Discover America’s National Historic Sites

Explore our nation’s past through a vast network of protected parks, buildings, battlefields and troves of American culture that commemorate tragedy and triumph, while celebrating progress and rights.

Most people think of grand mountain vistas, dramatic canyons, and deep forests when they think about the National Park Service (NPS). But did you know that more than half of NPS sites highlight American history, not natural landscapes? From famous landmarks like the Liberty Bell and birthplaces of presidents to lesser-known sites that honor scientific discoveries, civil rights leaders, and industrial developments, the historic places that the NPS protects are treasure troves of American culture. You don’t have to be a history professor to appreciate a visit to one of our nation’s hundreds of worthwhile historic sites. 

What are national historic sites?

Our national historic parks range from single buildings to sprawling preserves encompassing sites in several states. They fall under several designations: National historical parks include multiple different stories from different points in history, while national historic sites focus on a single historic moment. Military sites might be called national military parks, national battlefields, or national battlefield parks. Some historic parks have national monument status. Additionally, national historic landmarks could be buildings, sites, structures, or even objects. Finally, national heritage areas combine historic, cultural, and natural resources. What do they all have in common? A way of bringing history to life, from sites of trauma and hardship to moments of triumph. 

Who manages them?

The NPS handles the country’s historic areas. Visitors will likely find interpretive rangers at work in them, leading historic programs and answering questions. 

What can you do there?

National historic places excel at bringing the past to life through access to important sites, buildings, and artifacts—plus plenty of compelling storytelling via guided or self-guided tours and living history events. But visitors can often also go for a hike, scope for birds and wildlife, camp, bike, or stargaze. 

Top Historic Sites To Explore

The Classics

If you can remember an event from your high school history class, it’s probably commemorated by the NPS.

Independence National Historical Park - PA

This Philadelphia park preserves several iconic locations from the Revolutionary War, including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were crafted and signed. Learn more on a guided tour and check out the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

Gettysburg National Military Park - PA

The most famous battle of the Civil War was fought here (50 miles northwest of Baltimore), and the Union’s victory marked a major turning point in the conflict—as well as the deadliest battle of the war. Attend a living history war encampment, tour the critical battle sites, check out the fascinating museum, and see where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park - GA

Walk in the footsteps of the legendary Civil Rights leader at this Atlanta park, which includes his birth home and the church where he preached. Visit both, plus the King Center (Dr. King’s final resting place) and the World Peace Rose Garden.

Indigenous History

Sites across the country interpret the nation’s dark history of forced removal and genocide, but also celebrate Indigenous culture. 

Chaco Culture National Historical Park - NM

Not only is this desert park (located in northwestern New Mexico) a center of Ancestral Puebloan civilization from 850 to 1250 AD, complete with numerous ruins, it’s also a wonderful place for stargazing (designated as an International Dark Sky Park), road biking, and camping. 

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument - MT

Here, in 1876, Lakota and Cheyenne warriors defeated the U.S. Army cavalry under Lt. Colonel George A. Custer—aka “Custer’s Last Stand”—in one of the last armed battles aimed at preserving Indigenous culture. Tour the site (located an hour east of Billings) with an Apsaalooke (Crow) guide and visit memorials to the fallen on both sides.

Nez Perce National Historical Park - ID/MT/OR/WA

Thirty-eight sites in four states tell the story of Nimíipuu (Nez Perce) history and culture, from archeological ruins to battle sites. Major events commemorated in this far-flung park include when the Nimíipuu taught members of the Lewis and Clark expedition to carve canoes and the tragic Flight of 1877. 

Wartime Stories

Many U.S. historic sites focus on military matters, but they go beyond battlefields to include some of the many other consequences of war. 

Amache National Historic Site - CO

Designated in 2022, this new addition to the NPS tells the story of Japanese Americans unjustly confined to internment camps during World War II. Take a self-guided driving and audio tour, see barracks and a recreation hall, and visit the historic cemetery of this rural, southeastern Colorado site. 

Minute Man National Historical Park - MA

The opening shots of the American Revolution were fired here in 1775. Besides attending a guided ranger program or visiting restored buildings and bridges (just northwest of Boston), visitors can see history in action through battle reenactments.

Civil Rights

A number of sites celebrate bold leaders and key moments in the nation’s ongoing push for equal rights for all. 

César E. Chávez National Monument - CA

This site honoring the famed Latino labor leader is still being developed in Kern County (two hours north of Los Angeles), but you can already stop by a visitor center and memorial garden where Chávez is buried. 

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site - AR

The story of the struggle for equal education in America wouldn’t be complete without this school, where federal troops had to enforce nine Black students’ new right to attend an all-white school in 1957. Take in the exhibits in the visitor center and attend a guided tour of the area.

Stonewall National Monument - NY

A police raid on a nightclub on this Lower Manhattan site in 1969 led to a major uprising for LQBTQ+ rights. Take a guided tour of the site and the adjacent park and streets to learn more about that fateful night and its aftermath.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.