With 2011 marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s start, many people are considering road trips to explore the history of some of the more prominent cities of the time, and to reflect on how we have changed as a nation since then. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that many of these cities have a current booming tourist scene. If you’re looking to combine a bit of history with your road trips this year, here are five former Confederate cities that offer perspective as well as entertainment.
5. Vicksburg, Mississippi
With a strategic location considered by President Lincoln to be the key to wrapping up the war, the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, played a crucial role in the Civil War. Visitors today can catch a glimpse of that history at numerous locations throughout the city, including the expansive and impressive 1,800-acre Vicksburg National Military Park and the 150-year-old Court House Museum, which once played host to both Confederate President Jefferson Davis and U.S. Army Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. When you’re ready to enjoy a few of the modern-day activities Vicksburg has to offer, you can check out the numerous casinos in town. If gambling isn’t your gig, you can always get in a round of golf or check out the various folk art and antique galleries in town.
4. Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia was the heart of the Confederate States of America, serving as the capitol. The actual building where Jefferson Davis lived serves today as part of the Museum of the Confederacy, one of numerous Civil War historic sites the city has to offer. History buffs interested in this time period can also embark on self-guided area driving tours courtesy of the Virginia Civil War Trails program. Modern-day offerings include shopping and spa getaways for the girls, as well as garden tours, water parks and canal cruises in the river district.
3. Montgomery, Alabama
In addition to playing a large role in America’s civil rights movement, Montgomery, Alabama, was also the original capitol of the Confederate government. For those who enjoy locating historical markers, the spot on the steps of the state capitol where Jefferson Davis was sworn in is marked with a bronze star. Another site of note is the First White House of the Confederacy, where Davis and his family lived before relocating to Richmond. Other activities for history lovers visiting Montgomery include an audio-guided walking tour of various sites of the civil rights movement, catching a ballet performance, and visiting the Hank Williams Museum and Memorial.
2. Charleston, South Carolina
From Fort Sumter and the H.L. Hunley submarine to the city’s old neighborhoods filled with antebellum mansions, Charleston, South Carolina, has Civil War history around every corner. Nature lovers will find plenty to enjoy in Charleston as well. The Center for Birds of Prey, a day at the beach or a trip to the popular South Carolina Aquarium are all activities the entire family can enjoy. Pick up a Charleston Heritage Passport from the visitor’s center at 375 Meeting St., and you’ll save 40 percent on various area cultural attractions. It’s a great way to pinch a few vacation pennies without sacrificing your entertainment agenda in this tourist-friendly city.
1. Savannah, Georgia
The timeless and elegant city of Savannah, Georgia, provides a gracious getaway for modern travelers in addition to numerous Civil War historical sites. Whether you’re touring the Green-Meldrim House on Macon Street that served for a time as General Sherman’s headquarters, visiting Fort Jackson or making the short drive out of town to spend the day at the Fort Pulaski National Monument, a trip to Savannah won’t disappoint the history fans in your group. For those simply wanting a romantic getaway, the city is capable of stepping up to the plate there as well. Book a weekend at one of the historic bed and breakfast inns, take a sunset cruise on an old-fashioned riverboat, or take a trolley tour on your way to one of the numerous restaurants at your disposal for a scrumptious dinner.
As you can see, Civil War touring doesn’t have to be dull and leave you stuck in the past. While reflecting on our nation’s past during the war’s sesquicentennial, it’s possible to indulge in a bit of luxury as well. Whether it’s gambling in Vicksburg, canal cruising in Richmond, or birding in Charleston on your way to a romantic getaway in Savannah, Southern hospitality is alive and well in these historic cities.