8 Best U.S. Historical Sites You Can Actually Afford to Visit


Europe might be nothing to sneeze at for history buffs on vacation, but you don't need to fly across the ocean to get your fill of history. In fact, the United States is brimming with plenty of historical sites just waiting to be explored.

Many famous historical sites are in expensive places to visit, like Washington D.C. or New York. But there are plenty of amazing historical destinations that can fit anyone's budget. So break out your history books and let's go. (See also: Best Credit Cards for a Road Trip)

1. Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg is without a doubt one of the best budget-friendly locations to get the most history bang for your buck. There's a bevy of various historical attractions to explore in the area, and you can find three-star hotel rooms for as low as $103 per night.

Historic Jamestown is the actual site of America's first English settlement, and costs $14 to visit. Jamestown Settlement admission is $17 and is a re-enactment of the actual colony, complete with three working full-size English sailing ships. A short 15-minute drive away leads you to the 18th-century recreation of Colonial Williamsburg (admission is quite a bit pricier at $40.99), while another 22-minute drive leads you to the Yorktown Battlefield, where America won the war for independence from Britain (a reasonable $7 admission). (See also: How to Have a Fun Family Road Trip Without Breaking Your Budget)

2. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

When George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln became presidents of the United States, it's unlikely they ever thought their faces would be carved as giant sculptures in the side of a mountain in rural South Dakota. Yet, that's exactly what happened, and you can visit it today for free (although there is a $10 parking fee). The attraction also offers a wide range of free ranger-led programs, or you can rent an audio guide for $5.

Although you can't stay at Mount Rushmore itself, you do have several options for lodging. Nearby South Dakota cities you can stay at include Keystone (three miles away), Hill City (13 miles away), Custer (20 miles away), and Rapid City (24 miles away). You can expect to spend around $140 per night for a three-star hotel, although nearby Black Hills National Forest offers almost 700 campsites for $26 per night or less. You can also try dispersed camping in the National Forest for free as well. (See also: 6 Essential Money-Saving Items to Take on a Camping Road Trip)

3. San Antonio, Texas

"Remember the Alamo!" is the famous battle cry that everyone can instantly recall, even if they don't exactly know why. Why not take the time to learn about the Alamo by visiting the very site of the influential battle for Texas. You can visit for free, but tickets to a guided tour are a reasonable $15. And because the Alamo is located in the heart of San Antonio, you'll be sure to find plenty of other attractions to visit while you're there.

Lodging in San Antonio is also very reasonable. You can expect to pay a mere $100 per night for three-star lodging. (See also: How to Take a 7-Day Cross Country Road Trip for $350 or less)

4. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The famous Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most important points in the Civil War. It was when the Union soldiers finally turned back the Confederate soldiers, eventually winning the war and reunifying the country. Today, you can see the battlefield itself for free, although you do have the option of taking a two-hour bus tour with a guide for $35.

Lodging near Gettysburg can be expensive (around $150 per night or more). A more budget-friendly option is to book a spot at one of several campgrounds near the Gettysburg battlefield. If tenting and RVing isn't your thing, rest assured that you can still book cabins with solid walls for as little as around $100 per night. (See also: 7 Travel Hacks for an Affordable Summer Road Trip)

5. Oregon City, Oregon

If you grew up playing the cherished Oregon Trail computer game (or if you're even just a fan of Western history), you need to check out Oregon City. It's here where the first official Federal land office west of the Rocky Mountains was set up, attracting droves of settlers wishing to make a claim in what is now known as Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Montana, and western Wyoming.

Admission to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is $13. There aren't a whole lot of options for lodging in the tiny city (it hasn't grown much since the days of the settlers), but you can stay at the Clackamas River House B&B for as little as $80, or one of several county-operated campgrounds for as little as $21.

6. Mackinaw City, Michigan

Mackinaw City is a beautiful town perched right on the Straits of Mackinac (still pronounced "Mack-in-aw," oddly enough) between Michigan's upper and lower peninsula. But what makes this tiny town really special is its proximity to several historic sites from the northern United State's colonial and frontier trapping days.

From here, you can visit historic Fort Mackinac (admission is $12 if purchased online). It's a former key military outpost on nearby Mackinac Island, and you'll need to purchase a ferry ticket ($24 if purchased online) to get here. Colonial Michilimackinac (pronounced "mish-il-uh-mack-in-aw"), located just across the straits from Mackinac Island on the mainland, is also full of interesting history and costs just $11.25 to visit if you buy your tickets online.

7. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is a jaw-dropping place to visit in its own right. But did you know that this park also has a lot of historical significance in U.S. history? In fact, it's the first national park in the entire world, and it's credited with helping to launch the National Park Service as we know it today.

The best way to stay in Yellowstone is — you guessed it — by camping. (There are lodges in the park, but they are definitely not budget-friendly options, especially during the peak summer visiting season.) The park operates 12 different campgrounds with over 2,000 sites available for around $30 per night. Entrance into the park itself is $35 for a seven-day pass per vehicle. (See also: 10 Breathtaking Day Hikes in the U.S.)

8. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is a true mélange of American history. From its roots as a French colony, to Spanish rule, to modern-day American influences, you can find tons of interesting historical tidbits hiding behind every corner in this city, and a small tour industry catering to history buffs.

Visit a historical plantation to learn about America's often-dark past, go on any one of several ghost tours, or learn about the pirates of the city's yesteryear. Hotel lodging is also not cheap in New Orleans, although you can find many private Airbnb rentals for under $50 if you book out far enough in advance.

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