There is no reason (unless you want to) to cross the pond to see fascinating history and monuments from the past. There are enough museums and historic sites to fill any history lover with joy.
America began in the 18th century, and these landmarks can help us understand the lessons of the past. Ready to explore America’s most historic cities? Keep reading.
Discovering the most historic towns
We uncovered America’s best cities for history buffs by looking at all cities with at least 50,000 people, over 10 square miles in area, and having at least one historic site, monument, or museum.
The top 10 below captures the cities with the most historic sites, monuments and museums by density. This means that in these cities you will see the most historic sites per square mile.
10. Portland, ME
As one of the original 13 colonies, Maine has a rich history stretching back to before it became a state in 1820. Portland boasts a walk score of 80, perfect for strolling from a historic monument to the museum when the the weather is fine.
There are nearly 20 museums in the city, including the Tate House Museum, the Victorian Mansion, and the Maine Irish Heritage Center. The latter offers genealogy services to build your family tree if you are of Irish descent.
9. Richmond, VA
Richmond’s roots go back to the 17th century, playing a pivotal role in several historical events like the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Politician Patrick Henry said his famous words, “Give me freedom or give me death” at St. John’s Episcopal Church – which led to Virginia sending troops to war.
With over 400 years of history, you have a lot to choose from on your next deep dive.
In the Hollywood cemetery, two American presidents, two Supreme Court justices and other notable personalities rest. The American Civil War Museum, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, and the John Marshall House also offer detailed insight into the past.
8. Philadelphia, PA
With 56 historic sites and 141 museums, Philadelphia ranks 8th among the best cities for history buffs.
Of course, your first historic visit will be the Liberty Bell Center and its 2,080-pound Liberty Bell. Follow this tour with Independence Hall, the Betsy Rose House where the first American flag was sewn, and the Museum of the American Revolution.
And remember, this is where the Declaration of Independence is.
7. Hartford, CT
In 1635, the first English settlers arrived in Hartford, formerly Newtown, for a short period. Today the state capital, Hartford’s State Capitol features many elements of a historical nature. You can also find the oldest newspaper in the United States, Hartford Courant, established in 1764.
The city has nine historical sites and 18 museums within its city limits. Hartford has a walking score of 75 and a cycling score of 61 for those looking to spend the day outdoors.
If you’re feeling literary, also visit the well-preserved house of Mark Twain.
6. Saint Louis, MO
Saint Louis has a rich Aboriginal history – with over 10 tribes living along the Mississippi River when European settlers arrived. The region has French and Spanish influence due to its settlers. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it became part of the United States
You can explore this period as well as Saint Louis’ role in the Great Migration and the World’s Fair at the Missouri History Museum, the Missouri Civil War Museum, and the Griot Museum of Black History.
4 (tied). Boston, MA
Boston is known as the epicenter of American independence. First as the colony of Puritan settlers in England and later for the Boston Tea Party and the city’s rallying cry: “No taxation without representation!”
The city is also home to Harvard University, which is home to many artifacts and documents from its long history. You can examine other historical moments at the African American National Historic Site of Boston, Old South Meeting House, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, and Old Town Hall.
4 (tied). San Francisco, California
Nowadays, when you think of San Francisco, you are more likely to think of Silicon Valley than the history books. But the city has a rich and deep past, starting with its conquest in 1846 by the United States.
The Gold Rush brought people from all over the country a chance to live in this thriving city and eventually get rich. Much of the city collapsed and burned down in the earthquake and fire of 1906, but many landmarks remain.
Among the many historic sites to discover, you can see more of the Gold Rush at the San Francisco City Museum, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Mission Dolores, and Angel Island.
3. Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria is one of those cities where most of the buildings have been preserved, so walking its streets feels like stepping back in time. The city was one of the country’s busiest ports at one time, becoming a vital link in the tobacco trade and as a supply center for the Civil War.
This Virginia town had a large population of free black families after Emancipation, and you can learn more about them at the Alexandria Black History Museum. It is one of the 30 museums that you can visit in the city, ranging from architectural history to preserved houses and archeology.
2. Providence, RI
You can find Providence with over 50 museums and historic sites brought together at our location # 2. Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States, that hasn’t stopped Providence from making its mark in the United States. history of the United States. Roger Williams founded the city after moving away from the colony of Massachusetts due to “religious persecution”.
Thanks to its commitment to preservation, local historic monuments remain as beautiful as they were then. You can visit the John Brown House Museum, Brown University, Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, and Governor Stephen Hopkins House, to name a few. The latter is one of the oldest buildings in Providence, built in 1707.
1. Washington, DC
Unsurprisingly, the city with the highest density of historic monuments and museums and every history buff’s dream is Washington, DC. From the White House to the United States Capitol and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, there are dozens of historic sites and over 180 museums within his city limits.
Fortunately, the city’s extreme walking helps you navigate the many national historic sites. Add the Library of Congress, the National Mall, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to your list.
America’s top 50 most historic cities
From the Civil War to the Declaration of Independence, these are America’s 50 most historic cities. Head over to one of these to improve your trivia game and learn a little more about this country we call home.
The least historic cities in the United States
Some cities have taken the limelight in a more national way than others when it comes to U.S. history. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a visit – these towns have a rich local history worth learning.
Many of these cities are also very large, meaning fewer historic sites or museums per square mile.
To find America’s most historic cities, we looked at all cities in the United States with more than 50,000 residents and at least 10 square miles in area. We then counted the number of historic sites, monuments and museums in each of these areas and excluded all locations that did not have at least one. That left us with 117 cities in total.
Next, we divided those numbers by the area of each city to find the number of historic sites and museums per square mile. Finally, we ranked each city according to historic sites by density and museums by density, and then added those rankings. The most historic cities in the country had the lowest total ranking in our calculations.
Population and land area are from the US Census Bureau.
Historic sites, monuments and number of museums come from a commercially licensed database of over 8 million business and monument listings across the country. These numbers may not reflect recent openings and closings.