Some destinations are as American as apple pie, and we don’t want you to miss any staple American landmarks on your tour of the United States.
From north to south and east to west, the land of the star-spangled banner is filled to the brim with places that are instantly recognizable pieces of the magnificent American patchwork.
We have done the virtual footwork for you and created a comprehensive list of destinations – all you must do is select where you want to go first!
Whether you are a local or a tourist visiting the United States, there are plenty of places you need to see to complete your American experience.
The United States is a vast country filled not to be missed landmarks that everyone should visit at least once during their lifetime.
Visiting an iconic landmark instantly gives you bragging rights, and better still, if you spam your social media pages with selfies taken on your visits to the most famous landmarks in the US!
Let’s get started on our whirlwind tour of unmistakable and unmissable American landmarks!
28 Incredible American Landmarks You Need To See Once
1. The Golden Gate Bridge
The iconic Golden Gate suspension bridge connecting San Francisco and Marin county is one the most instantly recognizable bridges on Earth and a must-visit place in California.
It frequently appears in movies and on television. This classic US landmark attracts more than 10 million visitors each year.
When the iconic bridge was opened in 1937, it was considered an incredible feat of modern engineering.
In 1994 Golden Gate Bridge was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. It is regarded as the number one thing to see when you are in the San Francisco area.
Visitors are eager to travel across the bridge on foot or in one of the Hop On-Hop Off busses available to tourists.
The bridge opens to pedestrian traffic at 5 am every day and closes at night. Closing times vary throughout the year. Be sure not to miss a visit to the bridge, which is one of the best things to do in California.
2. The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty embodies everything that is truly American.
For 146 years, she has been a welcoming beacon of hope for millions of hopeful immigrants arriving on Ellis Island and is the embodiment of the American dream.
No trip to New York is complete without a short trip aboard the ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island to stand at the feet of this great American landmark.
There will be plenty of photo opportunities from the ferry, and once you reach the island. To go up to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty does not cost extra, but you will need to plan in advance since there are some limitations on numbers.
Being on Liberty Island in the presence of the great lady herself is an experience that visitors will remember forever.
Just gear up for the queues on your trip – she is one of the most captivating and famous American landmarks ever created.
3. Space Needle
Seattle’s impressive 605-ft observation tower was built in just 400 days and opened for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962.
The Space Needle has become a US landmark and is one of the most photographed structures in the world.
The Space Needle was so named as a tribute to the Age Of Space theme of Expo from the time it was built.
Its flying-saucer shape viewing deck offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy 360-degree views of the landscape below. A highlight for many guests is taking a ‘sky-high’ selfie from the glass viewing tower.
The iconic Space Needle is open throughout the year, but visiting times vary slightly according to the seasons.
It is not open at night, but if you want to view the city lights, visit later in the day just before it closes.
Although you may not always need to book in advance to experience this landmark, it is advisable since the attraction can become very busy in peak season.
Read next: One Day in Seattle
4. The Hollywood Sign
Did you know the famous American landmark perched high on the hills in California once read ‘Hollywoodland’?
It was only shortened to the version we were familiar with in 1949. Just taking a picture with the large white letters in the background immediately makes everyone feel like a celebrity!
It is a great time to start planning your trip to this American landmark. The Hollywood sign will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023, and there will be plenty of festivities and events to commemorate the enduring fame of the sign that stands proudly over the area, which is also often called Tinseltown.
Visitors wanting to take photos with the famous landmark in the background can park in specially designated areas and pose to their heart’s content. Unfortunately, visitors may no longer touch the giant letters because of ongoing vandalism.
5. Route 66
On November 11, 1926, the US numbered highway system assigned the number 66 to one of the original highways in the country, and the rest is history.
Stretching from Chicago, Illinois, and ending in Santa Monica, California, Route 66 is one of the most famous landmarks in the United States.
Route 66 is an epic road trip that crosses eight states and is best enjoyed with friends.
The actual drive would take about two weeks to complete, but if you want to embark on a Route 66 adventure, it is recommended that you allocate at least four weeks to give yourself enough time to enjoy the sights and experiences along the way.
6. Mount Rushmore National Memorial
When it comes to famous American landmarks, the immense Mount Rushmore sculpture features on most people’s lists.
The 60ft high faces of four former presidents of the United States skillfully carved into the granite cliff faces of Mount Rushmore have made it an attraction visited by more than two million people annually.
However, this national monument can represent a stinging legacy to Native Americans who claim the land where this US landmark is found was stolen.
Creating the masterpiece that is Mt Rushmore in extremely hard rock face was a project that took 14 years to complete.
The faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln will forever stare out solemnly into South Dakota’s wide-open spaces.
As expected, the busiest months coincide with the summer break, but the attraction is open throughout the year. Keep in mind that the weather in South Dakota can be extreme, and plan your trip accordingly.
7. Cloud Gate
Since its opening in 2006, Cloud Gate has quickly become a US landmark. It is the world’s largest permanent outdoor sculpture and stands proudly in Millennium Park in Chicago.
British sculptor Anish Kapoor’s giant stainless steel structure is also frequently referred to as the ‘Chicago Bean’ because of its arching bean-like form.
The highly reflective polished silver structure measures 66 feet long by 33 feet high, and visitors can stand beneath the arch of the massive sculpture.
It is a popular place to take photos, and there are no entrance charges or time restraints to visit Cloud Gate.
8. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is not one but three distinct, impressive waterfalls that span the border between New York and Canada.
The volume of clear water plunging over the falls and the area’s breathtaking scenery has made Niagara Falls a famous American landmark.
With over 12 million sightseers per year, it is little wonder that Niagara Falls is a well-known destination for both locals and travelers from all over the world.
There are plenty of ways to view the spectacular falls, and the attraction is set within a park.
There are hiking trails, boat cruises to get close to the falls, and plenty of fascinating history about daredevils who have attempted to go over the falls in some not very sensible contraptions!
9. Monument Valley
The distinctive natural rock formations that rise spectacularly out of the desert sands have made Monument Valley one of the most photographed locations in the world.
The region is situated on the Arizona-Utah state line, and visitors are charged an entry fee to experience the iconic route during daylight hours.
Still, it is an excellent stop during, say, an American southwest road trip.
The immense size of the open spaces dotted with massive sandstone structures makes a visit to Monument Valley a must for anyone wanting to experience one of the most remarkable landmarks in the US.
One small, fun landmark within the massive Monument Valley experience is the exact spot where the fictional Forest Gump character decided to stop running. Getting a photo at the stop will bring a smile to many faces.
10. Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam is the most famous dam in the world, attracting more than 7 million visitors annually, which is why we listed it as one of the best places to visit in Nevada.
The incredible engineering and the project’s sheer scale make Hoover Dam well worth visiting. Besides, this place is a great day trip from Las Vegas. The dam wall is 726 ft high, and its base is wider than two football fields.
It was created to harness the mighty Colorado River that divides Arizona and Nevada.
The project aimed not only to create much-needed employment during the Depression but to generate hydroelectric power, provide water for irrigation, and prevent flooding in the region below.
Hoover dam, which opened in 1935, was a triumph on all counts and quickly became a major point of interest in the United States. It is a designated National Historic Landmark.
11. Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is an American landmark that many people have seen, but few understand its significance.
The 555 ft tall Egyptian-like obelisk is situated in Washington DC and was erected as a tribute to the 1st president of the United States, George Washington.
When Washington Monument was opened in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world. The structure is a landmark that stands less than a mile from the White House.
The towering monument can also be viewed inside, and there is an elevator to take visitors to the top.
12. Empire State Building
Beautiful New York City is the gateway city for many visitors to the United States.
After being welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, no tour of landmarks would be complete with a trip to the Empire State Building.
According to Tripadvisor, the Empire State Building is the world’s most famous building. It is an iconic American landmark that welcomes more than 4 million visitors annually.
In addition to the breathtaking 360 views of New York City from the observation decks, it is claimed that on clear days, one can see six states from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building!
13. Gateway Arch
In 1987 the Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri, was listed as a National Historic Landmark. This tribute to Thomas Jefferson’s role in the westward expansion is the tallest monument in the United States.
This US landmark is 630 feet tall, making it the tallest arch in the world. The instantly recognizable US landmark was opened to the public in 1967.
The design of the Gateway Arch stood in sharp contrast to existing architecture around it and was intended to be an example of modern design.
One would have to take 1076 steps to walk to the top of Gateway Arch – fortunately, there is a handy shuttle to transport visitors to the viewing deck at the top point.
14. Lincoln Memorial
Everyone visiting the nation’s capital should stop and experience everything the Abraham Lincoln Memorial has to offer.
The marble columns mirrored in the Reflecting Pool are an instantly recognizable American landmark.
The Lincoln Memorial was created to honor the 16th president of the United States. There is deep symbolism in every part – each pillar represents a state, and the number of stairs stands for the years of his life.
The main feature is the impressive 19 ft tall statue of President Lincoln. The memorial never closes, and visitors can visit at their convenience and soak up the rich history of this national monument.
15. Yellowstone National Park
America is blessed with many national parks, but if you ask anyone to name a few, Yellowstone is almost always first on the list.
The massive expanse of wilderness set atop a dormant volcano gives the place a mysterious charm that has made it a national landmark.
Yellowstone National Park offers an assortment of landmarks within the 2.2 million acres main landmark!
Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts spectacularly every hour or so much to the delight of visitors and the colorful splendor of the Grand Prismatic Spring.
Fort Yellowstone, a national historic landmark, is largely forgotten but should also be on your list.
In addition to the physical landmarks, Yellowstone National Park is rich with wildlife, including the largest herd of buffalo in the country.
16. National September 11 Memorial and Museum
The scenes of devastating horror appeared on our television screens on September 11, 2001. It is a date that left lasting scars on the nation.
Almost 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks, but survivors and heroes rose from the devastation.
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum aims to document the tragedy and honor those who were lost. The landmark also includes six lives lost in a 1993 bomb attack at the World Trade Center.
The landmark memorial museum was created where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York once stood. Visitors can move through the memorial at their own pace, which usually takes around 2 hours.
17. The Alamo
The Alamo, also referred to as the ‘Shrine of Texas Liberty, is an unassuming-looking fortress that was the backdrop for the pivotal Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
The building is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States and tells a story of incredible bravery, resistance, and the steadfast resilience of the American spirit.
The distinctive white limestone walls of The Alamo, originally built as a Catholic Mission, became a symbol of freedom after an epic 13-day siege during the Texas Revolution. Almost 200 brave Texan defenders, including the legendary Davy Crockett, died at the site.
Visitors to this American landmark are welcome every day of the year except Christmas Day. There is no charge to enter, and it is definitely an iconic landmark on any American traveler’s bucket list.
Read next: Fun Facts About Texa
18. National Mall
Washington, DC, is a goldmine of American landmarks. If you have visited the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, you will also undoubtedly enjoy the National Mall as you move through the many attractions in the area.
Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the well-known setting. It is estimated that more than 25 million people visit the National Mall annually.
It is a place where crowds gather for important events, like when new Presidents are inaugurated.
The National Mall, which boasts an area of 146 acres, is a landscaped park that provides the setting for various museums, sculptures, galleries, and monuments.
No matter which direction you walk while enjoying this tree-lined landmark, you will find more places of interest.
19. Fort Sumter
The American Civil War, which ultimately cost 620 000 lives, began on a small artificial island of Fort Sumter outside Charleston, South Carolina.
This American landmark is only accessible by ferry, and visitors can take a step back in time and view a place steeped in military history.
A trip to Fort Sumter is a must for anyone interested in American history. The stone fort houses plenty of civil-war-era cannons and fascinating artifacts.
Although there is no charge to explore this landmark, visitors will have to pay for the ferry ride to the island.
20. Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon National Park is a colossal area that shows off the breathtaking desert landscape of Arizona, and it is obviously one of the best places to visit in the state.
There is a variety of activities on offer at the park, but no visit would be complete without taking in the view and getting a photo from one of the lookout sites overlooking the immense Grand Canyon.
Plenty of lookout points offer spectacular (and safe) views of the canyon stretching out below.
Close to 6 million people visit the Grand Canyon National Park each year, making it one of the most visited places in North America. This park is a significant American landmark that should not be missed.
While you are at the canyon, don’t miss The Skywalk feature, which allows visitors to take breathtaking photos from a glass viewing deck that projects 70ft over the rim. It is not recommended for the faint-hearted or those afraid of heights!
Read next: Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
21. Alcatraz Island
Whether you call it Alcatraz or simply ‘The Rock,’ this historic prison in San Francisco Bay is firmly positioned as one of America’s best-known landmarks.
It was a place reserved for prisoners who did not conform to rules at other institutions. The building housed several infamous prisoners, including Al Capone and Doc Barker.
More than 1 million people visit Alcatraz Island each year. A tour of the prison is a fascinating experience.
There were plenty of daring escape attempts, but most ended in failure since the island’s icy waters have strong currents, making a swim to the mainland challenging.
One of the most elaborate escape attempts occurred in 1962, which inspired the movie Escape from Alcatraz.
22. San Antonio Riverwalk
A trip to the San Antonio Riverwalk should be high on your list if you need a break from the more serious historic American landmarks.
There is something for everyone, and the San Antonio Riverwalk is a Texan landmark not to be missed.
If you love parades, plan your trip to coincide with the San Antonio Fiesta in April or the Ford Holiday River Parade around Christmas. The colorful floats drift past visitors who line the riverside.
If you are visiting the San Antonio Riverwalk with someone special, be sure to add a love lock at Love Lock Bridge! This is one landmark where you can add to and leave a lasting memento.
23. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
On December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona that was stationed at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu was attacked, and the United States became involved in World War 2. Pearl Harbor National Memorial was opened in 1962.
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial includes various sites in Hawaii, which you can see on a scenic drive, but one of the best-known is the USS Arizona Memorial.
The structure is positioned close to where the destroyed battleship rests on the ocean floor. This American landmark is only accessible via navy-operated shuttle boats.
There is an assortment of other attractions included in the Pearl Harbor National Memorial experience– some, like the USS Oklahoma Memorial, are free of charge to visit, while others, like a trip aboard the USS Bowfin Submarine, require a ticket.
Read next: 3 Days in Oahu
24. Bunker Hill Monument
The Bunker Hill Monument is a 221-ft granite obelisk that marks the site of the first major battle of the American revolution.
This monument, located in Charleston, Massachusetts, took several years to build and was completed in 1843.
Besides the iconic American landmark monument, one of the most famous things about Bunker Hill is the legendary revolutionary war phrase, ‘Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.’
Col. William Prescott supposedly coined this, and a statue of him stands in front of the obelisk.
The Bunker Hill Monument was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961. There is no charge to visit the monument, and plenty of museums and places of interest are situated nearby.
Monticello is not only an architectural masterpiece but also carries deep historical significance.
Built in 1772, it was the plantation home of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. It is located near Charlottesville, Virginia.
If you think that Monticello looks familiar, it’s because the façade of the building features on US currency nickels.
Visitors to this American landmark can explore the ground floor and cellar of the home, as well as the extensive grounds.
A tour of Monticello usually takes around 4 hours, but there is lots to see, so go early so you can enjoy every moment.
26. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a remarkable wilderness destination in the USA that boasts giant sequoias, granite monoliths, and impressive waterfalls.
In addition, Yosemite is administered by the United States Department of Interior’s National Park Service and covers 759,620 acres.
There are plenty of attractions within the park that can be considered American landmarks all on their own, so you will be spoiled for choice to know where to take the best pics during your visit.
Just two of the attractions of Yosemite that you should not miss are the giant sequoia trees and Half Dome granite rock, which are unmistakable features of the National Park.
Yosemite Falls is noted as one of the tallest waterfalls in North America. The best time to view it is from May until early June, when it is at its strongest.
27. Gettysburg National Military Park
No tour of American landmarks would be complete without a visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park.
The beautiful hills of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, were the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War.
An excursion to the Gettysburg National Military Park brings history alive, and visitors are immersed in the accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg that took place for three days in 1863.
The park has multiple features, including museums, monuments, and an impressive cyclorama depicting the battle, which was painted in 1884.
More than 1300 monuments, memorials, statues, and markers are scattered around the park.
28. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with its lingering, filmy air, is the most popular national park in the United States.
It welcomes over 14 million visitors per annum and is regarded as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.
The characteristic smoky appearance which makes the Great Smoky Mountain National Park an American landmark isn’t smoke at all! It is a fine mist created from vapors created as a result of transpiration from dense vegetation.
This national park lies between Tennessee and North Carolina.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a place like no other. It has a magical atmosphere that needs to be experienced in person.
Final Thoughts on US Landmarks
That wraps up our tour of the most significant American landmarks.
These distinctive places of interest are scattered across the country, and each offers a unique experience and bragging rights that will last forever.
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