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Historic Vacation Destinations in the US

Ever get the feeling that your friends and family are constantly finding excuses to get away from your getaway? Maybe it's time for a different perspective and try something new for the next summer outing. Why not embark on a backpedal journey around the country - a historic vacation.

History-themed holidays are a creative way to directly augment your child's education while inspiring enjoyable family time. Whether they're as imposing as buildings or as subtle as its markers, coming in contact with historic relics provokes a deeper sense of appreciation for people, places, events, and ideas that shaped who we are today. It yields a better understanding of human values and the part it played in their daily lives. What's great is you don't even have to head out far to experience these treasures; just start at your local town square. For those of us up for a road trip, the National Park Service has listed the top 10 most visited national historic parks and their visitor count from 2004.

1. Great Smokey Mountains National Park - 9,167,048
2. World War II Memorial - 5,382,498
3. Grand Canyon National Park - 4,326,234
4. Independence National Historic Park - 4,087,918
5. San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park - 4,055,079
6. Lincoln Memorial - 3,988,650
7. Vietnam Veterans Memorial - 3,789,889
8. Statue of Liberty - 3,618, 053
9. Korean War Memorial - 3,610,796
10. Colonial National Historic Park - 3,327,573

However, to get off the beaten track and avoid the crowds, we present a few other interesting historic vacation places worth including on your next historic vacation itinerary.

Canterbury Shaker Village

In Canterbury, New Hampshire is Canterbury Shaker Village, a 694-acre patch of land with forests, ponds, and grassland. It opened in 1969 with the goal of preserving the customs and traditions of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, more commonly known as Shakers. Restored buildings depict their function and placement within the grounds, just as if one were to visit it a century and a half ago. Guided tours are offered, each tackling a specific subject about the Shakers or a building within the village. Be sure to drop by the Village Farm Stand for in season produce that are always garden-fresh. The Museum Store has books, oval boxes, and many other items showcasing the remarkable Shaker craftsmanship. The village is open daily beginning May 14 through October 30, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas..

Boston National Historic Park

Well-known to be the setting of many important events in American history, Boston is as progressive as it is reverent of its past. In its desire to ensure the public gets the most from visiting this city, the Freedom Trail was established. This walking tour extends 3 miles and takes about 90 minutes, with 16 stops that include Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, and the USS Constitution-"the oldest commissioned ship afloat." Likewise, don't forget to check out the Black Heritage Trail, a 1.6 mile walking tour winding through Beacon Hill and includes 15 sites essaying a 19th century African-American community. In addition, there are special events held from time to time like the Institute of Contemporary Art artist-in-residence program. This is located at the Charleston Navy Yard, part of the Freedom Trail, and is open from noon to 5 PM. Currently featured is "The Secret Ark of Icon Park," an interactive outdoor exhibit running through October 10, 2005. Visitor assistance is available by calling (617) 242-5642 or through the website at http://www.nps.gov/bost

Ellis Island National Monument

If the Statue of Liberty is viewed as the shimmering gateway to America, Ellis Island was, from 1892 to 1954, the stern-faced security guard that evaluated immigrants before they're allowed to enter the US. Walking through the rooms of the redbrick building, visitors can follow the immigration procedure step by step which starts at the Great Hall or Registration Room. Photographs, clothes, posters, ship logbooks, and luggage are displayed across three dozen galleries as well as interactive multimedia presentations that tell of the island's history. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, built behind the Main Building, lists the names of some 600,000 immigrants from various ports of entry. It is said that about 40% of all Americans can trace their family history to a man, woman, or child who entered the United States through Ellis Island. The park has free admission and is open daily except on Christmas day. For park inquiries, call (212)363-3200 or go to http://www.ellisisland.org

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

One of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, the Cahokia Mounds located northeast of St. Louis, Missouri, is described as "the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico". There are over 100 documented mounds built by what are known to be the Woodland Indians around 800 A.D. and was the urban center of Mississippian culture. Monks Mound is the centerpiece of the 14-acre site. It is the largest man-made earth formation in the Western Hemisphere. Public tours last for one hour and available on weekends at 1:30 PM. A good jump-off point would be http://www.cahokiamounds.com which contains extensive information on the site both as a cultural and archeological resource.

There is no shortage of monuments and parks no matter what part of the country you live in. As long as you have a well-planned itinerary, factor in each individual's interests, and have an appetite for adventure, a vacation with history will be as fresh and exciting. This is going to be more evident when instead of cramming into the station wagon, you find yourself loading up the van for your next historic vacation destination!