The Ming Dynasty lasted a long time — from 1368 through 1644 — so you might want to be a little more specific in choosing exactly where and when you visit. But no matter what, it will be fascinating — it’s a time of great stability and innovation in Chinese history, and an incredible period for literature, painting, poetry, music, and opera.
Classical Greece was a 200-year period in Greek culture lasting from the fifth through fourth centuries B.C., and essentially the starting point for much of modern Western politics, art, architecture, science, literature, and philosophy. There were a lot of wars in this era, though, so be careful.
Ancient Egypt was one of the most advanced and influential early civilization, and was at the peaks of its power and stability during the New Kingdom era of 1550–1069 B.C. Though we typically associate Egyptian culture with a morbid obsession with death and the afterlife, it was far more complex than that. You can witness the creation of many great works of art and science here first hand, and maybe even find out how the pyramids were REALLY made.
The culture of Feudal Japan was harshly stratified, with a huge social chasm between the high-ranking Shogun nobility and the peasant majority, but it’s a fascinating era. If you’ve always wanted to see Samurai warrior in action, this is the time for you.
The Roman civilization lasted about 12 centuries, so you’ll have to be a little more specific in picking an actual time and place to visit, but no matter what, you’re in for a fascinating trip. If you go during the Late Republic era, you can see what life under Caesar’s rule was really like. If you go later on, you can witness the events of the New Testament firsthand, and watch the rise of early Christianity.
The ’70s is a great but often misunderstood era — not quite as romantic as the ’60s or as intense as the ’80s. But in cultural terms, this is an amazing time for culture. On the music front you have the glory days of classic rock, disco, punk, funk, and electronic music. In cinema, you have the rise of both auteur-driven films and blockbuster movies. And in culture, you get to watch meaningful advances in civil rights, feminism, and LGBT culture.
You got: The Dawn of Time
If you’re going to go back in time, why not go alllllll the way back to the very beginning? You can witness firsthand what the world was like before, well, most everything. It’d be a great way to get some peace and quiet, though you probably wouldn’t want to hang out there for too long.
It’s impossible to know what things may be like a century from now — or centuries from now — but wouldn’t you love to go and see it all for yourself? It could be a horrible dystopia, it could be a wonderful utopia. Who knows? You’ll definitely get to see some unimaginable technological advancements.
Wouldn’t you like to see what the future is like? You know, not the distant future, but like, a future you might actually live in someday? You can get a lot out of a trip like this — keep a notebook of important events and information, and come back to the present ready to be waaaay ahead of the curve.
The ’80s is a dark time in many ways — this is, after all, the time of the AIDS epidemic, the Cold War, and the deterioration of many major cities. But there’s a lot about the ’80s that is simple and charming, especially in terms of culture. If you stick to the more light-hearted side of it all, you can have a blast.
You got: Victorian England
Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 through 1901 was a period of peace and prosperity for England, and is known for its great literature and refined culture. If you’ve ever been obsessed with the works of Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot, and the Brontë sisters, you will definitely enjoy seeing the world they wrote about with your own eyes.
The Renaissance spans a great deal of time between the 14th and 17th centuries, and represents a time of incredible artistic and scientific innovation. If you go in the early 1500s, you can witness the works of the great polymaths Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo firsthand.
The ’20s was a time of great prosperity and creative innovation, particularly in major cities like New York, Chicago, London, Paris, and Berlin. The era was an incredible time for the arts — particularly for jazz, art deco design, and engineering — and a major period of advancement for feminism, with the rise of flappers and women getting the right to vote in many major countries. If you’re going back to this era, you owe it to yourself to find a really good party.
If you’re obsessed with stories set in quasi-medieval periods — you know, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Arthurian legend, that sort of thing — you should go back and see what the actual medieval era of Europe was actually like. Some of it is bound to be awesome, but a lot of it is bound to be sort of unpleasant. But hey, you don’t need to STAY there.
Ahhhh, the Old West! You know it from Westerns, or more contemporary things like Deadwood and True Grit. But wouldn’t you love to know what it was actually like? Obviously, it was not an easy time to be alive, but wouldn’t you like to know if you have what it takes to thrive in this era?
You got: The Jurassic Period
Seriously, what’s the point of having a time machine if you’re not going to check out some dinosaurs? I mean, try not to get killed, but by all means, go hang out with some dinosaurs.
You got: The ’60s
The ’60s is such a thoroughly romanticized era in pop culture that sometimes it seems like we all lived through it even if we were born many years later. But wouldn’t it be cool to see all that enormous cultural change firsthand?