We’ve all heard of the Seven Wonders of the World, but what about the wonders that exist within our own borders? The United States is the fourth biggest country in the world based on land area, trailing only Russia, Antarctica, and Canada. When you sing along to “America the Beautiful,” you’re singing about the country’s “purple mountain majesties” and “amber waves of grain,” not to mention our “halcyon skies.” It’s a big, diverse landscape. You could spend years traveling the 50 states and not risk running out of new things to see. Here are some tips for figuring out where you should go and what you should see, from the country’s many national parks to our mighty rivers and historic battlefields.
The West occupies a unique space in American lore, as it was the last part of the country to be settled. People who had trouble getting by on the East Coast traveled west in hopes of finding a better future for themselves and their families. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States. Westward expansion was a big deal, but that didn’t mean it was always peaceful. In many cases, it was the opposite of peaceful, and the echoes of that era are still being felt today.
The fascinating history of the West is best explored up close and in person. The country’s national parks play a key role in preserving that history at places like Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. It’s one of eight national parks located in The Treasure State, which is the fourth-largest state in the union. (Alaska, Texas, and California are the only states that have Montana beat.) Looking for mountains? If there’s one mountain range that defines the West, it’s got to be the Rocky Mountains. Check out places like Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Glacier National Park in Montana and prepare to be wowed. You’ll want to take plenty of photos, but not so many that you forget to just soak in the amazing views around you. Bring home rocky mountain posters to hang up in your home as a constant reminder of your adventures.
The American South
Unlike the relatively arid West, the Deep South is full of water, whether it’s in the form of a small Louisiana bayou or the mighty Mississippi River. Crossing America’s most famous river is something every American should experience at least once, because it’s truly breathtaking. The Vicksburg Bridge uses Interstate 20 to connect Louisiana and Mississippi via a two-mile span. If you’re westbound, you’ll cross over the river and find yourself in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The town shares its name with the famous bridge, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
It’s impossible to talk about the history of America without also talking about the Civil War that split apart the country. There are multiple experiences in Vicksburg, Mississippi that offer tourists the chance to learn more about the war. The Vicksburg National Military Park in particular is a must-see for history buffs. Not surprisingly, Vicksburg’s proximity to the Mississippi River made it a critical location during the war. On July 4, 1863, the Confederate Army surrendered to the Union Army. That surrender ended the 47-day Siege of Vicksburg and was critical to the Union’s eventual victory, especially since it came just one day after the Battle of Gettysburg concluded. There’s a saying that goes something like, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Touring a Civil War battlefield is a sobering experience, but it’s a necessary one if we want to truly understand, and learn from, the mistakes of the past.