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11 Places to Explore Military History in the US

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Vacations don’t always have to be beaches and cocktails, though I don’t mind when they do!

How about a trip to learn more about military history in the United States? It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the history of the US.

Check out 11 amazing places where you can explore military history in the USA.

Arlington, VA

Visit Arlington National Cemetery and more in Arlington, VA - one of 11 interesting destinations where you can explore military history in the US.

Visit Arlington National Cemetery, the national military cemetery, where many service men and women are laid to rest.

The cemetery was established in the mid 1800s at the end of the Civil War. It now has over 400,000 service people buried there.

The Arlington National Cemetery has several memorials on grounds, most notably the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Currently, the Tomb of the Unknowns houses the remains of 3 unidentified US soldiers.

At one time, remains from a Vietnam War era soldier were also buried there. The remains were moved to a marked grave after the identity was confirmed.

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the Department of Defense, is also in Arlington, VA.

Tours of select areas in the Pentagon are available by request only. You need to submit a request least 2 weeks before your preferred date.

Requests for Pentagon tours are not guaranteed. However, visitors can see the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial without a reservation.

The memorial features benches that honor each of the 184 who lost their lives at the Pentagon or aboard American Airlines flight 77.

For those interested in studying the Civil War, be sure to visit Fort C.F. Smith Park, a former Union Army fort.

Remains of fort structures, a well, gun emplacements and more still stand on the park grounds, amid gardens and trails.

Learn about the Revolutionary War in Boston, MA

Walk the Freedom Trail and more in Boston, MA - one of 11 interesting destinations where you can explore military history in the US.

Explore the American Revolutionary War and other eras of military history in the US in Boston, MA.

Walk the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile trek that links many of Boston’s historic locations and monuments, such as the Bunker Hill Monument.

At Charlestown Navy Yard, also off the Freedom Trail, you can visit 2 museum ships, the USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young.

Just south of Boston, you can visit the United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum, including the USS Salem, the only heavy cruiser from post-World War II era that still exists today.

Cross the Charles River to Cambridge, MA to visit the Longfellow House, which served as the headquarters of George Washington during the Seige of Boston in the late 1700s. It later became the home of Henry Longfellow, a 19th century poet.

Learn about the Civil War in Gettysburg, PA

Explore the Gettysburg battlefield and more in Gettysburg, PA - one of 11 interesting destinations where you can explore military history in the US.

Learn more about military history in the US, specifically the Civil War in Gettysburg, PA.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War. Not only was it the deadliest battle of the Civil War, but it is also where former President Lincoln delivered the “Gettysburg Address” speech.

Aside from touring the battlefield, you can pay respects at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, where many soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War are buried.

Visit the Rupp House to see what home life was like during the Civil War era and tour George Spangler Farm to see what a working field hospital was like during the Civil War and visit other preserved structures. There’s also a visitor’s center with exhibits, refreshments and a bookstore.

Given that Gettysburg is a National Military Park managed by the US National Park system, US park rangers lead scheduled tours throughout the day.

Topics vary throughout the day and can each month or season. Upcoming topics include “living history” demonstrations of artillery, tools, and so on, as well as expert-led tours in certain areas of the park.

Learn about World War II in Oahu, Hawaii

Explore Pearl Harbor and more in Hawaii - one of 11 interesting destinations where you can explore military history in the US.

Hawaii is where the US involvement in World War II began, making it an important destination for those studying military history in the US.

Visit Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, where the Japanese led a surprise strike, dragging the US into World War II.

At Pearl Harbor, you can visit the USS Arizona memorial, where you can pay respects to the over 1,100 sailors and marines that perished with the sunken battleship.

Nearby is the USS Missouri, the naval battleship where the truce to end World War II happened. Another WWII era ship that you can visit is the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.

Aside from several impressive WWII era ships and subs, you can also peep WWII era planes and the Ford Island control tower at the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Learn about World War I in Kansas City, Missouri

Visit Kansas City, Missouri to visit the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial has a permanent collection of artifacts, as well as rotating exhibits. Discussions, films and special events are also held.

Visit Independence, MO, just outside Kansas City, to see the battlefields of the Civil War Battle of Independence and Battle of the Little Blue.

Also in Independence is the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, which also includes the resting place of former Commander-in-Chief & President Harry S. Truman.

Learn about World War II in New Orleans, LA

The National World War II Museum sits just outside the French Quarter district in New Orleans.

Visit Washington Artillery Park along the south side of Jackson Square, along the riverbank. Here you can see a model 1861 Parrot Rifle that was used in the Civil War.

The park boasts gorgeous views of the river, as well as Jackson Square, and honors the 141st Field Artillery of the Louisiana National Guard.

In the Lower Ninth Ward, you can visit the Jackson Barracks Military Museum, where you can see artifacts from several war eras and learn more about the history of the Louisiana National Guard.

New Orleans also has several monuments throughout the city that might be worth a look depending on your military history interests, such as the Chalmette Monument (War of 1812), Victory Arch (WWI), Spanish American War Monument and the Vietnam War Memorial.

There’s also Molly Marine, a statue dedicated to women who serve or have served in the US Marines.

New York, NY

Visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum where you can pay your respects to those that lost their lives as a result of the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Head to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex where you can explore the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that served in 3 wars (WWII, Cold War & Vietnam War).

Aside from this museum’s namesake exhibit, you can also explore the USS Growler submarine, the Enterprise space shuttle and the British Airways Concorde, a supersonic passenger plane. The museum features other aircraft and artifacts.

Lastly, there are several interactive experiences available, including a G-Force Encounter, Transporter FX flight simulator, and a 4-D film.

Explore the Intrepid Museum and more in New York City - one of 11 interesting destinations where you can explore military history in the US.

Also in New York City, is the General Grant National Memorial where former Commander-in-Chief & President Ulysses S.

Grant, who served during the Civil War, is laid to rest alongside his wife, Julia Dent Grant. The memorial is the largest mausoleum in North America.

Philadelphia, PA

Visit Independence Hall, where the Army, Navy, and Marines were all created. Independence Hall is also the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

You can learn more about how the Army, Navy, and Marines started at the New Hall Military Museum.

If the Constitution is of interest, be sure to stop by the National Constitution Center. It is the only museum dedicated to the Constitution of the United States. You’ll have to go to D.C. to see the original copy, though!

Visit the National Liberty Museum to learn more about the Medal of Honor and view artwork celebrating freedom and liberty.

War ship enthusiasts must visit Independence Seaport Museum to see the Cruiser Olympia battleship and Becuna submarine.

Cross the Delaware River to New Jersey to visit the Battleship New Jersey, the US’ most decorated battleship.

Throughout the historic section of Philadelphia, you might meet various military-related reenactments. For example, a Continental Army soldier who teaches marching and musket etiquette. It’s a unique way to learn about military ways during past eras.

The Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a lovely memorial to Vietnam War veterans is also a recommended visit.

The design is similar to the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, DC, but only has the names of local lives lost while serving during this era.

Another memorial worthy of a visit is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington Square.

Visit Fort Mifflin, the longest standing fort in use in the US. Fort Mifflin was built for use in the American Revolutionary War and was in active use for wars through World War II.

Parts of the fort are still used by the Army Corps of Engineers, but most of the fort is available to tour.

Pittsburgh, PA

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum is the only museum in the US that is dedicated to all branches of the US armed forces and features all conflicts the US armed forces have seen.

This museums features uniforms, artwork and artifacts throughout the years. They are also working on a veterans registry and hope to remake the space outside the museum as a remembrance park.

If military ships are your thing, head over to the Carnegie Science Center, where you can hop on board the USS Requin submarine.

Learn more about Pittsburgh + Western Pennsylvania’s role in the French & Indian War and American Revolution at the Fort Pitt Museum.

Visit Bushy Run Battlefield, where Native Americans battled British troops in Pontiac’s War.

Lastly, explore the Pennsylvania Military History Museum, which has a focus on Pennsylvania’s contributions to the armed forces and residents who served.

Learn about the Civil War in Springfield, Illinois

Another great destination for Civil War buffs is Springfield, Illinois. Springfield is the hometown of former US President Abraham Lincoln.

In Springfield, you can visit Abraham Lincoln’s home, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and even the Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Also in Springfield, Illinois, is the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum. Nearby is Camp Butler National Cemetery, which was once a Union training camp and prison during the Civil war.

US military memorials and museums in Washington, DC

Explore the many military and war memorials and museums and more in Washington, DC - one of 11 interesting destinations where you can explore military history in the US.

US Military Memorials in Washington, DC

Washington, DC has many memorials commemorating those that served in the military, as well as for most conflicts.

My favorite memorials to visit are the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The design of both are quite breathtaking and a wonderful tribute to the men and women who served during these conflicts.

One of the newest military related memorials is the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. This memorial was purposely designed to sit within view of the US Capitol building as a reminder to the Congress of the cost of war aside from loss of lives.

The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum provides an all too often overlooked perspective of the Civil War. It’s also a good spot to visit for those interested in genealogy.

US Military History at Museums in Washington, DC

President Lincoln’s Cottage is another unique look at the Civil War.

The cottage includes a few permanent Civil War related exhibits, but also hosts special exhibits too. Also featured is the desk on which President Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History is another military history museum with a unique perspective. The museum has a heavy focus on World War II, but covers other topics too.

Yet another unique perspective on the military and military conflict is the Newseum.

While the museums focus is on journalism, there are a number of exhibits that relate to military history.

For example, the 9/11 Gallery might be of interest to those studying the war on terror. Also, the Berlin Wall gallery might be of interest to those studying World War II history.

Aviation geeks should not miss the National Air and Space Museum, which includes several military aircraft on display.

If you’re interested in a specific branch of the armed forces, you can visit the National Air Force Museum, Marine Corps Museum, or National Guard Museum.

The National Museum of American History is another must-see for military history enthusiasts.

While not all exhibits focus on the military, there are plenty of exhibits that do. For example, there is an exhibit in 2017 on World War I to commemorate the centennial anniversary of US involvement.

The White House

Last, but not least, don’t forget to visit the home of the Commander-in-Chief, aka The White House.

Yes, even though 45 is the least qualified to be numero uno in the US military and completely unsupportive of our current generation of military service people.

Anyway, despite my less favorable feeling toward the 45th president, I still think peeping the White House is a worthy thing to do in DC.

If you live in the US, tours can be arranged through your home state’s congressperson. If you can’t arrange a tour, a quick photo-op outside The White House is always a fun souvenir.

About the author

Photo of travel blogger Meg Frost, of Frost + Sun, in Havana, Cuba.
Photo by Meg Frost, all rights reserved.

Meg Frost is a Boston-based travel blogger that helps people embrace technology to make vacation planning and traveling wicked easy, affordable, and fun.

She holds an M.A. in Journalism from Northeastern University and B.S. in Communication & American Studies from University of Miami.

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