Published July 21, 2012
No region of the American landscape captures the saga of the United States better than the Eastern Seaboard. From the struggle for independence to the more recent battle against terrorism, the East Coast has become home to a trove of must-see historical landmarks.
Here are four destinations along a 450-mile stretch of U.S. Interstate 95 you can't afford to miss when exploring the moments that helped shape the American experience.
There's no better starting point for a U.S. history tour than Boston's Freedom Trail. This brick-lined path takes history buffs on a 2.5-mile journey to the spots where the seeds of American independence were planted.
The Freedom Trail gives visitors an opportunity to stand on the site of the Boston Massacre and visit the Paul Revere House, where the famous silversmith set forth on horseback in 1775 to alert local militia to the approaching British troops.
The north end of the Freedom Trail leads into Charlestown, where visitors can explore the site of one of the first major Revolutionary War battles at Bunker and Breed's Hill and board the nearby USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat.
The story of the United States cannot be told without mentioning its rich diversity, and no place in the country better represents this ethnic melting pot than New York City.
Nearly half of Americans today can trace their family tree to someone who entered the U.S. at Ellis Island, where 12 million immigrants came ashore in New York harbor between 1892 and 1954. Included in this tour is a visit to the Statue of Liberty, the iconic symbol of freedom and democracy that embodies the American spirit.
And no spot in the country captures the resiliency of that spirit better than the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan. The former site of the World Trade Center towers has been transformed into a stunning and humbling memorial to the nearly 3,000 men and women who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Boston may be responsible for igniting the flame of independence, but no American city played a more crucial role in the birth of the United States than Philadelphia.
This history lover's paradise is home to Independence Hall, the old Pennsylvania State House where the Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for a new nation. After examining this spot where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed, head across the street to get an up-close look at the Liberty Bell, with the famous crack running down its center.
Before you leave the City of Brotherly Love, be sure to pay homage to one of the most revered figures in American history, Benjamin Franklin. Visitors not only can check out Franklin Court, an underground museum that sits on the site where Franklin's home once stood, but also visit the legendary statesman's grave at nearby Christ Church.
Washington, D.C. not only serves as the nation's capital, but also as a testament to the country's history through its stunning architecture.
Visitors should stop by the U.S. Capitol Building, White House and Supreme Court Building to explore the government's three branches of power.
The city also is home to a trove of memorials honoring important figures and events in American history, including Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and the awe-inspiring Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Before ending your visit to Washington, D.C. take time to check out some of the city's astonishing museums, including the popular Smithsonian and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.