In the early 1500s, Europeans arrived on the shores of Florida, and the period of exploration and colonization began. Travel from the banks of the Manatee River with De Soto to the shores of Plymouth with the Pilgrims:
6. De Soto National Memorial – Bradenton, Florida – A National Memorial built on the site of Hernando de Soto’s landing on the south side of Tampa Bay, FL. De Soto was the first Conquistador to explore the interior of the southern United States. He made landfall in May 1539, and then died in 1542, around Arkansas or Louisiana, The park in Bradenton has a visitor’s center, walking trails along the landing site on the Manatee river, and several replica buildings. Visit this site for more information on the park, and this site for more information on Hernando de Soto. If you are in Bradenton, you can also visit the South Florida Museum, which contains more artifacts from Florida’s history and the Spanish settlers, a planetarium, and an aquarium. The aquarium is home of Snooty the Manatee – the world’s oldest living manatee in captivity.
7. Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine, Florida – As the oldest masonry fort in the continental US, this fort in St. Augustine, Florida has been involved in much of the history of the US. Construction began on the fort in 1672 while Florida was part of the Spanish Empire. The fort has been occupied by Spanish and British forces, and had a part in the Confederacy in 1861. Today, the fort sits at the mouth of the Matanzas river, and is open to tours. If you are there in the evening, keep an eye on the river. Dolphins come up the river to feed right along the banks of the fort. Find more info here. Also, another historic place to visit in St. Augustine is the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
8. Fort Raleigh, Manteo, North Carolina – Roanoke Colony, the first English settlement in the US, was located on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. The colony was the site of the first English-speaking child born in the New World. Unfortunately, the colony disappeared sometime between 1587 and 1590. The Fort Raleigh Historic Site has a reconstructed earthen fort, a colony monument, walking trail, gardens, and a theatre, where the drama The Lost Colony is portrayed. Find more info here about Fort Raleigh, and here about Roanoke Island.
9. Jamestown – Jamestown, Virginia – Jamestown was the site of the first permanent English settlement in the United States, after several failed attempts. The settlement was established in 1607, and despite early struggles became a prosperous colony. At the Jamestown site, you can see the James Fort of 1607, the Pocahontas statue, the 17th century church tower, the Jamestown Memorial Church, a museum, palisades, the John Smith statue, and much more. Find more info on the Jamestown park here, and the history of Jamestown here.
10. Plymouth, Massachusetts – As the site of the Plymouth Colony of Separatists, also known as the Pilgrims, Plymouth is a town rich with history. The colony began with the settlement in 1620, and holds a special role in US history. Most settlements were founded by entrepreneurs, but in Plymouth a large proportion of the citizens were fleeing from religious persecution. In the area, you can visit the Pilgrim Memorial State Park, the Wampanoag Plimouth Plantation Homesite, Plymouth Rock, historic houses, and even whale watch!
11. Williamsburg, Virginia – Founded in 1632 as a fortified settlement on high ground between the James and York rivers, Williamsburg served as the capital of the Colony of Virginia from 1699-1780. It was also the center of political events in Virginia leading to the American Revolution. Colonial Williamsburg, the restored historic area, is a fantastic living history site to visit. Colonial Williamsburg even hosts Homeschool Days twice a year. You can read about Michelle Caskey’s family visit here, and Big Family Blessings has an article with tips after their family visit in September.
12. Mission San Luis de Apalachee – This site is a recreation of the original Mission San Luis de Apalachee, a Spanish Franciscan mission built in 1633 in the Florida Panhandle. The mission was part of Spain’s effort to colonize the region and lasted until 1704. Buildings on site include Spanish and Apalachee residential areas, the Franciscan Church, the Spanish fort, a native Council House, and a blacksmith shop. You can find more info here.
13. Charleston, South Carolina – Founded as Charles Town in 1670, Charleston is the oldest and second-largest city in South Carolina. The city is rich with history, and is a well preserved look back in time. In the city’s historic district, you can find The Pink House-Charleston’s oldest building, Rainbow Row-the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the US, the Charles Pickney National Historic Site, The Battery, Waterfront Park and the Pineapple Fountain, and the Old Slave Mart Museum. One thing to keep in mind, Charleston was a hub of much of the southern slave trade. The history runs deep in the city, so if this is a sensitive topic for your family, check sites before you visit.
14. French Quarter – New Orleans, Louisiana – The oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans, the French Quarter was founded in 1718. Most of the buildings date to before 1803, when Louisiana was acquired by the US. Since the 1920s, the historic buildings have been protected and the Old World feel of the neighborhood remains. Some of the most well known landmarks that you can see today are Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral.
15. Grand Portage National Monument – Cook County, Minnesota – Located on the north shore of Lake Superior, this monument preserves a vital center of fur trade activity and Native American heritage. The Grand Portage is an 8.5 mile footpath that bypasses a set of waterfalls and rapids on the last 20 miles of the Pigeon River before it flows into Lake Superior. It is part of the historic trade route of the French-Canadian voyagers between winter grounds and depots to the west. Visitors can hike the 8.5 miles, see volunteers and park staff in period attire, visit the Kitchen and Canoe Warehouse, and see a reenactment each August.
16. Savannah, Georgia – Founded in 1733 by James Oglethorpe, who arrived from England with 114 settlers, Savannah was the first capital of the 13th colony and later the first capital of Georgia. Savannah was also the first city in North America planned on an extensive system of squares. The city was laid out in a grid, and all development was planned around 24 squares. Thanks to city planners, Historic Savannah retains its Old World Southern Charm. You can visit the parks, historic homes and museums, Forsyth Park, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and the Savannah Theatre.
17. Fort Necessity National Battlefield – Wharton Township, Pennsylvania – This National Battlefield site preserves the site of the Battle of Fort Necessity, the first battle of the French and Indian War in the summer of 1754. The war was a clash of British, French, and American Indian cultures and resulted in the removal of French power from North America. This war lasted seven years and set the stage for the American Revolution a decade and a half later.
18. Mount Vernon – Fairfax County, Virginia – Mount Vernon is the plantation house of George Washington, the first President of the US. The home was built in the years before the American Revolution, and restored in the 1860s. You can tour the home and see how life was lived at the time of the Revolution. You can also take a virtual tour.
19. Monticello – Charlottesville, Virginia – The primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson. He began designing and building the plantation in 1772 at the age of 26 after inheriting the land from his father. Today, you can visit the house, gardens, and learn more about plantation life at the beginning of the American Revolution.
After 200 years of growth, tensions mount between the Colonies and the Old World. From the “Shot Heard Round the World” to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, experience the sights of the American Revolution:
To return to the main 100 United States Historic Sites to See While Homeschooling, click here.
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