Summer Guide to Historic Downtowns

In these charming communities, you’ll uncover a passion for history found everywhere—from mom ‘n’ pop stores that have been around for generations, to old warehouses that have become a new home for thriving local businesses, to gleaming architectural gems as famous for their picture-perfect facades as they are for their layered history.

Get to know some of the many historic towns and cities across the United States (all of which were included in Preservation magazine’s summer 2022 issue as part of the "Historic Downtowns" advertising special), find out how much they truly have to offer, and the role they play in building stronger communities.

  1. Photo By: Anthony Garmont

    St. Augustine, Florida

    Founded by the Spanish in 1565, St. Augustine is America’s oldest continuously occupied city. You’ll find dozens of historic sites just a short walk from luxurious accommodations, including the 1888 Casa Monica Resort and Spa and The Collector Luxury Inn and Gardens, a one-acre oasis comprised of nine historic homes dating from 1790 to 1910. Stroll along the Matanzas River to visit the Castillo de San Marcos, the longest-standing masonry fort in the continental United States. Enjoy fine dining in award winning restaurants and fine art in our galleries and museums, including The Lightner, which showcases decorative arts in a stunning gilded age hotel designed by architects Carrère and Hastings. Opportunities to experience performing arts—from opera to theatre, chamber music to ballet—abound.

  2. Photo By: SeeQuincy

    Quincy, Illinois

    Get it While it’s Hot. The perfect marriage of food + history: Summer Flavor Tours. Designed for the curious foodie and guided by a local food ambassador infusing colorful nuggets of Quincy’s historic downtown. More Getaway Plans: Friday Night Free Blues Concerts + Self- Guided Architectural Driving Tours of the city with four National Register Historic Districts.

  3. Photo By: Kelly Heck Photography/Carroll County

    Carroll County, Maryland

    Stroll our historic downtown main streets to discover architectural walking tours, unique shops, restaurants with downhome cooking to gourmet delights, and restful bed & breakfasts waiting for you. Follow our Wine Trail, Civil War Trail, and award-winning Barn Quilt Trail as you travel our scenic backroads. Carroll County is home to The Maryland Wine Festival®—38 years old!.

  4. Photo By: Mark Sandlin

    Talbot County, Maryland

    Talbot County is a quiet area of fields, forests, and more than 600 miles of tidal shoreline. Picture-perfect small towns mix hospitality and history in a way few destinations can. Whether you’re here for a week or a weekend, you will leave with art, antiques, clothes, memorabilia—and many special memories.

  5. Photo By: Visit Annapolis

    Annapolis, Maryland

    If you’re looking to make the most out of a weekend away this spring, Historic Downtown Annapolis has everything you need. With more original 18th century buildings than any other U.S. city, Annapolis is brimming with history, architecture, and Colonial Charm. Take a walking tour of the city. Stop by and walk through the homes of Maryland’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence. Wander through the United States Naval Academy for a history lesson. Once you’ve had your fill of history, head to Main Street for picturesque views of the waterfront and a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants. Or, stop into centuries-old pubs once frequented by names like Jefferson and Washington. It’s all here in Annapolis.

  6. Photo By: Visit Hagerstown

    Hagerstown and Washington County, Maryland

    Hagerstown & Washington County offers rich history dating from the early frontier days of the USA through the Civil War to World War II. We treasure the projects that preserve our history as we move into the future. They amplify our quality of life, offer new perspectives, and provide great collections of opportunities for visitors.

  7. Photo By: Chelsea Perry

    Harford County, Maryland

    Harford County is full of heritage, history, culture, and outdoor adventure. Experience Harford’s museums that offer rural heritage, maritime history, African American history, and Native American history. Explore along three National Scenic Trails and the stunning outdoor vistas that await you. Plan your trip to Harford.

  8. Photo By: Cape Girardeau

    Cape Girardeau, Missouri

    Discover the rich history of Cape Girardeau, MO, one of Missouri’s oldest river towns. From its easily accessible, central location to the many historic sites, museums, and monuments, Cape is the perfect setting for a getaway. The vibrant riverfront downtown features eclectic shops and boutiques as well as local casual and fine dining. Also downtown is a full-service casino located on the Mississippi Riverbank. Cape Girardeau is sure to be your new favorite escape any time of year. Start planning.

  9. Photo By: St. Joseph, MO Visitors Bureau

    St. Joseph, Missouri

    Explore Mo’ Jo!—You can easily spend a couple of days exploring St. Joseph. Home to 14 unique museums, a thriving arts and music culture, quaint shopping and dining in historic buildings, outdoor recreation throughout our 26-mile Parkway, and incredible architecture listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Find your MoJo in St. Jo!

  10. Photo By: Bruce Wunderlich

    Marietta and Washington County, Ohio

    Sitting atop the hill on Fourth Street in Marietta, Ohio, you will find a beautifully preserved Gothic Revival house lovingly referred to as The Castle. Built in 1855, it’s a focal point in Marietta, and one of many meticulously preserved homes and historic structures. As highlighted in David McCullough’s book, "The Pioneers," Marietta is the first settlement in the Northwest Territory, and their riverboating, pioneering spirit is evident when you experience their downtown brick streets lined with thriving boutiques and restaurants.

  11. Photo By: Robin Hood

    Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

    Bethlehem was named on Christmas Eve in 1741 by Moravian Church missionaries from Germany. The Moravians created a masterpiece planned community that remains essentially in place today. It is currently on the U.S. Tentative List for potential World Heritage designation. Historic Bethlehem combines “Authentic Colonial History” located on a “Top 10 Main Street” by USA Today to create a compelling Heritage Traveler destination. Experience elegant hospitality amidst 50 independent restaurants & boutique shops while discovering its One Dozen American “Firsts.”

  12. Photo By: Greg Ceo

    Historic Hotel Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

    The Historic Hotel Bethlehem is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year and was voted America’s #1 Best Historic Hotel by USA Today in 2021. The Hotel is best described as a Historic Boutique Conference Center Hotel with 2 ballrooms, Executive Conference Center, 3 restaurant venues and 125 guest rooms/suites. “Experience the Elegance” while absorbing the history/shopping/dining on a “Top 10 Main Street.” Don’t miss the Ladies Boutique Shoppe and the “Hotel B” Ice Cream Parlor featuring Penn State Creamery product.

  13. Photo By: Creative Dog Media

    Red Hill-Patrick Henry National Memorial, Virginia

    Patrick Henry’s Red Hill is the final home and burial place of Founding Father, American Revolution hero, and five-time Governor of Virginia, Patrick Henry. Visitors can tour the breathtaking beauty of over 1,000 of Patrick Henry’s original acres and historic buildings year-round.

  14. Photo By: Zak Suhar Photography

    Staunton, Virginia

    Five decades of historic preservation have led to a nationally acclaimed downtown—anchored by eclectic architecture, independent shops and restaurants, fascinating museums, six historic districts, and two Historic Hotels of America. The American Shakespeare Center presents dazzling live performances in the stunning Blackfriars Playhouse year-round. Staunton is the perfect base from which to explore Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, historic Blue Ridge Tunnel, Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, and the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail.

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