The South has a complex history that is well-preserved in mansions, battlefields, monuments and museums. On your next visit to the southern United States, take some time to visit some of the historical areas, and learn more about the history of the South!
These 14 historical sites are particularly noteworthy and are worth seeing the next time that you visit - and they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring the historic South!
14 Historical Sites That You Should See In The South
1. Fort Sumter National Monument, Charleston, South Carolina
Fort Sumter saw the first shots of the entire Civil War, and is only accessible by boat. See ruins, gun emplacements and a museum while you visit the island. Between March and October, you can participate in a sunset tour of the Fort! While you are in Charleston, consider also visiting the Nathaniel Russell House - you’ll love the vibrant turquoise and red dining room in this charming mansion.
2. Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia
See the place where the historic Battle of Bull Run took place during the Civil War. Manassas National Battlefield Park saw two battles, first in 1861 and again in 1862. Take a guided battlefield hike and make sure to check the events calendar before your visit - there are frequent, interesting events taking place.
Richmond is the former capital of the Confederacy and was its economic center. Towards the end of the Civil War, Richmond was the primary target of land and sea attacks. Though much of the city burned to the ground in 1865, many historic buildings remain. Today, the city has a vibrant bar and restaurant scene, so it is a fun place to explore when you’re not walking around historic sites.
4. Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland
It is an intense experience to stand on the ground where 23,000 soldiers were lost after a twelve-hour battle. Antietam National Battlefield is an important part of Civil War history because it precipitated Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and halted the Confederacy’s invasion into the North.
5. Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi
See the turning point of the entire Civil War on the place where the Battle of Vicksburg occurred. At Vicksburg National Military Park, you can see the USS Cairo, which sat on the bottom of the Yazoo River for over 100 years before being excavated. Guided and self-guided tours are available.
The village of Mooresville is on the National Registry of Historic Places and has a population of under 100 people! Nearly every building that is in use there is from the 19th century, so it feels like going back in time. You can tour many of these historic buildings and learn about what life was like there centuries ago.
American writer and Nobel Prize Laureate William Faulkner is from here, and Oxford has continued to keep its strong literary tradition. The town is charming and fascinating, and you’ll find an endless amount of things to do. Visit Cedar Oaks, a Greek Revival structure that has a complicated and dramatic past, Rowan Oak, the home of Faulkner, and the Blues Archives.
8. San Francisco Plantation, Garyville, Louisiana
You will be blown away at the architecture of this stately home. Known as “the most opulent plantation in the South,” San Francisco Plantation was built in 1827 by Edmond Bozonier Marmillion in the same year that New Orleans celebrated its first Mardi Gras. Visiting this home is a great chance to learn more about Louisiana’s fascinating French-inspired architecture and history.
9. Swan House, Atlanta, Georgia
Come to more deeply understand the concept of Southern Hospitality in this elegant example of Neoclassic architecture. Walk around the rooms of Swan House and learn more about what life was like for wealthy families in the 1920s. The lush and well-maintained gardens are also worth spending a lot of time in.
10. The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
George Vanderbilt built this home in 1895, and famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted - the same person that designed Central Park in New York - came up with the concept for Biltmore Estate’s gardens. Walk through 250 rooms of treasured antiques and stroll through the beautiful grounds as you contemplate how much you feel like you are in a European castle! Asheville is a very charming and artistic town that is also worth spending some time in.
11. Henry Clay’s Estate, Lexington, Kentucky
Visit the home of one of the most influential early politicians in American history who never quite got the credit he deserved. Ashland is Henry Clay’s exquisite mansion and was his escape from Washington D.C., where he represented Kentucky both in the Senate and the House. Open between March and December, you can join a walking tour of the home and also explore the gardens.
"Our visitors love the in-depth tours with knowledgeable docents, our 17 acres of park-like grounds, and our seasonal café, The Ginkgo Tree Café."
12. Ernest Hemingway’s Home, Key West, Florida
Once you set foot in Hemingway’s Florida home, you’ll understand why he was such a prolific writer. The breezy tropical setting and picturesque views from the windows combine in a pleasing (yet unusual) way with the treasures that he brought back from around the world.
13. Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Virginia
See George Washington’s stunning former home and learn more about the first President’s life. At Mount Vernon, you can tour the house, see Washington’s grave, and stroll around the nearly 50 acres of land that is part of his estate. Mount Vernon is very close to Washington, D.C., and is an excellent day trip when you are visiting the Nation’s Capital.
14. Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia
See Thomas Jefferson’s stately mansion near charming Charlottesville. Admission includes a house tour as well as a day pass to the grounds and the visitors center. Consider taking time to walk around Charlottesville and the beautiful grounds of the University of Virginia, which was started by Thomas Jefferson.
Your trip to the South should be filled with memorable experiences of the area’s vast history - and if you want to see more historical sites, there are plenty more Civil War monuments and stately mansions that you can visit.
This article was written by Cathy Trainor.