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When it comes to places to seek religious wisdom, the United States is not typically the first one that comes to mind. Some might think of Jerusalem, with its rich religious heritage and diversity of faiths. Others may think of India and its multitude of temples and other sacred places dotting the landscape. Yet others may ponder the great monasteries, cathedrals, and great pilgrimage routes of Europe and other famous pilgrimage places around the world.
Even though the United States is not regarded as a particularly “spiritual” place to visit, there’s no doubt that it is home to a wide range of religiously significant sites, thanks in no small part to the vast kaleidoscopes of faiths represented by its largely immigrant population.
Anyone interested in religious or spiritual sites will find no shortage of possibilities to explore in America. Below I merely scratch the surface and introduce four of the most spiritual places in the US, which you may or may not have even heard of.
Top Spiritual Places in USA
Here are some of the most significant spiritual places in the Unites States, in no particular order.
1. The Bahá’í House of Worship, Illinois
Located in Wilmette, Illinois, just 30 minutes north of Chicago, the temple is one-of-a-kind in North America. The temple is one of the eight continental temples of the Bahá’í faith in the world, representing North America, and is the oldest remaining one.
The temple, just like others of its kind, is designed in a circular manner such that it has nine sides. Each side of the temple has a garden with fountains surrounding it. The temple’s striking appearance is indeed is best feature. Although built with quartz and cement, the temple’s walls look like white lace.
The temple opens from six in the morning till ten at night. The doors are open to everyone, irrespective of their faith, and it is free.
2. Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple, California
Of the countless things to do in California, the spiritually inclined should consider paying a visit to Hsi Lai Temple in northern Puente Hills, Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County.
Modeled after ancient Chinese designs, this Buddhist temple looks like it is straight out of the East. When viewed from above, the building is shaped like a bodhi leaf, that is, a leaf from the tree where Buddha attained enlightenment. The temple belongs to the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, which is headquartered in Taiwan.
The temple is adorned with gold and protective figures on its roof. At the center of the temple, you will find a peaceful courtyard. The temple also features houses important pieces of art from both Asia and America.
The temple opens for visits from 9 in the morning till 5 pm every day of the week, and is free to enter. The temple also offers tours during the weekends. For those interested in sampling a Buddhist vegan buffet, they can dig in by making a small donation of 7 USD.
3. Islamic Center of America, Michigan
Located in Dearborn, Michigan, the inspiration for this striking Islamic place of woship is the ancient mosque designs of India, Turkey, and some other Muslim countries.
On the outside, the edifice is made of stone with a dome made from fiberglass. On the inside, you will be greeted with prayer rooms with passages from the Quran gracing their walls and Islamic motifs, all designed by an artist from Lebanon.
The center sits on a 65,000 square-foot area, and it’s a place of worship for over 5000 Muslims, catering to one of the largest Arab/Muslim communities in the United States.
The facility opens for visitors from 9 in the morning till 11 in the evening. Although tours are free, you have to sign up on their website.
4. Memorial Presbyterian Church, Florida
This immaculate church, located in St. Augustine, Florida, is a real beauty to behold. Just like the proverbial saying that there’s more to a person than just beauty, the real treat in this building is not the beauty it presents to eyes. Instead, it’s the beautiful story it has to tell. It also doesn’t hurt that the church happens to be located in one of the best vacation spots on the east coast!
The building is dedicated to the memories of Jenny Louise Benedict, who died from complications during childbirth in 1889. Her father, Morrison Flagler, built the church. The tycoon, alongside her daughter, Marjorie, and her mother, Mary, are all buried inside the church.
European churches such as the Basilica St. Mark in Venice inspired the design of the church. The walls are made of carved wood, while the windows are of stained glass. The building also has a beautiful sanctuary and a gigantic dome that draws visitors to tilt their heads toward Heaven.
USA Travel Essentials for Visitors
Before traveling to the United States, you need the following documents: an international passport, the appropriate visa or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA); click here for more information on getting an ESTA.
Read on for more detailed information on the documents you will need for your journey.
1. International Passport
This is a general requirement for people traveling to the United States. You are required to have a valid international passport for travel to the United States. At the time of application for a travel visa, your passport should have an extended validity of not less than six months.
You may be required to obtain a travel visa to visit the US. As a tourist coming to the United States for pleasure, you should get a B1 permit. The B1 visa goes to people moving to the United States temporarily for pleasure or business reasons. However, not everyone needs a visa to travel to the United States.
According to the United States Visa Waiver Program, citizens of 39 countries, including the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, are allowed into the United States without needing a visa. As against getting obtaining visas, citizens of this country obtain Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The ESTA, which has a validity period of 2 years, grants its holder entry into the US. Before you plan your trip, you must find out if you are a citizen of these 39 countries.
The spiritual landscape of the United States is as varied as its people. Hopefully this article has inspired you to consider the US as a spiritual destination among many. Take you pick of spiritual places to see in the US, make sure to arrange the appropriate documents for your visit, and start planning your trip!