From the Black Hills to the Florida Keys, travelers can find the faces of famous Americans.
More U.S. presidents have called Virginia home than any other state. New York’s Hudson Valley drew the magnates and tycoons of the Gilded Age. Boston was where the Sons of Liberty fomented the birth of the nation. Florida drew all sorts of notable names to its shores, and South Dakota is best known for the famous faces carved into its stone facades.
These Travel Alliance Partners itineraries showcase some of the most influential people in American history.
Homes of Presidents
Thomas Jefferson was the third U.S. president. James Madison was the fourth. And groups will get an idea of how different the two Founding Fathers were while touring their homes and estates during the Homes of Presidents and Virginia Byways itinerary operated by Mid Atlantic Receptive Services (MARS).
“Madison was a very different person than Jefferson,” said Kate Scopetti, president of MARS. “You get kind of a different perspective of really the personalities of Madison and Jefferson, what they did together and how they communicated.”
MARS customizes each trip, but most groups will tour Monticello, Jefferson’s home and mountaintop estate. The visitors center features a museum and a film that acclimates guests to Jefferson’s world before a shuttle takes the group to the house itself, which is filled with “things invented by Thomas Jefferson during his lifetime that are in use in the house still,” Scopetti said. Guests will see the slave quarters and the farmland and stop at the nearby tavern for a tour and “the best fried chicken in the world,” she said.
Visitors can see where Madison and his wife, Dolley, lived at Montpelier in Orange, Virginia, and visit Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate. During a guided tour, groups will see the bedroom where the United States’ first president died in 1799 and the key to the Bastille that hangs in the main hallway.
In Washington, D.C., tours include Woodrow Wilson’s house and President Lincoln’s Cottage. Other options in Virginia include Jefferson’s boyhood home at Tuckahoe Plantation and Washington’s cottage in Winchester.
Florida claims many famous people, from the original conquistadors searching for the Fountain of Youth to Ernest Hemingway and President Harry Truman.
Wade Tours takes groups from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Coast and to the nation’s southernmost spot during its Florida’s Coast-to-Coast itinerary.
The nation’s oldest permanently occupied European settlement, St. Augustine feels like a European city.
“We call it the oldest European City in America,” said Crystal DeLorenzo of Wade Tours.
A trolley tour highlights sites including the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, the Oldest Wooden School House, Flagler College, Tolomato Cemetery and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum. But one of the most popular stops is the Fountain of Youth, a 15-acre historic park; legend claims the park’s spring is the Fountain of Youth that Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León was seeking in 1513.
In Sarasota, John and Mable Ringling’s Ca’ d’Zan mansion sits on the shores of Sarasota Bay. The Ringlings built the Venetian-style mansion between 1924 and 1926, and groups can tour it along with the Ringling Circus Museum and Museum of Art.
The winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford sit on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers. Guests can explore 20 acres of botanical gardens; nine historic buildings, including Ford’s winter home; Edison’s Botanic Research Laboratory; and the Edison Ford Museum.
“It’s really pretty and very old-Florida with a lot of live oak and Spanish moss,” DeLorenzo said.
As the Florida Keys continue to recover from damage from Hurricane Irma, Wade will continue to travel there, where a historic guided trolley tour highlights President Truman’s Little White House as well as Hemingway’s haunts, including his home and his favorite bars.