America’s Historical Downtowns

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Making Plans for 2018 Travel?


We have.

Well, sort of.

Hali & Woody in front of van

Actually, we’re all over the board.

One thing is for sure: we need to pick up our van! I’ve been keeping an eye on the Van Life Movement. For a glimpse, just go to #vanlife on Instagram, or Where’s My Office, and see for yourself. Most of what you find will overly romanticize the lifestyle. Yet, it calls me to join… and that means more Americana.

Historical Districts

Having traveled from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back again, we have explored many historical downtowns. Often they are sleepy, quaint and have a yesteryear feel. On the other hand, we have hit some that are a bustling tourist destination and booked with festivals. Whether nestled on a rolling countryside, or situated near a body of water, summer is a great time to explore these treasures of national history.

It’s curious how these destinations can transport us to the America of the “good old days.” Imagine an America where almost everyone was on the same plane of thought: they received the morning paper, met at a coffee shop, attended the church social… America was better than elsewhere, it was a country everyone wanted – believed in. More bathtubs, efficient factories, faster trains, and citizens agreed on exactly what it meant to be an American.

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that idyllic, but you get the picture. Here is a sampling of a few we landed upon, and worthy of a visit:

1. Galena, Illinois

Overlooking the banks of the Galena River, there are rolling hills in this corner of the flat state of Illinois. Galena has a rich history of miners, merchants, and Civil War heroes – such as the likes of Ulysses S Grant, all of whom helped build Galena into the boom town of the Old Northwest.

2. Charleston, South Carolina

OK, so this one is no big secret. The historical “wow” factor is impressive: elegant antebellum architecture, horse drawn carriages, cobblestone roadways and again, big Civil War history. Framed with water on all sides it transports you to another era.

3. Hannibal, Missouri

It doesn’t get more Americana than Mark Twain, right? And, Hannibal was Samuel Clemens’ home town. Caves, dreams, paddle boats and trouble-makin’ are still alive in Hannibal. It may have more kitsch-factor than I prefer, but we are talking the king of story telling here, and I embrace it with open arms.

4. St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine is the definition of a Historical District: it’s the oldest city in our country, founded in 1565. In this town you can have a taste of a college town, antiquity, or a literal taste at a distillery or vino at a winery. Home of the Fountain of Youth, the oldest wooden schoolhouse… it’s a must-see for any history buff.

5. Lava Hot Springs, Idaho

As you may deduce, this town is known for its hot springs. Odor-free and natural, springs are the current draw to this little-known historical district. Nestled in sweeping valleys which once funneled trappers, stage coaches, Native Americans and trains from the Great Plains to the Pacific Northwest.

6. St. Joseph, Missouri

We landed in this spot due to a breakdown. Had we been traveling in 1849, we would have landed here to load up on shovels, picks, maps and a gold pan or two. “St. Jo” is known for being the starting point of The Pony Express. And, by 1886 it was said the town was a “modern wonder, 60,000 inhabitants, eleven railroads, 70 passenger trains each day, 170 factories and thirteen miles of the best paved streets… (source, Chicago Times.)

I could easily keep going…

But, should wrap this up. This little exercise has got me excited for 2018. Wonder what little corners of this nation we will trip upon?

Stay tuned and find out!

About Hali

Just a travel junkie trying to find my voice in the blogosphere. I enjoy sharing my photography and fast facts I learn in the places I travel through.

4 thoughts on “America’s Historical Downtowns

    1. Hali Post author

      I hear ya’!. . . but must say this has been the coldest winter we’ve experienced in Florida. Lost the basil and a couple of the monarch caterpillars 🙁


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