These 3 Road Trips Will Take You to the Homes of 21 U.S. Presidents

These 3 Road Trips Will Take You to the Homes of 21 U.S. Presidents

President’s Day was founded in 1992, when all the major mattress companies held a summit to find the perfect sale they could advertise during commercial breaks on Classic Rock radio stations.

OK, maybe that’s a lie.

But while most people think of the three-day weekend as little more than an extra day to put off doing laundry, President’s Day has some real historic origins. Originally scheduled to coincide with George Washington’s birthday (Old Hickory-Teeth was born on Feb. 22, 1732), the holiday now celebrates all presidents as a symbol of respect for the office.

While the true meaning of President’s Day has largely been forgotten, we here at Wanderu are seeking to revive an appreciation for the courage and leadership of POTUS past. And what better way to spend a three-day weekend than with a road trip to honor them?

We looked into the bus and train travel options available on Wanderu and developed three itineraries that allow you to visit the homes of former presidents. As it happens, there are loads of them: childhood homes, vacation homes, “Summer” White Houses (Calvin Coolidge had five!) and family estates. Some are recognized National Historic Sites, some are museums, or in Warren G. Harding’s case, just a stick in a pile of cow dung somewhere southwest of Cleveland.

For each itinerary, we employed our unique routing system to find the most optimal path to visit all these places in one single trip, then calculated the average price of a one-way bus or train ticket for each leg of the journey.

The best part—travel costs for each trip come out to less than $220!

Our routes include homes across three regions:

East Coast Midwest West Coast

 

Check them out below.

East Coast President’s Day Itinerary

Travel
Mode
Route Ticket
Price
Concord to Boston $18
Boston to Hyannis $21
Hyannis to Newport $32
Newport to New York $20
New York to Princeton $5
Princeton Junction to Lancaster $38
Lancaster to Philadelphia $20
Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. $12
Washington, D.C. to Alexandria $16
Alexandria to Charlottesville $36
TOTAL: $218

*Prices are based on the average fare for a one-way bus or train trip for the featured routes over a 30-day period.

Our East Coast route kicks off in Concord, N.H., and finishes in Charlottesville, Va. Features along the way include the Kennedy Compound on Cape Cod and George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Va. In sum, you can complete the entire tour for an average price of about $218.

With the full itinerary mapped, let’s now take a look at the famous sites you’ll see along the way.

1. Concord, N.H.

The Pierce Manse

If you ask average Americans who Franklin Pierce is, most would probably guess that nerdy turtle from the 90s children’s book series.

Then you, being the enlightened history buff that you are, would frown and politely correct them by saying, “No, he’s actually the 14th president of these United States.”

A one-term president, Pierce is known for incorporating Kansas and Nebraska, as well as purchasing the portion of Arizona that includes Tucson, Yuma and that weird little leg on New Mexico. Today, his long-time home—known as The Pierce Manse—holds regular tours where visitors can learn about the life and legacy of Franky P.  

Now, on to your next stop! Bus tickets from Concord to Boston run an average price of $18.

2. Boston & 3. Hyannis, Mass.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Treat yourself to a JFK two-fer, starting with a stop in Boston at his Brookline birth home. The 35th president took his first steps at the house on Beals Street. From November through mid-May, tours are available by appointment only, but well worth it for Kennedy-heads who want to see where little Jack spit up on the family Davenport.

Next step is to head for Cape Cod. Bus tickets from Boston to Hyannis run an average price of $21.

Kennedy Compound

Although calling it a “compound” conjures images of Waco, in reality, the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis, Mass., is just a six-acre stretch of beachfront property in Cape Cod comprising three large houses. John F. Kennedy spent summers here as a boy, burying Bobby in the sand. It would later become the headquarters for his 1960 presidential campaign. Because the property is privately owned, you can’t tour the houses, but you can creep on them from the beach.   

Next up: Newport. On average, bus tickets from Hyannis to Newport cost about $32.

4. Newport, R.I.

Eisenhower House

Whether you “Like Ike” or not, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s picturesque Summer White House makes for a dreamy destination on the Rhode Island coast. Rumor has it that part of the allure for the 34th president was its proximity to a nearby golf course. (Sound like someone else we know?)

Today the Eisenhower House is owned by the state, and is a popular setting for weddings and clam bakes.

Hammersmith Farm

Plus: If you’re still thirsty for JFK, Hammersmith Farm—the childhood mansion of Jackie Kennedy and site of the couple’s wedding reception in 1953—is only a half-mile down the road.  

From there, continue on to The Big Apple. To take a bus from Newport to New York City, the average price is $20.

5. New York City

Chester A. Arthur House

Manhattan is rich with executive-branch history. It’s here that Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University up until he was elected POTUS. It’s also where you can see Trump Tower in all its glammed-up glory.

Yet the most intriguing presidential landmark is the Chester A. Arthur House on 123 Lexington Avenue: It was in this brick townhouse in 1881 that then-V.P. Arthur took his oath of office after President James Garfield was assassinated. The house itself is not open to the public, but feel free to wander through the bodega on the first floor.

From NYC you’ll head to New Jersey.  Bus tickets from New York to Princeton, N.J., cost an average of only $5!

6. Princeton, N.J.

Westland Mansion

The only president to ever serve two non-consecutive terms, and the only president to marry his 21-year-old ward while serving in the White House (that mustache tho), Grover Cleveland retired to the Westland Mansion in 1897.

A private home, you can admire the impressive outer architecture on a walking tour from the Princeton Tour Company, which will also take you by the old haunts of Albert Einstein, T.S. Eliot and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Follow up Princeton with a trip to nearby Pennsylvania. You can catch a train from Princeton to Lancaster for an average fare of $38.

7. Lancaster, Penn.

Wheatland

Wheatland” may sound like a theme park for Amish people, but it’s actually the former estate of James Buchanan—a 10-acre property with ample closet space for those detachable collars that were so trendy in the 19th century.

The 15th president’s house now holds a number of museum exhibitions, is decorated with period furniture, and open to the public for tours.

A straight shot down Highway 30, snag bus tickets from Lancaster to Philadelphia for an average of $20.

8. Philadelphia

Deshler-Morris House

Before the Oval Office or West Wing, there was the Deshler-Morris House (aka the Germantown White House). Here, the first Founding Father took refuge from a Yellow Fever epidemic that engulfed Philly in 1793.

While there, Washington reportedly got into a dispute with the owner, who’d overcharged him for three ducks and a sack of potatoes. The conflict didn’t last—Washington returned the next summer with the fam.

Visitors can now tour the Deshler-Morris House, restored to its 18th-century glory.

From Philly, head south toward the D.C.: Bus tickets from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. go for an average of only $12.

9. Washington, D.C.

From the memorial of Honest Abe slouching in his chair to the pointy obelisk honoring George Washington, the U.S. capital is rife with presidential memorabilia—including their one-time homes.

President Lincoln’s Cottage

President Lincoln’s Cottage lies in the Petworth, where the 16th president and his family would go to escape the summer heat of downtown D.C. It’s also where he composed the original draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. Visitors will notice the abnormally high doorways, designed specifically to accommodate Lincoln’s signature stovepipe hat. (That statement is pure conjecture and should definitely not be cited in college papers.)

Woodley Mansion

Another iconic site is the Federal-style Woodley Mansion, now the Maret School for grades K-12, which housed both Grover Cleveland and Martin Van Buren (in different decades, not as roommates).

Your next stop is Washington’s Mt. Vernon in Alexandria. For an easy transfer from D.C. to nearby Alexandria, hop on a train for a 15-minute ride at an average ticket price of $16. 

10. Alexandria, Va.

Mt. Vernon

Across the Potomac to Alexandria, your journey continues to the estate of George and Martha Washington. In fact, they’re both still there, entombed on the property.

Guests are free to wander the full grounds of Mt. Vernon, from the mansion itself (see the bathroom where George brushed his ponytail), to the farm and gardens, to a fully functioning reconstruction of his whiskey distillery. (Finally, a president’s house where you don’t have to sneak in a flask.)

For your final stop, make your way to Charlottesville. Train fares from Alexandria to Charlottesville cost an average of $36.

10. Charlottesville, Va.

Monticello

Finally, the last stop on our East Coast route: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

If for some strange reason you associate Monticello with lottery scratch tickets or wishing wells, that’s because it’s the building featured on the back of a nickel. A self-taught architect, T-Jeff designed the house and gardens himself, and today the plantation has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Exhibitions at the site also grapple with Monticello’s controversial history: The third president held a contradictory attitude toward slavery, openly criticizing the practice while at the same time personally profiting from it. (Jefferson owned the second-most slaves in the county.)

Midwest President’s Day Itinerary

Travel
Mode
Route Ticket
Price
Canton to Cincinnati $49
Cincinnati to Louisville $24
Louisville to Indianapolis $9
Indianapolis to Chicago $15
Chicago to Galena $48
Galena to Iowa City $58
TOTAL: $203

*Prices are based on the average fare for a one-way bus or train trip for the featured routes over a 30-day period.

Our Midwest itinerary starts in Canton, Ohio, then swoops southwest before heading north, ending in Iowa City.

Highlights along this trek include Ulysses S. Grant’s mansion in northwest Illinois, and the two-story Greek Revival in Cincinnati where William Howard Taft was born and raised.

As it stands the trip covers almost 900 miles, for an average price of just $203.

Here’s a breakdown.   

1. Canton, Ohio

William McKinley Library & Museum

Although Mount McKinley in Alaska was officially renamed Denali in 2015 by the Department of the Interior (thanks, Obama), the towering dome of the William McKinley Library & Museum in Canton more than makes up for it.

The 25th president “was and is Canton’s favorite son,” at least according to the McKinley Memorial’s website, a statement that may offend groupies of rocker Marilyn Manson and Catholic TV personality Mother Mary Anjelica (both native Cantonites).

It’s here that a young Bill McKinley, fresh out of the Civil War, opened a law office before entering into politics. (He was elected president in 1872.) Although McKinley’s house itself is no longer standing, the museum hosts “the largest collection of McKinley artifacts in the world.”

Bonus: Within the giant stone rotunda, McKinley and his wife still reside in a pair of marble sarcophagi.  

From Canton you’ll head southwest toward the Ohio/Kentucky border. Bus fares from Canton to Cincinnati run an average of $49.

2. Cincinnati

William Howard Taft Historical Site

William Howard Taft is famous for getting stuck in a bathtub, though the truth is he just wanted a few more minutes of “me” time.

Born in the Queen City, the 27th president is known for 1) his fantastic girth, 2) his fantastic mustache, and 3) being the only person to ever serve as both POTUS and chief justice of the Supreme Court (not concurrently).

Today, the William Howard Taft Historical Site hosts tours through Taft’s old hilltop home, and around the city the Cincinnati–native is celebrated as an icon.    

Next, cross the Ohio River into Kentucky as you continue making your way south. Buses from Cincinnati to Louisville cost an average of about $24.

3. Louisville, Ky

Zachary Taylor House

Zachary Taylor’s boyhood home lies here in Louisville.

The 12th president was against the extension of slavery into the new territories gained during the Mexican-American War, and threatened military force against secessionists—spurring debate to this day over whether Taylor can be considered the first #woke president.  

The Zachary Taylor House is a private home and not open for tours, but photos can be taken of the outside, and Taylor himself can be found buried in Zachary Taylor National Cemetery a half-mile away.

Now it’s time to head back north. The average bus fare from Louisville to Indianapolis is only $9.

4. Indianapolis

Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site

President Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, and winner of the 1875 “Best Beard in Marion County” contest. That latter part isn’t true, but you probably didn’t know that, and it’s much more interesting than telling you he represented Venezuela in their British Guiana boundary dispute.

The 23rd president, Harrison was a protectionist who passed a tariff that raised the average duty on imports to almost 50 percent ( 🤑), which incidentally skyrocketed federal spending to record highs and led Harrison to lose re-election (😬).

At the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, walk on the very front porch from which Harrison kicked off his 1888 presidential bid, and through the 10,000 sq. ft. Italianate Victorian. There’s even a theatre company that performs seasonal productions within the Harrison House walls.  

Next stop, the Second City! On average, buses from Indianapolis to Chicago cost $15.

5. Chicago

Obama’s Hyde Park Residence

Take a pit stop in Chicago to visit Barack Obama’s private residence in Hyde Park.

Although the family spends most of their time in D.C., the Obamas still own this dapper red-brick house on Greenwood Avenue. Naturally, you’ll have to settle for photos from behind the wrought-iron fence unless you want to be tackled by swole Secret Service agents.

But don’t worry—other attractions like Washington Park, the Lakefront Trail and Frank Lloyd Wright’s “George Blossom House” are all just a short walk away.

For the next leg, snag a bus from Chicago to Galena for an average price of $48.

6. Galena, Ill.

Ulysses S. Grant Home

Following the end of the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant came home a hero. In fact, the citizens of Galena were so proud of their valiant native son that they threw him a parade and presented him with a new, fully furnished house. (For comparison, when Andrew Jackson returned home to the Carolinas after the War of 1812, all he got was a lousy t-shirt.)

Today a National Historic Landmark, the Ulysses S. Grant Home is open to tours, where visitors can appreciate the humble life of USG before he became the 18th president. And don’t miss a chance to walk down Galena’s main drag—85 percent of Galena’s buildings lie in a National Register Historic District.  

Our final stretch runs west from Illinois into Iowa. Bus tickets from Galena to Iowa City cost an average of $58.

7. Iowa City, Iowa

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

“Hooverville” was a snarky nickname for shanty towns during the Great Depression, named after then-president Herbert Hoover. It also sounds like the place vacuum cleaners go when they die.

While Hoover’s birth home in West Branch—just outside of Iowa City—may not be made of mud and cardboard, it’s not exactly an estate either. His father was a blacksmith, and the two-bedroom cottage with a white-picket fence reflects the 31st president’s humble roots.

Hoover was orphaned at age 9 and moved away from West Branch, but later returned to visit the house where he spent his formative years. The final stop on our Midwest itinerary, the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site also includes the blacksmith shop where Herb’s father worked, as well as the former president’s gravesite.

West Coast President’s Day Itinerary

Travel
Mode
Route Ticket
Price
Palm Springs to Los Angeles $18
Los Angeles to Santa Barbara $27
Santa Barbara to San Jose $48
TOTAL: $93

*Prices are based on the average fare for a one-way bus or train trip for the featured routes over a 30-day period.

West Coast, best coast—everybody knows it!

Our route through California starts in Palm Springs and snakes up to San Jose. As you head toward the homes of our Pacific-based presidents (which means a heavy dose of Ronald Reagan), you’ll be treated to some ocean-view stretches of scenic Highway 101. Even better: The entire route comes in at a budget-friendly $93!

Here’s how to make it happen.

1. Palm Springs, Calif.

Gerald and Betty Ford Home

Gerald Ford: the man, the myth, the legend…said nobody ever.

But one thing the 38th president did have is excellent taste in architecture, as evidenced by the gorgeous home he and his wife Betty built in the greater Palm Springs area. Backed up to the famous Thunderbird Country Club golf course, this more than 6,000 sq. ft. ranch can best be described as “if the Brady Bunch won the lottery.” Now owned by two entertainment moguls, most of the 1970s design and decor has remained untouched.

Big disclaimer: The Ford House is in a gated community, so the only way you’ll see it is by invite or under the cover of night (which we by no means condone). But you can wander around beautiful Rancho Mirage, and in doing so catch a glimpse of the famed Betty Ford Center.

Once you’re done creeping around Palm Springs, catch a train from Palm Springs to Los Angeles for an average of $18.

2. Los Angeles

Nixon’s Whitter House

Tucked between a Taco Shack and an auto trim shop, Richard Nixon’s house on busy Whittier Boulevard sneaks up on you like Tricky Dick himself.

The 37th president’s parents bought the property in 1946, later deeding it to Richard, who sold the home in 1975. The current owner actually petitioned to tear it down in late 2018, but was denied by the city. (Where’s some good old-fashioned Spiro Agnew-style bribery when you need it?) Nixon also attended Whittier College, and the nearby Whittier Museum showcases a number of his effects.

Reagan’s Westwood Residence

Another presidential destination in the L.A. area is Ronald Reagan’s Westwood residence, where he lived for seven years when married to Jane Wyman. The Gipper then sold the 5-bedroom, 6-bathroom Colonial Revival, and it was most recently depicted as Joan Crawford’s home in the 2017 TV series “Feud.” Though not open for public touring, the sprawling mansion can be spotted in the Holmby Hills.

Ready for that oceanview? Santa Barbara is next. Average train tickets from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara run $27.

3. Santa Barbara, Calif.

Rancho del Cielo

Channel your inner cowboy—just like Ronald Reagan did in the 1953 not-quite-classic Western “Law and Order”—at Rancho del Cielo in the mountains outside of Santa Barbara.  

Called “Reagan’s Monticello,” the 688-acre property served as the 40th president’s Western White House. He could often be found there in summer, riding horses and popping jelly beans.

Now owned by the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization, the Ranch has numerous galleries and exhibits open to the public. Reagan’s iconic blue Jeep Scrambler is even on display, complete with “Gipper” vanity plates.

Sure, it’s no ride in Reagan’s Jeep, but train fares from Santa Barbara to San Jose go for an average of just $48.

4. San Jose, Calif.

Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover House

Have you ever met someone who is super into Japanese stuff—like decorates their house with shoji panels and bamboo, and talks about how “zen” everything is—yet they’ve never been to Japan and have no trace of Japanese ancestry?

C’mon, you know exactly who we’re talking about. Since we’re on the same page now, we can share that Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover were those kind of people—except with Native American culture. Cool. Mr. and Mrs. Hoover had an apparent affinity for “primitive” architecture that influenced their house just outside the Stanford University campus. Designed by Lou Henry herself, she referred to the house as her “Pueblo walls,” and Herbert called it the “Hopi House.”

Which is why the hulking Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover House, the last stop on our West Coast run-around, looks so uniquely modern for the era in which it was constructed (around 1920). Visionary? Cultural appropriation? Both? You decide!

In 1944, Herbert donated the house to Stanford (he and Lou Henry were both alums), and today it’s occupied by the current university president. The house itself isn’t open to the public, but you can walk right up and get a terrific exterior photo.

Each of these President’s Day pilgrimages could be crammed into multiple days or broken up into smaller segments taken over time, and for far less for the price of a new mattress—even if it is on sale.   

Book your trip on Wanderu for the cheapest tickets to each destination!

How We Did It

Using Wanderu’s proprietary data covering bus travel options across the U.S., including pricing, duration and schedule information of multiple partner carriers, we leveraged our unique routing technology that allows us to route and build multi-stop travel itineraries for users in real time. By weighing the possible trips for the best balance of price and duration, our routing technology was able to find the most optimal road trips for your President’s Day weekend.

The prices quoted in this article are based on the cheapest average cost of bus tickets available on Wanderu for each route since said route became available for booking on the Wanderu platform.

To ensure that this trip is more than just data science, the Wanderu algorithm used actual bookable trips to verify that this road trip was possible at these prices over multiple consecutive days.

You are welcome to use the information and maps on this page, crediting Wanderu. If you do so, please link back to this page so that travel enthusiasts around the globe can check out all the available trips and find out how we came up with the itinerary.

Tyler Moss has danced on tables at Oktoberfest and petted alpacas in the Andes. He prefers to eat at restaurants where the menu is in a language he can’t understand, and likes bars where the lighting is dim and the drafts are cheap. His writing has been published by Condé Nast Traveler, The Atlantic, New York, Outside, Atlas Obscura, Playboy and other fine venues.