7 Fascinating, Historic Cities to Visit in the US

Written by:

Holly Reznik

Beautiful view of the sunsetting on Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisana.

Take a step into the past with this list of great, historic US cities. The US has plenty to offer history fanatics with so many charming towns filled with culture and charm. As you walk through the streets, you’ll feel yourself slipping back in time with the sights, food, culture and adventure in these old-timey towns. 

  1. Boston, Massachusetts  

What to do: There is so much history to see in Boston and the best way to do it is to walk along the Freedom Trail. This 2.5 mile long red-brick path takes you past 16 historical landmarks, including Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s house and gravesite, the site of the Boston Massacre, Bunker Hill Monument and many more! If you stray from the trail, you’ll find yourself in charming neighborhoods of cobblestone and gas-lit narrow streets. Can’t forget a visit to the Boston Harbor, the site of the infamous Boston Tea Party. 

Where to eat: The Union Oyster House is as historic as it gets because it just so happens to be the oldest restaurant in the city. The Oyster House opened its doors in 1826 and has stayed open ever since. Much of the original building is still intact, so you’ll feel like a part of history as you chow down on some traditional Boston seafood. 

Rustic alley view in Boston, Massachusetts.
  1. St. Augustine, Florida 

What to do: This sun-kissed city is packed full of history. It was first inhabited by the Spanish in 1565, making it the oldest European settlements in America. There are plenty of historic buildings, structures, and forts to explore while you’re here, including Fort Castillo de San Marcos, the Alcazar Hotel, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse. The Colonial Quarter is a great way to experience the history, as it is divided into four main areas to represent the different colonial eras, including the Spanish First City, Spanish Fortified Town, SPanish Garrison Town and British Colony. 

Where to eat: St.Augustine has its fair share of unique dining, but one place just might take the cake. Cafe Alcazar is located in the Lightner Museum and sits in what was once an indoor swimming pool. Not just any pool, it was once the largest indoor swimming pool in the US. If that doesn’t impress you, then surely the Turkish baths and three-story ballrooms will.

Stunning historic building in St. Augustine, Florida.
  1. Washington D.C. 

What to do: As the hub for politics in the US, Washington D.C. certainly doesn't fall short in historic landmarks. The Mall is where you’ll find the many well-known spots, such as the Capitol Building, White House, Washington Monument, Vietnam Veteran Memorial and Lincoln Memorial. The history doesn’t stop there because there is an endless amount of museums and exhibits, including the Smithsonian Institution museums, the National Museum of African American History and the Holocaust Museum. 

Where to eat: After a day exploring the sites, stop into the city’s oldest saloon, the Old Ebbitt Grill. This spot was originally a boarding house that has seen many famous faces, including President McKinley, President Grant, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt. The restaurant is filled with antiques and memorabilia, such as wooden bears said to have been imported by Alexander Hamilton. 

A stunning sunset with hues of peach and lavender outlining the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.
  1. Annapolis, Maryland 

What to do: Sitting pretty on the Chesapeake Bay, this port city is covered in cobblestone streets and cultural landmarks that any history buff would love to see. Check out the Maryland State House, where the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War was signed. This city actually served as the nation’s capital before moving to D.C. After that, head to the Annapolis Maritime Museum, the Thomas Shoal Lighthouse or the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.   

Where to eat: The Middleton Tavern has seen some significant figures of U.S. history, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The building was built in 1740 and originally operated as an “Inn for Seafaring Men”. The restaurant is even said to be haunted by a ghost Roland.  

A rooftop view overlooking the sunset on Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland.

  1. New Orleans, Louisiana

What to do: Founded in 1718, New Orleans is filled with historic charm. The French Quarter is a “must-see” as it is home to many historic buildings, such as Jackson Square and the St. Lois Cathedral. You’ll be sure to take a walk on Bourbon Street and hear some great music, as New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. Can’t miss out on the historic Garden District, which has some amazing homes and architecture from when the city’s upper classes  started building homes there in 1832. 

Where to eat: While New Orleans will surely impress you with the cuisine, make sure to stop in to Antoine’s. Antoine’s is one of the five oldest restaurants in the U.S. It is located in the French Quarter, so you won’t have to leave the funky action in the city to grab a bite to eat. Just think, you could be dining in the same place that George Bush, Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt, Pope John Paul II, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Kate Hudson, Jimmy Buffet and Whoopi Goldberg once ate at. 

A lively view of Bourbon Street as the sunsets before the night begins in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

What to do: Often referred to as the “Birthplace of the Nation”, Philadelphia houses some pretty historical sites, such as Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. You also don’t want to miss out at seeing the infamous Liberty Bell. Take a walk on America’s oldest residential street, cobblestoned Elfreth's Alley. There is also an Elfreth’s Museum to explore, it’ll give you a glimpse of what life in historic Philly was like! 

Where to eat: Beers have been flowing at McGillin’s Olde Ale House since 1860. It is the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia. The original owners raised all 13 of their children upstairs above the tavern. Some famous guests include a visit in 2016, from now President Joe Biden. 

Stunning view between historic brick buildings from the Birthplace of the Nation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  1. Santa Fe, New Mexico 

What to do: Sante Fe is rich in Spanish colonial history, as it was settled in the 15th century. There’s so much to see between the stunning structure and art history. Take a visit to the Pueblo architecture that dates back to when the Navajo Native Americans lived there with the Spanish. After that, visit the oldest church in the US, San Miguel Mission. There are also plenty of museums to explore, including the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and Georgia O’Keefee’s Home and Studio. 

Where to eat: After all that exploring, get a bite to eat at the oldest restaurant in New Mexico, El Farol. El Farol has been serving Spanish tapas since 1835 and is still going strong. The walls of this restaurant are covered in murals from famous artists from all around. Best part is that it is located right in the heart of the historic downtown art gallery district. 

View of gorgeous historic buildings built by the Spanish Colonies in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

One of the best parts of traveling is getting to dive into the history and culture of a new place. We hope this list helps you decide on which historic city to time travel back to next ! 

Have you been to a historic U.S. city we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments we would love to hear from you!  

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