Looking for a unique road trip for your next vacation? From the weird to the miraculous, Christians and non-Christians alike will be intrigued by these travel stops! Explore this list of interesting Christianity-based sites in the United States and get your travel planner out.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a beautiful neo-gothic style church in New York City. Work began on this cathedral way back in 1858, but it was halted because of the Civil War. In 1914, a bomb exploded on the site, that was allegedly planted by communists. Luckily, there was only one victim who suffered minor injuries.
This beautiful church is most known for its fantastic architecture both its interior and exterior. The cathedral was even featured in film like the original Planet of the Apes. If you live in or are visiting New York City, you should definitely make it a point to stop by this remarkable landmark!
Billy Graham Library
The Billy Graham Library is a museum and library which documents the life and ministry of Billy Graham, the acclaimed preacher. The library itself looks like an old dairy barn, which is a nod to Billy’s roots of growing up on a farm. Inside you will find various presentations, old photos, music, various artifacts, and even a replica of the desk which Billy Graham wrote at.
For the Christmas season, the library features a life-size Nativity scene complete with real life camels! If you happen to be in North Carolina for the holidays, this would be a great place to stop and visit!
The Creation Museum is located in Petersburg, Kentucky. The museum is exactly what it sounds like — a museum is dedicated to the Creationist viewpoint of the beginning of the universe. They show a literal interpretation of the creation story found in the book of Genesis in the Bible.
The museum boasts such features as a planetarium and a special effects theater. In 2014, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” debated the founder of the museum, Ken Ham. The debate is still up on YouTube, so check it out to see who you think won! A similar, albeit smaller, museum exists in Glen Rose, Texas and was founded in 1984.
Holy Land Experience
The Holy Land Experience is a theme park in Florida. It is supposed to give visitors the experience of visiting the Holy Land without ever having to leave the U.S.A.! Some of their exhibits include a Jerusalem marketplace complete with a carpenter, inn and blacksmith.
The site also features a Calvary Garden Tomb, which is supposed to recreate the tomb from which Jesus rose from the dead. The park is also home to the Trinity Broadcasting Network Church of All Nations for people of all denominations, so you can actually attend weekly church services there if you desire!
Trinity Church is an Episcopalian church located in downtown Manhattan right at Wall Street and Broadway. It has existed since 1698, although it was just a small building at first. Trinity is a burial ground for several notable people including Alexander Hamilton, who has experienced a revived popularity since the hit Broadway play “Hamilton” was released.
During the attack on September 11, 2001, people sought shelter from debris in the church, and a piece of falling debris actually knocked down a giant hundred-year-old sycamore. A sculptor used the trees roots as a basis for a bronze sculpture called the Trinity Root. The sculpture was later transferred to Connecticut in 2015, much to the chagrin of the artist and others who did not want the sculpture to be moved.
Wycliffe Discovery Center
Wycliffe Discovery Center is an interactive experience located in Orlando, Florida. It’s an attraction aimed at teaching people of all ages about different people, languages, and cultures found around the world. Wycliffe is an organization that is historically missionary-based and focuses on translating the Bible into different languages.
Wycliffe originated in 1917 when a missionary named William Cameron Townsend went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles. But the native people of Guatemala spoke Cakchiquel, not Spanish, so they didn’t understand the Bibles. So Townsend founded a linguistics school called the Summer Institute of Linguistics that trained people to do Bible translation.
Saint Pope John Paul II Shrine
The Saint John Paul II National Shrine, located in Washington, DC, is a place where people can visit and receive the sacraments, like the Eucharist, but can also speak with pastors and take advantage of education and cultural opportunities. It also contains first-class relics of Saint John Paul II.
One of these relics includes Saint John Paul II’s blood, which is contained in a glass ampoule at the center of a reliquary in the Luminous Mysteries Chapel. Pope John Paul II died in 2005 and was canonized into sainthood in 2014. In 1981, Pope John Paul II was famously shot and wounded in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. This led to him using the bulletproof “Pope-mobile” throughout the rest of his life. The current pope, Pope Francis, has rejected using the automobile.
Christ In The Smokies
Christ In The Smokies Museum and Garden is located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This park has multiple features particularly a realistic interpretation of what it was like to walk into biblical world 2,000 years ago. There is a wax museum that displays life-size figures, special effects, music, and realistic scenes playing out the life of Jesus Christ.
This attraction has been around for almost 50 years. At one point it was sold to condo developers, however, almost like a work of God, the economy fell and the deal fell through. The attraction went back to the people who had operated it, and it’s still up and running today!
Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage
The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage is the Museum of Diversity and Tolerance. Currently the museum is running a campaign called “Stop the Hate”, which aims at bringing people together in tolerance and diversity. They are also currently exhibiting a photo set on the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The museum states that their mission is “to introduce visitors to the beauty and diversity of that heritage in the context of the American experience. It promotes an understanding of Jewish history, religion, and culture and builds bridges of tolerance and understanding with those of other religions, races, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds, serving as an educational resource for Northeast Ohio’s Jewish and general communities.” This sounds like a place to bring together people of all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Beautiful!
First Parish Church
In 1620, refugees arrived from Europe seeking asylum from persecution against their religion. Some of these refugees settled in Plymouth Massachusetts, before the United States was even a country. It is this foundation that the United States is based on, a place free of various persecutions where people can live freely.
Obviously this is still a struggle to many in the United States to this very day. If you visit Plymouth, however, there are still many monuments to this noble part of our history. This includes the First Parish Church, a Unitarian Universalist Church in Plymouth that was founded back in 1620.
Old Indian Meeting House
Old Indian Meeting House is the oldest Native American church in the United States. It was built in 1684, and was used by Wampanoag Native Americans as a Christian church. It has also served as a church in the past and was used as a cemetery as well.
Around 1650, Puritan missionaries began to convert native peoples to Christianity. They viewed the Native Americans as a problem and they desired them to denounce their tribal practices and adopt a more English way of life. So many Native Americans were forced into Christianity. Often, children would be taken from their parents and put into boarding schools. There they were no longer allowed to practice their own culture’s traditions, speak their language, and even had to cut their hair. One of these schools founder’s, General Pratt, said the famous line by which they governed their schools, “Kill the Indian, save the man.”
The Alamo is a World Heritage site located in San Antonio, Texas. It was one of the earliest Spanish missionaries. It was originally built to educate Native Americans in their conversion to Christianity. By 1793, it was abandoned and became used as a military fortress. It is for this purpose that we have all come to know it.
During the Texas Revolution, was the famous Battle of the Alamo which raged between the Mexican Army and Texan Army. It has been maintained and is still one of the top landmarks of San Antonio, Texas. It’s interesting that a monument of violence had its start as a Christian one!
Cathedral of New Orleans
The St. Louis Cathedral or Cathedral of New Orleans is a modern marvel of architecture but it also the oldest cathedral in the United States. It was built 1718 but had to be completely rebuilt by 1850 after the Great New Orleans Fire. It’s separate cemetery in New Orleans is the burial place of the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, who best-known these days as a character on the show American Horror Story.
The cathedral itself is said to have a spooky background and it is said to be haunted by Fr. Antonio de Sedella, who was once a priest at the cathedral and is also buried there. His apparition is said to appear during Christmas Midnight Mass… if you look at the left side of the altar you will see him holding a candle.
National Shrine Of The Immaculate Conception
The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located in Washington D.C., and was named a basilica by the Roman Catholic Church. It is, of course, in honor of the Immaculate Conception, which is when Mary became impregnated with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
It was built in 1921, so the shrine is still pretty young as far as basilicas go. It has been visited by Pope John Paul II and by Pope Benedict. Recently, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose legal views were largely influenced by his faith, was given a funeral mass with his own son Fr. Paul Scalia officiating.
Christian Heritage Museum
The Christian Heritage Museum is located in Hagerstown, Maryland. It contains over 20,000 biblical artifacts including rare Bibles and other Christian documents. It was started by Gene S. Albert Jr., who was at one point studied at seminary. The museum is located in a renovated farmhouse, which is climate- controlled.
Something very interesting about this museum is that you can touch the artifacts and even purchase them (for the right price of course). Albert said, “We happen to believe that these were made and meant to be seen, and that’s why we put them out for the general public,”. So if you happen to be in the market for some rare Christian artifacts and have some good pocket change, this is the place for you!
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is a shrine in Wisconsin. The shrine states that it is “is a place for all who seek help and healing through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Whether you are Catholic or not, whether you believe or are still searching for faith, you are welcome here.”
The story goes that at the site where the shrine was built, a Belguim-born woman named Adele Brise saw an apparition of Mary in 1859. Mary appeared to Adele and she was standing between two trees. She was reportedly surrounded by light and wearing a white dress with a yellow sash around her waist and a crown of stars above her head.
An Encounter With Mary
Adele reportedly saw the apparition three times in one day, and the last time Mary appeared to her Adele asked what she wanted. This is what Adele said the Virgin Mary told her: “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same.” Adele was also told to “gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”
Many people pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help from around the world yearly. In 2010, the Roman Catholic Church officially confirmed the Marian apparitions. Sites confirmed by the Church are rare worldwide and very rare in the United States. Be sure to make a stop if you are in the area!
El Santuario de Chimayo
El Santuario de Chimayo is a church located in Chimayo, New Mexico. It was built in 1816 and is a National Historic landmark. While there are no written accounts of what actually happened, oral tradition in the area says that there was an apparition of Jesus.
The story says that during Holy Week, on Good Friday, Don Bernardo Abeyta was performing penance of a church society in the area. Suddenly, he saw a mysterious light from one of the hills near a river. When he went to the spot he found that the light was actually coming from the ground.
When Don Bernardo Abeyta began digging he found a crucifix. He left to go find neighbors to help him dig it out, and they notified their parish priest. Allegedly, they took it back to their church yet the next morning the crucifix as gone, only to be found in its original location.
They tried to bring it back a second and third time, but the same thing happened. At that point they left it there, and built a small chapel, where Chimayo now is. Often when visitors go they take a little bit of “holy dirt” which is said to have healing properties. This is yet another interesting site in the United States!
Immaculata Church is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was built in 1859. Archbishop Purcell built the church after nearly dying at sea, and prayed, promising that he would build a church at the city’s highest point if he survived. On Good Friday people gather to ascend 85 steps to the church’s front door while praying.
Often those who gather walk 65 additional steps from the base of Mt. Adams as there is a walking bridge connecting the two paths. Many also gather here for another secular reason common to churches – the beautiful architecture. Whatever your reason for a visit, you are sure to be impressed!