The ultimate military history road trip
This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.
From America's first struggles for survival to the Civil War and on through the World Wars, what stands out most about the rising power of the United States Military is the people who served in it. Many of their stories, interwoven into the wars they fought, have tragically evaporated into history — but they are not all lost. The United States' dedication to preserving its history means there are hundreds of monuments, statues, and markers intended to keep the memories and stories of service members, past and present, alive for generations to come.
And nothing breathes life into these stories quite like visiting the places where they happened. If you want to better understand this great nation of ours, there's no better way than to get to know its past. With one long road trip, you can get a great overview of American history — and the essential role the U.S. Military has played throughout.
And with a Super 8 by Wyndham near each of the following important places, you wouldn't need to spend an arm and a leg to do so. Enjoy redesigned guest rooms — featuring signature black-and-white artwork, stylish bedding, and modern amenities — along with complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, and reserved Veteran parking. With Super 8 as your reliable road companion, you can hit the road and enjoy visiting these military destinations.
1. Fort Ticonderoga, New York
It seems appropriate to start your journey at an important place in the history of two wars: Fort Ticonderoga, New York. First taken from the French by a joint British and Colonial force during the French and Indian War, the guns kept at the fort were captured by the American Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. They were moved via a "Noble Train of Artillery" to Boston, where General George Washington used them to surprise the British and force them to leave the city.
Reenactments of battles and other important scenes in Fort Ticonderoga history are held year-round. Check out the historic site's website for more information.
2. Saratoga, New York
The Battle of Saratoga was a pivotal moment in the Revolutionary War. Horatio Gates' victory over Gen. John Burgoyne was so complete, it forced the evacuation of British Forces in New York and, for a time, made Congress consider naming Gates Commander-In-Chief over George Washington.
3. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is at the heart of Revolutionary War history. It was the site of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party (reenacted every year in December), the first skirmishes of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and many, many other significant events. You can visit the Minuteman National Historic Park, Dorchester Heights, which was once occupied by the Continental Army, and a short drive south toward Philadelphia will bring you to the Valley Forge Historic site and the site of Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River.
And don't forget about naval history — a visit to "Old Ironsides," the USS Constitution, is worth the trip.
4. West Point, New York
The home of the United States Military Academy has been a part of history since its inception. It was never captured by the British and was the site at which Benedict Arnold's treason was uncovered. Its fortifications were ordered by General Washington himself, the military academy was signed into law under the administration of President Thomas Jefferson, and the names of its graduates permeate not just American history, but world history.
Historic sites to visit at West Point include the first national Civil War memorial (The Battle Monument), Fort Putnam, the superintendent's house, and of course, the West Point Museum.
5. Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania
In just four hours, you can drive to the Civil War-era Gettysburg Battlefield, now preserved as a national park site. There, you can tour the battlefield, visit the national cemetery, watch reenactments of the fighting, and even visit the statue of John Burns, a War of 1812 veteran who joined in the fighting.
One day at Gettysburg may not be enough for real military history buffs. You can ride the entire area on horseback and catch a live reading of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, among many other events.
6. Fort McHenry, Maryland
A short drive from Gettysburg sits the Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine in the Baltimore area. The War of 1812 is often overlooked by even the most dedicated military history buffs, but from Fort McHenry, you can watch War of 1812-era reenactments and even see where the Star-Spangled Banner itself was still famously waving after the British bombardment of the fort.
If you want to see the actual Star-Spangled Banner Francis Scott Key wrote about, catch it at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, just an hour or so south.
7. The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland
Annapolis is the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. Though not as old at the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy has no shortage of history. The USNA Museum is a must-see for any military history buff.
8. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C.
The Smithsonian is in the National Capital Area, filled with the stories and sites from American military history. It is here you can get a real sense of the foreign wars of the United States, including World War II, the Korean War, and (soon) World War I and the Global War on Terror.
But nowhere else is the lasting human toll of a foreign war more present than at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Even just an hour spent people watching at this hallowed memorial will give you a sense of what those who fight wars really sacrifice — and how that sacrifice can never be forgotten.
9. Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
There may be no more hallowed ground in U.S. Military history than Arlington National Cemetery, where the United States keeps its greatest heroes, the ones who gave what Abraham Lincoln called, "the last true measure of devotion."
While the entire cemetery is worth the walk, don't forget to watch "The Old Guard" Tomb Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
10. Appomattox Court House, Virginia
When Wilmer McLean bought his new house to get away from the Civil War fighting that wrecked his former residence, he would never have dreamt the war would eventually end in his living room. Take a visit to his house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where Generals Lee and Grant negotiated the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War. It's just a four hour drive from the nation's capital.
You can even watch a recreation of the event.
11. Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina
Right on the border between North and South Carolina near Route 221, you can get a glimpse of what the Revolutionary War looked like in the Southern Colonies at Cowpens National Battlefield. Though it may seem far from any area of strategic importance, the colonial victory at Cowpens forced British General Cornwallis to eventually meet the Americans at Yorktown, in Virginia.
12. National Infantry Museum – Fort Benning, Georgia
Get in the car and drive eight hours south to Columbus, Ga. — the home of Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center. Nowhere else can you see history and legacy of the U.S. Army Infantry come alive like at this amazing museum. They have a giant screen theater and cater to those interested in learning about the story of the Army Infantryman.
14. New Orleans, Louisiana
A trip through Alabama, Mississippi, and into Louisiana brings you to New Orleans, where the party isn't the only thing larger than life. The World War II museum in New Orleans is second to none, anywhere else in America. It would take you at least two full days to do a brisk tour of the site.
But if World War II isn't your thing, there's no place south of the Mason-Dixon Line that revels in its War of 1812 history like the Crescent City. The unlikely team of Andrew Jackson's ragtag army and the Pirate Jean Lafitte's sailors fighting the British to a joint victory will never be forgotten.
15. The Alamo – San Antonio, Texas
The fighting at the Alamo took place long before Texas entered the Union. In fact, it led indirectly to Texas winning its independence as a sovereign state. But the legendary heroes that fought to their deaths at the Alamo are now a part of American history, as the independence of Texas and its annexation by the U.S. led to the Mexican War and the acquisition of territory that extended the United States from sea to shining sea.
16. Liberty Memorial – Kansas City, Missouri
The Liberty Memorial, the National World War I Museum, was established as a library dedicated to the memory or World War I on Armistice Day (when it was still Armistice Day), Nov. 11, 1926. In 2004, Congress rededicated the site to be the official museum dedicated to the memory of World War I.
17. Wounded Knee Museum – Wall, South Dakota
There aren't a lot of Plains Wars sites more poignant than the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, South Dakota. Though heralded as a great victory for the United States at the time, the battle is now generally regarded as a massacre of native tribespeople, and a transformative event in their history. The 1890 event was the end of an era for Native Americans and for the United States itself.
18. U.S. Air Force Academy – Colorado Springs, Colorado
The youngest service academy is a majestic site in and of itself, but nearby are also numerous air and space museums as well as a World War II aviation museum thorough enough to blow any amateur military historian's socks right off their feet.
Going across this beautiful country, east to west, is a long journey — and if you want to truly soak in the abundant history of our nation, you'll need to be rested. For a reliably great sleep at a great rate, seek out the comforts of the newly renovated rooms at Super 8 by Wyndham.
This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.