Most of us will celebrate the fourth of July in some form, whether it’s a backyard cookout, a day at the beach or watching a fireworks extravaganza. Or better yet, honor our country’s birth by gathering up the kids or grandkids and visiting some of the places where U.S. history actually happened. You don’t have to travel during the 4th of July holiday—these top patriotic destinations are perfect for a family vacation anytime this summer.
I’m of the opinion that every American should visit Washington, D.C., at least once. Our nation’s capital has so much to see and do, you’ll want to return. From the must-see monuments honoring great Americans to the superb collections of the Smithsonian Museums to observing the political process at the U.S. Capitol, a trip to D.C. is a crash course in American history.
Tip: To understand the depth of American patriotism and valor, be sure to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
The one-square-mile Independence National Historic Park is packed with more than a dozen landmarks. You can feel the history in Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and much of the Constitution was written.
Tip: An original draft of the Constitution is on display. The park also includes the Liberty Bell, one of the nation’s most hallowed symbols of freedom and independence; the National Constitution Center, where you can take the presidential oath of office and try on a Supreme Court robe; and Franklin Court, with exhibits of Benjamin Franklin’s life.
In the 1770s, Faneuil Hall was the site of fiery debates that led to the Revolutionary War, thus the historic structure is known as “the Cradle of Liberty.” It is just one of the 16 preserved historic sites along the 2.5-mile walking trail called the Freedom Trail running through modern-day Boston. Others include Bunker Hill, Paul Revere’s house, the site of the Boston Massacre and the USS Constitution, the oldest actively commissioned ship in the world.
Tip: The Freedom Trail is marked by a double row of red brick or a painted line on the sidewalk, so it’s easy to self-navigate, but take a guided walk that leaves hourly.
New York City, New York
Ellis Island was the gateway to America for more than 12 million immigrants from 1892–1954. There, you’ll see a 30-minute Oscar-winning film about immigrants pulling up roots and coming to America. There is also an audio tour telling immigrants’ stories. You can only reach Ellis Island via the ferry from Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. You can admire the view from the observation deck at her toe and look up inside the statue. The inside is closed to visitors, but you can go to the crown with a reservation.
Tip: Purchase ferry tickets to Liberty and Ellis islands in advance to avoid long lines. (The minimal fee includes the Ellis Island audio tour and the Liberty Monument Access tour.)
Visiting these historic attractions gives us an opportunity to reflect on and teach our children about the many freedoms we enjoy in America. Ask your favorite travel agent to arrange a patriotic vacation for your family this summer.