Connections to the Past
By AAA Travel Editor Michelle Palmer | December 06, 2021
Whether you’re a hardcore history buff or just looking for fun things to do, here’s a list of some historically significant places that may pique your interest into visiting a few of America’s oldest cities.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
St. Augustine, Florida
In a city founded in 1565, the Castillo de San Marcos, a AAA GEM® attraction, is said to be not only the oldest surviving structure in the city, but also the oldest masonry fortress in the United States. When you visit, you will see costumed re-enactors who answer questions and tell you about the edifice and its history. Make sure to time your visit right. If weather permits cannons are fired a few times a day Friday through Sunday.
Casa Monica Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection
St. Augustine, Florida
If you want a fancy place to stay that has historical ties to the city, the AAA Three Diamond Casa Monica Resort & Spa is a beautiful choice. Oil man Henry Flagler dreamed of making St. Augustine a winter getaway for well-to-do Northerners, and while his dream didn’t quite pan out, he left a lasting mark on the city. Flagler purchased the hotel in 1888, and it stayed open until 1932. The property, restored in 1999, has since reopened with a luxurious Moorish theme and has an art gallery, 1920s vehicles, gold accented décor and imported furnishings.
If you want to know more than just the basics about the Pilgrims, make this AAA GEM attraction part of your travel plans. The site includes an area dedicated to Wampanoag history and is staffed with Native Americans ready to answer questions about 17th-century life. At the re-creation of the Plymouth settlement, role players dress as 1620s settlers, and if you enjoy a unique experience, make a reservation for one of the Harvest Dinners held in autumn. You’ll partake in a 17th-century feast while being regaled with stories of early American life.
Wikimedia Commons/Matt H. Wade
Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site
Albany, New York
Home to one of Albany’s wealthiest families during the 18th century, this Georgian mansion, which overlooks the Hudson River, is a lovely example of how the rich and influential lived. You can tour the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, a AAA GEM attraction, and learn about Revolutionary War Gen. Philip J. Schuyler and the notable guests he hosted. Specialty tours focusing on specific topics are occasionally held, so be sure to reserve your spot in advance.
Andrew Low House
Savannah was at the center of the cotton trade, and many men made their fortune here. Cotton merchant Andrew Low, once reputed to be the richest man in Savannah, was no exception. In 1848, his Italianate mansion was ready for his growing family to move into. On a visit to the house today, you will find it decorated in opulent period furnishings based on descriptions from diaries and correspondence of residents and guests. The tour includes the historically maintained garden, purportedly the only private garden from the era open to the public. It contains plant species common to gardens of the 19th century.
During your visit to AAA GEM attraction Independence Hall, you’ll see the Georgian, red-brick building via a ranger-led tour. The ranger will entertain you with stories of the historical events that happened here. In addition to signing the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers also appointed George Washington as general of the Constitutional Army. If you visit anytime March through December, stop at the Independence Visitor Center to get your free ticket.