Best National Park Service Sites for History Buffs

The American National Park Service doesn’t only manage the national parks, which are by all accounts the stars of their shows. They do also take care of a bunch of other sites all over the country. This includes, for example, 10 national seashores, 3 national scenic trails, 20 national memorials, 15 national rivers, 25 national military or battlefield parks, and no fewer than 125 national historic sites and historical parks. The grand total of official National Park Service sites is 417. In this post we’ll zoom in on the latter—the national historical parks. These are without question the best National Park Service sites for history buffs.

Top 7 Best National Park Service Sites for History Buffs

First off, let’s make it clear that the following is a very limited (and arbitrary) top 7 list of the best National Park Service sites for history lovers. After all, when picking only five out of more than several dozens, there’s bound to be some awesome ones that are left out. That said, though, the following sites are among the most significant in the entire USA.

If you want to learn more about a specific aspect of American history, these are the seven units you’ll want to visit. They represent American heritage like no other places in the country. Note that there are roughly two separate, major parts of American history—colonial and pioneering sites, and Native American sites. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find most of the former on the East Coast and the majority of the latter in the West.

7. Appomattox Court House, Virginia

Appomattox Court House, Virginia - National Park Service Sites for History Buffs
Appomattox Court House

The American Civil War was brought to end at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865. At this very place, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, arguably the most significant event in the United States since the creation of the country. This superb national historical park contains the McLean House, where both generals met, and pleasant hiking trails.

6. New Bedford Whaling, Massachusetts

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park - National Park Service Sites for History Buffs
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, by Rolf Müller – CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Herman Melville based parts of his epic novel “Moby Dick” in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The coastal town the whaling capital of America in the 1800 and is now home the largest museum about whaling in the country. The national historical park encompasses the museum, a schooner, a historic district and a couple of other interesting sites.

5. San Antonio Missions, Texas

San Antonio Missons - National Park Service Sites for History Buffs
San Antonio Missons

Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protecting four out of five Spanish missions in San Antonio, Texas, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park showcases a vital part of history in the southern United States. These missions were part of a Spanish colonization system that extended all over the Southwest, which was Spanish territory in the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries. The park encompasses the Missions Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan Capistrano and Espada, along with hiking and biking trails.

4. Chaco Culture, New Mexico


Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chaco Culture National Historical Park is arguably the single greatest place to learn about Ancient Puebloan culture in all America. It features the densest concentration of pueblos in the Southwest and the most spectacular collection of ruins north of Mexico. Home to many thousands of people from 850 to 1250 AD, Chaco Canyon is now one of America’s greatest historic sites. There are hiking and biking trails, ranger talks, guided tours and night sky programs. The park is also a designated International Dark Sky Park.

3. Boston, Massachusetts

Old State House in Boston - National Park Service Sites for History Buffs
Old State House in Boston

The Boston National Historical Park is essentially the same as the famous “Freedom Trail”. This walking tour through one of America’s oldest cities takes you past seven significant historical landmarks. These sites take you back through the centuries, to momentous events just before and during the Revolutionary War, like the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Boston Massacre. Important buildings include Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, the Old State House and the Charlestown Navy Yard.

2. Independence, Pennsylvania

Independence Hall - National Park Service Sites for History Buffs
Independence Hall

Perhaps the most important single building in the entire United States, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence was discussed and eventually adopted in the late-18th century. The historical park is often called “the most historic square mile in America”. It comprises Independence Hall itself, the Liberty Bell Center and Philadelphia’s historic Society Hill and Old City neighborhoods.

1. Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia

Colonial Parkway - National Park Service Sites for History Buffs
Colonial Parkway, Colonial National Historical Park

No park is as significant to America’s history as Virginia’s Colonial National Historical Park is. Here, you can witness centuries of American history, from the first English colony to the end of the Revolutionary War. This phenomenal park consists of five different units, all showcasing a different aspect of the nation’s history. These units are the Colonial Parkway, the Jamestown settlement, Yorktown Battlefield, the Cape Henry Memorial and the Green Spring Plantation. Of all these awesome National Park Service sites for history buffs, this is unquestionably the most important one.

Have you ever visited any of these National Park Service sites for history buffs? Did you visit another one that you think belongs on this list? Tell us in the comments below!

About Bram


Bram is a Belgian guy who's currently living in the USA. For over four years now, he has been wandering the globe, with jobs here and there in between. So far, his travels have taken him to four continents and twenty-two countries. Bram likes to try different styles of travelling: from backpacker and adventurer to tourist and local, he has been all those stereotypes and probably will be many more in the future. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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