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Top 20 U.S. Historic Sites Recommended by Our Members

In celebration of July 4th, Fodor’s member MRand posed a question to fellow travelers in the United States forum: “What’s the most impressive U.S. history site you’ve seen?”. Over 75 nominations were posted. Unsurprisingly, many of the sites could be found in the country’s capital, Washington, D.C., but there were also several located elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world. Below are just a few of the sites mentioned by members, as well as their description of their visit’s experience.


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Charlottesville, VA

“Monticello. On a fall morning, fog covering the valley below, only about a dozen people there” — mrand

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The Lincoln Memorial

Washington, D.C.

“The Lincoln Memorial – not only for all the obvious reasons – but also because of it’s later symbolic associations – including Marion Anderson’s concert there after being barred from using the DAR Hall because she was black.” — nytraveler

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Colonial Williamsburg

Williamsburg, VA

“Colonial Williamsburg. When you are walking down the street on a early fall morning with the smell of smoke in the air, the sound of hooves on the street, and the costumed interpreters walking around with their baskets you are transported back into the 18th century.” — Birdie

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Donner Lake

Donner Memorial State Park, CA

“The whole experience of those who were crossing the country from St. Louis to California, walking most of the way & bringing their possessions covered wagons is difficult to imagine. If I remember correctly, the Donner party took what they thought was going to be a shorter route, but missed getting through the last pass in the Sierra Nevadas by a matter of days.” — smetz

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Vietnam War Memorial

Washington, D.C.

“For me, it was the Vietnam War Memorial; The Wall. I was in college during the war. My then boyfriend, now DH worried about a deferment. My roommates very good friend was killed. After I graduated, we lived near campus and I remember the national guardsmen ringing the campus after Kent State. That feeling, when you come around the corner, see the statue of three guys, and that black with all the names engraved. It took my breath away.” — rncheryl

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Slapton Sands

Devon, England

“About 40-50 miles from where I live, the Sherman tank at Slapton Sands, commemorating the nearly 1000 American servicemen who lost their lives to a German E-boat, while practicing for the D-Day Landings – Exercise Tiger I think it was called – is a beautiful place.” — wildblueyonder

American History Museum

Washington, D.C.

“The original “star spangled banner” being restored at the American History Museum in Washington, DC.” — ElendilPickle

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World War II Memorial

Washington, D.C.

“The World War II memorial in Washington DC, and seeing an old veteran there. Brought tears to my eyes.” — kansasmom

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Ellis Island

New York City, NY

“I guess Ellis Island moved me more than any place else. Standing in the great hall just made me weep thinking about my grandmother and great-grandmother going through there in 1907 and what America meant to the poor, uneducated and persecuted Jews. I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t come.” — LaurenKahn1

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World Trade Center

New York City, NY

“The World Trade Center missing (I still think about it every time I’m returning from a meeting in Jersey and remember how it used to dominate the skyline) – and all the sorrow and sacrifices, bravery and tears – associated with that day” — nytraveler

Charles River Esplanade

Boston, MA

“The Charles River Esplanade Hatch Shell hearing the 1812 Overture by the amazing Boston Pops” — gyppielou

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Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

“Harvard. It proved how important education was that it was established in 1636, only 16 years after the Pilgrims landed.” — turista

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070809-historic-sites-korean-war-memorial.jpgKorean War Memorial

Washington D.C.

“My daughter and I happened to be near the mall the day they were to dedicate the Korean War Memorial — anyone was permitted in to hear the dedication and the speeches (by, among others, then-President Clinton). Many vets there of all wars, and it was quite a sight.” — SF7307

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Trail of Tears Park

Jackson, Missouri

“In US: the Trail of Tears Park, what a contrast between the peacefulness of the park, and the dreadful Cherokee river crossing in winter!” — Dayenu

Fort Clatsop

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, OR

“Fort Clatsop near the Oregon coast. Lewis and Clark’s expedition wintered here (the rainy weather made their stay a misery and long ago rotted the original fort away – what’s there today is, gasp, a re-creation). To be here on a cold, rainy winter day is to appreciate all the more what they endured.” — 321go

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Indian Grinding Rock State Park

Jackson, California

“A small state park in the central California foothills near Jackson, called Indian Grinding Rock State Park and its small Chaw’se Regional Native American museum. It is not a loud dramatic place of one big event, but a beautiful place in the California foothills, with towering valley oaks, a rebuilt community roundhouse in a meadow and a creek. People have lived there for so, so long. Every fall there is still a gathering of those descended from the local Native Americans for a festival of harvesting acorns. It is an old place where American traditions have been happening for a long time.” — suz24

Sutter’s Mill

Coloma, California

“Having been raised and spent most of my adult life in California, the trace at Sutter’s Mill where the gold was discovered that brought California in the US long before many of the other western states.” — dwoodden

Castillo San Marcos

St. Augustine, FL

“Sir Francis Drake attacked it, Chief Osceola was imprisoned in it, and Fort Mose (the first free black settlement in the US) was part of its outer defenses.” — 321go

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Arlington House

Arlington, VA

“Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery. Stand upon the steps of the house, look across the Potomac at Washington DC and ponder the decisions Robert E. Lee made.” — 321go

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USS Arizona Memorial

Honolulu, HI

“I couldn’t believe it when I looked down and saw the oil that was *still* leaking after all these years. But then when I saw the bench with the names of the men who survived the attack but have chosen to have their ashes scattered with their fallen brethren . . . gah. It ended up being the highlight of my week on Oahu. I was so glad that our guide was someone who was actually there and shared his personal memories — before long there won’t be any of those men left, so I’m glad I got to meet him.” — cheryllj

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Photo credits: Monticello, flickr photo by Tony the Misfit; (2) Donner Lake, flickr photo by markhillary; (3) Ellis Island, flickr photo by wwarby; (4) Korean War Memorial, flickr photo by Gore Fiendus.

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