Thanks! You're all signed up.

X
Kennicott, Alaska
DCrane Photography | Adobe Stock

13 Time Travel Vacation Ideas in the U.S.

SmarterTravel

Some places offer an incredible glimpse into history. If you want to feel like a time traveler, put one of these unforgettable places in the U.S. on your bucket list. 

66 Million Years Ago: Dinosaur National Monument, Utah & Colorado

Dinosaur skull fossil in a rock at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado, United States
MaciejBledowski | Adobe Stock

Want to go back to the time of the dinosaurs? Dinosaur National Monument is absolutely worth the trip. The fossils are so well-preserved and you’ll be able to see dinosaur tracks. The Quarry Exhibit Hall is a new visitor’s center that was built around a rock embedded with over 1,500 dinosaur bones. There’s even a place where you can touch a 149-million-year-old dinosaur fossil. 

1,400 Years Ago: Bluff, Utah 

Valley of the Gods within Bears Ear National Monument, Utah
pabrady63 | Adobe Stock

The coolest thing about the area surrounding Bluff, Utah, is the feeling of discovery when you come across petroglyphs, dwellings, and artifacts of the Ancestral Puebloan people. The raw, authentic experience you’ll have in this under-the-radar destination makes you feel like you found something very few others have, much like Mesa Verde before paved roads brought tourists in. With the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, the secret’s out, so you’ll want to visit before the crowds come. 

1,000 Years Ago: Taos, New Mexico

Homes at Taos Pueblo in Taos, New Mexico
Nick Fox | Adobe Stock

The Taos Pueblo of Taos, New Mexico will take you back nearly 1,000 years. The multi-storied adobe dwellings tell the story of Native Americans whom Spanish explorers encountered in 1540. They believed Pueblo was one of the mythical golden cities of Cibola. The dwellings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark. The city is also known for the Historic Taos Plaza and San Francisco de Asis Church.

1521: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
napa74 | Adobe Stock

If you want to go back to the time of the Spanish Empire, Puerto Rico should be on your list. The oldest city under United States sovereignty, San Juan served as an important port city along trade routes between the new and old worlds after its establishment in 1521. The Spanish protected it with imposing military fortifications, including the massive fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro). The Spanish Colonial architecture and cobblestone streets are great for exploring, photographing, and soaking in the history.

1699: Williamsburg & Jamestown, Virginia

Williamsburg, Virginia
Jin | Adobe Stock

The greater Williamsburg area will transport you back to the 17th century. You can visit the Jamestown Settlement and see where American Independence was won at the Yorktown Battlefield. Guided tours tell the stories of the people who lived hundreds of years ago and historic restaurants serve popular foods from colonial times.  

1700s/1800s: Charleston, South Carolina

Downtown Charleston, South Carolina
f11photo | Adobe Stock

Charleston’s zeal for historic preservation is evident throughout the city. Its past stretches back to 1669, and buildings from architectural styles from every century survive. It’s an incredible city to explore on foot. There are also an abundance of excellent tours that tell the story of this beautiful city.

1870s: De Smet, South Dakota 

De Smet, South Dakota
Jacob | Adobe Stock

Have you ever wondered what homesteader life was like? You can jump right into the novel, “Little House on the Prairie” in the small town of De Smet, South Dakota. You can camp in a covered wagon, grind wheat, make rope, attend a one-room schoolhouse, ride on a wagon or even attend the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in July. 

1876: Deadwood, South Dakota

Historic clock in Deadwood, South Dakota
jkraft5 | Adobe Stock

Want to experience the history of a gold rush? An old mining town in the Black Hills of South Dakota called Deadwood has preserved its gold rush roots and mining town vibe. Theatre troupe characters from the Wild West roam the streets and produce reenactments from historical events. The shops lining the street maintain a historical feel. In fact, the entire town of Deadwood, South Dakota is a National Historic Landmark. 

1879: Tombstone, Arizona

Stagecoach pulled down the road of Tombstone, Arizona
Noradoa | Adobe Stock

There’s no better place to travel back to the American Old West than Tombstone, Arizona. The main drag is still a dusty street flanked by two-story, western-style buildings housing saloons, shops, and other entertainment venues. Re-enactments, celebrations, and historical sites depict life in the mining town during the 1800s. You’ll want to take a ride in stagecoach and watch a reenactment of the famous gunfight between Wyatt Earp and “Doc” Holliday at the O.K. Corral. This gunfight was the basis for the “Tombstone” movie. 

1900: Kennecott, Alaska

Kennicott Mill Building in Kennicott, Alaska
David Pastyka | Adobe Stock

Trek on over to the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark, one of the best preserved relics in mining history, to experience mining life on the frontiers of Alaska. The distinctive, rust-red buildings are carved into the steep mountainside. The National Park Service has stabilized many of them, including a post office, general store, schoolhouse, recreation hall, railroad depot, residential cottages, and more. You can also go inside the tunnels, tramways, and trails of the mining operations. 

19th Century: Mackinac Island, Michigan 

Harbor at Mackinac Island, Michigan
Michael | Adobe Stock

If you want a glimpse into the Victorian era, Mackinac Island in Michigan will steal your heart. There are no cars on the island and being transported by horse-drawn carriage only adds to the charm. Victorian homes with wraparound porches invite lazy afternoons with a classic book. You may also want to take a fudge-making class downtown. 

20th Century: Cumberland Island, Georgia

Plum Orchard Mansion on Mackinac Island
Roy Grogan | Adobe Stock

Cumberland Island will take you back to the turn of the 20th century when the Carnegies took ownership of the island. The Carnegies used the island as a winter retreat and built mansions for members of their family. Their private ownership of the island also meant the island escaped commercial development. Now a national park with over 9,800 acres of congressionally-designated wilderness and a limit of 300 visitors admitted per day, Cumberland Island’s pristine beaches and mystical forests will make you feel as if you’re in a new land.

1960: Palm Springs, California

Welcome to Palm Springs sign in Palm Springs, California
JJAVA | Adobe Stock

Palm Springs has been called a mecca for mid-century modern architecture and design. The popularity of the city as a getaway for the rich and famous coincided with the rise of this distinctive style in the 1950s and 60s. As a resort town rising in the post-war era, many of the city’s residents were willing to take risks building second homes with the new building methods and materials of mid-century modern style. Recent, surging interest in the architectural style has resulted in restorations that bring the style (and the past it represents) back to life.

You Might Also Like:

The Least Fun States in the U.S.
10 Secret Amazon Prime Perks You Probably Aren’t Using
8 Things You Should Never Do in a Hotel
Live For Free Anywhere in the World for One Year
10 Best Beach Cities in America, Ranked

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From