The Fourth of July is about more than just fireworks and hot dogs. America has a rich history, and the best way to learn about it is to see it firsthand. Break from the ordinary and celebrate Independence Day by taking a trip down memory lane and up the eastern seaboard to nine of the most patriotic cities in America.
Fort Sumter (Photo: David Ellis/Flickr)
Charleston, South Carolina
Our journey starts in Charleston. On April 12, 1861, years of tension between the North and the South came to a head at the Battle of Fort Sumter — the first battle in the Civil War. The Confederate Army won this battle, but the Union would eventually come out victorious, obviously. Visit the Fort Sumter National Monument, where you can get up close and personal with artillery and learn more about the battle that started it all.
The site of George Washington’s family home (Photo: Virginia Hill/Flickr)
Westmoreland County, Virginia
You see his face on the $1 bill, when he chopped down a cherry tree, but what do you really know about George Washington? Discover more about our first president by visiting his birthplace in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The house he was born in burned down in 1779; however, there is a memorial house with the remaining furniture owned by the Washington family. After seeing his birthplace monument and the Washington family cemetery, take a few moments to gaze out into the Potomac River, which Washington surveyed as a boy.
Flowers left at a grave in Arlington National Cemetery (Photo: David D’Agostino/Flickr)
Travel up to northern Virginia to see one of the most beautiful and patriotic sights in America — Arlington National Cemetery. The 624-acre cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 fallen soldiers and veterans who bravely served our country. After paying your respects, take a moment to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which happens every hour or half-hour, depending on the time of year. While in Arlington, you can also take a tour of the Pentagon and learn about our nation’s Department of Defense.
Fountain at the World War II memorial (Photo: Ron Cogswell/Flickr)
From Arlington, the center of Washington is just 20 minutes away. Stroll past the Washington Monument and stop by the World War II Memorial before visiting Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. After you’ve snapped a photo of President Obama in the South Lawn of the White House, cool off inside the air-conditioned National Museum of American History, which houses a plethora of American artifacts. Don’t miss Francis Scott Key’s original manuscript of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It doesn’t get more patriotic than that!
Annapolis Naval Academy (Photo: Getty Images)
Speaking of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Baltimore is where you can visit the museum and house where Mary Young Pickersgill sewed the large star-spangled flag of the United States, to fly over Fort McHenry, which inspired the U.S. national anthem. Fort McHenry is also located in the city if you’d like to see where the British attacked in 1812. While you’re there, pop on over to Annapolis to see the United States Naval Academy, which is the training ground for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
The Liberty Bell (Photo: Getty Images)
Washington, D.C., is currently the nation’s capital, but did you know that Philadelphia briefly held the distinction? Philly has to be one of the most patriotic cities in the union, and it also has some impressive political roots. The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philly by our founding fathers at the Pennsylvania State House, which is now called Independence Hall. Just 11 years later, our Constitution was signed in the same building. During your stop in Philly, stroll through the Independence National Historical Park to visit Independence Hall, Franklin Court, Congress Hall, and the Liberty Bell.
The Statue of Liberty (Photo: Julian Montes/Flickr)
New York City
As you’re cruising into New York City, the skyline immediately makes you feel the pride of being American — especially when you see the Statue of Liberty standing tall and proud. After waving to Lady Liberty, visit the USS Intrepid, a U.S. ship from World War II docked on the Hudson River. Make your way to the financial district to see the moving 9/11 Memorial and the newly finished 9/11 museum. Head on over to Cooper Union, where presidential hopeful Abraham Lincoln gave his memorable antislavery speech, and finish the trip by heading uptown to see the home of Alexander Hamilton, the American statesman who is considered one of our most prominent founding fathers.
Hancock Clarke House (Photo: Owen and Aki/Flickr)
Settled in 1642, this town is famous for being the location of the “Shot heard ‘round the world.” The battles of Lexington and Concord broke out on April 19, 1775, signaling the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Visit the sight of this historic battle, and make sure to check out the Hancock-Clarke House (the home of John Hancock), where Paul Revere stopped on his famous midnight ride to warn colonists that the British troops were coming.
The USS Constitution sails into Boston Harbor. (Photo: Getty Images)
Our ultimate patriotic road trip ends in the history-filled streets of Boston. Follow the 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail throughout the city to see 16 historically significant sights. Stops on the brick trail include the site of the Boston Massacre, the Old State House, Paul Revere’s home, the USS Constitution, and the Bunker Hill monument and museum. Wrap up your road trip with a stop at the Boston Harbor — site of the infamous Boston Tea Party.