There is something a little magic about seeing a well-known landmark for the first time. It can feel like an accomplishment, a special moment – or if you’re like me you will feel a sense of satisfaction from marking another landmark off your bucket list.
There are quite a few famous landmarks in the US but I have reviewed them all for you and whittled it down to what I feel are the top 10 famous landmarks in the US that you just have to see.
Here are the Top Ten Famous Landmarks in the US.
Famous Landmarks in the US
1. Statue of Liberty
Arguably, the Statue of Liberty is the most iconic landmark in North America. Lady Liberty has her own island within New York City. This copper statue was originally a gift to the United States from France.
The statue’s metal framework was designed by Gustave Eiffel, also responsible for one of the most famous landmarks in France the Eiffel Tower.
The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 but holds a tablet inscribed with the date of US independence, July 4 1776. A broken shackle and chains lie at her feet, a symbol of the recent abolition of slavery in the United States.
The statue became a symbol of freedom, particularly as it was often the first sight of the USA seen by incoming immigrants.
Today, at least 4 million people a year visit the Statue of Liberty. There is no charge for entrance to the monument but there is a cost to take the ferry from Manhattan to Liberty Island. The ferry also stops at Ellis Island.
If you wish to climb up to the crown, paid tickets must be booked in advance.
Book your Statue of Liberty tickets here – including Skip the Queue Options.
2. Golden Gate Bridge
The 1.7 miles long Golden Gate Bridge is world renowned and easily recognised by its orange colours. First opened in 1937, this single suspension bridge is anchored by twin towers.
This iconic bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County and over two billion cars have driven over it since it first opened.
There are several ways to get some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take a cruise around San Francisco bay – potentially including the fantastic Alcatraz island and prison.
Head to the viewing platform at the Battery Spence military installation for some panorama shots. Baker Beach is a great spot to see the bridge at sunset.
However, my personal favourite way to see the Golden Gate Bridge is to hire a bike and cycle over it. Pick up a bike at Fisherman’s Wharf and head to the bridge.
On the other side is lovely Sausalito, a perfect lunch spot. It is then possible to cycle back or to take your bike onto the ferry from Sausalito back to Fisherman’s Wharf – a great day out.
3. Seattle Space Needle
This Seattle icon was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair. The futuristic design was inspired by Space Age aspirations. The Seattle Space Needle is located at Seattle Centre and provides 360 degree views of some of Seattle’s most scenic sights such as Mount Rainier and Puget Sound.
Today the Seattle Space Needle offers an all-glass floor and an open-air deck. The floor to ceiling glass also offers an outdoor observation deck with open air glass walls and glass benches.
The Oculus is a steel, wood, and glass staircase that connects the all-glass upper deck with a rotating glass floor. This glass floor offers a unique downward view of the Seattle Space Needle.
4. Mount Rushmore
The faces of former US Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln on a grand scale (the heads are 18 metres high) can all be seen on the granite face of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.
Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the design and oversaw its production with his son between 1927 and 1941. He chose these four presidents to represent the United States’ birth, growth, development and preservation.
Mount Rushmore has featured in numerous films and tv programmes – my personal favourite being its starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.
Nearly three million people visit Mount Rushmore each year. The mountain is over 1745m tall and the national park that is home to it is 1,278 acres. As this is a national park there are no fees to enter or to see the faces carved into the mountain. However, there is a fee for parking.
5. Hoover Dam
This concrete dam is on the border between Nevada and Arizona. The Hoover Dam was constructed during the great depression in the early 1930s.
Named after then President Hebert Hoover, it was opened by President Franklin Roosevelt.
In the early 1930s an entire city was built to home the 5000 workers on the dam, Boulder City.
The Hoover Dam created the largest reservoir in the US, Lake Mead. Today, Lake Mead not only supplies water to 3 states and Mexico it is also a popular tourist site. Today, nearly one million people visit the Hoover Dam each year.
The Hoover Dam structure is very art deco and cool – even the toilets! The highlight of visiting the dam is heading down 600 feet and seeing the turbines and learning about how they used water to cool the concrete so it would set faster and a whole bunch of ingenious and amazing things that were done to make this dam work.
⇒ Book your Hoover Dam Tour
6. Washington Monument
Located in the National Mall in Washington DC, this tall statue was built for George Washington. At just over 169 metres tall, the Washington Monument is the world’s tallest predominantly stone structure and its tallest obelisk.
Construction of the monument originally began in 1848 but was then put on hold due to a lack of funds and the American Civil War for 23 years. The obelisk was completed in 1888.
The Washington Monument is located east of the reflecting pool and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.
Timed tickets can be purchased to visit the Washington Monument. At the designated time visitors are able to ascend 500 feet in an express elevator, a journey that takes about 70 seconds. Visitors then have 10 minutes at the top of the Washington Monument.
⇒ Looking for some travel inspiration? Check out my posts on the 15 North America Landmarks, Top Ten Famous Landmarks in the US, 11 Beautiful Canada Landmarks and the 20 Most Beautiful Cities in United States.
7. Niagara Falls
Famed for its grand allure, Niagara Falls is one of Canada’s most visited landmarks. The land that encompasses the falls is split between Canada and the state of New York, in the United States. It features three waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.
Horseshoe Falls is the only one of the three that resides in Canada. It’s also the largest. It drops roughly 57 metres down and is an impressive 790 metres wide.
As you can imagine, this famous Canadian landmark is an incredible place to witness the true beauty and power of nature first hand.
8. Empire State Building
This 102 story Art Deco building in midtown Manhattan was built over 1930 and 1931. The name comes from the nickname for the state of New York – the Empire State.
The Empire State Building stands 443 metres tall including its antenna. For many years it was the world’s tallest building. Today it has slipped down the list to be the 48th tallest building in the world and is only the 7th tallest building in New York City.
⇒ Heading to the East Coast of the US? Check out my posts on the best things to do in Lower Manhattan, the most instagrammable places to visit in Philadelphia, and great Philadelphia food tours, and the best coffee shops Baltimore has on offer, more fab Baltimore food tour options, Hotel Indigo Baltimore and some very Instagram worthy Baltimore attractions!
Many of the landmarks in this post have had major Hollywood careers but perhaps none more so than the Empire State Building. From King Kong to An Affair to Remember to Sleepless in Seattle, this North America landmark is a true star.
It is possible to visit the Empire State Building and head up to its famous decks with amazing views over Manhattan and the outer boroughs. Choose whether to head to the 82nd floor or all the way to the 102nd floor.
9. The Grand Canyon
Both the largest and the longest canyon in the world, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 6,000 feet deep and 18 miles wide. Carved by the Colorado River, the canyon is located in Arizona.
The Grand Canyon has built up over nearly two billion years. Scientists believe that that the Colorado River established a path through the canyon about 5 to 6 million years ago (give or take a few hundred thousand years).
As the Grand Canyon is so large there are many ways to visit. It is located within a national park and a digital pass for entrance to the park can be purchased online.
The key regions of the park are the South Rim and the North Rim. There is both lodging and camping in the park and options for trekking as well as driving. The majority of the park’s 5.5 million visitors each year head to the South Rim. (The South Rim is open all year round but the North Rim is only open mid-May to Mid-October).
A car is quite important to get around such a large park. There are loads of different options and itineraries as well as different levels of difficulty for treks etc etc – the Grand Canyon park website is a great source of information.
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Or do what I did and take a helicopter ride from Las Vegas for a day trip to the Grand Canyon including a visit to the Skywalk (not for those with a fear of heights) and a flight down the Las Vegas strip on the way back.
10. Yosemite National Park
Although yosemite Park covers over 3,000 square kilometres most visitors spend the majority of their time in the six-mile radius that is the Yosemite Valley.
The beautiful Yosemite Valley is the heartland of Yosemite Park. It is essentially an 8-mile loop full of stunning deciduous trees (particularly beautiful in the autumn) and home to some of the key sights of Yosemite Park including the Half Dome and El Capitan rocks.
Yosemite Village is at the centre of Yosemite Valley and has a visitors centre, restaurant, gallery and everything you might possibly need for a great day in Yosemite Park. I would recommend starting with the terrific Yosemite Valley Visitor Centre.
Yosemite Park is famous for its stunning waterfalls. Which waterfalls you are able to see will vary depending on the time of year and how much time you have available.
⇒ Interested in heading to California? Check out my posts on Unique Restaurants in San Francisco, Things to do in Calistoga review of the great Solage Spa, visiting Yosemite in One Day, 10 Stunning Sunsets in California and in Yosemite in October and my guide to a Livermore Wine Tasting.
Glacier Point is famous for its amazing views over the Yosemite Valley -, particularly at sunset. Tunnel View is at the start of the Yosemite Valley loop road and only a slight detour from the main road. The views are fantastic.
Mariposa Grove is home to 500 giant Sequoia trees and is rather stunning. There is an easy 0.3 mile trail through part of Mariposa Grove and a second longer 2 mile loop option.
The closest airports to Yosemite Park are in Fresno and Merced but these are quite small. If you’re travelling from overseas San Francisco Airport will be your best bet.
Even if you have a car there are several great transport options for getting to some of the key sights within Yosemite. YARTS or Yosemite Area Regional Transport System has been operating in the park since 2000.
The best option for spending one day in Yosemite without a car is to take a guided tour from San Francisco. A day trip to Yosemite from San Francisco is a long day – about 15 hours – but someone else will do the driving, take you to the best places in the park and then deliver you back to your hotel.
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