Team Outdoorsy
by Team Outdoorsy
Posted August 20, 2021

The pandemic brought the national parks system to a virtual halt in 2020 as federal shutdowns closed various sites across the country. Yellowstone National Park’s attendance from January to May plummeted by more than 70% over the same stretch in 2019.

However, the parks system came roaring back in 2021 as visitors to the nation’s most majestic locations arrived at record rates. In May, Yellowstone recorded the most visitors on record in that month, and through May the park had more visitors year-to-date than it had in any of the past five years.

That the breathtaking environs of famous parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite are attracting visitors at record rates is no surprise. Nationally, outdoor activities saw a significant increase in participation in 2020 as people turned to outside hobbies to ease the stress of the pandemic. And RV rental company Outdoorsy saw a 145% increase in bookings as people took to the road for outdoor vacations.

And for those who love history, the National Park Service’s (NPS) historic sites offer an intersection between the beauty of the outdoors and the American story. While the NPS is best known for its expansive scenic parks, like Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, more than half of the areas it manages were established to commemorate people and events important to the nation’s history. The nation’s network of historically significant sites—including national battlefields and battlefield parks, national military parks, national historic sites and parks, and national memorials—brings in tens of millions of visitors each year. And while the park system suffered a huge blow in 2020 attendance, pre-pandemic trends indicate the increasing popularity of these destinations.

most popular historical sites in america

Among the NPS’s historically significant sites, national historical parks and national memorials were the most visited in 2020. Popular examples of national historical parks include Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Historical Park, Valley Forge National Historical Park, and San Francisco National Maritime Park.

The national memorials that welcomed the most visits in 2020 include, in order of visits, Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore, and a pair of war memorials in Washington D.C.: World War II Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. These four sites accounted for more than 8 million visitors in 2020 and made up more than half the visits to national memorials.

most popular historical sites in america

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To find the most popular historical sites in America, researchers at Outdoorsy analyzed the most recent visitation statistics from the U.S. National Park Service, ranking parks by their total number of recreation visits in 2020. The researchers also included statistics on total recreation hours, as well as the total size of each park. For the purpose of this analysis, Outdoorsy defined a national historical site as any one of the following park types: national battlefield, national battlefield park, national historic site, national historical park, national memorial, or national military park.

Here are the most-visited historical sites in the U.S.

The 15 Most Popular Historical Sites in America

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

15. Independence National Historical Park

  • Park type: National Historical Park
  • State(s): Pennsylvania
  • Recreation visits: 907,090
  • Recreation hours: 1,361,174
  • Total park acres: 44.9
Photo Credit: Vacclav / Shutterstock

14. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

  • Park type: National Memorial
  • State(s): Washington D.C.
  • Recreation visits: 1,010,986
  • Recreation hours: 505,492
  • Total park acres: 8.1
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

  • Park type: National Memorial
  • State(s): Washington D.C.
  • Recreation visits: 1,083,671
  • Recreation hours: 541,833
  • Total park acres: 2.7

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Outdoorsy has comprehensive guides on all U.S. national parks. Plan a beautiful getaway this summer, and be sure to do your research with Outdoorsy.


Photo Credit: Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock

12. Minute Man National Historical Park

  • Park type: National Historical Park
  • State(s): Massachusetts
  • Recreation visits: 1,083,973
  • Recreation hours: 1,625,957
  • Total park acres: 1,027.8
Photo Credit: Travel Bug / Shutterstock

11. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

  • Park type: National Historical Park
  • State(s): Texas
  • Recreation visits: 1,141,353
  • Recreation hours: 1,692,670
  • Total park acres: 947.8
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Korean War Veterans Memorial

  • Park type: National Memorial
  • State(s): Washington D.C.
  • Recreation visits: 1,363,714
  • Recreation hours: 681,856
  • Total park acres: 1.6
Photo Credit: Orhan Cam / Shutterstock

9. Vietnam Veterans Memorial

  • Park type: National Memorial
  • State(s): Washington D.C.
  • Recreation visits: 1,585,525
  • Recreation hours: 792,761
  • Total park acres: 2.2
Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

8. World War II Memorial

  • Park type: National Memorial
  • State(s): Washington D.C.
  • Recreation visits: 1,924,128
  • Recreation hours: 962,064
  • Total park acres: 8.3
Photo Credit: Zack Frank / Shutterstock

7. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

  • Park type: National Historical Park
  • State(s): California
  • Recreation visits: 1,936,101
  • Recreation hours: 1,930,915
  • Total park acres: 49.9
Photo Credit: Delmas Lehman / Shutterstock

6. Valley Forge National Historical Park

  • Park type: National Historical Park
  • State(s): Pennsylvania
  • Recreation visits: 2,012,832
  • Recreation hours: 4,025,664

Total park acres: 3,468.5

Photo Credit: Adventures on Wheels / Shutterstock

5. Mount Rushmore National Memorial

  • Park type: National Memorial
  • State(s): South Dakota
  • Recreation visits: 2,074,986
  • Recreation hours: 2,732,050
  • Total park acres: 1,278.5
Photo Credit: Rob Hainer / Shutterstock

4. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

  • Park type: National Battlefield Park
  • State(s): Georgia
  • Recreation visits: 2,356,401
  • Recreation hours: 3,683,500
  • Total park acres: 2,913.6

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Photo Credit: John Marc Lyttle / Shutterstock

3. Colonial National Historical Park

  • Park type: National Historical Park
  • State(s): Virginia
  • Recreation visits: 2,946,594
  • Recreation hours: 2,987,790
  • Total park acres: 8,675.0
Photo Credit: Brandon Bourdages / Shutterstock

2. Lincoln Memorial

  • Park type: National Memorial
  • State(s): Washington D.C.
  • Recreation visits: 2,980,075
  • Recreation hours: 1,490,037
  • Total park acres: 7.3
Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

1. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

  • Park type: National Historical Park
  • State(s): Maryland-Washington D.C.-West Virginia
  • Recreation visits: 4,888,436
  • Recreation hours: 10,246,241
  • Total park acres: 19,612.4

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. National Park Service. For the purpose of this analysis, a national historical site was defined as any one of the following: national battlefield, national battlefield park, national historic site, national historical park, national memorial, or national military park. To determine the most popular historical sites in America, researchers ranked these sites based on the number of recreational visits in 2020.

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