From staggeringly vast and beautiful national parks, marks of ancient cultures, and more modern yet impressive manmade landmarks, the Unites States of America has incredible sites to attract both tourists and locals.
Manmade monuments showcase the best of what America is all about, reflecting democracy, independence and pride in those who sacrificed their lives for their nation, while, America’s natural landmarks exhibit the power of mother nature through cavernous canyons, petrified forests and colossal lakes.
Each state here is dramatically different, from its natural history to cultural inheritance. While the states are packed full of hundreds of must-see landmarks, here are 20 landmarks in America you simply cannot miss.
- 20 Landmarks in America
- Natural Landmarks
- 1- Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
- 2- Red Canyon, Utah
- 3- Devils Tower, Wyoming
- 4- Niagara Falls, New York/Ontario
- 5- Antelope Canyon, Arizona
- 6- Crater Lake, Oregon
- 7- Everglades National Park, Florida
- 8- Russell Cave National Monument, Alabama
- 9- Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma
- 10- Mendenhall Ice Caves, Alaska
- Monuments in America
- Natural Landmarks
20 Landmarks in America
1- Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
The Sierra Nevada Mountains form the eastern periphery of the state of California.
A picture book of incredible scenery, the mountain range includes deep Redwood and Sequoia forests, the tallest waterfall in the USA, and of course, snow-capped mountains.
Sierra Nevada means ‘snow-covered mountain range’, and was given its name by Spanish soldier Pedro Font during the Spanish colonial period in California in 1776.
The highest point within the range is Mount Whitney, standing at 4421 m/ 14,505 feet, making it the highest peak in the USA.
The range is home to another spectacular sight; the giant Redwoods and Sequoias.
Visit General Sherman, the largest living tree and largest living organism on the planet.
2- Red Canyon, Utah
With its unmistakable red rocks and towering monoliths, Red Canyon is the perfect place to hike, camp and picnic when in Utah.
The canyon runs along the scenic Highway 12 and is just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.
The Canyon’s visitor centre offers information on several hiking trails through the canyon, including to a ponderosa pine, which smells like butterscotch.
Throughout the canyon are towering hoodoos, pillars of rock that have slowly gained unusual shapes through years of erosion.
Keep your eyes peeled for several ‘windows’ in the rocks that have naturally eroded to give the appearance of windows or holes in otherwise solid rock.
3- Devils Tower, Wyoming
Devils Tower was named America’s first national monument in 1906 by President Roosevelt. The tower is made up of igneous rocks and rises to 867 feet above the surrounding landscape.
Also known as Bears Lodge, the tower is sacred to Northern Plains Indian tribes.
Tribes still hold ceremonies at the tower, including sun dances and sweat lodges.
At the foot of the tower, many colourful prayer cloths are tied to trees.
The tower was made famous for its role in Stephen Spielberg’s movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
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4- Niagara Falls, New York/Ontario
Niagara Falls is made of three waterfalls; American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Canadian Falls.
The falls sit on the border between Ontario, Canada and New York State in the USA.
One of the best ways to experience the Falls is by taking a trip on one of the Maid of the Mist boat tours.
Each trip lasts around 30 minutes and gives visitors incredible closeup views of the falls from the spray at their base.
Visit at night to see a spectacular light show light up the falls. During national holidays, the lights used coordinate with the holiday.
5- Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon is a vast network of winding sandstone in Arizona, with wave-like walls and structures that are the product of millions of years of water erosion.
Water erosion chiselled the canyon and the Navajo appropriately named the canyon is “Tse’ bighanilini”, meaning “the place where water runs through rocks”.
Antelope Canyon has great spiritual significance and was named a Navajo Tribal Park in 1997.
Due to its spiritual importance, visitors can only explore the canyon as part of a guided tour.
Many photographers flock to Antelope Canyon to capture its famous light beams that fall through gaps in the sandstone, creating a beautiful and spiritual experience.
6- Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake in Oregon was formed over 7700 years ago when an ancient volcano collapsed during a violent eruption.
The Klamath Tribes witnessed the eruption of Mount Mazama, and stories of the eruption fill their histories.
The resulting crated filled with water from rainfall and snowfall and became the deepest lake in the USA.
No rivers run into the lake, and so its water levels are dependent on rainfall and precipitation.
As the water is very pure, and due to the depth of approximately 2000 feet, Crater Lake has a unique deep blue hue to its water.
7- Everglades National Park, Florida
Consisting of 600,000 hectares/1.5 million acres of wetland, the Everglades National Park is a must-see natural landmark in Florida.
Within the park is a 65 feet tall observation tower giving visitors a breathtaking view over the Everglades.
Tours run throughout the Florida Bay offering visitors the chance to see the wildlife of the Everglades, including crocodiles, manatees and even dolphins.
Due to its vast size, the park encompasses many smaller parks and preserves, including the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, where lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of the Florida panther, a black bear or a ghost orchid.
8- Russell Cave National Monument, Alabama
A limestone cavern in Alabama, Russell Cave National Monument is an extensive cave system with artefacts from human settlements stretching back to 10,000BC.
Artefacts found in the cave come primarily from three cultures: Archaic, Woodland and Mississippian.
During the Archaic period, Native Americans occupied the cave.
Within the cave, archeologists have discovered arrowheads, stone projectiles presumed used in hunting and even charcoal remnants from ancient fire pits.
The onsite museum now houses many of the artefacts found in the caves and shows how ancient cave inhabitants would have lived.
9- Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma
Taking its name from an American Indian tribe that lived in the area centuries ago, the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma extends for 30 miles.
These ancient mountains date back to 525 million years ago, with the mountains changing over time due to erosion.
The highest peak in the Wichita range is Mount Scott, which stands at 2464 feet above sea level.
Wichita Mountains is home to one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the USA; protected animals within the sanctuary include bison, elk, coyotes and prairie dogs.
The range was once part of the American gold rush between 1901 and 1904, however, when gold deposits dried up, much of the mining equipment was left behind and can still be seen today.
10- Mendenhall Ice Caves, Alaska
The Mendenhall Glacier stretches for 12 miles, and inside the Mendenhall Ice Caves can be found.
Accessible exclusively by a kayak to the edge of the ice, followed by a hike over the glacier, the sights once inside are worth the effort. Still, it’s recommended to only venture into the caves with a guide.
Inside the caves, glacial rain pours into streams below, and the ceiling is illuminated underneath frozen bright blue ice.
Sadly, due to climate change, the glacier is melting and has receded by over two miles since 1958.
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Monuments in America
11- The Statue of Liberty, New York
Created by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi and architect Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the Statue of Liberty was erected on Liberty Island in 1886.
Making the statue was a joint effort between the two countries, as the French built the statue from steel and copper, and the USA built the pedestal on which the statue would stand.
The statue was designed to commemorate the friendship between France and the United States.
The statue is considered to be a symbol of freedom and democracy, as it welcomed immigrants arriving onto the nearby Ellis Island.
Visitors were once able to climb the statue and access the torch for views over New York, however, this was permanently halted during World War One.
12- Hoover Dam, Nevada
Hoover Dam is in Black Canyon, 30 miles from Las Vegas.
The dam is a colossal 700 feet tall concrete structure, which forms an arch-gravity dam. Construction began on the dam in 1928 and was finished in 1936.
Officials built a federal ran city, Boulder City, nearby to house workers and their families, as many flocked here looking for work during the Great Depression.
The dam was originally named ‘The Boulder Dam’ but was renamed after President Hoover in 1947.
The dam is considered an Art Deco masterpiece and features many Art Deco design elements such as geometric facets and bronze angels.
Engineers assumed that by designing the exterior and interior in such a way, people would visit the dam as tourists.
13- The Pentagon, Virginia
The Pentagon, a sizeable five-sided building in Virginia, is the home of the US Department of Defence.
The Pentagon was built between 1941 and 1943 to consolidate the War Department.
The building has five floors, excluding the mezzanine level and the basement.
Within The Pentagon are several libraries that carry books and periodicals in several languages, which allow military research to be carried out on site.
Tours of The Pentagon are available through advanced booking and include information on the history of the four military branches, the indoor memorial at the site of the 9/11 crash, and the Hall of Heroes.
14- The White House, Washington DC
The White House was commissioned by the first president of the USA, George Washington in 1791.
It was first occupied by a president, John Adams in 1800, and has remained the home of the President of the United States and their family since.
The house was rebuilt following a fire in 1814, with additions to the structure being made over the following years.
Fortunately for history fans, the White House is also home to a museum of American history.
Tours are available of the White House, however, visitors must submit a request through their Member of Congress, or, if they are a non-US citizen, through their embassy in Washington, DC.
15- Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln have been immortalised in stone through carvings on Mount Rushmore.
The Black Hills surround Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
This famous presidential memorial was designed to share the story of the birth of the USA, its growth and preservation.
Sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved the presidents faces. He chose the four presidents depicted as he believed they represented the most important events in the history of the USA.
Mount Rushmore park includes a half-mile hiking trail named the Presidential Trail.
For a more unusual stop during your visit, head to the Carver’s Cafe to sample ice cream based on the first written recipe for ice cream in the United States.
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16- Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania
Previously named The State House Bell, the Liberty Bell resided in Independence Hall before being moved to its permanent home in the Liberty Bell Centre.
The bell dates back to 1751, where a metal foundry in London, England was commissioned to cast the bell.
Sadly the bell cracked on the first test ring in Pennsylvania, and so was recast there.
The now-famous crack in the Liberty Bell was first recorded around 1840, although there is no apparent documented reason as to what caused the split.
The bell’s name of Liberty came about in the 19th century due to its bible inscription and became a symbol of both the anti-slavery movements and Women’s Suffrage.
17- Cliff Palace, Colorado
The cliff dwellings carved out of the stones of Mesa Verde are the best-preserved ancient dwellings in the USA.
The dwellings are carved directly out of the sandstone cliffs and supported with wooden beams.
During the 1190s, the Ancestral Pueblo people migrated from living atop Mesa Verde to homes carved into the overhanging cliffs.
The dwelling is often called Cliff Palace, as the dwellings total of 150 rooms.
While no evidence of a writing system was found at Cliff Palace, researchers found evidence that the people who inhabited the dwelling knew mathematics and the golden ratio, as both were used in the construction of the Sun Temple.
18- Gateway Arch, Missouri
Representing the role St Louis played in expanding America to the west during the 19th century, the Gateway Arch in the state of Missouri is a modern reflection of the ‘Gateway to the West’ city.
The park in which the monument sits serves as a memorial to Thomas Jefferson and his role in this expansion, Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in a local courthouse, and the pioneers of America.
The arch is 192 m hig630 feet tall and 630 feet wide and is the tallest monument in the USA, and tallest arch in the world.
To view the spectacular surroundings of the city and the Mississippi River from the top of the arch, two trams carry up to five seated passengers at a time in a four-minute journey to the top.
19- Kalmar Nyckel, Delaware
The Kalmar Nyckel was a pioneering colonial ship built by the Dutch in 1625 and purchased by the Swedish in 1629.
The original ship played a significant role in both the colonisation of America from Sweden and as a navy ship.
It is believed that the original sank while fighting for the Dutch in a war against England in 1652, although there are no official records to prove this.
Today, a replica version of Kalmar Nyckel is docked in Lewes, Delaware, and serves as a floating museum dedicated to Delaware’s maritime and colonial histories.
20- Alamo, Texas
Also known as ‘The Alamo Mission’, the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas was built in 1744.
Designed as a Roman Catholic mission and fortress, the Alamo is of historical importance, as a during 1836, Texas lost the Battle of the Alamo to Mexican troops.
Following its original purpose as a Spanish built mission, aimed at educating Native Americans following conversions to Catholicism, the Alamo became an important and strategic military base.
The Alamo is the most visited monument in Texas, with over two million people visiting annually.
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