The Ultimate Trip for History Lovers: Professor Finds 'Shortest' Route to 50,000 Historic U.S. Sites

50,000 Historic Places Road Trip
Photo: University of Waterloo/Google Maps

William Cook, a professor at the University of Waterloo, led a team of researchers in a two-year project to find the shortest possible route for visiting 49,603 historical sights pulled from the National Register of Historic Places.

The researchers used Google Maps’ walking distance data between points to show the quickest possible tour for visiting all of the sights.

The route, which covers 217,605 miles, passes through archeological sights, historic homes, parks, and more landmarks across America's cities and towns, providing history fans with quite the itinerary.

University of Waterloo/Google Maps

“This was a chance to connect people with what’s normally a dry field,” Cook told Travel + Leisure. “The National Register of Historic Places has a beautiful collection of data to work with, and you can really get to see all of America ranging from city points to monuments, farmhouses, and bridges with it.”

Cook has already been exploring some of the mapped spots himself.

University of Waterloo/Google Maps

An interactive map lets you wander through the close to 50,000 points on the map, pulling up historic images and further information from the National Register of Historic Places.

University of Waterloo/Google Maps

Although the primary goal was not to create a travel tool, the map doubles as an extensive exploration guide for history lovers.

The journey serves an example of the “traveling salesman problem,” helping to plot the shortest route passing through multiple points only once and returning back to the origin.

Earlier this year, Cook and the researchers plotted the shortest journey to visit close to 25,000 pubs in the U.K.

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