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When someone visits America from abroad or a young student is trying to visit key landmarks around the country, there are several notable places that they should go in order to gain the purest understanding of our collective ideals. Trying to avoid some of the more obvious (Smithsonian, Grand Canyon, Empire State Building, etc.), there are four locations that every American and foreign traveler should visit in order to gain a better understanding of the complex American spirit.

5) Mt. Vernon Estate

While not normally viewed as a political landmark, this location provides a unique view of what America stood for when it split ties from Britain. One of the more subtle things that people can witness is the paradox of freedom that existed in the country. While the colonists were shouting for their freedom and their rights, they were enslaving an entire race of people. While Washington attempted to redeem his sin by freeing his slaves, the quarters and working conditions are well preserved for visitors to compare the life of political elites to a life of a slave.

4) Savannah, GA (River Street)

The city of Savannah captures the essence of the end of the Civil war. In 1865, Savannah was one of the few cities spared in Sherman’s famous (or infamous) March to the Sea. The march introduced the formal development of total war, and resulted in over $1 million of damages to the states economy. Today, the city is the image diversity, filled with history of the state and the war that led millions to freedom. A historical tour of Savannah will provide the tourist with an understanding of the pre-Civil War economy of the South and the reconstruction that followed the Civil War. Any trip to Savannah isn’t complete without visiting historic River Street. A sort of Bourbon Street on the east coast, it is one of the few places in America without open container laws. The area also features many of the local historical sights, as it was the main shipping hub of the region during the pre-Civil War era south. So, grab a brew and visit this historic city.

3) Bodie, CA

Ghost towns are rarely pitched as a political landmark, but they serve as a reminder that government based on corruption rarely stands the test of time. The town of Bodie was known for its open violence and corruption that was a prelude to modern day corporatism. Within four years of the town founding, the economy began to falter. Today, the structures of this town stand a reminder to those that visit that when government and business work together, bad things happen.

2) The Minuteman Missile National Historical Site

As the website boasts, the “Minuteman missiles held the power to destroy civilization. Yet the same destructive force acted as a nuclear deterrent which kept the peace for three decades.” Most Americans alive today remember the troubled times of the Cold War, but the millennials do not have the historical understanding. In order to better appreciate history and our nation, this site is a necessary stop. The power to destroy the world is in our hands, so the youth must understand what is at stake.

1) The 9/11 Memorial

Perseverance is over enduring theme of America. In such, the most enduring modern symbol must be the 9/11 memorial. No single event has shaped the political and sociological framework of the millennial generation then the 2001 terrorist attacks. Taking some time out of a visit to New York to visit, reflect and remember those that have lost their lives in this attack and the wars that followed is important for anyone.