Close view of Mt. Rushmore at sunset

What Are the Most Fascinating Presidential Sites To Visit?

Presidents Day is almost here. Sadly, our enthusiasm for red hearts and green beer often overshadows the holiday honoring our former leaders. For those who love history or politics, it is an excellent time to plan a trip to a presidential site.

America has many presidential places, including monuments, memorials, homes, and libraries. We will outline some of the top patriotic places to visit. Some honor more recent presidents, while others focus on our early history. Regardless of your political allegiance, these vacation destinations offer many opportunities to explore our rich history and have fun adventures.

First, here is a brief background of how the celebration has evolved.

What is the History of Presidents Day?

Side view of George Washington at Mount Rushmore
Profile view of George Washington at Mount Rushmore. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

According to the National Archives, Congress declared February 22, George Washington’s birthday, a federal holiday in 1885. The Uniform Holiday Law 1971, which aimed to give workers more three-day weekends, changed the observation date to the third Monday of February. 

Because the holiday regularly occurred between the birthdays of Washington and Abraham Lincoln, people began to refer to it as Presidents Day. Today, the holiday is considered a time to honor all United States presidents, past and present.

When Is Presidents Day 2024?

Washington Monument behind The White House
Cherry blossom petals on the White House lawn with the Washington Monument in the background. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The holiday falls on the third Monday in February. This year, we observe the holiday on February 19, 2024.

Let’s explore the top presidential sites for you to visit. Remember, while Presidents Day inspires us to honor our leaders and legends, you can see these iconic destinations anytime. 

Mount Rushmore

South Dakota's Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

South Dakota’s most popular attraction, Mount Rushmore, showcases the 60-foot-tall faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Walk the Avenue of Flags to the aptly named Grand View Terrace. You gain unique alternative viewpoints by walking the Presidential Trail. 

The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center digs into the sculpture’s history, functioning as a museum with historical artifacts and photos. Stay for the Evening Lighting Ceremony for an inspirational program and to see the memorial illuminated. Beyond the iconic landmark, the Black Hills region harbors beautiful scenery and exotic wildlife, yielding picturesque hikes and scenic drives.

Washington, DC

Top presidential sites to visit - Washington, DC
Lincoln Memorial at night. Photo credit: eric1513 via Deposit Photos

Our nation’s capital abounds with American history and presidential places to visit. The White House immediately springs to mind for most visitors. Other popular sites include the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and Ford’s Theatre.

The good news is that most essential monuments and memorials sit on or near the National Mall. Washington, DC, also comprises many free museums to explore around the National Mall. You can cover nearly all aspects of our nation’s history in one area. With a 13-mile drive south, you can visit Mount Vernon, the historic home of George and Martha Washington.

Rapid City

George Washington statue in Rapid City
Look who we found hanging out at Starbucks! Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Although the monuments may not be larger-than-life like those at Washington, DC, or Mount Rushmore, Rapid City is called the “City of Presidents” for a reason. The South Dakota town has life-sized statues of nearly all our former presidents scattered throughout its downtown area.

The quest to find all the presidents is especially engaging for children. In between all those selfies, kids will learn a lot about our nation’s history. Rapid City comprises many unique shops and eateries to explore along the way. It is a half-hour drive from Mount Rushmore, a perfect way to spend an entire day hanging out with the presidents.

Ohio Presidential Trail

Top presidential sites - Ohio, the birthplace of presidents
William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Ohio. Photo credit: zrfphoto via Deposit Photos

The Buckeye State is home to eight presidents: William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding. Harrison lived in Ohio when elected, while the others were born in the state. Accordingly, Ohio is affectionately called the “Birthplace of Presidents” or the “Mother of Presidents.” 

Visitors can explore Ohio’s history by road trip along the Ohio Presidential Trail. Sites honor each president with ties to the state. Be sure to visit the First Ladies’ National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio, where you can explore the legacy of our first ladies.

Springfield, Illinois

Top presidential sites - Springfield, IL, the Land of Lincoln
Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Photo credit: LeeSnider via Deposit Photos

The “Land of Lincoln” comprises many historic sites honoring one of our most famous presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Visitors can tour the first and only home Lincoln owned, his tomb, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Take a selfie with the 30-foot tall rail splitter statue, portraying a young ax-wielding Lincoln without his trademark beard. Travelers will find plenty of fascinating Route 66 history to explore as well.

Monticello

presidential places to visit - Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello. Photo credit: Ffooter via Deposit Photos

Considered an architectural masterpiece, Monticello, or “Little Mountain” in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the home of Thomas Jefferson, our third president and author of the Declaration of Independence. It is a National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can tour the house, gardens, and grounds or walk the Saunders-Monticello Trail with stunning views of forests and mountains.

Boston

Presidential sites to visit - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, MA.
Campaign memorabilia in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Photo credit: actionsports via Deposit Photos

The famous Massachusetts city abounds with American history, including popular stops along the iconic Freedom Trail like Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Old South Meeting House, Paul Revere House, and Old North Church.

For presidential history, visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Highlights include a recreation of the Oval Office during Kennedy’s presidency and exhibits on the United States Space Program. Other unique exhibits feature artifacts from Kennedy’s campaign and memorabilia from First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Atlanta

statue of Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter statue. Photo credit: actionsports via Deposit Photos

The vibrant Georgia city houses the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, where visitors can learn about our longest-living president. Unique artifacts include his Nobel Prize and gifts from foreign heads of state. Visitors can see what a “Day in the Life of a President” is like by monitoring 13-foot-tall screens within a rotunda. You can walk through replicas of Camp David and the Oval Office. An interactive map virtually takes you across the globe to monitor elections, fight diseases, and perform other presidential duties.

Drive 145 miles south to Plains, where you can visit the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park and the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm. Families traveling with children can see the LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta to give the kids a break before heading to Plains.

Simi Valley, California

Guests line up to see the Air Force One exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
Guests at the Air Force One Pavilion. Photo credit: wolterke via Deposit Photos

Forty miles from downtown Los Angeles, Simi Valley harbors the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The Air Force One Pavilion takes you aboard the aircraft that flew President Reagan for global diplomacy meetings. Other exhibits cover his early years, ranching days, inauguration, and the assassination attempt on his life.

Visitors can explore his focus on defense while seeing an F-14 Tomcat, M-1 Abrams Tank, and F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter. Be sure to visit the Oval Office replica and the popular Berlin Wall exhibit, which contains a section of the fallen wall.

College Station

Presidential sites - College Station, Texas
George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Photo credit: Ffooter via Deposit Photos

The eastern Texas city is home to Texas A&M University. That same campus contains the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Guests can see symbols of the presidency, including a large crystal presidential seal and a presidential limo. Be sure to explore family memorabilia that shaped the lives of the President and First Lady Barbara Bush.

Visitors can find out what it feels like to sit behind the president’s desk in the “seat of power” and read a speech from the teleprompter in the press room. Other popular exhibits explore the impact of World War II on Bush and his time as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). An entire exhibit highlights Barbara Bush’s efforts to promote literacy, volunteerism, and AIDS awareness. 

A Presidential Site in the Making

Barack Obama makes a public speech
Barack Obama on the campaign trail. Photo credit: headlinephotos via Deposit Photos

The Barack Obama Presidential Center is currently under construction in Chicago. Obama’s vision is to create a welcoming campus where people from all walks of life can get inspired, find common ground, and take positive action.

The museum will honor the lives and legacy of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Many Americans are anxious to discover what the museum will cover from the historic presidency. So far, we know that the museum will include galleries focusing on stories of change. Its top floor will house a Sky Room with sweeping views of beautiful Lake Michigan on one side and towering downtown skyscrapers on the other. The center is scheduled to open in 2025.

Plan Your Presidential Trip

Ronald Reagan statue in Rapid City
Posing with Ronald Reagan. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or affiliated with any other political party, the United States has many presidential sites where you can learn about our history and honor our presidents. Yes, we absolutely should celebrate love and don green apparel in between. This year, take advantage of the Presidents Day holiday. Plan a trip into the past that inspires a better tomorrow!

Featured image credit: jovannig via Deposit Photos

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Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!
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