For history-lovers, destination travel is exciting, especially when a city is packed with history lessons. We’ve compiled things to see and do in four U.S. cities, where history buffs can learn, discover, explore and enrich their quest for knowledge of the past.
Although the city of Brotherly Love seems like a no-brainer for history, the true appeal of Philadelphia is the docket of activities for all ages. Philadelphia is home to the Old City neighborhood, also known as America’s most historic square mile. Within a few square blocks, there are countless historic sites to see, such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Museum of the American Revolution, and the Betsy Ross House.
There’s also a fun Spirit of Philadelphia cruise from Penn’s Landing, The Philadelphia Zoo, America’s first zoo, and great entertainment at the Walnut Street Theatre – America’s oldest theatre, the official state theatre of Pennsylvania and a national historic landmark. No visit to Philly would be complete without a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and of course, climbing its famous steps. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods; they all blend into each other making everything very accessible by foot.
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After a long day of sightseeing, visitors can easily access the thriving restaurant scene of Center City or visit one of the new pop-up parks on the waterfront like Cherry Street Pier or Spruce Street Harbor Park, all within about a 15-20 minute walk. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, also located on Independence Mall, is a perfect home base for travelers enjoying the historic sites in the neighborhood. The Red Owl Tavern, across from the Liberty Bell and in the Kimpton is a great spot for lunch or dinner.
Travelers seeking a lively, cultural and walkable city trip can look no further than Lexington — a bourbon-lovers’ dream destination with a rich legacy as the “Horse Capital of the World.”
A national historic landmark, Keeneland offers daily tours of the grounds, which include a visit to the Keeneland Library (where Laura Hillenbrand conducted research for Seabiscuit) the Sales Pavilion (where Triple Crown winner Justify was sold), and the iconic track (where morning visitors can watch horses complete their workouts).
For the connoisseur of world-renowned bourbon, Lexington’s Distillery District is steeped in the heritage of the spirit, offering a hip urban cocktail scene, unparalleled tastings, and exceptional culinary experiences with bourbon-infused dishes. Also, the James E. Pepper Distillery was originally founded during the American Revolution and is now newly restored for visitors seeking the original flavors that have earned this county its acclaim.
After a day of “spirited” fun, travelers can immerse themselves in Lexington’s culture at the 21c Museum Hotel, a contemporary art museum, and boutique hotel.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem continues to reinvent itself and is touted as North Carolina’s city of arts and innovation. Founded by Moravian settlers more than 250 years ago, Winston-Salem celebrates its roots most prominently at Old Salem Museums & Gardens, a 1766 Moravian settlement currently home to the renowned Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), Winkler Bakery (circa 1800), Salem College (the oldest operating women’s college in the U.S.), and more than a dozen historic buildings guided by costumed interpreters, all of which demonstrate a period trade.
Neighboring Winston-Salem’s nationally ranked downtown, Old Salem is just a couple of blocks from the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel. Opened as the first Kimpton in the Carolinas, the Cardinal is housed in the 1929 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Headquarters building in the heart of downtown. The iconic Art Deco structure is also the architectural prototype for the Empire State Building.
Walk out the back door of the hotel and into a completely reinvented district known as Wake Forest Innovation Quarter (WFIQ). Once abandoned tobacco warehouses, WFIQ is a thriving hub for biomedical research, nanotechnologies, urban parks and greenways, and a restored Bailey Power Plant which houses locally-owned restaurants and brewery, along with a center for entrepreneurial development.
And right out the front door of the Cardinal is bustling Fourth Street, known to locals as Restaurant Row. Considered an artery of downtown, Fourth Street serves as a connector to the Downtown Arts District, where visitors can shop dozens of galleries and boutiques, the newly redeveloped Industry Hill, home to a variety of music venues, craft breweries, and weekly Urban Market called Winston Junction, as well as the Historic West End, also known as Winston-Salem’s Front Porch because of the Victorian-era homes with iconic wrap-around porches. Stroll the West End and discover treasures at antique shops, a host of independent bakeries, and glass-blowing studio.
The historic town was founded by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1896. At his behest, city planners laid out the town with extra-wide streets so Buffalo Bill, founder of the Wild West Show and the most famous man in the world at the time, could easily turn his horse-drawn carriages around. The town’s main street, Sheridan Ave., continues to be the town’s hub, with numerous historic buildings located along its highly walkable sidewalks. This is an authentic frontier town with an array of attractions and authentic recreational opportunities. The town offers easy access to two of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park – the east and northeast gates – with many historic stops along the way.
While exploring Yellowstone, pack a pair of wireless earbuds like The Wicked Audio Arq, to listen to music or inspirational podcasts.
For a planned day excursion, the Cody Chamber of Commerce has developed a self-guided walking tour featuring more than 40 buildings around the town.
After a day of learning and exploring in Cody, settle in at The Chamberlin Inn – a boutique hotel just off the main drag of Sheridan Ave. Built in 1906 by Agnes Chamberlin, an employee of Buffalo Bill’s Cody Enterprise newspaper (still published today), Agnes and her husband operated the hotel and boarding house and once hosted Ernest Hemingway, who came to Cody to fish and hunt after completing “Death in the Afternoon.”
History buffs can see his signature on a guest book preserved in the inn’s conservatory while sipping a cocktail and enjoying live music.
For a more casual experience, there are numerous lodges within walking distance of downtown Cody, as well as dude and guest ranches, budget and luxury hotels, and bed and breakfasts.