5 Places That Bring History To Life

While reading about notable figures and events is a great way to learn, nothing can quite compare to the experience of witnessing firsthand where history was made. Whether it's an architecturally significant building or a place of deep cultural resonance, these sites provide education, excitement, and the ability to feel the past come alive. In no particular order, here are some destinations to check out for anyone interested in history.

For #1 we have the Historic Joy Kogawa House, once the childhood home of the acclaimed author and her family. Built in the Marpole neighborhood of Vancouver in 1912, it was Kogawa's residence from 1937 until 1942, when the government confiscated the homes of thousands of citizens of Japanese descent. Today, the property is a unique living and working space for writers, a venue for public events, and an ongoing symbol of the racial discrimination experienced by Japanese Canadians as a consequence of WWII.

Managed by a not-for-profit historical society, the House serves as a site for author residencies, giving writers the resources they need to produce a full-length project while engaging with the community via a program of literary activities. Additionally, tours of the House are held year-round for elementary and secondary school groups, as well as for the general public.

Showing up at #2 is Mission San Juan Capistrano, a historic landmark and museum founded over 200 years ago as the seventh of 21 missions statewide. Originally constructed as a self-sufficient center for agriculture, industry, education, and religion, today it serves as a monument to California's multi-cultural history. Among its features are gardens, a chapel, public events, and permanent exhibits of rare paintings and artifacts.

The Mission is famous for its Return of the Swallows tradition. Held annually on March 19, St. Joseph's Day, it celebrates the mass migration of swallows from Goya, Argentina to San Juan Capistrano, signaling the start of spring. Visitors can also come to witness the daily bell ringing, see the two original bells that once hung in the Great Stone Church, and partake in hands-on activities.

For #3 we get Trolley Square. This destination is located in Salt Lake City, one of the first cities in the US to introduce a trolley car system, electrifying its first line in 1889. Used as a territorial fairgrounds through 1901, and subsequently transformed into a hub for Utah Light Railway Company, the Square was refashioned in 1972 as a festival marketplace offering shopping, dining, and entertainment.

In addition to restoring and converting the site's old trolley barns, architect Wally Wright incorporated parts of historical buildings into the mall, including fragments of Tooele's Anaconda Mine. Visitors can still dine at original eateries such as The Old Spaghetti Factory and Desert Edge Brewery, and can take a tour of the historic Trolley Square Water Tower, part of the skyline since 1908.

Next, at #4 is South Carolina's Olde English District. Made up of seven counties in the north central area of the state, the District received its name because of the region's early settlement by the English in the mid-1770s. A number of Revolutionary War battles were fought in the area, and historical sites, markers, parks, buildings, and monuments offer many ways for visitors to experience history.

The District's wide range of attractions spans art and culture, history and genealogy, shopping and dining, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Visitors can check out Historic Brattonsville, which presents the history of African-Americans and the Scots-Irish in the South Carolina upcountry. There are also plenty of state parks and museums. Golfers will find award-winning public courses, including an 18-hole championship course at Cheraw State Park.

Finally, for #5 we find Hyde Hall, a neoclassical country mansion constructed for English landowner George Clarke near Cooperstown, New York. Built over a period of time between 1817 and 1834, the home contains much of the furniture and artifacts from the original builder. Brendan Gill, long-time architecture critic for The New Yorker, declared it one of the "three or four great buildings in America of its time."

Located within what is now Glimmerglass State Park, Hyde Hall encompasses the primary mansion, as well as a caretaker's cottage, a stone house, a crypt, a covered bridge, and a gatehouse that's been converted into a visitor's center. Guests can take a tour of the mansion to see its nearly 50 rooms and unique architectural details, and witness firsthand its ongoing restoration process.