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Extraordinary Destinations to Witness Civic Pride in Action 

Some might say American patriotism is in decline but there are still celebrations going on

spinner image visitors arrive at griffith observatory in los angeles in the evening
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

I live next to a park with Civil War and World War II monuments. Every Memorial Day, veterans and families congregate in the park to pay their respects to those who fought and died for the country they loved. The sense of civic pride and duty from those who participate is inspiring.

Civic pride and engagement are essential for any well-functioning community. But some might say American patriotism is in decline, particularly among the young. So how do we revive a sense of civic pride? Try visiting some of America’s most important national historic sites.

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Here are six recommendations of destinations that embody what it means to be an American — and if you have a young person in your life, take them along for the ride.

Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell

spinner image the iconic liberty bell in philadelphia
Getty Images

Independence Hall is often called the “birthplace of the nation.” The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed there, and it served as the nation’s first capital.

Now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Independence Hall welcomes visitors to tour the rooms in which our country’s founding documents were debated and ratified, enshrining the principles of freedom, inalienable rights, and democracy.

While you’re there, you can also visit the Liberty Bell. The bell’s inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof," inspired abolitionists and served as a rallying cry to end slavery. Admission is free to the Liberty Bell Center.

United States Capitol

spinner image the capitol building reflects on the water in washington dc
Dea/ M. Borchi/Getty Images

If you want to see civic pride in action, the most obvious place to visit is the U.S. Capitol. A landmark of neoclassical design, the Capitol building houses the chambers of Congress and is “the center of our experiment in political freedom.” Inside, you will also find paintings and sculptures that commemorate important events and figures in American history. You may even see a senator or representative while you’re there.

Reservations are recommended to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol.

Fort Sumter

spinner image a view of fort sumter - which was a flashpoint in the start of the american civil war
Steve Paddon / Alamy Stock Photo

The attack on Fort Sumter by Confederate troops on April 12, 1861 marked the start of the American Civil War. While the Confederates won the battle, they ultimately lost the war, which lasted four years, cost 620,000 Americans their lives, freed 3.9 million enslaved people, and redefined American freedom. 

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This monument to freedom is situated at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Fort Sumter is only accessible by the concession-operated tour boat. Fort Sumter does not charge an entrance fee; however, tickets for the ferry are required and may be purchased in advance.

September 11 Memorial & Museum

spinner image a view from jersey city of the empty sky 9/11 memorial in new york
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Located in the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood, the 9/11 Memorial commemorates the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Most of us remember that terrible day. The site is both a memorial to the lives lost and a symbol of American resilience.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is also an example of civic pride in action. Families who lost loved ones in the attack, survivors, and community groups in downtown Manhattan fought to preserve important relics from the scene and donated many of the items on display. One moving example is the Survivors’ Staircase, the last remaining above-ground architectural element from the World Trade Center that many used to escape that day. Community groups rallied to preserve it, and it now figures prominently in the museum.

The 9/11 Museum requires advance ticket purchase. The Memorial is free and open to the public seven days a week; you may reserve Outdoor Memorial Audio Guides ahead of time or purchase during your visit.

Griffith Observatory

spinner image a view of griffith planetarium in los angeles
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Griffith Observatory is an example of civic pride in monumental form: a wealthy industrialist named Griffith J. Griffith gifted the land for Griffith Park to the city of Los Angeles in 1896, after realizing that all great European cities have large central parks. Griffith wanted to make his hometown of Los Angeles a world-class city as well so he donated more than 3,000 acres and set up a trust to build the observatory, which offers science and astronomy programing.  

The park offers sweeping views of the city and the Pacific, and is where the famous Hollywood sign is located. Best of all, Griffith stipulated in his gift that the park and observatory remain free and open to the public in perpetuity.

Griffith Observatory is a free-admission facility.

Taos Pueblo

spinner image people walk toward taos pueblo in new mexico
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Taos Pueblo is considered the largest continuously inhabited community in the United States. If you want to see Native American adobe architecture and get a sense of the long history of human habitation in North America, this is the place to go.

The reservation’s main adobe structures were constructed between 1000 and 1400 A.D., before Columbus arrived on American shores. While most of the reservation is off limits to the public, the central historic structures are open for tours. The buildings are still inhabited by members of the Pueblo tribe, who sell pottery, moccasins, and other wares from their homes.

While you’re in Taos, you can also visit the Kit Carson Museum to learn about frontier history and get a taste of cowboy Americana.

Taos Pueblo charges $25 per adult; $22 is the senior rate.

Go Local

From Mount Rushmore to the Alamo to Fort Union Trading Post in North Dakota, many places embody civic pride and the American spirit. But perhaps the greatest thing you can do to witness civic pride is to get involved in your local community. Whether that means helping to organize the July 4th parade, volunteering for a community organization or just cleaning the litter from your streets, civic pride derives from citizens in action.

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