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The American Revolutionary War was the greatest test of democracy the world had ever seen. After years of taxation from a king three thousand miles away, American colonists rose up in revolution and declared independence. By the end of the war, the United States was born, heroes were made, and battlefields sat in ruins.
Beginning with the first national historic park in 1938, the National Park Service has sought to preserve and interpret historic sites, battlefields, and memorials about the Revolutionary War. Across the east coast, 27 national park sites teach visitors about the American War for Independence with exhibits, guided tours, and self-guided walks across ancient battlefields.
Listed in alphabetical order, these national park sites are an excellent way to learn about the Revolutionary War and an exciting way to spend some time with the National Park Service. If you have visited any of these sites, or all of these sites, leave me a comment below and tell me about your experience there!
Adams National Historical Park
Two presidents were born on this historic property in Quincy, Massachusetts. The John Adams Birthplace is a two-story log structure built in 1681, purchased by Adams’ father in 1720, and in 1735 John Adams was born in the house. In 1774, Adams was elected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress, then the Second Continental Congress, and later nominated George Washington to take command of the Continental Army.
Visitors to the historic site can take guided tours of both the John Adams Birthplace and John Quincy Adams House. Inside visitors will find furnishings, artifacts, and the astounding Adams’ library that tells the story of the Revolutionary couple.
Adams National Historical Park 1250 Hancock Street, Quincy, MA | 617-770-1175 | www.nps.gov/adam/index.htm
Did you know?
In 1777, John Adams traveled to Paris to negotiate a treaty with France for support during the Revolutionary War. Adams’ wife, Abigail, urged him to take their oldest son with him on the year-long trip. His oldest son was John Quincy Adams, a future president of the United States.
Boston National Historical Park
While Philadelphia claims the title of the birthplace of America, Boston most definitely was the birthplace of the American Revolution. Key figures like Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere played essential roles leading up to and during the Revolutionary War. Boston National Historical Park preserves many structures that played parts in these historic moments.
Beginning at the Boston Common Visitors Center, the Freedom Trail winds through the city to several historical structures preserved in Boston National Historical Park. Old South Meeting House, Old State House, the Paul Revere House, and Old North Church are a few of those historic structures on the way to Charlestown Navy Yard. Many of the historic buildings are staffed and offer guided or self-guided tours.
Boston National Historical Park Building 5, Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA | 617-242-5601 | www.nps.gov/bost/index.htm
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Castillo de San Marcos was built by the Spanish from 1672-1695 when they controlled all of Florida. In 1763, England and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris, bringing the French and Indian War to an end. As a result of that treaty, Florida was ceded to British control. During the Revolutionary War, England used the fort as a prison for captured patriots. Among the prisoners were Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Visitors to the national monument can explore the incredible waterfront fortress on the Matanzas River, learn about the Spanish, British, and American history at the fort, and discover intriguing stories about the Revolutionary War.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument 1 South Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL | 904-829-6506 | www.nps.gov/casa/index.htm
Did you know?
In 1783, Florida was transferred back to Spanish control. But in 1821, two years after Spain signed the Adams-Onis Treaty, Florida was ceded to the United States. The Castillo de San Marcos was renamed Fort Francis Marion in honor of the Revolutionary War hero.
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
In 1778, at the age of 21, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney joined the local militia to defend Charleston during the Revolutionary War. When the British captured the city in 1780, Pinckney was imprisoned and eventually banished to Philadelphia. In 1784, Pinckney was one of four delegates from South Carolina to attend the Constitutional Convention, where he wrote an early draft of the Constitution.
Not much remains of the 715-acre Snee Farm, where Pinckney spent a good deal of his childhood. Today, the few acres that remain are preserved as the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. A late 1800s farmhouse serves as the visitor center and museum where visitors can learn of the Pinckney family and the “Forgotten Founder” of the United States.
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site 1254 Long Point Road, Mount Pleasant, SC | 843-881-5516 | www.nps.gov/chpi
Colonial National Historical Park
In 1781, after suffering defeats from General Nathaniel Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, British General Cornwallis moved north into Virginia in the hope of cutting off supplies to the south. Cornwallis marched to Yorktown, where he hoped to receive reinforcements from New York. However, the French navy intercepted. With General George Washington surrounding Cornwallis by land and the French by sea, Cornwallis had no choice but to surrender.
Visitors to the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center can see exhibits from the battle and learn about the historical event during the Revolutionary War. A self-guided path winds across the battlefield to a few remaining redoubts, although the original fort no longer exists.
Colonial National Historical Park 1000 Colonial Parkway, Yorktown, VA (Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center) | 757-898-3400 | www.nps.gov/colo/index.htm
Did you know?
In 1780, Henry Laurens traveled to the Netherlands to negotiate a treaty with the Dutch during the Revolutionary War. On the return voyage, a British frigate intercepted Laurens’ ship and, after learning of his intentions, arrested him for treason. Laurens became the first and only American to ever be held in the Tower of London.
On the last day of 1781, Laurens was freed during a prisoner exchange. The British prisoner released by the Americans was General Cornwallis.
Cowpens National Battlefield
When General Nathaniel Greene took command of the Continental Army in the Southern Campaign, he immediately detached a force under the command of Colonel Daniel Morgan and sent them into South Carolina. Fearing losing control of the frontier, British General Cornwallis sent Colonel Banastre Tarleton with 1,100 soldiers and dragoons to stop Morgan. The Battle of Cowpens was a disaster for the British. It became one of three pivotal battles that ultimately led to Cornwallis surrendering in Yorktown.
Today, visitors begin at the visitor center with a short film recreating the battle. A 30-minute leisure walk through the remarkably preserved battlefield includes information panels explaining different moments of the battle.
Cowpens National Battlefield 4001 Chesnee Highway, Gaffney, SC | 864-461-2828 | www.nps.gov/cowp/index.htm
Federal Hall National Memorial
In 1765, the Stamp Act Congress convened at New York City’s City Hall at 26 Wall Street. In many ways, the protest against “taxation without representation” during this congress led to the fight for American independence. After the Revolutionary War, the building was the site of George Washington’s inauguration as the first president of the United States.
Although that building was replaced in 1842 with the current Federal Hall, the national memorial is still a compelling place to visit to learn about the Revolutionary War. Exhibits inside discuss many historical events to happen at the previous City Hall and later in Federal Hall, including the use of the building as a precursor to the Federal Reserve Bank.
Federal Hall National Memorial 26 Wall Street, New York, NY | 212-825-6990 | www.nps.gov/feha
Fort Stanwix National Monument
In mid-1777, British General Burgoyne ordered three columns to converge on Albany, New York, to solidify control in New England. However, British General Barry St. Leger’s siege at Fort Stanwix on the way to Albany was a spectacular failure. Known as “the fort that never surrendered,” Colonel Peter Gansevoort thwarted the effort to secure the region.
Visitors to Fort Stanwix National Monument can enjoy self-guided walks through the wonderfully preserved for surrounded by a modern city. Begin with a tour through the museum at the Willet Education Center before taking a short walk across the bridge into the historic fort.
Fort Stanwix National Monument 100 North James Street, Rome, NY | 315-338-7730 | www.nps.gov/fost/index.htm
Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
In June 1776, a British force under the command of Commodore Sir Peter Parker and General Cornwallis attempted an early invasion of Charleston. While Cornwallis landed on nearby Isle of Palms, Parker sailed his fleet to a position near a simple fort on Sullivan’s Island under the command of Patriot Colonel William Moultrie. The grueling land and sea battle lasted nine hours; however, it was a victory for the Patriots that forced Parker and Cornwallis to retreat.
Nothing remains of the original palmetto log fort on Sullivan’s Island. However, in 1798 a new fort was completed on the site of the original and was named Fort Moultrie. Visitors to Fort Moultrie today can explore a small museum before walking across the road to explore the inside of the historic fort that saw action during the Civil War and both World Wars.
Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island, SC | 843-883-3123 | www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm
Did you know?
When Colonel William Moultrie was tasked with building a fort on Sullivan’s Island to protect Charleston from potential invasion, the only building materials readily available were palmetto trees. Unknown to Moultrie at the time, the spongy palmetto logs were perfect for absorbing canon fire from ground forces and ships, thus enabling him to repel the British invasion in 1776. The palmetto tree is the state tree of South Carolina and appears on the state flag.
George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
George Rogers Clark is one of the more obscure heroes of the Revolutionary War, but also has one of the most fascinating stories to discover. Before his 30th birthday, Clark would become the leader of the Kentucky Militia, sack two British forts on the western frontier, and end hostilities with Native Americans.
Visitors to George Rogers Clark National Historical Park can explore this history in the gargantuan memorial rotunda. Seven murals painted on the interior depict his history throughout the Revolutionary War.
George Rogers Clark National Historical Park 401 South 2nd Street, Vincennes, IN | 812-882-1776 | www.nps.gov/gero/index.htm
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
In 1657, John Washington established a plantation along Bridges Creek. In 1718, George Washington’s father began building the first section of the family home that would be named Wakefield. Fifteen years later, George Washington was born at Wakefield.
In 1779, Wakefield burned to the ground on Christmas Day and was never rebuilt. However, in 1931 the Wakefield National Memorial Association received a grant from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to purchase the historic plantation, transfer it to the National Park Service, and built a replica of Wakefield called the Memorial House.
Today, visitors can explore the Memorial House while learning about the birthplace of George Washington and visit the towering Birthplace Monument.
George Washington Birthplace National Monument 1732 Popes Creek Road, Colonial Beach, VA | 804-224-1732 | www.nps.gov/gewa/index.htm
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
A victory within a defeat. This is how the National Park Service describes the pivotal battle between Patriot General Nathaniel Greene and British General Charles Cornwallis that ultimately decided the fate of the Revolutionary War. The battle lasted less than three hours, and although Cornwallis was victorious, he paid for that victory dearly. Seven months later, with depleted forces from this battle, he would surrender to George Washington at Yorktown.
The site of the battle at Guilford Courthouse was one of the first to be preserved after the Revolutionary War, leading to one of the most intact battlefields today. Visitors begin at the museum to learn about critical moments of the battle and Southern Campaign, then hit the road on the one-lane, one-way auto touring route through the battlefield.
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park 2332 New Garden Road, Greensboro, NC | 336-288-1776 | www.nps.gov/guco/index.htm
Hamilton Grange National Memorial
Orphaned at an early age, Alexander Hamilton grew up in the West Indies. Proving his talents while working at a shipping company, Hamilton was provided the opportunity for formal education in America. In 1772, at the age of 17, Hamilton moved to New York to attend King’s College (now Columbia University).
Hamilton became an ardent supporter of independence while attending college. Shortly after the beginning of the Revolutionary War, he was commissioned as a Captain of Artillery. Later in the war, he would become an aid-de-camp to General George Washington from 1789-1795.
Visitors to Hamilton Grange National Memorial can take guided tours of the home Hamilton had built in 1802. During the tours, visitors will learn about Hamilton’s role during the Revolutionary War, the creation of the American financial system, and fatal duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.
Hamilton Grange National Memorial 414 West 141st Street, New York, NY | 646-548-2310 | www.nps.gov/hagr/index.htm
Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historical Park is the #1 national park site to visit in the country to learn about the birthplace of the United States. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Independence Hall. Then on September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution was signed by 39 delegates.
Among the nearly two dozen historic places visitors can explore are Independence Hall, the First Bank of the United States, Benjamin Franklin’s house, and the location of the Liberty Bell. Guided tours are offered at some places, while other sites are self-guided at your own pace.
Independence National Historical Park 559 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA | 215-965-2305 | www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm
Kings Mountain National Military Park
The Battle of Kings Mountain was unique because it was the only battle of the Revolutionary War that did not involve any British soldiers. Loyalist militiamen under the command of Scottish-born Colonel Patrick Ferguson were marching through the South Carolina upcountry when they were attacked. Patriot militias from Tennessee and Virginia, known today as the Overmountain Men, had marched across the rugged terrain to meet with South Carolina militia forces. The Patriots surrounded the Loyalists on Kings Mountain, leading to another pivotal battle that determined the Southern Campaign.
READ MORE: The 7 National Park Sites in South Carolina
Visitors to Kings Mountain National Military Park begin with one of the best recreation films at a national park site for the Revolutionary War. An excellent museum includes a 3D interactive model of the battle. A short loop trail winds around the battlefield with monuments and memorials dedicated to those who fought in the battle.
Kings Mountain National Military Park 2625 Park Road, Blacksburg, SC | 864-936-7921 | www.nps.gov/kimo/index.htm
Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site
In 1775, immediately after taking command of the Continental Army, George Washington made the Longfellow House in Cambridge his headquarters during the Siege of Boston. Washington remained at this house until early 1776 when the British evacuated Boston.
In 1837, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow moved to Cambridge to teach at Harvard College. He rented a room in this house from the current owners. During the forty years Longfellow lived in the house, he memorialized the Revolutionary War with many poems, including Paul Revere’s Ride.
Visitors to the historic home can take guided tours from rangers during the regular operating season. Stories of George Washington and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow fill the air during the tours.
Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site 105 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA | 617-876-4491 | www.nps.gov/long/index.htm
Did you know?
The Longfellow House was built in 1759 for John Vassall, whose brother-in-law was the royal lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Vassall was a loyalist, and in 1774, shortly before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, he fled Cambridge when he learned Patriots were intent on seizing his home.
Minute Man National Historical Park
In 1775, “the shot heard round the world” was fired in Concord, Massachusetts. A contingent of British troops had marched from Boston to Concord twenty-two miles away to secure ammunition and gunpowder stored there. A militia group, now known as the Minute Men, blocked passage on the North Bridge just outside town. The rest is history.
Minute Man National Historical Park is an interesting linear park between Lexington and Concord. The 900-acre park preserves the route the British traveled, several historic homes, and the historic North Bridge site.
Minute Man National Historical Park 250 North Great Road, Lincoln, MA | 978-369-6993 | www.nps.gov/mima/index.htm
Did you know?
In 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the poem “Concord Hymn” to memorialize the event at the North Bridge. Emerson was a Boston native who spent many summers with his grandfather in Concord, who had witnessed the event at the North Bridge from his home.
Moores Creek National Battlefield
Early in 1776, a group of 1,600 Scottish Highlanders marched across a partially dismantled Moores Creek Bridge. On the other side, 1,000 Patriot militiamen waited for a surprise attack. It would become the first Patriot victory in the Revolutionary War and spurred North Carolina to become the first colony to vote for independence a few months later.
Today, visitors can cross a recreation of the Moores Creek Bridge at the same location, tour a few exhibits at the visitors center, and walk the History Trail around several monuments dedicated to the battle.
Moores Creek National Battlefield 40 Patriots Hall Drive, Currie, NC | 910-283-5591 | www.nps.gov/mocr/index.htm
Morristown National Historical Park
After making his infamous crossing of the Delaware River in the winter of 1776, General George Washington brought the Continental Army to Morristown, New Jersey, for the first of two winter encampments; the latter would happen in 1779-1780.
Morristown National Historical Park preserves the Jacob Ford Mansion, where Washington made his headquarters during the winter encampment. Visitors to the historic site can walk through the Jockey Hollow encampment area and take tours of the mansion.
Morristown National Historical Park 30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ | 973-539-2016 | www.nps.gov/morr/index.htm
Ninety Six National Historical Site
From November 19-21, 1775, the first southern land battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in the small frontier settlement of Ninety Six, South Carolina. That initial battle ended with a truce, but in 1781 a Patriot force sent by General Nathaniel Greene sieged the fort manned by Loyalists.
Visitors to Ninety Six National Historical Site can take a leisure walk through the remains of two forts, the original town, and learn about the historic battle. The Star Fort is remarkably intact and one of the best remaining examples of 18th-century earthen fortifications in the country.
Ninety Six National Historical Site 1103 Highway 248 South, Ninety Six, SC | 864-543-4068 | www.nps.gov/nisi/index.htm
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
In the late 1700s, settlers ignored the mandate of the Treaty of Lochaber and began settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. After British General Cornwallis captured Camden in 1780, he ordered Major Patrick Ferguson to seek out more loyalists in the South Carolina backcountry. Ferguson issued a threat to the “Overmountain Men” that if they did not lay down their arms, he would attack them.
In September 1780, Overmountain Men militias Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina began a long march to Morganton, North Carolina, where the combined militia under the command of Colonels Isaac Shelby and John Sevier continued to Kings Mountain. There, the militia surrounded Ferguson’s loyalist army and defeated them at the Battle of Kings Mountain.
The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail is a 330-mile Commemorative Motor Route across Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina that includes an additional 87 miles of trails along the historic route and nearly two dozen historical sites to visit. Some of the best places to visit include the Muster Grounds in Abingdon, Virginia; Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, Tennessee; Museum of North Carolina Minerals on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Spruce Pine, North Carolina; and Cowpens National Battlefield in Chesnee, South Carolina.
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail 864-461-2828 | www.nps.gov/ovvi/
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
When the Revolutionary War began, the British had a significant advantage of sea power because the Patriots had no formal navy. Instead, the Continental Congress turned to privateers for support in capturing British ships.
In 1938, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site became the first national historic site established in the United States. Spread out across 9 acres with a dozen structures to explore, the national historic site preserves and interprets the history of early maritime trade, the privateers of the Revolutionary War, and maritime development of the early United States.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site 2 New Liberty Street, Salem, MA | 978-740-1650 | www.nps.gov/sama
Saratoga National Historical Park
In early 1777, British General Burgoyne ordered three columns to converge on Albany, New York, to solidify British control of the northeast. Burgoyne met massive resistance from Patriot forces at Saratoga, resulting in a two-month battle. In the end, Burgoyne became the first British commander to surrender to American troops during the Revolutionary War. The result of this battle also helped bring France into the war on the American side.
Visitors to Saratoga National Historical Park can enjoy a one-lane, one-way driving tour through the historic battlefield site, hiking trails connecting various places, and learn about the pivotal battle.
Saratoga National Historical Park 648 Route 32, Stillwater, NY | 518-670-2985 | www.nps.gov/sara/index.htm
Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site
In 1763, after the French and Indian War, the people of Eastchester, New York began construction on a gorgeous stone and brick church. When the Revolutionary War swept through the area, Saint Paul’s Church was incomplete and unoccupied. As a result, the empty building was used as a field hospital by Patriot, British, and Hessian forces.
Today, visitors can take a guided tour of the historic church, a self-guided tour of the grounds and cemetery, or attend a special event.
Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site 867 South Columbus Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY | 914-667-4116 | www.nps.gov/sapa/index.htm
Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial
Born in Poland, Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a brilliant engineer and military leader without a war to fight. In 1776, after learning about the beginning of the American Revolutionary War while living in France, Kosciusko paid his own way to Philadelphia, where he joined the Continental Army. For the first few years, Kosciuszko designed fortifications around many vital sites in New England. Itching for a fight, though, General George Washington granted his transfer request to a fighting unit, and he soon found himself in South Carolina.
The Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial is located inside the home, where he lived for a time in Philadelphia. Visitors can explore exhibits highlighting his accomplishments during the Revolutionary War and his fight for Polish independence.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial 301 Pine Street, Philadelphia, PA | 215-965-2305 | www.nps.gov/thko/
Thomas Stone National Historic Site
Thomas Stone was a lawyer and owner of a small plantation in Maryland. As the American Revolution grew more certain, Stone became a prominent figure as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In 1776, Stone was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
At Thomas Stone National Historic Site, visitors can explore his history as a lawyer and planter, Revolutionary War politician, and later life. The National Park Service site includes several historic buildings to explore with guided and self-guided tours.
Thomas Stone National Historic Site 6655 Rose Hill Road, Port Tobacco, MD | 301-392-1776 | www.nps.gov/thst/index.htm
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Late in 1777, British General Howe surprisingly attacks Philadelphia and quickly overwhelms the small Patriot force protecting the American capital. General George Washington immediately moved to recapture the city, but he was defeated at the Battle of Germantown. With the seasons changing, Washington had no choice but to retreat to nearby Valley Forge to settle in for the winter of 1777-1778.
Visitors to the 3,500-acre national historical park can explore historic buildings, sites, and monuments along an auto touring route. There are also several hiking trails, biking trails, and historic trails to enjoy.
Valley Forge National Historical Park 1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, PA | 610-783-1000 | www.nps.gov/vafo/index.htm