The Oldest Tourist Attraction in Every State
From fortresses to national parks to geological wonders—American history is packed into each U.S. state’s roster of tourist attractions.
Alabama: Fort Morgan
Alabama’s Gulf Coast was the site of much Civil War history, including Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores. The fort took 15 years (from 1819 to 1834) to build and the structure made of finished granite, iron works, sandstone, and cement was revolutionary for its day, replacing the log and sand Fort Bowyer.
Alaska: Russian American Magazin
Courtesy Discover Kodiak
The town of Kodiak founded in the l790s was originally a Russian settlement. Relive that time period with a visit to the Russian American Magazin, also known as the Erskine House, a National Historic Landmark that is now home to the Baranov Museum.
Arkansas: Hot Springs National Park
Not only is Hot Springs National Park the oldest tourist attraction in the Razorback State, but it can also make a claim for America’s oldest national park. In 1832 it was designated a federal reservation, but it was discovered way before then, in 1541 by Hernando de Soto. While Yellowstone National Park gets credit for being the first national park (in 1872), this reservation didn’t turn into a national park until 1921, despite having being established much sooner. Find out 14 more of the best hot springs around the country.
California: Death Valley National Park
Another national park makes the list—this time, it’s because the rocks inside Death Valley National Park reportedly date back between 500 million and 1.7 billion years. The state’s Spanish missions—often thought to be representative of the state’s history, the oldest of which dates back to 1769—seem downright youthful in comparison.
Colorado: Cliff Palace
You’ll find this ancient cliff dwelling tucked into Mesa Verde National Park. Built from mostly sandstone and wood, it’s thought to date back to 1190 and also carries the distinction of being America’s oldest cliff dwelling. On an hour-long hike along the Cliff Palace Loop Road, you can see Cliff Palace up close. Don’t miss more hidden gems in each state.
Connecticut: Old Stone House
Courtesy Henry Whitfield State Museum
Not only is this the state’s oldest historic attraction, the Old Stone House, part of the Henry Whitfield State Museum in Guilford, but it’s also the oldest house in the state and the oldest stone house in all of New England. Stone structures were commonplace during the mid-1600s, and the Old Stone House dates back to 1639.
Delaware: New Castle Court House Museum
Built in 1732, this courthouse in Delaware’s former capital city, New Castle, is at the center of the town known for many notable moments in history. These include being the area where William Penn landed in 1682 and also being home to four signers of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, the pivotal vote for Delaware to become its own state took place in this courthouse, in 1776. Don’t miss these U.S. history facts you never learned in school.
Florida: Castillo de San Marcos
St. Augustine was founded by Spain in 1565 and this Spanish fort dates back to the 17th century. The 20.5-acre site is now a national park and holds the rank of oldest masonry fortress in the United States. Don’t miss these 16 best American cities for history buffs, including St. Augustine.
Georgia: Herb House
Courtesy Visit Savannah
At first glance, the saltbox-style exterior of Herb House may look like nothing more than a cute building, but locals know this is an important slice of Savannah’s history. Herb House is the oldest house in Georgia, built in 1734, and is still standing today. Its original use as an abode for the gardener of Trustees’ Garden later evolved into an inn for sailors and it is now part of the Pirates’ House Restaurant.
Hawaii: Volcanoes National Park
As the 50th state to join the union, Hawaii is proud to be home to a national park with volcanoes. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island may have been officially named a park in 1916 but its origins are way more ancient than that. Find out 13 active volcanoes you can actually visit.
Idaho: Mission of the Sacred Heart
Mission of the Sacred Heart, dating back to 1853, is Idaho’s oldest building that’s still standing. Tucked into Old Mission State Park, it’s a popular spot for couples to say their wedding vows as up to 100 people can be hosted inside the mission for a ceremony. Rotating exhibits on the property provide a deeper context for the region. Find out the most romantic restaurant in every state.
Illinois: Cahokia Mounds
Philip Arno Photography/Shutterstock
The earliest and largest archeological site north of Mexico is situated 15 minutes from St. Louis, in Southern Illinois. UNESCO named the Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville a World Heritage Site during the 1980s. At the 2,220-acre site, you’ll find 80 mounds dating back to pre-Columbian times, when this settlement was home to around 20,000 people. Walk to the top of Monks Mound, the largest of the mounds at100 feet high for a spectacular view.
Indiana: The Red House
From 1805 to 1813, Indiana’s state legislature met inside what was commonly called “The Red House,” a two-story timber-frame structure, in Vincennes, Indiana’s oldest city. If you think the name sounds French, you’re correct. The area belonged to France before becoming the Indiana Territory in 1805.
Iowa: Louis Arriandeaux Log House
Courtesy Dubuque County Historical Society
Built in 1833, this log cabin’s dogtrot design is essentially two log cabins connected by a breezeway and sharing a roof. This is the third site the house has been on, but for history buffs and lovers of design, there’s an advantage to the current site, owned by the Dubuque County Historical Society: the log cabin shares land with the Antebellum-style Mathias Ham House as well as a one-room schoolhouse.
Kansas: Fort Scott National Historic Site
Courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism
Between 1842 and 1873, Fort Scott was a very busy place, serving as a gateway to Westward expansion. Named for Gen. Wilfred Scott, today, the historic 17-acre site features 20 buildings (11 are original) that are open for self-guided tours and programs that often feature employees dressed in period apparel.
Kentucky: Locust Grove, Louisville
This Georgian-style mansion, built in 1792, has hosted many notable visitors including Andrew Jackson and John James Audubon. Periodic festivals, events, and camps held on the 55-acre site in Louisville range from a summer concert series on Thursday nights to afternoon lectures.
Louisiana: Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
While the name of this spot along Bourbon Street might confuse you, this is actually a bar and has been for quite some time. But before taking drink orders, it was a blacksmith shop, in the shell of a structure built by Nicholas Touze in the early 1720s, run by brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte between 1772 and 1791. Jean Lafitte is more famous for being a pirate than he was a blacksmith.
Maine: Fort Western
David E. Heath/Shutterstock
Dating back to 1754 in what is now the state’s capital city, Augusta, this is the country’s oldest wooden fort. Bonus: a visit to this former British colonial outpost, used during the French and Indian War, puts you along the scenic Kennebec River. It is now a National Historic Landmark and was carefully preserved in 1969.
Maryland: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Established in 1798, this fort in Baltimore’s Locust Point neighborhood played a key role in the War of 1812. The fort was expanded in 1917 during World War I when about 100 more buildings were added, which essentially turned it into a U.S. Army hospital.
Massachusetts: Plymouth Rock
Anybody who’s taken an American history class knows that Plymouth Harbor is where the Pilgrims landed in 1620 onboard the Mayflower. Although there is a debate about when the boulder (dubbed Plymouth Rock) appeared, by standing in this spot you are safely in the state’s oldest tourist attraction, boulder or not. Read on for 11 Thanksgiving “facts” that aren’t actually true.
Michigan: Fort Mackinac
The popular summer-getaway destination, Mackinac Island is also home to Fort Mackinac, established in 1780. Today’s vacationers, in between visits to local legendary fudge shops, can visit this stone fort-—along with 13 other historic structures that feature exhibits, told through costumed interpreters, revealing the land’s rich history. Find out 11 more of the best island vacations to take in America.
Minnesota: Fort Snelling
What’s unique about this Civil War-era fort is that it’s right in the heart of what is today the metropolis of the state capitol, Saint Paul. A visit to Fort Snelling might include self-guided tours and experiencing free exhibits in the visitor center, plus themed tours that are announced on the fort’s website.
Mississippi: LaPointe-Krebs House
Courtesy James Foster
Dating back to 1757, this combination historic house/museum with its concrete-like tabby walls in Pascagoula is also the oldest building that’s still standing in all of Mississippi. As a testament to the property’s preservation, it is currently in the middle of a major restoration which, when complete, will have undone previous attempts at restoration that were not historically accurate and also repaired the structural effects of Hurricane Katrina. Ironically, the house narrowly survived another hurricane in 1772.
Missouri: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
This historic site near Springfield is known for the 1861 Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which was the first Civil War battle west of the Mississippi. Open daily, most first-time visitors like to drive the five-mile car loop marked by eight stops. For the full effect, try to visit on a day when reenactments and firings of canons are taking place.
Charles Chadwick Talton/Shutterstock
One of the first areas of Montana to welcome settlers was Stevensville, in the far southwest part of the state, between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains. Drop by St. Mary’s Mission—founded in 1841 by a Jesuit priest—to learn more about the region’s first residents. Today the town has around 2,000 residents who are proud of this living heritage. This is the coolest secret location in each state.
Nebraska: Chimney Rock National Historic Site
A huge draw to this 83-acre site along the Oregon Trail is its 300-foot-tall sandstone rock formation dating back at least as far as the early 19th century when fur traders passed through. Chimney Rock became a national landmark in 1956.
Founded in 1851, this tiny Sierra Nevada community holds the distinction of being Nevada’s oldest town, and it began as a trading post for Mormon traders from Salt Lake City. Genoa’s original brick courthouse from the 1860s now houses a museum of regional history. Today you can shop, eat and walk in the quaint downtown while enjoying its Old West vibe.
New Hampshire: Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves
There’s a lot to do at the Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves, from yoga to lantern-lit tours and naturalist-led visits with wild animals. Open during the warmer months (May to October), visitors are not only treated to this natural wonder in the White Mountains, but it’s also a chance to step on land that was carved out 300 million years ago.
New Jersey: Nothnagle log house
Courtesy Christina Huang
This log cabin in Gibbstown was built by Finnish settlers in 1638 to 1643. It was part of a farm and this building that’s still standing is thought to have been used for making dairy products and butcher meat. Free tours are available by appointment.
New Mexico: Acoma Pueblo
Dating back to 1150, Acoma Pueblo holds the title of oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. Today, you can visit the Native American pueblo built atop a 367-foot sandstone bluff. Residents will share their history, traditions, and culture, through educational tours and historic exhibits at the Sky City Cultural Center and Haaku Museum.
New York: Wyckoff House Museum
In the New York City borough of Brooklyn, you’ll find, of all things, a preserved farmhouse. Located on Clarendon Road on a 1.5-acre plot within what is now the Canarsie section, the Pieter Wyckoff House is an example of American Colonial style architecture that dates back to 1652. It was home to the Wyckoff family for eight generations, right up until 1901. Don’t miss the 11 hidden gems of NYC even native New Yorkers don’t know about.
North Carolina: Blowing Rock
Since 1933, this tourist attraction with mysterious winds in the aptly named Blowing Rock has attracted visitors but the rocks themselves date back to about 250 million years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. According to the rock’s legend, a Chickasaw maiden flirtatiously shot an arrow at a passing Cherokee brave. Her overture worked and they started a love affair. But the man he was torn because even though he loved her, he missed his tribe, and ultimately he leapt to his death from the rock. The distraught maiden prayed daily for his return. Her prayers were answered in the form of a gust of wind that blew her lover back onto The Rock and into her arms—and the winds haven’t stopped since. Find out the spookiest ghost story from every state.
North Dakota: Fort Union Trading Post
Jeffrey M. Frank/Shutterstock
Right on the Montana/North Dakota border, along the Upper Missouri River in Williston, you’ll find Fort Union Trading Post, a national historic site that dates back to 1828 and up until 1867 was one of the most important fur-trading posts. If you’re thinking about visiting, go in June for its annual Rendezvous, a recreation of a 19th Century Fur Trade Fair that includes a variety of period arts, crafts, and music.
Ohio: Old Stone Fort
Courtesy Coshocton Visitors Bureau
Though the exact origins of this Isleta landmark are a mystery, it’s believed to have been built by Pierre Le Moyne D’iberville, a French explorer in 1679 to 1689. If that’s correct, that makes the Old Stone Fort not only Ohio’s oldest building, but also the Midwest’s. Don’t miss the oldest cemetery in every state.
Oklahoma: Fort Gibson
Dating back to 1824, one of Oklahoma’s oldest towns, Fort Gibson Historic Site was the first Army post to be set up on Indian territory. In 1890 it ceased being a fort and is now owned and managed by the Oklahoma Historical Society. Several other historical moments in the state’s history can be traced back to Fort Gibson in Muskogee County, including the first telephone and first school for the blind.
Oregon: National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
Living-history demonstrations, interpretive programs, and exhibits at this 500-acre site help bring to life the story on early settlers along the Oregon Trail. Perched atop Flagstaff Hill, the center also affords views of the Blue Mountains, the very same range the first settlers saw. Take a look at the strangest roadside attraction in every state.
Pennsylvania: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village
This attraction provides a glimpse at earlier settlers’ life via two 1770s-era trading post. There’s also a recreated 16th-century Monongahela Indian Village and a recreated Meadowcroft Historic Village featuring 19th-century blacksmithing and a one-room schoolhouse.
Rhode Island: Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House
Stephen B. Goodwin/Shutterstock
While most people come to Newport to tour the lavish historic mansions, they are far from the oldest tourist attraction. That honor goes to the Seventh Day Baptist Meetinghouse built in 1730 and considered to be the oldest surviving Baptist church in the country. The nearly 300-year-old church features architectural marvels including carved paneling and a vaulted ceiling on the interior. In 2009 a restoration brought the building back to as close to its original condition as possible. Here’s the best-kept secret in every state.
South Carolina: Middleton Oak
This over 500-year-old oak tree is tucked into Charleston’s Middleton Place, also renowned for being the oldest landscaped gardens in the country, dating back to 1741. One can easily spend a day at this plantation, exploring the gardens, taking a guided carriage ride, witnessing blacksmithing, textiles, and carpentry demonstrations, and learning about the slave laborers.
South Dakota: Deadwood
Deadwood’s Historic District may not be the oldest site in the state—archeological sites trump that—but it’s the most ancient spot that tourists can visit. Among the attractions on Main Street are Saloon Number 10 where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in 1876—you can still grab a drink there today—and the Broken Boot Gold Mine, established in 1878, which offers gold-panning lessons.
Tennessee: Fort Loudoun State Historic Park
This fort in Vonore was built in 1756 to help shore up the British defenses during the French and Indian War. The fort was restored during the Great Depression and named a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Today, the 1,200-acre state park is a lovely spot for hiking, birding, and boating. Find out the best picnic spot in every state.
Texas: Mission Concepción
Terri Butler Photography/Shutterstock
The Mission Concepción in San Antonio dates back to 1731 and is the oldest stone church in America that has not been restored, a testament to the structure’s sturdiness. Frescos, although faded, are still visible in many of the rooms. The mission, part of San Antonio’s Mission Trail, which also includes The Alamo, spans 11 acres and is a great example of Spanish Colonial style architecture.
Utah: Great Salt Lake
The largest salt-water lake in the country, and the world’s eighth-largest lake, Great Salt Lake was created as an offshoot of Lake Bonneville about 30,000 years ago. At least three Native American tribes have lived along the lake, which is sometimes likened to the Dead Sea due to the high salt content. Find out the best bucket list idea for every state.
Vermont: Bennington Battle Monument
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES/Shutterstock
While this 306-foot-tall monument—commemorating the Battle of Bennington—was constructed relatively recently in 1891, the Revolutionary War battle that took place here in 1777 earns it the title of the oldest tourist site in Vermont. On a nice day, the observation deck affords views of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York.
Founded in 1607, Jamestown, along the James River 58 miles southeast of Richmond, was the first English-colony settlement and today acts as a living-history museum to tell those settlers’ stories. The historic site includes James Fort, a 17th-century church tower, various monuments, and an archeology museum.
Washington: Tsagaglalal, at Columbia Hills Historical State Park
Inside Columbia Hills Historical State Park along the Columbia River near Dallasport lies a true treasure: Native American petroglyphs at Horsethief Lake. Among the most studied is Tsagaglalal (which means “she who watches”). You can see them for yourself during a guided ranger tour. Rock climbers and water lovers alike flock to this park.
West Virginia: Historic Shepherdstown Museum
Courtesy Michael Chalmers
Built in 1786, the building that is now home to the Historic Shepherdstown Museum has the distinction of being the oldest site in historic Shepherdstown. While its original use was as a private home, it later became Globe Tavern and was also a part of the neighboring Entler Hotel.
Wisconsin: Historic Point Basse
Courtesy Historic Point Basse
Given the state’s on-going love of beer, it’s no wonder that the oldest tourist site features a tavern. Wakely Tavern—at Historic Point Basse, which in French means “low point” or “shallows”—is named for its founders, Mary and Robert Wakely, and was established in 1842. Each October the site hosts a historical reenactment. Don’t miss the most historic landmark in every state.
Wyoming: Old Faithful
It’s trekking to Yellowstone National Park to witness Old Faithful erupt about 140 feet into the air—the occurrence, lasting between one and five minutes, happens every 60 to 110 minutes daily. It’s inside the country’s oldest national park (established in 1872). But the geyser is at the very least two years older than that: the first recorded sighting of Old Faithful was in 1870 by an expedition crew. Now, check out the best free tourist attraction in each state.