The Most Visited National Historic Site in America

What does it mean to be a historic site? For tourists, they dot countries in Europe. Many are centuries old. Some are places where battles took place. Others are where royal persons were coronated or live. America has many as well, but on average, they are much younger than Europe’s. Not much of any interest happened in what is now the U.S., at least not prior to The Revolutionary War which lasted from 1775 until 1783. That means, probably, some of the birthplaces of the founders of the U.S., but not much more. Many of these places are classified as national historic sites and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They are cared for by the National Park Service with the aim of protecting the country’s historic and archeological sites.

To identify the most popular national historic site in the U.S., 24/7 Tempo reviewed recreational visits published in the National Park Service’s annual visitation report for 2020, the last year for which data is available. As of 2020, there were 75 national historic sites managed by the NPS. Depending on when they were officially designated as NHSs, these places are either kept as it or restored to their appearance during the period of their historical significance. These sites range from places dating back to prehistoric Indian civilizations to places from recent American history. The NPS aggregates visitation data for various government land designations and visitation purposes. Only national historic sites were considered in our analysis. There are a total of 75 NHSs under the wing of the NPS. We only included the top 19, which are those that received more than 1% of all recreation visits in 2020.

The figure of 75 seems low, given that the U.S. has been a sovereign nation for well over two centuries. Across the 50 states, surely there are more points of great interest. However, even the most visited NHS do not get anywhere near the number of annual visits per year as America’s most visited national parks, some of which get millions of visitors a year. (The Grand Canyon gets 5.9 million).

The most visited National Historic Site in America is Fort Point in California with total recreation visits in 2020 of 884,538. Its share of all NHS recreation visits in 2020 was 21.40%. It is located just above the Golden Gate Bridge. It was built to guard San Francisco Bay, built between 1853 and 1861 by the U.S. Army Engineers.

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