The 7 Best Destinations for History Buffs

The 7 Best Destinations for History Buffs

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You like to travel but you love history. Why not combine the two? We’ve rounded up unique, off-the-radar destinations, both within the U.S. and abroad, that will appeal to history buffs who want to take a more active approach to discovery. Would you ski to a silver mine, or scuba dive to a shipwreck? Or how about walk the length of a half marathon to visit literary sites? From geologic to architectural history, we’ve got some great ideas for getaways that will spark your thirst for knowledge and satiate your adventurous spirit.

If You’re Eager to Explore Old Shipwrecks

Hamilton, Bermuda

A group of jet skiers circle a shipwreck in the turquoise waters of the coast of Bermuda.
Bermuda is considered the shipwreck capital of the world, with hundreds of ships lost to its surrounding waters, from Spanish luxury liners to Civil War vessels. (Photo: Getty Images/djangosupertramp)

Named after Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez, this archipelago was colonized by pirates and its waters are home to more than 300 shipwrecks. Book an underwater excursion with one of the three outposts of Dive Bermuda to scuba dive or snorkel among various wreckage sites. The capital city of Hamilton boasts the oldest church in the New World and the oldest parliament in the British Commonwealth. Take a self-guided cultural walking tour for a few hours of outdoor exploration, including a quad workout up to the tower of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, which dates back to 1905. Stay at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club, a convenient base for all points on the island.

If You’re into Architecture

Mazatlán, Mexico

Colorful buildings and home in the historic center of Mazatlán, Mexico, include Cristo Rey Church.
Cristo Rey Church in the historic city center, makes use of color, like many buildings and homes in Mazatlán. (Photo: Getty Images/Elijah Lovkoff)

You should also pack your best road-running shoes for long strolls around this historic city center, famous for Neoclassical and French Baroque architecture, colorful houses, and charming old churches. Catch a play at the newly restored Angela Peralta Theater, which first opened in 1874, and walk through the stunning cathedral of Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Mazatlán’s 12 miles of beaches are also a main attraction, and those in the know climb the series of steep switchbacks (followed by more than 300 paved steps) to the top of Cerro Creston, mostly for the incredible 360-degree views but also to check out El Faro (the lighthouse), built in 1890. To round out your time here, stay at the nine-room Casa Lulu, a midcentury property decorated with quirky antiques and designed with a pool overlooking the Pacific.

If You Want to Ski to Silver-Rush Sites

Park City, Utah

Four skiers pause in front of an old silver mine near Park City, Utah.
In the winter, intermediate-to-advanced-level skiers can take part in daily tours of local mines near Park City. The Comstock Comstock Mill, seen here, dates to the late 19th century. (Photo: Courtesy Vail Resorts)

At Park City Mountain Resort, you can learn about the mountain town’s silver-mining past on a free guided ski tour to historic mining structures. Post-slopes, hop a free city bus to the Park City Museum, whose exhibits and special lectures bring the stories of early settlers and prospecters to life. Come dusk, Park City Ghost Tours takes groups to the streets with animated tales of local murder and intrigue. Listed on the National Historic Register and built just five years after Park City was incorporated in 1884, the Washington School House is now a lavish 12-room hotel popular with VIPs at the annual Sundance Festival. If that’s too pricey, consider downtown’s Blue Church Lodge, a seven-condo vacation-rental complex in what was Park City’s first Mormon church, also listed on the National Historic Register.

If You’re Captivated by the Geologic Complexity of the West

Gateway, Colorado

The red bluffs of Colorado’s Dolores River Canyon tower above an otherwise verdant valley cut through by the Dolores River.
Native and natural history—from petroglyphs to massive red cliffs—are abundant in Dolores River Canyon. These are the Ute people’s historic homelands, and 160 million years of geologic history is traceable within the canyon gorge. (Photo: Getty Images/Colin Grubbs)

In the high desert of western Colorado, you can search for preserved dinosaur tracks, take guided hikes through 300-million-year-old red-rock canyons, and enjoy 26 miles of beginner-to-intermediate mountain-bike trails just outside this small town. Stay in a lodge room or a casita at the Gateway Canyons Resort and Spa, where you can sign up for an excursion to Dolores River Canyon to study Native rock art, sit in on a lecture about how ancient astronomy was used by the Ancestral Puebloans, and spend a few hours climbing or bouldering the granite walls of Unaweep Canyon.

If You’re Fascinated by the Timeline of Women’s Rights

Rochester, New York

A little girl sits next to the statue of famous Rochester, New York, suffragette Susan B. Anthony.
Susan B. Anthony headed the National American Woman Suffrage Association in the late 1800s, leading the charge from her hometown of Rochester. Women weren’t granted the right to vote, however, until 1920, more than a decade after she died. (Photo: Courtesy the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House)

A little more than 100 years ago, women were given the right to vote across the U.S. Rochester hosted several early women’s rights conventions and was home to the legendary suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Visit the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, where Anthony met with leaders of the civil rights movement and was arrested for voting illegally in 1872, then paddle the Genesee River, ride a bike along the Erie Canal, or enjoy a beer with a view of High Falls at the Genesee Brewhouse, which is also more than 100 years old. From there it’s just two miles to the Neighborhood of the Arts and the School 31 Lofts, at the center of stores and eateries.

If You’re an Oenology Buff Who Likes to Bike

Healdsburg, California

A group of riders follow pro cyclist Pete Stetina, wearing a blue kit and helmet, up a hill in Sonoma County.
Log some miles around Sonoma County with former WorldTour pro Peter Stetina (seen here in blue) and then reward yourself with a glass of wine at the Harmon House’s rooftop bar. (Photo: Courtesy Harmon Guest House)

Sure, Northern California’s oenological history doesn’t date as far back as some other regions of the world, but its vineyards have a fascinating past nonetheless, one that started with prune farming in the 1920s and ended with winemaking. Stay at the 39-room Harmon Guest House, named after Healdsburg founder Harmon Heald, an Ohio businessman who left the mining industry for the agricultural bounty of these Sonoma County hills. The hotel has paired up with pro cyclist Peter Stetina to offer customized rides and has a new “Wildflower Walks” package that gets guests outdoors for a scenic trail hike with a local health coach. If floating is more your thing, book a guided paddle trip of the Russian River via kayak or SUP with River’s Edge (dogs are welcome along). Or spend your idle hours birding within the 155-acre Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve, home to more than 40 species, including turkey vultures, buffleheads, and cedar waxwings.

If You ❤️ Classic American Literature

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore’s Peabody Library dates back to 1878 and is a stop on city literary tours.
Now that’s a library: the Peabody, which dates back to 1878, is a literary-tour stop and was a second home of sorts of the acclaimed novelist John Dos Passos. (Photo: Courtesy John Lehr/Visit Baltimore)

Many of our country’s literary greats once called Baltimore home, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Frederick Douglass, and Edgar Allen Poe. Take a literary walking tour to see landmarks around the city referenced in historic books—you’ll log a respectable 12.4 miles—or stop into Edgar Allen Poe’s house or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s favorite bar, the Owl. Other worthy walkable attractions include the pedestrian-only brick Waterfront Promenade that stretches from Fort McHenry, past the Visionary Arts Museum’s sculpture garden, and around the Inner Harbor. Hotel Revival, in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, opened in 2018 in a site that was once a private mansion.

Outside contributing editor Megan Michelson walking up a mountainside with skis hoisted over one shoulder and poles held in another hand.
The author’s preferred kind of walking tour, here in the eastern Sierra Nevada (Photo: Courtesy Megan Michelson)

Megan Michelson is an Outside contributing editor and a fan of historical nonfiction, art and science museums, and any spot listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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