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Avoid The Beach Towns And Visit These Historic Towns This Memorial Day 

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The start of summer is right around the corner, and for many, the next holiday they have free from work is Memorial Day.

It’s no wonder that almost 40 million Americans travel during Memorial Day weekend, many favoring a road trip over air travel, and most of them staying within a 50-mile radius of home. 

main street usa small town with american flag

As the official start of summer, it’s natural that most people like to hit the beach for Memorial Day, but the crowds, traffic, and parking they face usually take away from the enjoyment of the trip.

One way to avoid the beach crowds is to head away from the shoreline and instead celebrate Memorial Day by checking out some more historic towns.

Luckily, as part of their 10 Best series, USA Today has named the top 10 historic small towns to visit across America.

While most of these places have some connection to war heroes or military history, they are all deeply steeped in history.

Williamsburg, Virginia horse and buggy

So, Just In Time For Memorial Day, Here Are the 10 Best Historic American Small Towns, According to USA Today:

San Elizario, Texas 

This small Texan border town has a history of over 400 years and makes a perfect day trip from nearby El Paso.

According to the National Park Service, San Elizario was picked as a strategic point as a military stronghold on New Spain’s western frontier. 

The town charms visitors with its adobe structures that have been historically preserved, as well as its San Elizario Presidio Chapel, located in the center of town. 

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Exterior of the San Elizario Presidio Chapel

Abilene, Kansas 

There are a few reasons the small Kansas town of Abilene was chosen as one of the top 10 historic small towns in America, but the main one is that this is the hometown of 5 Star General and 34th President Of The United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

There is lots to do here, from wild-west reenactments to museums and historical sites, not to mention a thriving dining and hotel scene. 

President Eisenhower Abilene Kansas

Wickford, Rhode Island 

Those looking to stay by the shore can check out the historic harbor town of Wickford, loaded about a 20-minute drive from the larger and more well-known Newport.

Originally a small filing village, Wickford now showcases classic storefronts along its streets, colonial homes, fine dining options, churches, gardens, and many other laid-back sites to take in. 

Main Street in Historic Wickford, Rhode Island

Wallace, Idaho 

You can find this authentic and unique town in North Idaho, in the state's panhandle.

Originally a mining town, it was destroyed by a fire in the 1900s known as the “Big Burn” and has since come into its own as a bigger and more tourist-driven town.

Once one of the largest silver producers in the world, Wallace now has many things to do, including mining tours. 

An antique clock showing time and temperature on the corner of a vintage building in the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho

Cody, Wyoming 

Founded by William “Buffalo Bill” Cody in the 1890s in attempts to capitalize on the newfound tourism boom of the nearby Yellowstone National Park,  Cody is one small historic town that should not be missed and makes an easy stop on any Yellowstone trip.

Don’t miss visiting any of the five museums, one being, of course, the Buffalo Bill Museum.

cody, wyoming old mining town

Wickenburg, Arizona

A classic gold mining town, Wickenburg now features a Historic Walking Tour, which offers visitors the chance to take in 30 sites of history.

One classic building is the iconic train depot, dating back to the 1890s.

Considered by some to be a desert oasis, this is one historic town that really can give those who visit a glimpse into the wild west. 

old house in wickenburg arizona

Williamsburg, Virginia 

Probably the most well-known town on this list, Williamsburg is not exactly a secret.

Though it’s still a small town at heart, visitors can take in Colonial Williamsburg, nearby Yorktown, and the Jamestown settlement.

Its cobblestone streets are still home to many horse-drawn carriages, and oak trees drip over white picket fences.

A major Civil War site, history buffs will love spending Memorial Day amongst the historic ambiance. 

Williamsburg, Virginia streets with cafe

Yorktown, Virginia

Only 11 miles down the road from Williamsburg lies Yorktown, which is a charming place known for both its important place in U.S. history as well as its small-town waterfront feel.

It’s here in Yorktown that General George Washington led his army to victory over the British and secured independence for America.

Imagine watching a Memorial Day parade in a place as historic as this; the idea could win over even the non-military history fan in your life. 

The replica L'Hermione in Yorktown VA for Lafayette's Hermione Voyage 2015, this is a Historical replica frigate in which Lafayette sailed to the Americas in 1780

Mackinac Island, Michigan 

OK, first things first. Mackinac Island has no cars. Like none. Nobody has a car for personal use, and people walk, bike, or take horse-drawn carriages to get around.

While here, visitors like to take in the scenic views on this three-mile-long, two-mile-wide island.

Since becoming a holiday destination in the 19th century, much has remained unchanged about this quaint little place.

Visit the historic forts and see some of the oldest houses in all of Michigan when you go, and make time for the amazing restaurants as well. 

marina on mackinac island michigan

Port Gamble Washington 

Port Gamble was once a booming town centered around the mills and used to be one of the main sources of lumber for many worldwide cities. 

Now Port Gamble is a National Historic Landmark and has been called “the finest example of a nineteenth-centric Pacific Coast logging community.”

This quaint waterfront town seems straight out of New England, and some visitors come here for some spooky reasons.

Many of the historic buildings are said to be haunted, leading to the Port Gamble Ghost Conference each Winter. 

yellow house in port gamble washington

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