Please sign in to post.

American history - itinerary suggestions?

I suspect I am not alone on this forum in that I have several ideas for future trips bouncing around in my head, even with my next trip booked and just a short time away. Currently leading the field for 2019 is America. We have visited some of the West - LA, SF, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon. Mrs Wife wants to see New York, as do I.

The current, early draft would have us spend a few days in NY before picking up a car for a big road trip and the 'theme' for me would be American history, including pre-Columbus. I am also very interested in the early settlers, the drive West and the cowboys/vaqueros.

We would probably spend 4-8 weeks doing this, but even 8 weeks would restrict us a little, especially as I wouldn't want to spend the whole time on the move. Each stop would therefore be 3-4 nights with a 7-10 night stop somewhere in the middle of the trip.

This is very early planning, so all suggestions and advice would be very welcome.

Posted by
1277 posts

Wow Steve. Before you rent the car, do as much east coast historical stuff by mass transist as you can. Boston and Washington Dc are if course also our historical hot beds. If you are looking for a long lay over in the middle, I'd advocate for Chicago, or my personal favorite st Louis, which has been described as the westernmost east city, easternmost west city, southernmost northen city, and northernmost southern city. This is reflected in the cuisine, as well. St louis is where lewis and Clark started their western explorations. St Louis also has a large amount of arts and music. You probably do need 8 weeks to drive cross country and not feel rushed.

Posted by
1216 posts

If you want history, I'd fly into Boston and go down the coast via train, NYC, Philadelphia, DC, etc. Then I'd go to Texas which has more of the cowboy history.

Posted by
4252 posts

I'd do St. Louis AND Chicago. They are iconic U.S. cities. You should then also go to Springfield, Illinois and visit all the Lincoln Sights. Cohokia Mounds is near St. Louis and that is ancient! You could pick up some of Route 66 in Illinois, and St. Louis has some Route 66 sights.
There is a lot around Richmond, Virginia--Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg. South Dakota has a lot to offer--Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and the wonderful Custer State Park. If you like mountains, a great drive is right thru Rocky Mountain National Park with amazing vistas at the summit.

Posted by
1878 posts

I have been to Philadelphia, Boston, and D.C. and all would be good choices. The latter most would be worth a visit for the Smithsonian alone, but there are really too many sights to list. Gettysburg takes some getting to but it is stunning. Thomas Edison's shop in New Jersey (which I just randomly visited when out that way for a wedding). The whole Boston to D.C. corridor is easily connected on the train, and the hops aren't even that long. Charleston and Savannah are amazing. You can tour historical homes i those cities, and there a number of country estates (at the time, plantations) outside of Charleston. I agree St. Augustine is a good one, too.

Posted by
914 posts

East Coast history (Boston Freedom Trail, Philadelphia, DC) as others have mentioned. I’d say Chicago for the architecture. I always like to recommend Mammoth Cave Natl. Park for natural history, although I know it’s not always on everyone’s path of travel.

Posted by
228 posts

Thanks folks. I like the sound of a rail trip down the East Coast, starting at Boston, then picking up a car and heading southwest to cowboy country. For some reason, I have long wanted to visit Santa Fe and New Mexico generally, so that would work well with a trip to Texas. I'm getting excited already!

I find the whole move south and westward, into and through the mountains of West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky (I hope I have this right - American history is a new interest for me) fascinating and a real tale of adventure. The travails of early settlers who moved into those 'new lands' (not counting the indigenous peoples, as many did not at that time) were epic, and it takes some doing to get your head around the conditions those people were living in while others in Europe and along the US coast were living in comfortable, modern civilisation. It's like two eras, a hundred years or more apart, were coexisting.

Though I have long been interested in history, I had not got around to America until I watched the Ken Burns documentary, 'The West', which I feel is one of the most outstanding examples of factual TV ever made. So much to learn, so little time!

Posted by
1277 posts

Ken burns is a national treasure. The dessert southwest will also let you explore artists like Georgia o Keefe

Posted by
5576 posts

You can't see it all in one trip - even an epic, long trip. Those of us who live here and who have traveled extensively around the USA have only seen a small fraction. It's a big, big country - something that IME foreign visitors often fail to really grasp until they spend a whole day driving across just one state (staring at corn, corn, corn...), and then realize there are states that are much, much bigger.

Pack plenty of patience and a sense of adventure.

Posted by
228 posts

"You can't see it all in one trip - even an epic, long trip."

Don't worry, I know. Much the same applies here in Oz.

If I could do justice to Boston, New York & Washington on the east coast, then make a diagonal route south west to Texas and Santa Fe in a six - eight week trip, that would be fine and is beginning to sound like a fun and educational trip.

I suppose one question might be, what would be a good route from the east to Texas and New Mexico? Head more or less straight across, or take a curved route more southward to include New Orleans? I do love mountains though!

Also, getting away from the historic agenda for a moment, I would like to see an American motor race on an oval, either a Nascar race or maybe the Indy 500. I pretty much always manage to visit a country/region just before or after an iconic motor sports event but I think, this time, I might just start out with such an event in mind and fit the rest of the schedule around it.

Shhh, don't tell the missus. She still thinks it was pure chance that we were in the South of France when the Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at Paul Ricard in 1990 ...

Posted by
3789 posts

American history......does that include Civil War and presidential homes? As a Canadian, I thought these would not interest me, but I loved my rushed week in Virginia covering areas of battlefiels and presidential homes. Gettysburg is just over the line in Pennsylvania. Add to it the natural beauty of the place. Then there are the archeological digs at Jamestown, with Williamsburg in the area.
As a non US citizen, I was disappointed in Boston as a historical spot. Too touristy in my experience and Granary Burial Ground didn't have a blade of grass in it at the time. Looked like a movie set for a dark black and white film (but overcrowded with people). Boston, does, however, have the Gardner Musem 😊
The train is a great way to get around the East Coast, but please get out of the cities and see the countryside and places where history was made not just stored now.

Posted by
228 posts

" ... but please get out of the cities and see the countryside and places where history was made not just stored now."

If by "stored" you mean museums then you needn't worry. Though I am a fan of museums, the whole point of trips like this is, for me, seeing places, sites and artefacts in situ. For instance, a museum cannot convey scale of the challenge that faced early pioneers as they tried to find trails across immense mountain ranges, deserts and through untamed forests.

I'm not planning to visit any Civil War sites. I am principally interested (for this trip) in the exploits of ordinary people who were the pioneers of expansion into 'the wilderness', and the people who were there before them.

Posted by
8403 posts

As you drive across, look at the State Parks of each state for overnight stops, as well as the National Parks. They are our treasures. This came to mind when you mentioned a westward route, right past Cumberland Falls State Park (and lodge) in Kentucky, in the Appalachian Mountains. Of course, this is four hours southeast of Indianapolis (in flat corn country), if it’s the track you want to see.

Posted by
5161 posts

I love your idea. I have lived in the US all my life on the West Coast or Midwest, and it wasn't until I actually made it to the East coast that the American history that I had been taught my entire life really came to life and made sense for me. You will enjoy visiting these locations very much.

My biggest surprise was how close everything was. I'm used to the west where you can drive 8 hours and still be driving through one state. You will definitely see the contrast if you do the East Coast and then do Texas and New Mexico.

Posted by
1277 posts

Sounds like you are starting to formulate a plan . For other summer traveler's w similar interests I'm going to lift up again the museum under the st Louis arch and a new one in Nebraska. At Kearney, the great Platte river museum literally arches up and over the interstate. Has a great opening exhibit, you take an escalator past artifacts and you hear recorded voices talking about the difficult decisions that sent them west...

Posted by
6635 posts

steves_8 three of the main US pioneer trails originated here in the Kansas City area - the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails. There is a museum in Independence, Missouri dedicated to this three trails museum and a local celebration there around Labor Day. There are a few other sites associated with the settlers here, including Cave Springs park, and a place across the border in Kansas where the ruts from the pioneer wagons are still visible in the fields.

But I think that the distances are so great, and sites so minimal, that it would be hard to link a whole long trip across the west and see more than wide open spaces, and generic highway traffic. The Oregon Trail, for example, followed the Platte River Valley through Nebraska, with a few scattered forts along the way. It would also be hard to talk about the settlers without talking about the Native American Tribes, massacres, Boomers/Sooners in Oklahoma, and the US Army actions in the West (look up Buffalo Soldiers, and Fort Leavenworth, the battle of Little Bighorn).

Pretty ambitious of you, so good luck.

Posted by
914 posts

You may want to take a look at Cumberland Gap https://www.nps.gov/cuga/index.htm (the gap that helped make the early westward expansion possible), and I echo that Virginia is full of both history and scenery. Williamsburg is good and if you're in the Shenandoah Valley, I suggest getting off of I-81 for a while and hopping over to Route 11. Staunton and Lexington, VA are two of my favorite small towns in that area. Character and history!

Posted by
13492 posts

I have long wanted to visit Santa Fe and New Mexico generally

Steve, Santa Fe is our oldest U.S. capital city and our personal favorite urban base for all sorts of fun. It's not a "high rise" city like some, and the architecture is wonderful. Great mix of Spanish and indigenous cultural history, and it has some terrific museums. 3 of the best are the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Museum of International Folk Art, and Palace of the Governors (constructed in 1610)/New Mexico History Museum. The last is great "timeline" array of New Mexican history, and see the "Treasures of Devotion" exhibit at the P.O.T.G: a really interesting exploration of the art of santos, bultos and retablos that have adorned New Mexican Catholic churches for 400 years.

Anyway, the place is just LOADED with history and has great food, too. :O)

Acoma Pueblo, 65 miles from Albuquerque, is one of 3 indigenous settlements claiming to be the oldest continually inhabited village in the United States. Perched high on top of a mesa, it offers fascinating insights into the puebloan culture and tradtional way of life. Tours are mandatory. There is Taos pueblo too but we like this one a little better.

Bandelier National Monument is a nice day trip from S.F., and I highly recommend seeing the Tsankawi unit, about 12 miles away from the main park. Walk through trails worn waist-high into the soft white tuff, check out the cavates, petroglyphs and scattered remains of an unexcavated pueblo.

https://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm

You could drive from Santa Fe to Chaco Culture N.H. Park, check out the Great Houses, and then head up to Durango and then to Mesa Verde. Chaco is a bit of a drive into the park but it was an important trade/ceremonial center in the U.S.. ancestral world, and the cliff dwellings at M.V. are a good compliment. Durango? Got your old Western mining town here.

https://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm

https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm

Posted by
228 posts

Thanks again for all the advice and suggestions. It looks like the research and planning parts of this trip are going to be fun!

Posted by
996 posts

Just throwing this out as a suggestion. If you drive down the coast into North Carolina, you can stop at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. You might also be interested in Fort Raleigh National Historic Site which deals with a lot of early pre-US formation history.

Then you could always drive across North Carolina. It's gorgeous. Stop in Cherokee and/or Asheville. Cross the mountains via the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Then you could either head toward New Orleans or Memphis & St. Louis on the Mississippi River. Then you could head toward the wild, wild West.

Or you could plan that leg for next time. ;-)

Posted by
228 posts

I think I might go a bit 'old school' for this trip and buy a big map of America for my home office and then stick pins into it to mark all the places suggested so far, and others I come across over the next few months.

Something like that might help me craft a workable route between a good number of sites, while reminding me to keep the actual distances in mind.

Planning on a computer is great, flexible and convenient, but screens tend to distort distances by shrinking everything down to fit. A wall-sized map might me help avoid that mistake.

Posted by
5262 posts

That map is a good idea, the bigger the better. You'll find yourselves driving many hours between historic sites, especially in the west. As for reliving the pioneer experience, keep in mind that those wagon trains and whatnot took days and weeks to go distances you'll cover in hours by car, even if you stay off the freeways.

For your pre-Columbian interest, I was going to suggest the National Museum of the American Indian in DC and the native American museum in NYC, down near Wall Street, whose name escapes me (the Heye collection I think it's called). But you're not into museums. So the best I can suggest for pre-Columbian sites would be the pueblos in New Mexico and Arizona -- keeping in mind that they're still lived in by real people. Not many pre-Columbian sites elsewhere in the US were either permanently built enough to survive this long. Not to mention what the settlers did to the Indians in the east, before we got enlightened.

Posted by
181 posts

You haven't said what time of the year you're considering traveling. Having spent nine years exploring 50 states and 7 provinces in our RV, we know that timing matters. A lot. Naturally when American schools are not in session, the volume of those traveling markedly increases, and can make sights impossibly crowded. Please don't forget to check the weather in all locations under consideration. I'm not familiar with yours, but we've always sought to avoid being in certain places at certain times of the year, like in the middle of the country during tornado season, or in Florida during hurricane season, or the desert southwest in summer.

We had a large US map on the wall in front of our treadmill for several years. Yes, get the large map and stare at it frequently.

We followed parts of the Lewis and Clark trail when in the west. Some of its visitors centers are very educational. As someone else said, our national parks are treasures. They are also being loved to death, just like many European places. Timing matters very much in them, both with respect to crowds and availability of accommodations. Look for some of the Native Americans museums. They can tell some of the other sides of the stories.

With respect to ancient peoples, take a look at Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Happy planning!

Donna

Posted by
42 posts

Please don't skip Philadelphia if history is your main interest. The city is often overlooked being in the shadow of New York and Washington, D.C. but we found it to be a gem. There's so much of historical significance to see including the recently opened and fabulous museum of the revolution as well as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. All historical sites are located in the east side of town, easy walking distance between them all. The 30th Street Station is a stop on Amtrak as it travels south from New York to Washington, D.C.

Posted by
228 posts

Timing is loose, though Mrs Wife and I are both allergic to cold and/or wet weather. Northern hemisphere summer is most likely, our winter. I know it will be cooking hot in the south west but having spent 20yrs in Oz, we should be OK with heat, storms and twisters, less so!

We once visited Australia's 'Red Centre' in summer. Mostly it was great, but one day we decided to head to Kings Canyon for a walk. It was around 48C when we got there. We got out of our air-conditioned car, walked about 100m, simultaneously said "Nope." and hurried back to the car for the drive home to Uluru and our hotel. Yes, we do have our limits.

Oh and we just watched (again) the excellent movie, "Road to Perdition", so now perhaps we will indeed include Chicago ;-)

Posted by
3789 posts

There are transitional seasons where you don't have as much extreme of weather and you can avoid the 'out of school' months - Try April/May (though April in New England can still be raw), or September/October. However, I am not as versed with tornado season dates.

Posted by
914 posts

And forgot to mention....if you have any interest in the Gilded Age and industrial baron era, I'd recommend Newport, Rhode Island, and if in Asheville as mentioned above, I think the Biltmore Estate is a must. It may have a hefty entrance fee, but there's a lot going on at the estate, and I think it's worth it to see it at least once.

Posted by
181 posts

I absolutely understand the allergies to wet and most especially to cold weather, having lived most of my life in the Great Lakes area. That's why we park our RV in central Florida in the winters.

When we visited the southwest, it was in the spring. If the winter weather conditions are just so, the spring wildflower season can be amazing. Spring in this case might be considered to start in February. LOL, I asked my mother-in-law once when the azaleas bloomed in Florida. She replied spring. I reminded her that spring in Florida and spring in Ohio did not happen at the same time.

Tornadoes are most common in the spring and in the center of the country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornadoes_in_the_United_States

The Atlantic hurricane season is officially listed as starting June first. The worst ones have been in August, think names like Katrina, Maria, Harvey. Mid-August through September is said to be the peak of the season.

Each of our 50 states has its own capitol. The capitol building is sometimes referred to as the state house. These are free and open to the public, some security screening is generally done. It's a thing in the RV world to try to see all 50, or at least the contiguous 48. They range in size from small to large, as well as from simple to ornate. Many of them have excellent educational displays about their state. If you are in a capitol city, stop by and have a look.

To my knowledge the largest race tracks are in Indianapolis, Indiana and Daytona Beach, Florida. We hit the traffic for the Daytona 500 by accident once, shudder.

If you're interested in our national park system, which also includes a great deal more, National Geographic publishes an excellent guide. The title is something like National Geographic's Guide to the National Parks of the United States. I can't seem to access it from here in Berlin to double check the title and provide a link.

Oh, and by the way, when we did drive across the country from coast to coast, it would take us at least two weeks. And that's driving hard. Is there a reason you feel the need to try to cover the whole country in one trip?

And to David in Seattle, you forgot the soybeans. From eastern Colorado, through Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and into Ohio. corn and soybeans, corn and soybeans, corn and soybeans. For days and days and days. Occasionally there was a wheat field.

Posted by
920 posts

Lots of great suggestion here. I'll just add something about car racing. Aquamarinesteph suggested a trip through NC. I live near Charlotte, NC. There is a large NASCAR presence here as many of the race teams are based just north of the city and Lowe's Motor Speedway is just a few miles down the road. Memorial Day weekend (May 23-27, 2019) is when the city is taken over by racing fans. NASCAR Hall of Fame is downtown and they close off the main road uptown for "Speed Week". Lots of exhibits, bands, etc. Getting hotels is tricky, so book early! The Indy 500 is also that weekend if you prefer Indy racing.

Posted by
5576 posts

you forgot the soybeans. From eastern Colorado, through Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and into Ohio. corn and soybeans, corn and soybeans, corn and soybeans. For days and days and days. Occasionally there was a wheat field.

Yeah, but those are harder to identify. IME, foreign visitors easily recognize cornfields (soybeans -- at least in the field -- are harder to relate to). Especially after driving across Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, etc.

As an aside, in attempting to teach a bit about American geography to my foreign-born nephews and nieces, I ask them to try and remember just one or two things about each state (just so they have something to associate with the name and map location). We play a game. I give them the name of the state, they need to point to it on the map, name a city in that state, and two things that the state is famous for. "Corn" is their generic guess for about half the states. Sometimes they're right. :)

There are transitional seasons where you don't have as much extreme of
weather and you can avoid the 'out of school' months - Try April/May
(though April in New England can still be raw), or September/October.

September is a great time to visit almost anywhere in the US. Kids are generally back in school so tourist crowds are down. Weather is generally nice enough everywhere, but not too hot nor too cold nor too wet. No real risk of snow even in the mountains. No significant tornado threat The one exception is the coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico and (mostly southern) Atlantic coast, which can get hit by hurricanes. As long as you monitor media during hurricane season (technically June through November, but most intensely August-September-ish), you won't be at much risk.

The Great American Road Trip - driving from the east coast to the west coast - is an epic adventure that everyone should do. There's nothing like it.

Posted by
228 posts

Donna & Denis: "Oh, and by the way, when we did drive across the country from coast to coast, it would take us at least two weeks. And that's driving hard. Is there a reason you feel the need to try to cover the whole country in one trip?"

We won't be, will we? My 'plan' (V2.3) is to do Boston/New York/Washington in approx. two weeks, by train, then spend six weeks driving south west(ish) on a road trip through 'pioneer country' ending in Santa Fe.

Posted by
5576 posts

We won't be, will we? My 'plan' (V2.3) is to do Boston/New York/Washington in approx. two weeks, by train, then spend six weeks driving south west(ish) on a road trip through 'pioneer country' ending in Santa Fe.

I dunno, there's something special about starting on the east coast, and when you finally reach the Pacific Ocean...quite a feeling of accomplishment.

Posted by
228 posts

Oh, I can imagine a coast to coast trip would be something special and would be best accomplished over quite a long period. I think my current proposed itinerary - a relatively small part of America - would be doable in eight weeks without rushing though, wouldn't it? Of course, even eight weeks would mean we have to prioritise what to see and where to go, but eight weeks should be enough to do it justice at a reasonably relaxed pace - I hope.

14 nights would be taken up along the east coast, then another 42 nights to do the south west route down to Texas and Santa Fe. Given that I like to stay in each place for at least three nights, and include a seven-night stop somewhere in the middle of the trip, that means, in the six week road trip, we would stay in eight locations en route. We would of course be able to visit multiple sites from each stayover location.

Posted by
228 posts

Would this trip make sense in September/October? This would avoid the school summer holidays and summer crowds generally, as advised, but I have always thought it would be nice to see Boston and surrounds in the Autumn/Fall, when the deciduous trees are in full riot of red and gold. It might be a bit cool, temps-wise, but weather isn't so critical when visiting cities, I find. We would then head out of the cities and southwest as the weather cools, arriving in Texas and Santa Fe in Oct/Nov.

This sounds OK to me but one issue might be the 'middle leg' through the mountains of West Virginia and Tennessee (assuming we went that way). Would it be too cold and/or wet at that time of year, in those hills?

Posted by
5576 posts

I think my current proposed itinerary...would be doable in eight weeks without rushing though, wouldn't it?

Yes, absolutely! Your pace sounds great.

I've driven coast-to-coast in about 4 days (and solo!). I wouldn't suggest that to anyone (I was good at staying awake for looong periods back in those days - made it from the west coast almost to Chicago before I had to sleep for a bit). Don't try this at home!

Would this trip make sense in September/October?

Yes. My only caution would be that you would have a higher chance of getting more wet/cooler weather more of the time. September is more mild, and generally drier. In October, it may be significantly more cool and/or wet. Less so in the Southwest, more so in the Northeast. November can be even more so, especially at high altitudes (don't discount the impact of high elevations, even in the Southwest).

The fall color is beautiful in New England (other places, too - parts of the Rocky Mountain west and Pacific Northwest also get beautiful color). But the timing of the color and concurrent weather changes can be critical. Here where I live (Washington state), if we get a nice, dry fall, with cool clear nights and the rain holds off, the color can be spectacular. We had an early autumn like that this past year. But overnight, we went from bright color on all the trees, to bare trees and wet, mushy drifts of leaves in the streets: right at peak color, a storm came through, with enough wind to strip most deciduous trees of all their leaves, with lots of rain. The change was dramatic and quick - literally, overnight. If you get that kind of weather, and your timing is bad, you may just see the piles of mushy leaves on the ground.

Best time to start, I'd imagine, would be early- to mid-September. Start late in September and things are more iffy.

Posted by
558 posts

Hey 'Steves_8,'

Sounds like you have decided to start here in Massachusetts. Definitely come in the fall, when the leaves are all changing. However, realize it's also one of our most popular tourist seasons, specifically because of that reason. Also, I would add, the better leaves tend to be up in New Hampshire in late Sept./early October and then in Massachusetts in mid-late October (well, this has been the trend anyway in the past few years, due to it tending to be warmer in September now than in years past). Don't worry though - you can drive north from Boston to mid-Northern New Hampshire in about 2 hours. Also, you should plan on hitting Plimouth Plantation (in the town of Plymouth, Mass). It's about 1 hour south of Boston. It's a living history museum where the first settlers arrived from Europe in 1620. You can do it in 1-2 hours and "attached" is the Wamponoag Native American Homesite. These sites recreate the original settlements and allow you to truly understand the "original" idea of pioneers.

Again, remember that it will be busy, since it leads up to Thanksgiving in November.

Please come back after your trip and let us know your thoughts.

:) Gretchen

Posted by
228 posts

Gretchen: "Also, you should plan on hitting Plimouth Plantation (in the town of Plymouth, Mass). It's about 1 hour south of Boston. It's a living history museum where the first settlers arrived from Europe in 1620. You can do it in 1-2 hours and "attached" is the Wamponoag Native American Homesite.'

That sounds really interesting, thanks. Once we're back from Europe, I'll get that big map and starting marking these places.

Posted by
996 posts

This sounds OK to me but one issue might be the 'middle leg' through the mountains of West Virginia and Tennessee (assuming we went that way). Would it be too cold and/or wet at that time of year, in those hills?

I can't speak to West Virginia, but in Tennessee you'll see the possibility of lots of different weather in September/October. In East Tennessee (the mountains), you'll see cooler nights with the possibilities of hot days still. Rain is anyone's guess, but it's always a possibility. If you drive across Tennessee, you'll see more of the same. Maybe hot during the day. Maybe cool at night, but cool is a relative term as you head toward Memphis and the Mississippi Delta.

Technically this is our fall season, but in Tennessee it can be chilly one day and stinking hot the next. You probably won't see snow or freezing temperatures in the east until November, though. The earliest I remember seeing snow is at the very end of October, and that was the exception, not the rule.

Posted by
13492 posts

...It's a living history museum where the first settlers arrived from
Europe in 1620. (Plymouth).

I agree! Very interesting... except that they weren't the "first" European settlers. St Augustine, Florida (Spanish) was founded in 1565, and Santa Fe (Spanish) in 1610. Roanoke Colony ("lost" English settlement; North Carolina) in 1585. Other Spanish, French, Dutch and English settlements predated Plymouth although most of them failed.

Posted by
1277 posts

I defer to aquamarine Steph, but if I were you I'd try to hit high color in west Virginia instead if starting so late so as to catch it north of Boston. Know also that Labor Day weekend (always the 1st Monday of Sept) is traditionally the last hurrah of summer esp for those w kids or teachers in their families so know this 3 day weekend tends to be crowded almost anywhere.....but if I were you I'd, arrive about Sept 1 to maximize good weather as you eventually go thru the mountains. Sept2 is labor day in 2019.... kids and parents will be driving home that day and leaving a quiet Boston for you. Know also that hotels in Boston are "wicked expensive " . I'm doing the opposite of yr trip for one week in July, Charleston Wv to Boston on mass transit, I found s bargain on housing in DC, I'm staying w a friend in New York, but Boston has me looking seriously at a hostel

Posted by
6635 posts

Hmmm, these folks will never have you leave the East coast. You might consider the Route 66 itinerary across the West - Chicago to LA. route 66 map and infoThat seems to be popular with foreigners as well as natives. Route 66 was the original US highway that connected east to west. Its been replaced by the interstate system, but parts of the old highway still exist.

Posted by
558 posts

@Kathy - yes, the first settlers certainly didn't arrive here in Plymouth, hence the quotations marks stating it was the Pilgrims "original" idea. Haha! :)

@doric8 - yes, staying in Boston is VERY expensive at any time of year, but especially in the fall! Good luck to Steves_8 in finding a "Cheap" alternative (again, notice the quotation marks). :)

Posted by
5576 posts

the first settlers certainly didn't arrive here in Plymouth...

Indeed, it's been well documented that my Norse ancestors showed up around 1000 AD, beating all those slow southern Europeans by a long stretch (it's also alleged by some that the Chinese visited in the early 1400s, but those claims are a lot more dubious and lacking much in the way of archeological evidence - you can go visit the remains of Norse settlements which are very much still there). Of course, the first settlers came much earlier, by most accounts on foot.

No shortage of history to check out!

Posted by
2258 posts

Well, you know, Pittsburgh was the original Gateway to the West. It’s a beautiful and interesting city that was also a key site in the French and Indian War. Fom here you could follow the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans (a great city to visit) then head to the south west from there. I would not relish the long drive across Texas though. But no matter how you do it, you’re going to have a long slog through the middle of the country to get from the north east to the south west.

Sounds like an awesome trip!

p,s. I’m planning a trip to Australia in March (following a tour in New Zealand, so I have no flexibility on dates). It’s good to hear you survived Uluru in summer, because I really want to see it and it’s most likely my only opportunity.

Posted by
13492 posts

Indeed, it's been well documented that my Norse ancestors showed up
around 1000 AD, beating all those slow southern Europeans by a long
stretch

True enough, David. By that account, their Southern neighbors were a pokey lot, eh?
And a 👍 and 🙂 for you, Gretchen.
Steve, you sure got the history fans going here!

Posted by
228 posts

Stan: "Hmmm, these folks will never have you leave the East coast. You might consider the Route 66 itinerary across the West - Chicago to LA."

See my opening post. We have visited the west, hopefully not for the last time, but the purpose of this trip is specifically to visit New York and then some historical sites from early settlement, follow the pioneers who were at the forefront of expansion into the mountains, and then travel through cowboy country in Texas and New Mexico. Along the way, I'd like to learn more about the native Americans, particularly those that interacted and engaged with those pioneers, such as the Cherokee.

Posted by
228 posts

doric8: "Know also that hotels in Boston are wicked expensive"

We will be using AirBnB and, based on a cursory search just now, we ought to be able to get a house or apartment for around AUD170/night, which is within our usual budget.

Posted by
228 posts

Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places. I've been on Google Maps using streetview to explore a few towns/cities that I have heard of in the context of early settler expansion and the cowboy era, looking for architectural echoes of the past, but all I have found so far are modern buildings, with the odd isolated example. I was expecting that the cities with significant history would have preserved whole areas in the manner than is common in Europe, what is commonly called, 'the old quarter'.

I'm thinking of places like Oklahoma and Kansas City, where I expected to find the aforementioned, but all I can find so far is nice, clean, but modern development. Is it me? I can see that there are well-preserved areas in places such as New Orleans and Santa Fe, but did Oklahoma etc knock it all down? I recall with dismay how lots of lovely old stuff was flattened in the UK after the war and through to the '70s, including a Saxon-era church that was knocked over thirty years ago, allegedly to build something else, but to this day it remains a barren plot of empty ground :-(

Posted by
5576 posts

Alas, the idea of organized, systematic "historic preservation" in the USA is a somewhat recent one. We have always been about "progress" and with that has often come a lot of historic destruction. You can find old stuff in many places if you know where to look, but for us "old" is relative. Most US cities do not have a charming old center that's easy to find like so many cities in Europe have.

Posted by
1804 posts

Do get that big wall map to start pinning your intended destinations. Right now, it's looking like you are trying to cover at least 10 different regions scattered all over the place as soon as you complete your Northeast Corridor portion of the trip. You initially said you are looking at 4 to 8 weeks to do this trip. 4 isn't even going to begin giving you enough time for what you are thinking about and 8 is stretching it when you are intent on doing anything outside of the Northeast with a car rather than by taking flights (and you want the 7-10 nights built in somewhere mid-trip).

Australia is as large as the U.S. I spent 3 months traveling Australia (including Tasmania) and in the end didn't even begin to scratch the surface - there were entire sections I had to pass on. I also used a lot of planes to hop from area to area as driving would have slowed me down considerably and for some routes there would be very little to look at that was going to hold my interest. It's the same in parts of the U.S. where driving for 4 to 8 hour stretches past nothing more than fields or tiny towns where the most exciting thing you run into will be Walmart and a Sonic Burger gets old really fast. And you're unlikely to find a whole concentration of historic preservation happening in some of the places you list. One-offs, sure...but it's the larger cities where you will usually find a historical commission stepped in to designate certain buildings as historic. My friend once tried to do a similar "pioneer" themed trip with her family as they were fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder books and they also really liked watching those Ken Burns PBS shows (I kept trying to convince her following the trail the Donner Party took would be a far more captivating story about pioneers for the kids than the trail the Ingalls family took!). She said in the majority of places they planned multiple days in was a mistake and she pretty much felt like they saw everything worthwhile in about 4 to 6 hours and then were ready to pull their hair out from boredom the rest of the time.

I do agree you are doing yourself a disservice by skipping Philadelphia in the Northeast. I would also recommend you save more for your lodging for that part of the U.S., even if you are planning to use Airbnb. Your AUD amounts to roughly $125/night which isn't much for a whole apartment rental - a room in someone's house, sure, but most whole private apartments at that price range tend to be located a little further outside of the areas that tourists really want to be near, so having more budgeted (particularly somewhere like NYC) is a good idea as you've got ample time to save up.

If heading to New Mexico as your final stop in October, you might want to try to plan to be there around the time when the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is taking place - nope, not historical and nothing to do with pioneers, Native Americans or Nascar, but it's very cool to see that many hot air balloons in one place.

Posted by
914 posts

I’d suggest researching some of the living history museums in the U.S. Those may be as close to the settlement/western experience you’re describing. I lived in Wisconsin years ago and always thought Old World Wisconsin was well done. There’s Greenfield Village in Michigan. We already mentioned Williamsburg. I grew up in the East but traveled in my youth through the Plains states and can’t think of too many towns that fit what you’re seeking. Other posters may have ideas.

Posted by
13492 posts

I was expecting that the cities with significant history would have
preserved whole areas in the manner than is common in Europe, what is
commonly called, 'the old quarter'.

Steve, in the big picture, the European settlement history of our country isn't all that different, time-wise, than yours in Australia. How many "whole areas" of original 18th or 19th-century urban areas are there left to see in your country? The European history in the U.S is much MUCH younger than any towns/cities you're comparing us to in Europe. My goodness, other than indigenous ruins, I'd never seen anything as old as what we explored in Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, etc. Yes, we have some 'old' downtowns but I'm not sure just HOW old you're expecting those to be? , Fires, decay, wars and/or urban development did a number on a lot of our historic centers.

Yes, we still have town with "historic districts" such as some of those you've named (e.g. Santa Fe and New Orleans). Charleston S.C. still has a well-preserved historic district as well as parts of Savannah, Georgia. Colorado, I'd say Durango, Ourey and Silverton, off top of my head. Still, the oldest things I've ever seen here, by European standards, are the ruins of indigenous pueblos/settlements.

Posted by
228 posts

Kathy: "Yes, we still have town with "historic districts" such as some of those you've named (e.g. Santa Fe and New Orleans). Charleston S.C. still has a well-preserved historic district as well as parts of Savannah, Georgia. Colorado, I'd say Durango, Ourey and Silverton, off top of my head."

That's precisely what I'm looking for. I am well aware of the relative age of America vs Europe, so I wasn't expecting to find Roman walls, Norman castles or medieval cathedrals :-)

I perhaps mistakenly assumed that cities I thought were iconic, historical towns (i.e. Oklahoma) might have preserved more of their old areas.

Regarding Australia, the US is in much better shape historically than here. In the US, ancient peoples were builders, though many of their buildings were not built to last centuries, sadly. The pre-European peoples of Australia didn't build anything at all and had no practices that produced artifacts that could survive being buried for 2000 years, such as gold jewellery. It makes me smile sometimes, when local councils decide that a building should be 'listed' as having historical importance, when it's actually younger than my ordinary, nondescript house was back in the UK, and 400 years younger than the local post office, still in use and pretty much just part of the scenery.

Slightly OT, they say every cloud has a silver lining and, in terms of the preservation of old buildings and infrastructure, I was often struck, during my travels to East Germany and Eastern European countries generally (esp. former Soviet bloc countries) by how many old buildings were preserved and still in use. This was presumably because there was no money to keep knocking things down and building new. Those places are now well worth visiting for people interested in old architecture.

Posted by
1804 posts

When I think of "iconic" in the U.S., I'd rate things like National Parks (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Arches, Acadia, Badlands, Rocky Mountain NP, etc.) or the Liberty Bell & Independence Hall in Philadelphia as way more iconic and historic than Oklahoma.

Posted by
267 posts

Niagara Falls, in New York.
I've got to get there some day. Maybe this summer. I was born in Westchester NY, so it's far from where I've lived, but I've really got to go see it. Amtrak is the train line. Goes from NYC up the Hudson River, gorgeous in the Autumn, loads of trees changing colors.

Probably Grand Canyon too, is what the western people would say.

If you're looking for pre-Columbus, and are in New York State,
https://www.newyorkupstate.com/attractions/2015/09/5placestoseemastodonremainsinupstatenew_york.html

There's been a lot of Wooly Mammoth fossil finds, if you like dinosaurs.

The reason there aren't a whole lot of historic buildings is not because there's so much money to tear them down and build new ones, but because our weather here in the US can be brutal, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, loads of stuff that doesn't keep buildings standing forever. Please watch your timing of your travels, avoid hurricane and tornado seasons (presuming you're not traveling during blizzard season :) in southern and midwestern places, please.

My Dad and stepmom lived in Australia (were originally from northern Westchester County too), and when they traveled back here to go sightseeing, they found there was a nationwide national parks pass they could get for cheap. Dad drove the camper van all over the place, the parks sure lost money on those two, that summer :)

Learning about Ben Franklin ahead of your Philadelphia trip will make it much more meaningful. He was our best character, mostly :)

I have an uncle who likes to plot out trips to go see historical theatres. Pinpointing a specific interest can help, since the country is big.

If you're traveling through Hartford, Connecticut, the Mark Twain house is great, I hear.

My personal favorites are Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut (stonework of buildings amazing, my grandpa went there), the United Nations (I'm an online volunteer, usually very good energy for NYC and tax free shopping downstairs since it's international land and not NY-taxable, plus it has a Delegrates Dining Room that the public can eat in, for $35 during weekdays you can get this amazing international buffet and river views with the delegates, we used it as a meeting place for my stepbrothers in from Australia and MExico, their families, and my Dad and stepmom), and Hayden PLanetarium in New York City (IM' an astronomer), and most of the Hudson River views from different parks like Bear Mountain in NYS. I've been through Providence, Rhode Island and it looked like a European city to me, very different than most other places I've seen in the Northeast. I was just attending my cousin's wedding so I didn't get to see much of it, but that might very well be a hidden gem.

Boston has a lot of history, another train trip, no driving cars there nor in NYC. No fun.

If you're traveling where there's wide open spaces, you may want to search for "star parties" where astronomy clubs put on big viewing events, could be awesome way to meet people.

If you like cultural stuff, there's a lot of specifics you can find. Example is if you like Irish Dance, there's a whole web site that tells of where every Feis (pronounced fesh) is, nationwide. Lots of specific cultural festivals, lots of Ockoberfests in the right places at the right times :) Whatever you find to be fun.

I have found that the Google Fi phones that switch networks as you travel are the best for us now that we're in a rural area of New Hampshire. Different mobile phone networks dominate in different towns or areas of the country, and you can lose your GPS/Sat Nav signal if your phone can't change networks, sometimes. Also really good price and supposed to work internationally.

Have fun, and have a great trip!
-Alison

Posted by
3789 posts

I get a daily email from the website Atlas Obscura...for those out of the way places, or less known accounts. Today has this blurb about the movement of black Americans as western pioneers. Thought you might want to take a look....
https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/black-pioneers-in-the-midwest?utm_source=Atlas+Obscura+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=df35a86c89-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_06_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f36db9c480-df35a86c89-64633025&ct=t(EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_6_18_2018)&mc_cid=df35a86c89&mc_eid=6f71391833

Posted by
43 posts

Want to echo the recommendation of Boston. Walking the Freedom Trail was amazing, even on a hot July afternoon. As a Henry David Thoreau fan, we drove to Concord and visited his grave as well as the battlefields nearby. We also loved Cape Cod, saw the Kennedy compound at Hyannis, but most memorable were the amazing behaviors we saw on a whale-watching cruise--it seemed like the whales had been trained to put on a show for the boats....dozens waving flukes and flapping tails not far from the boats. The best whale-watching we have seen (we normally see them at a distance on the west coast). Clearly, the Smithsonian makes DC worth a visit, as do all the government related places. I'm not into military displays but found the cemetery at Arlington was very moving; especially when we stopped at the graves of the Kennedys and Senator Edmund Muskie. My husband was fascinated by Gettysburg; I wasn't quite as impressed because I don't know as much about the battles themselves (for me, it was farmfields and monuments with an amazing museum of civil war weapons and uniforms, rewatching Ken Burn's might have helped) I also enjoyed Nashville and a few side trips to Andrew Jackson's farm and some of the civil war battlefields in that area. And though I haven't been, my husband and friends describe the civil rights museum in Memphis as an incredibly moving exhibition. Last suggestion, the Merrimac Caverns/Jesse James Hideout and Hannibal, Missouri where Mark Twain was born....not dramatic but places to stop as you head west. Still, the place in the US I think we all need to see is Mesa Verde to get a sense of the cultures that were here before Europeans arrived...the most spiritual moments I have had in my life were as I entered the cliffside dwellings in this sacred place.

Posted by
43 posts

Six years ago we did a trip to the Pueblo sites in northwest NM, SW Colorado. As I mentioned, Mesa Verde is sacred in my other post. We flew to Albuquerque with a small tent and spent a night in Santa Fe before heading to Bandelero and Chaco Canyon, where we camped. Spent a night in Durango before heading Mesa Verde, where we camped again. From there, you could drive to Monument Valley and fly home from Phoenix or if you are driving, head to the national parks in Utah, stop at the Custer Battlefield in Eastern Montana and then start back toward the midwest. Having lived in Oregon for 25 years, I'd say it's a lovely place worth a vacation some year but the pioneer history is subtle. Stay east of the Cascades if you really want to experience our foundational history (and as a history teacher, I have yet to make it, but would like to get to Wounded Knee, because that is such a significant moment in US history and to Ludlow, Colorado to understand labor struggles. Also, regret we didn't have time to visit Harper's Ferry when we made it to Gettysburg. But travel is so much about choices.

Posted by
228 posts

Thanks everybody. Your suggestions and advice is awesome.

But now my head is spinning!

Posted by
288 posts

Yes, if you are looking for those were here before the settlers and are going to be in New Mexico, then look into Chaco Canyon, Aztec NM, and Mesa Verde and Hovenweep in Colorado. House of Rain by Craig Childs is a fantastic book about the various areas and migration patterns of the ancestral Puebloans with their links to the Mayan and Aztec empires. US history tends to get pretty AngloCentric Santa Fe was settled before the Pilgrims settled Massachusetts (and I am a new Englander) I love Revolutionary history, but Chaco and Mesa Verde are amazing places to see.

As far as the settling of the part from Spain the old missions in El Paso are worth a look too and from the US Old Bent's Fort in southeastern Colorado gives a good look at settling the west. Lots of the older structures in the western cities were wooden initially so they were burned in fires or removed at some point. There are some places in Denver left from the old days but not man

Posted by
1277 posts

"Old missions " compels me to add the mission trail outside of San Antonio Texas (which does now include words and diagrams about what the daily life of the indigenous peoples would have been)

Ok, Steve I know we amateur historians have completely overwhelmed you w ideas. I do understand the conversation about old structures, we do have a peculiar and newer history. Growing up in Iowa, I remember being AMAZED that there were frame buildings in Massachusetts more than 200 years old. I really thought they'd have to be brick or stone to have avoided termites, fire, etc. In some cities at old river fronts like st Louis and Omaha there are a lot of old surviving warehouses that have been renovated as night clubs or lofts, but that's still a lot newer than what you might have hoped.

Posted by
228 posts

Apologies in advance - another personal anecdote!

My own interest was focused on the local history around me in Cheshire, England, back in the 90s. Until then, I was oblivious to the less obvious historical features around me. Sure the cathedrals and Roman walls around Chester were amazing and well known, but I didn't think about there was much of interest besides.

Then, while taking a walk near my house one day and collecting wild Hazelnuts from a hedgerow that ran along an unsurfaced lane, I started to wonder why the hedge and ditch was constructed the way it was, and why these were the only Hazelnuts to be found. Long story short: investigations revealed that the lane was a remnant of Roman road. The ditch with earth banking, upon which mixed Hazel and Hawthorn was planted, was typical. so, the rather ordinary and unassuming, unnamed (or so I thought) and unsurfaced track that I had walked along for years, turned out to be at least 2000 years old. It was like my eyes had suddenly opened. Unfortunately, I left the UK just a few years later, emigrating to Australia, and so my newfound interest was largely thwarted. I now get my 'history kicks' from books and trips overseas.

Posted by
42 posts

My wife and I took our beloved golden retriever on a road trip in April similar to what you describe, where we started in Madison WI and just wandered south and west mostly staying off the interstates and looking for interesting towns and places. We ended up in Santa Fe which is a very interesting city, especially for your historical interests. It is also a thriving art community, amazing number of artists. To chart out path, I found a National Geographic book on scenic drives in the US and highlighted those on a map and then also searched top ten things to see in each state and marked the ones of interest on the map. Then when we planned each days drive, we'd try to touch as many of the highlighted spots as possible. Since we were making plans as we went along, we stayed in Airbnbs, motels, or camped along the way in state parks. Along the way we hit Dodge City, KS which has a lot of cowboy memorobilia and Marysville, KS which has the last remaining Pony Express station and museum. South eastern OK was surprisingly scenic. Other highlights were traveling part of old Route 66, the Wil Rogers museum in Claremore, OK, Cherokee Heritage Center in OK,

Posted by
2914 posts

Have you thought of combining the train with car rental away from the east coast as well. The Southwest Chief follows much of the Santa Fe trail. You can break it up as you wish along the way and stop, etc. The expansive nature of the US makes it hard to see it all, and this way you could both enjoy the scenery.
Regarding Boston, I ditto Plymouth Plantation. In addition to the Freedom Trail and just enjoying Boston, I'd run Strawberry Bank in Portsmouth by you (slightly second tier, but likely your only chance). You could enjoy the ride up the beautiful coast by doing this. Newport, RI is also a favorite location...one of the early settlements, then Rev. War, and then Robber Barons...and a beautiful coast line. Deerfield, MA has Native American/English history if you are interested in that...western Massachusetts was westward expansion at one time.
There's also the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown U. in Providence. Haffenreffer owned much of Bristol RI at one point, the last lands owned by King Phillip. His collection of Native American artifacts is extensive. Or...Harvard's anthropology museum has an exhibit that covers many of the tribes throughout the US and Canada. I could go on...

Posted by
13492 posts

Steve, doggone it, you opened this can of worms so here's a bit more....

New York: I don't know what you have on your to-do list there but here are just a couple of suggestions for its many historic sites? (Bits from my writings for a different travel website.)

St Paul's Chapel: dates to 1766 and was on the edge of the city proper when it was built. During the brief time that New York served as the nation's capital, George Washington was a member, worshipping here on his inauguration day in 1789 and attending services until the capital was moved to Philadelphia in 1790. His pew is still in the church. James Monroe, 5th president of the United States and third to die on July 4th, was given an impressive funeral here in 1831. It is very close to Ground Zero and on 9/11 escaped irreparable damage by virtue, they say, of a shielding sycamore tree. The congregation believed it was spared for a purpose: that of ministering to a large group of individuals who were about to embark on the most challenging, heartbreaking effort anyone could imagine. For 9 months hundreds of volunteers provided clean clothing, cots and bedding for rest between long shifts, medical care for tired and battered feet, hot meals around the clock, and compassionate hands for exhausted, heartsick firefighters, police personnel and other rescue and recovery workers to hold. This little old chapel stands as a shining example of the worst of times bringing out the best in people and what loving one's neighbor is truly about.

https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/about/stpaulschapel/history

Trinity Church is just a few blocks away (https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/about/history). Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton are buried in the churchyard as well as notables from the Revolutionary period. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_Church_Cemetery.

Speaking of Mr. Hamilton - first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury - the Alexander Hamilton U.S Custom House is another one worth a look. The U.S. Customs Service was established in 1789 and is our oldest federal agency. Tariffs on imported goods and ship tonnage fueled our young nation's government and, in the days before income taxes, were its largest, single source of revenue. This is the 2nd structure to serve the function (first one was outgrown) and was designed by Cass Gilbert (who designed my state's capitol building in St Paul, MN) in 1899. The Smithsonian's NYC branch of the National Museum of the American Indian is in this building as well and is free to visit!

Bryant Park: a dedicated public space since 1686, George Washington's army fled from the British across this area during the Battle of Long Island in 1776. From 1823 -1840, these lawns were a burial site - a potter's field - for the poor. After the cemetery was relocated, Union armies drilled on this soil during the Civil War. Here, an enormous Crystal Palace was erected for the World's Fair of 1853/54 and burned to ground five years later. It's a really lovely little park right behind the gorgeous New York Public Library*, and a nice place to grab coffee, a table, and have a read of the New York Times (we did).

http://bryantpark.org

*Christopher Robin Milne's stuffed Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, and Tigger live in the NY Public Library's Children's Center.

Posted by
5697 posts

Side note: AMTRAK runs passenger trains (with optional sleeper cars) down the East coast and across to Texas, the Midwest, and the Pacific coast, if you decide driving through days of soybeans is too much.

Posted by
2349 posts

Steve, you may disappointed by the lack of old town charm, but if you look closely you can see the differences. The houses and older businesses will reflect who settled the area- German, English, Scandinavian, etc. Whether a town/city was in forest, prairie, mountains, Great Lakes. Or my favorite- river towns. What the weather is- large front porches for hot weather, sharply peaked roofs for heavy snowfall. The building material- local brick, timber, stucco. Once you learn what Indiana limestone looks like, you'll see it on 20th century houses everywhere in the Midwest.

Neighboring states might have been settled at the same time but will still have a lot of differences. Michigan has a much more woodsman/trapper feel to it than Indiana just to the south.

My city, Fort Wayne, has an Old Fort made of wood. I think it was built in the 1980s for a festival, before I moved here. I would agree with the suggestion from a poster who said to look for historical reenactment sites. Even if they are recreated, they'll be interesting.

Posted by
12886 posts

Hi,

I would suggest these pertinent places/sites on US history...upstate New York, VA for the Revolution, colonial period, Civil War, TN, the second most fought over place in the Civil War, San Antonio, New Orleans especially if you want the French role in US history,

Montgomery, AL, KY, Charleston, SC, Kansas City (the extended WW1 museum), Memphis, Atlanta, Fort Monroe, Fort McHenry, the battle field sites...Shiloh, (TN), Perryville (KY), Manasas, VA, FT Sumter, SC,, Yorktown, Harper's Ferry, San Jacinto, TX, ,

Ticonderoga, Antietam and Gettysburg,

Posted by
794 posts

I've driven all over the USA, for weeks at a time, and won't get into particular places to visit until you decide on a route. There's no way you can see anywhere near all the places mentioned in the time you have available. That being said, here's what I'd consider if I were you.

The early historical sights are all near the coast. There are two main routes for westward expansion in this country. My suggestion would be either go down the eastern seaboard from New York to Jacksonville, FL, and then take Interstate 10 to Mobile, New Orleans, and across Texas. This route would give you access to the Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields, the Gulf Coast (where the French and Spanish explored), and some of the major cities of the Texas Revolution and westward cowboy trails.

The other option would be to go down to Richmond (Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields), cut through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Eastern Kentucky to Louisville, to St Louis, and then across the plains to Kansas City and Denver. That gives you the primary wagon train route, and the major cities of the 1860-1870's.

As a side note, you're more likely to hit a auto race on the southern route....

Posted by
12886 posts

Like New Orleans, Mobile (AL) was also founded by the French if you want to focus on the role played by the les français in the exploration and colonization of North America, a vast area connected by rivers.

Posted by
12886 posts

Hi,

To get a very good background on the role played by the French in their vast exploration of North America, I suggest the book by the British miltary historian, John Keegan, "Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America," chapter 2. He gives credit to the over looked role played by les français and their accomplishment in exploring the vast land given the technology of the time.

Posted by
228 posts

Thanks for all the tips and suggestions so far, folks. Now that our 2018 trip is behind us, planning for 2019 can commence!

Posted by
342 posts

I could easily spend 8 weeks touring through New Mexico, Arizona and southern Colorado. Beautiful countryside, great National Parks, historic and ghost towns and of course some pretty incredible ruins. The cliff dwellings in The four Corners area at Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, Canyon de Chelly to name just a few. The great houses at Chaco Canyon, and others scattered throughout the area all tell of a long cultural tradition stretching back well before Columbus. And the chance to see the traditions still alive in the Pueblo communities today. In fact I hope to be back in the area in 2019 for 3-4 weeks. Visit will likely be in May when everything is still green, or October, though I have encountered snow in the high desert of NM but love the gold of aspens turning.....