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The Great Hall of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

A Drive through America’s Revolutionary History

Article by Melissa Liebling-Goldberg 05.09.2019

Discover a different side of America’s bustling metropolitan areas by exploring top historical sites along with lesser-known gems that shine a light on the country’s rich colonial history.

The Eastern Seaboard is home to some of America’s most exciting cities, complete with dining, shopping and entertainment well worth traveling for. But go a little further afield and you’ll discover it’s also home to rich history that is equal parts informative and captivating. Whether you want to dine at restaurants dating back to the 17th century or see remnants of the Revolution, take a step back in time at these iconic sites as you explore the East Coast.

Washington, D.C.: Explore The History of Politics

Sunrise over the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.  

Begin, of course, with the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Smithsonian museums. Once you’ve explored the city’s major sites, it’s time to dig deeper into the capital’s history. Start in Georgetown, which has been a vital part of the region since the mid 1600s when it gained prominence as a trade-driven port town on the Potomac. Stroll the cobblestone streets where political luminaries including Henry Kissinger, Robert Todd Lincoln and John Kerry have lived over the years. Or get your exercise and history all in one go with a jog on the converted C&O Canal Historical Park, which is one of the most impressive surviving stretches of the American canal building era. Just a few blocks from The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown, the Old Stone House was constructed in 1765 and holds claim to be the city’s oldest house.

For those who have already visited government buildings like the Capitol, enjoy a trip to the beautiful Library of Congress, which dates back to 1800, making it not only the largest library in the country but the oldest cultural institution as well. Finish your day with dinner at Martin’s Tavern, which has been in business since the 1890s and has hosted every president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. See if you can snag the booth where JFK proposed to then Jacqueline Bouvier.

If you have time to detour on your way out of Washington, D.C., it’s worth a stop in colonial Williamsburg, a preserved 18th-century village that now functions as the world’s largest living history museum. Ideal for family trips, Williamsburg truly brings history to life as you explore a fully-functional town with artisanal demonstrations, historical recreations, deep dives into African American and Native American history, and activities galore all day long.

Philadelphia: Walk in the Footsteps of the Founding Fathers

The Delaware River cuts through Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey

From D.C., head north towards one of the nation’s first capitals, where there’s history to be found around every corner. After snapping a photo with the Liberty Bell and exploring the birthplace of the U.S. Constitution at Independence Hall, discover the lesser-known sites sprinkled throughout the city with a private walking tour (ask your concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia to arrange one for you). Visit the Betsy Ross House, where the seamstress is said to have sewn the first American flag; explore the New Hall Military Museum, which walks visitors through the founding of the Marine Corps, Army and Navy; and gain perspective at The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation, an open-air exhibition that commemorates the first executive mansion and the nine enslaved Africans who served there. When hunger hits, take a break for fresh-baked pastries and artisanal cheeses at Reading Terminal Market, one of the nation’s oldest and largest public markets in America. If the weather agrees, pack your market finds and head out of town to Valley Forge National Historical Park for a picnic on the historic grounds that played host to George Washington’s Continental Army during the winter of 1777.

On your drive from Philadelphia to New York City, stop at the Washington Crossing State Park outside of Trenton to see where George Washington famously crossed the Delaware River as part of the surge that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War. There are monuments on both sides of the river to explore, or just stop for a meal at McConkey’s Ferry Inn, where Washington and his troops had their final dinner before departing onto the Delaware.

New York City: Discover a City Steeped in Hamilton-era History

The façade of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City

As the much-loved Broadway show taught us, New York City has long been a hub of historical importance, particularly during the Revolutionary War (Alexander Hamilton’s final resting place can be found in Lower Manhattan at Trinity Church). Begin your day with brunch at Fraunces Tavern, which dates back to 1762 and served as George Washington’s headquarters before becoming an early federal office building. History’s influence is particularly felt on Wall Street, which was home to the nation’s first capital. While the building that housed the original Congress was demolished in 1812, the current Federal Hall serves as a museum and memorial to the beginnings of the U.S. and features an entire exhibit dedicated to Alexander Hamilton.

From there, escape the city to continue up I-95 through Westchester to The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester, where you’ll discover another of Washington’s headquarters nearby — the Jacob Purdy House in White Plains was his base during the Battle of White Plains. You can also visit Thomas Paine’s home to see where he wrote his famous pro-independence pamphlets.

Boston: Follow the Freedom Trail

The George Washington Monument in Boston Public Garden

Make your final stop in Boston, where the roots of American history run deep. If the sun is shining, enjoy a morning walk through the country’s oldest park, Boston Common, just steps from The Ritz Carlton, Boston. From there, experience some of the sites where America’s most formative moments took place. Pay homage to the First Amendment at Faneuil Hall, which is referred to as the birthplace of free speech and was home to America’s first town meeting. Discover the trappings of 18th-century life at Paul Revere’s home, the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston. For lunch, tuck into the iconic Green Dragon Tavern, which is unofficially known as the “Headquarters of the Revolution” — Samuel Adams was known to deliver rousing speeches in favor of independence just outside and the Sons of Liberty planned the Boston Tea Party here. Finish your day with a visit to historic Cambridge, where you can stroll the grounds at Harvard, which was originally built in 1630, and round out your journey with dinner at one of the decidedly more modern eateries that ring the square.

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