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Happy Birthday, America! Historic Places Worth Visiting, Part 2

So last week I listed some awesome historic places that highlighted America before it was actually, officially, America. We’re talking history, pilgrims and Last of the Mohicans style (unfortunately, in all my travels, I haven’t seen any sign of Daniel Day-Lewis running through the woods).

But, you may be asking yourself, are there any cool spots to visit that happened after we got all independent and won the Revolution? Of course there are! (By the way, we may have won the war, but we never really lost our fascination with the royal family, did we? Yes, you can probably tell I’m one of the people who got up at 4 am last year to watch Wills and Kate tie the knot. Princesses!)

Philadelphia, PA: Ok, I know you could technically call this pre-Revolutionary too, but let’s just call it Revolutionary and leave it at that.  Philadelphia was the temporary capital of the U.S while Washington, D.C. was busy being built. It has the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the U.S. Constitution. You can see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and the oldest continuously lived-in street (Elfreth’s Alley) in the country. If you want to bridge the gap from pre-Revolutionary to building-a-country, Philly is the place to see how it was done. Also, cheesesteaks.

Gettysburg, PA: I’ve probably been to Gettysburg approximately 10,000 times. Ok, I exaggerate, but it’s definitely approaching the double-digits. Between school trips and yearly summer vacation excursions, I’ve scaled the rocks at Devil’s Den and strolled the battlefields more times than I can count. You can do everything from battlefield bus tours to ghost walks to visiting the Jennie Wade house (she was the only civilian killed in the battle), but just seeing those vast Pennsylvania fields stretch out before you, almost exactly as they were 149 years ago, is the most profound experience. And today, July 3, is the anniversary of the last day of the three-day battle that was the turning point of the war.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum, NYC: Historic places don’t have to be just about governments and wars, or be hundreds of years old, to be important. One of the most fascinating places I’ve visited was the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. No matter who you are, most of us have ancestors who were immigrants here. And if they came over any time between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, they probably settled (for a while, at least) in NYC. The Museum has restored an old tenement building, 97 Orchard Street, where you can take tours of the tiny apartments or listen to a costumed interpreter. It was amazing to be inside an actual tenement apartment with period-specific furnishings, and to hear the stories of actual families that lived within those four walls. Stepping over the threshold really was like stepping back in time, and made me appreciate what it was like for those relatives who came over not-so-very long ago.

There are so many other historic places I’d love to see, like Mount Rushmore and Tombstone (or any legit old-timey Wild West ghost town).

What are some of your favorite historic places?

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