also has a history for public hangings, and is the sight of the oldest community burial grounds in the city.

Along the Freedom Trail, you’ll also pass by the Paul Revere House, the statue of Benjamin Franklin, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Bunker Hill Monument. All together, there are 16 historic sites along the Freedom Trail.

⇒ Book a Boston Freedom Trail Walking Tour with Costumed Guide

Boston Harbor

boston harbor

The Boston Harbor area is another ideal area for history buffs who are staying in the city and looking for unique areas to explore. It’s a natural harbor that was once the site of the Boston Tea Party that paved the way for the American Revolution in 1773.

The harbor has always been the main port of Boston and was historically the most major seaport of the east coast, once welcoming all imports meant for the east. These days you can take a guided sightseeing cruise out to the surrounding islands, go on a whale watching tour and see some old Civil War sights.

Book a tour of the Boston tea party ships and museum

Granary Burial Grounds

Another historically significant site in Boston is the Granary Burial Grounds, which is where many key figures in America’s history were buried, like Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Sam Adams.

It’s a stop along the Freedom Trail, but even if you’re not taking the whole tour, the burial grounds are worth a stop just to see the old gravestones.

Bunker Hill Monument

bunker hill monument

You may be wondering why there is a obelisk in Boston, reminiscent of the Washington Monument in Washington DC. It seems a strange monument to commemorate such a pivotal battle in America’s history.

The monument stands atop Breed’s Hill, where the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place. You can go inside and walk the many steps to the top of the monument for a look out at the view from above.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

About an hour outside of Boston is another epicenter of American history, Plymouth, where the earliest settlers of America landed and began building a new life for themselves. The city is a living history to a time long ago and brings to life what it might have been like for early settlers to the area.

Tours to Book:


Historic Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia
Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia

Philadelphia has always been one of my favorite cities because of its role in United States history. The city was founded by William Penn in the late 1600s and played a pivotal role in the shaping of America. There are many historical attractions in Philadelphia, making it one of the best places for family vacations or for those looking to learn a bit more about American history.

While Philadelphia has rapidly become a very modern and vibrant city, especially for foodies, the historical center of the city maintains its appeal for history buffs. Unlike Boston, Philadelphia really embraces its past and preserves its historic buildings and architecture in order to share it with the world.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia's historic Center City
Independence Hall in Philadelphia’s historic Center City

Not only can you visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in the historic center of Philadelphia, you can spend a fantastic day wandering around the many iconic attractions and monuments, discovering a part of America’s past that helped shape it into what it is today.

The best area to stay in Philadelphia while visiting is the Center City, because of its proximity to the historic sites. You’ll be within walking distance of all the main sites listed below.

See all the historic sights with a Philadelphia Pass

Top Historic Sites in Philadelphia

Liberty Bell & Independence Hall

liberty bell

While the Liberty Bell hasn’t been in operation for a very long time, it still remains a celebrated part of history, and it’s fascinating to learn its story and see it up close at the Liberty Bell Center. Stop by the Independence Visitor Center to obtain tickets to tour the Independence Hall, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

It should be a stop on everyone’s itinerary in Philadelphia. The visit includes a walk through the rooms where both the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written and signed.

⇒ Book an old city walking tour in Philadelphia

Betsy Ross House

Betsy Ross House

Ever wondered about the history of the U.S. flag? You can learn how it was made at the Betsy Ross House. Betsy Ross was an upholstery maker in the city, who was approached by George Washington and asked to make the first ever United States flag that would be a symbol of American freedom.

The exhibit features a tour through the house as well as an actress dressed as Betsy Ross who will share with you all the knowledge she has of the event and her involvement in the making of the flag.

Museum of the American Revolution

In early 2017, the Museum of the American Revolution was opened. The main centerpiece of the museum is the tent used by George Washington during the war, but there are hundreds of other artifacts and information about the war that brought America’s independence at the museum.

Tours to Book:

Washington DC

Washington DC
Washington DC

As the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. is certainly not lacking of museums, monuments, exhibits, historic landmarks and a fantastic potpourri of cuisine and nightlife.

From the White House to the U.S. Capitol and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, there are dozens of historical sites plus more than 180 museums within its city limits.

Hackensack, New Jersey

Hackensack, New Jersey

The region of New Jersey that Hackensack occupies today was long the home of the Lenni Lenape native peoples. The Achkinheshcky or Hackensack tribe populated the area and coexisted peacefully with Dutch settlers who arrived in 1639 and established a trading post there. By 1688, the area came under the control of the British who established the town of New Barbadoes.

At one point during the Revolutionary War, General Washington had his headquarters in Hackensack and the region was at times the epicenter between battling British and American forces. The name Hackensack meaning — mouth of water — was not officially chartered until 1921.

In addition to government institutions the city has several interesting places to visit:

Main Street. If you like downtown shopping, then Hackensack is for you. More than 300 retail and commercial establishments are located within the city’s Special Improvement District {SID}, a designation given to promote and maintain the retail district. The district is also home to one of the few free standing Sears stores in the nation.

North Jersey Media Group. Bergen County’s largest newspaper, The Record, calls Hackensack its home. The North Jersey Media Group {NJMG} publishes two daily newspapers; 41 local newspapers; a magazine, The Best of Bergen; and operates several important web sites. Scheduled tours of their printing facility are available to groups.

New Jersey Naval Museum. Home to the USS Ling 297, a BALAO class submarine, and several smaller water vessels and artifacts. The museum is open select weekdays for group tours.

Other points of interest within the city include the Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack River County Park, the Church on the Green, and the County of Bergen courthouse.

Located less than ten miles west of New York City, Hackensack is easily accessible to the city; Newark and Teterboro Airports; the Meadowlands sports complex; Newark and Jersey City; and is within a day’s drive of the Jersey Shore, High Point State Park, and many other local attractions.

Baltimore, Maryland

With a population rapidly approaching 700,000, Baltimore is the biggest city in Maryland and covers an area of more than 80 square miles / 210 square kilometers. Close to Washington DC, Baltimore lies on America’s eastern coast and contains an important port, complete with large harbor.

Many of the main sights and attractions in the city can be found around the central downtown district, which is divided into a number of notable areas, such as the city center, the Inner Harbor, Camden Yards and also the West Side. Throughout this area you will find a large selection of shops, restaurants, bars and important structures. Also, the Fells Point area, close to the Inner Harbor, is known for its vibrant and animated nightlife and entertainment venues.

Baltimore Tourism

There are plenty of places worth a visit in the Baltimore area and top attractions include many notable landmarks, historical buildings, appealing museums and a number of art galleries, which contain works by many famous artists.

Must-see sights in the city include the National Aquarium, the Basilica of the Assumption, Robert East Lee Memorial Park, the Maryland Zoo African safari experience, the Star Spangled Banner Flag House and also the city’s most famous sight, the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

Museums in Baltimore are also plentiful and top museum attractions include the extensive Baltimore Museum of Art, the B&O Railroad Museum, the baseball-related Babe Ruth Museum, and the Maryland Science Center, complete with IMAX theater and planetarium. Annual festivals in Baltimore include the Baltimore Blues Festival – held in Paterson Park each May, July’s Artscape along the Mount Royal Avenue, the popular Taste of Baltimore festival in October, and December’s festive Washington Monument Lighting Ceremony.

Baltimore Shopping

For the best selection of shops in the city, head to the Harborplace area, which contains over 200 shops, including a number of independent outlets and fashion boutiques. Also, the nearby Village of Cross Keys is home to an array of appealing small shops and specialty stores.

For antiques, take a trip to Howard Street, where you will find a cluster of notable antique stores, which have become known as the city’s ‘Antique Row’. Baltimore also features a number of large and modern shopping malls, such as Security Square and Owing Mills.

The regular Lexington Market is another major shopping draw card and has been established for more than 150 years, with an enormous selection of market traders.

Baltimore Restaurants

With its scenic coastal location, it is hardly surprising that Baltimore restaurants specialize in seafood and all things fishy. Much of the local produce comes from the nearby Chesapeake Bay and many of the city’s restaurants serve steamed crab, amongst other local dishes.

For lively dining in Baltimore, look no further than the restaurants around Mount Vernon and Fells Point, while for more exclusive establishments, the restaurants along Charles Street are some of the most highly regarded in the city.

CONCLUSION

Whether Boston or Philadelphia is the best city to visit for history buffs, it is clear that both offer a unique and special learning experience for history lovers. If you haven’t already visited these top 2 historic cities in the U.S., you absolutely must check them out and decide for yourself which one wins the award for best city for U.S. history.

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Boston public garden Washington statue and the liberty bell
5 Top Historic Cities in the U.S.

11 thoughts on “5 Top Historic Cities in the U.S.

      • Motto says:

        I have read that Boston did tear down a lot of their colonial history and architecture over the years while it modernized. The North End has had many incarnations. Philadelphia has done a better job at retaining their historic sites. Overall, Philadelphia is also larger than Boston, so it’s historic areas, especially colonial homes cover a much larger area, more specifically Federal and Georgian architecture. Society Hill is slightly larger than Beacon Hill, but both are among my favorite neighborhoods anywhere. You don’t really find those places anywhere else other than Philadelphia or Boston.

        • Laura Lynch says:

          I agree with you, Philadelphia has done a better job preserving their historical buildings and promoting their history as a destination. I think Boston would rather not be known as a historic city. I really like those neighborhoods in Boston, too.

      • John says:

        Boston is six decades older than Philly, but I agree that Philly has preserved more of its history. Boston has a lot of history with the sea, including the harbor islands (i.e. Fort Warren) which is beautiful and Philly simply has nothing like that. Boston is also MUCH more expensive. If you’re looking for a city built for the upper crust, and have money to burn…Boston is it. Philly you can enjoy all its history without having to be an investment banker.

  1. Motto says:

    Look no further than comparing their City Hall. Philadelphia’s is gorgeous and Boston’s is very dull. The homes of Sam Adams and John Hancock were even torn down in the 1800’s.

    Boston has the Freedom Trail at least, but Philadelphia’s is more comprehensive covering entire city blocks. Both are the best for colonial history though. It’ll really transport you hundreds of years.

  2. Mike says:

    Boston Massachusetts is a beautiful city and has a lot to offer one thing is that you don’t have to worry about getting rob. The crime rates are off the charts in PHILLY it has great history but you are not safe in PHILLY Boston Massachusetts is a beautiful city and has a great history that you can walk around for days and not see it all the food is out of this world with so many different choices Boston is safer better food and great history people and is one of the greatest cities in the country

    • Motto says:

      Boston is also 1/3 the size of Philadelphia. You do realize how much smaller Boston is, right?

      Crime rates are off the charts in Philly? Based on what? Rocky movies? It’s 2018, not 1978.

      Philly’s crime rate is the same as Buffalo, NY. They average 18 murders per 100k. Boston averages about 8 per 100k.

      https://www.google.com/search?q=city+murder+rates+2018&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiz_tSpn6baAhWJtlMKHaJnChIQ_AUICygC&biw=1366&bih=662#imgrc=DCn-GFgbYYfKrM:

      I really wish people that you can tell have never been somewhere, would stop using outdated stereotypes for cities. It’s beyond tiring.

      Sincerely,
      Someone from New York.

  3. Motto says:

    The crime rate thing about Philadelphia is REALLY REALLY outdated.

    Source: I’ve been going for years. The best parts of Boston and Philadelphia match up VERY well, as they are similar cities. Boston is just smaller, and priced out it’s poverty and gentrified much earlier than Philadelphia. That’s it. Philadelphia’s best neighborhoods are just as nice as Boston’s. They both have that Northeast vibe and the colonial history and charm that no other city in the US can match. Brother cities.

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