Top 10 Historic Sites
1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, SD
Pictures fail to communicate the heart-stirring experience of viewing Mount Rushmore face-to-face. "My daughter and her friend were awed by the sheer size of it," said one Michigan mom, who declared the Evening Lighting Ceremony (held from late May through late September) a must-see. You can also hike the Presidential Trail for amazing close-up views of the memorial, and at various times of the year, tour the studio of its creator (sculptor Gutzon Borglum), visit a Native American village, and take part in a ranger-led walk or talk.
2. National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, DC
Located in the heart of our nation's capital, the Mall and Memorial Parks encompass some of the country's most iconic attractions. Every year more than 24 million visitors come to D.C. to stroll by the Washington Monument and its reflecting pool, tour the Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr., memorials, pay tribute at the World War II and Vietnam Veterans memorials, visit one of the nine Smithsonian museums, take a spin on the Smithsonian carousel, and contemplate the meaning of democracy.
3. The White House, Washington, DC
You can't get much closer to living history than the White House. It's not just the residence of the President, it has been the residence of every president since John Adams. It's where Lincoln discussed Civil War strategy with General Grant and FDR signed Social Security into law. While only part of the house is open to visitors, official tours take you through the East Room (home to presidential receptions), Blue Room (where you can see the glorious White House Christmas tree during the holidays), State Dining Room, and more.
4. Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, IL
The story of Abraham Lincoln's rise to prominence is told through films, guided tours, and the everyday artifacts in the restored Greek Revival home he shared for 17 years with his wife, Mary, and their four young sons.
5 . World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (includes Pearl Harbor Visitors' Center and 8 other sites in 3 states), HI, AK, CA
This constellation of historic sites anchored by Pearl Harbor traces the dramatic story of the Pacific War and pays tribute to its fallen heroes through moving first-person accounts, photographs, memorabilia, artifacts, and a memorial hovering above the sunken remains of the battleship USS Arizona.
6. Statue of Liberty National Monument/Ellis Island, NY and NJ
Standing as a beacon of freedom, for more than 125 years the Statue of Liberty has greeted visitors to New York Harbor, among them the 12 million immigrants who passed through neighboring Ellis Island on their way to a new life in America. Most of the exhibits, which narrate our nation's immigration history, are still closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. Check the website for up-to-date information.
7. Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT
Costumed re-enactors bring New England's seafaring history to life through interpretive demonstrations and theatrical performances amid authentic New England buildings, historic vessels, and preservation workshops in a recreated 19th-century maritime village.
8. Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, Fishers, IN
Join an early 19th-century pioneer community, explore a traditional Lenape Indian camp, discover the science behind early balloon voyages, and get up close and personal with a host of farm animals at this 800-acre living history site.
9. Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord and Lexington, MA
Tracing the five-mile route followed by British soldiers and colonial Minute Men on April 19, 1775, this collection of historic sites illuminates the first battle of the American Revolution and the fateful events surrounding "the shot heard 'round the world."
10. National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York, NY
Two huge reflecting pools edged by massive waterfalls mark the footprints of the World Trade Center's twin towers, destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day in New York and Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, as well as the six lost in the 1993 towers attack. The nearby visitor center (opening this spring) and a memorial preview site tell the story of the tragedy through artifacts, photographs, and films, and offer opportunities for visitors to share their own memories.