Walking Tours Through US History

Check out historic walking tours that will nourish your body and mind.
By: Lisa Singh
A walk through America’s history-rich grounds nourishes the body and the mind. This isn’t history woven from tales of legends so tall you feel small by comparison. The best walks tell the story of everyday people with a vision so bold it could cut across mountains, bridge differences and forge resolve in the midst of some very tough odds. Looking for a little inspiration? Walk this way.
There was Ancient Rome. But Ancient America? You bet. Long before it was a “new nation,” America was home to the Pueblos. Among their architectural feats was Pueblo Bonito -- a “Great House” as large as the Roman Colosseum that’s survived more than 1,000 years. Feel the allure of this Native American history as you walk the half mile trail through Pueblo Bonito -- and contemplate what you want to build that could last a very long time.
Relive the early days of America’s struggle for independence with Revolutionary City, Colonial Williamsburg’s daily street theater program. Walk a portion of the nearly one mile-long length of Gloucester Street, enjoying vestiges of colonial life. Witness reenactments, as early citizens debate the Revolution. You’ll be prompted to enter the fray. When asked, “How say ye?” What will you answer?
Boston’s Freedom Trail gets a lot of attention. But Philadelphia’s Old City District also gave eloquent expression to revolutionary times. Start out at Independence Visitor Center; Independence Hall, around the corner, is where George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Less than half a mile away, the Liberty Bell once rang to summon Philadelphians to a public reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. At Christ Church Burial Ground, toss pennies onto Benjamin Franklin’s marker for good luck.
It’s the perfect spot to reflect on your own dreams. Atop Flagstaff Hill in Oregon, survey nearly 7 miles of original wagon ruts still grooved into the arid sagebrush fields. From the 1840s to the 1860s, an estimated 300,000 pioneers -- some would say dreamers -- loaded up their wagons and set out for what they called the “promised land.” These hardy souls survived their share of hardship along the 2,000-mile trek across the Midwest. Retrace their steps at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Park, at Blue Mountain Crossing; a half mile trail leads past wagon grooves still visible in the earth.
Personal vision and sacrifice infuse the memorials along DC’s 2.5-mile stretch known as the National Mall. Ohio postman Roger Durbin lobbied every member of Congress for more than 2 decades to erect the WWII Memorial. Vietnam War Veteran Jan Scruggs contributed his own small savings to launch the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. As you walk the Mall, imagine what you can do through perseverance.
It’s 1965, spring is in the air, and 600 people are on the move seeking the right to vote. The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail commemorates this and the subsequent 50-mile trek from Selma to Montgomery, AL, a few weeks later. In Montgomery, visit the parsonage where Martin Luther King’s family lived. Note the nicks on the front porch, vestiges of a bomb meant to derail the civil rights leader; today, a testament to courage.

Sometimes the best way forward is to take a step back. With a stroll through these memorable grounds, that kind of inspiration is all yours -- for the walking.

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