When you’re poring over your best set of road maps, dreaming about your next RV vacation, there are lots of different methods of choosing your destination. Maybe you’re looking for the best foodie towns to eat through or the most remote wildernesses so you can strap on your hiking boots and explore.
But for the history buffs among us, visiting the sites we read about in our school years’ history textbooks can be one of the most exciting parts of seeing the country. After all, an in-person visit is way more interesting than even the best-taught lecture! (… Here’s hoping my eighth grade teacher doesn’t read this post.)
If you’re playing road trip planner this year and thinking about d(r)iving into the past, we’ve got some suggestions you might not have considered yet, and even some ideas on where to stay when you get there.
From colonial towns to ancient Spanish cities, here are some of our favorite spots to hit on your next historical road trip.
American History Road Trip
Ready to get started? Here are some classic American history road trip stops.
1. Boston, Massachusetts
When it comes to historical road trip destinations that offer both entertainment and education, Boston’s hard to beat. You can wander along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, which passes by 16 historically significant locations — and that doesn’t even count the Boston Tea Party ships and museum.
Considering the siege of this city was one of its very first battles, Boston ranks high on the list of best Revolutionary War sites to visit. And besides that, it’s full of all kinds of modern cultural opportunities and great eats. Don’t leave without getting some chowdah!
2. Philadelphia and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
You can’t take a Civil War road trip without making the trek to Gettysburg, the site of the Union victory that brought Robert E. Lee’s second northern invasion to an end. Just two hours east, you’ll find yourself in one of the most historically-relevant cities in America: Philadelphia, which is home to Independence Hall, Betsy Ross’s house, and, of course, the Liberty Bell.
Even better? There’s a perfect place to camp almost smack-dab in between these two sites: Jellystone Park Quarryville, Pennsylvania. Both Philly and Gettysburg are easily day-trippable from the location, which also offers an abundance of fun right on the campground: mini-golf, organized family-friendly events and weekends, and not one but two hot tubs. It’s the perfect way to relax after a long day of historical exploring!
Jellystone Parks are one of the most consistently high-rated campgrounds around, and with almost 90 locations spread across the country, you’re bound to find one near your next destination. Click here to learn more about this family of camp resorts and to find the perfect location for your upcoming trip, no matter where you’re headed.
Colonial America Road Trip
Some classic American road trips are more historically relevant than you might realize. After all, we’ve got a lot of space and a lot of stories in this beautiful country of ours!
3. Saint Augustine, Florida
Even attentive students might not remember this one from their lectures, but no east coast historical road trip is complete without it. This small, seaside town in northeastern Florida is actually the oldest city in America — its 1565 founding date puts it 55 years before Plymouth Rock, and 42 years before Jamestown!
But since it was settled by the Spanish instead of the English, it sometimes gets the short shrift in American textbooks. No matter; experiencing this city’s sights, sounds, and cervezas is a way better history lesson anyway. Plus, after meandering through the town’s historical sites, you can head down to the real attraction: the endless sandy beaches.
4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Did you know that this northwestern New Mexico town is actually the oldest capital city in the country, and the oldest European community west of the mighty Mississippi? Plus, this desert oasis is also home to a thriving artistic community, both modern and historical. If you go, make sure you put a trip to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum on your itinerary!
5. Yellowstone Park, Wyoming
More than likely, this stunning landscape is already on your RVing bucket list — and if it’s not, it should be.
But history buffs will be doubly pleased to know it’s actually the oldest National Park in the system, and, in fact, in the world. Of course, once you see it with your own eyes, you won’t be surprised that Yellowstone inspired President Ulysses S. Grant to set aside and protect the land for posterity. There really is nothing like this caldera, home to all sorts of surreal colors and geological formations. (Psst: making a National Parks trip? Don’t forget your guidebook… or your National Parks passport. It’s a really fun way to track which parks you’ve been to, especially if you’re traveling with a Junior Ranger!)
Historical Road Trip Destinations
These are just a few of our favorite history-focused road trips in America; with so many fascinating sites to explore, this list could go on forever.
But planning a historical road trip doesn’t have to be difficult. After all, there are great stories of the past to be discovered almost anywhere you go.
If you’re looking for more information on finding historical road trip destinations in your area, check out the following books, which might help you learn about local gems you didn’t already consider:
- Lewis and Clark Road Trips: Trip Planner and History Guide by Kira Gale
- National Geographic’s 50 States, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do by Joe Yogerst
- Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways by Jamie Jensen
Historic Road Trip Routes
Want to make the journey as exciting as the destination — and get younger campers amped up about exploring history?
Yes, it is possible! Here are some fun road trip games to make your historical road trip more fun and memorable.
- I Spy
- 20 Questions
- License Plate Bingo — find one of each (Alaska and Hawaii are killers!)
Happy camping, history buffs. Enjoy your trip into our nation’s fascinating past!
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