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 19 famous landmarks in the US that you just have to see.
Here are the Top 19 Famous Landmarks in the US.
Famous Landmarks in the US
Table of Contents
- Famous Landmarks in the US
- 1. Statue of Liberty
- 2. Golden Gate Bridge
- 3. Seattle Space Needle
- 4. Mount Rushmore
- 5. Hoover Dam
- 6. Washington Monument
- 7. Niagara Falls
- 8. Empire State Building
- 9. The Grand Canyon
- 10. Yosemite National Park
- 11. The Alamo
- 12. Gateway Arch
- 13. Times Square
- 14. The Hollywood Sign
- 15. The White House
- 16. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
- 17. Abraham Lincoln Memorial
- 18. Key West Lighthouse
- 19. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
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 25 North America Landmarks, Top 15 Famous Landmarks in the US, 25 Beautiful Canada Landmarks, 10 Best Places for Hot Springs in the USA, 16 Most Beautiful Cities in Canada, 23 Must See Landmarks in Mexico,15 Most Beautiful States in the US, American Bridges you Must Cross, 33 Things to do in Tulum, 19 Historical Places in New York, 37 Best Places to Visit in Mexico, Most Beautiful Lakes in Canada 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.
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.
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.
⇒ Love watching the sunsets and sunrises? Check out my posts on the 6 Places to watch Sunsets in Seattle, 7 Spots for Sedona Sunsets, 6 Sunrise in Paris Spots, 8 Places to watch Sunsets in Ibiza, Where to watch Santorini Sunsets and Where to find the best Sunsets in California.
11. The Alamo
The Alamo was an 18th century Franciscan Mission in San Antonio, Texas. It was the location of a famous battle between Texas and Mexico in February 1836. The battle lasted 13 days and the Mexicans won the battle, killing all of the Texans in the fort.
The cruelty of the Mexicans in the battle inspired many Texans to join the army and they went on to defeat the Mexicans in a battle in April of 1836. Remember the Alamo was the battle cry that recalled the battle and the fact that every Texan died. The phrase has been attributed to General Sam Houston.
Today the Alamo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Texas. Admission to the Alamo church is free but timed reservations are required to control visitor numbers and preserve the site. Self-guided tours are available with audio guides as are typical guided tours as are history talks.
12. Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch reflects St Louis’ role in the Westward Expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century. The park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, the pioneers who helped shape its history and to Dr Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the old courthouse.
Completed in 1965, it is 630 feet tall. This makes it the tallest arch in the world and the tallest monument in the United States. It is also an engineering feat as many feared that it would not be able to stand.
Today it is possible to take a tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch which takes between 45 and 60 minutes. There is a museum as well as the old courthouse and riverboat cruises on offer.
13. Times Square
Originally known as Long Acre Square after London‘s carriage district, Times Square was an early site for Vanderbilt’s American Horse Exchange. Then came the building of the subway system, electricity and advertising. Adolph S Ochs was the owner and publisher of the New York Times saw an opportunity and decided to build what became the second tallest building in New York City at the time in the square.
The New York Times moved into the building in 1905. Around the same time, the mayor of New York City at the time, George B. McClellan change the name of the area to Times Square. The first ever celebration of New Years Eve took place over this time and was also staged by Adolph S Ochs.
Today, Times Square is one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the world and draws an estimated 50 million visitors each year. It has been featured in countless films and tv programs and continues to feature very large, now mostly digital, advertising.
14. The Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood sign is perhaps one of the most iconic landmarks in North America and a world wide symbol of the entertainment industry. The sign was originally developed as part of an advertising campaign for a suburban housing development called “Hollywoodland”. It was erected in 1923.
The sign is visible from all over Los Angeles. However, it is illegal to get close to the Hollywood sign and it is actually set behind gates and protected by security cameras and park rangers.
If you want to “see” the sign there are two ways to do so. The first is to take a hike in the area around the sign. The second is to see the sign from one of the best viewpoints such as Griffiths Observatory.
15. The White House
The White House is the official workplace and residence of The President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, it has been the home of every US President since John Adams in 1800.
The building was designed by James Hoban and modelled on Leinster House in Dublin. It is made from Aquia Creek sandstone that was painted white. The Oval Office was created in 1909 by President William Howard Taft.
Today the White House is home to the Executive Residence, the West Wing, East Wing, Eisenhower Executive Office Building and Blair House. The Executive Residence is over six floors, two of whcih are underground.
The White House is actually owned by National Park Service and it is a National Heritage Site. It is possible to visit the White House but it takes some planning. For those in the US, a tour request must be made through your member of Congress. The request should be submitted up to three months in advance and no less than 21 days ahead of your trip.
Overseas visitors are also able to take a tour of the White House. They must contact their country’s embassy in Washington DC to organise tickets. All tours of the White House are free of charge.
16. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. It is located in one of the country’s oldest cities, St. Augustine.
The Spanish built this fort between 1672 and 1695 to protect their interests in the city. It also played a significant role in the Civil and Spanish-American wars. Stopping by this fascinating site on a St. Augustine tour offers a wonderful experience for history buffs and families.
17. Abraham Lincoln Memorial
The Abraham Lincoln Memorial is as inspiring as it is imposing. It is the most glorious monument in America and a top Washington, D.C. historical site.
Built in honour of the 16th American President, Abraham Lincoln, the huge neoclassical memorial houses a 5.79 metre (19 foot) statue of Lincoln. This imitates the president’s gigantic presence and height – he was 1.93 metres tall (6 feet). Lincoln’s statue looks out over the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument lost in thought.
Honest Abe’s two most famous speeches are etched into the walls of the monument. The Memorial has also become a symbolic centre for race relations in the United States. Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the monument to a crowd of over 250,000 people.
Tip: If possible, visit the memorial after dark, when the crowds are fewer and the monument has a calmer atmosphere.
18. Key West Lighthouse
The Key West Lighthouse is a magnificent landmark positioned in Key West, Florida. This impressive lighthouse was built in 1825 to help ships navigate the dangerous reefs and enter the port. The 22-metre (73-foot) tower remained in operation until 1969.
Here you can discover the island’s maritime history and enjoy spectacular sunsets in Florida. For the best views, you’ll have to climb 88 iron steps to get to the top of the lighthouse.
19. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was modelled after the Pantheon in Rome, Italy. It is a low dome supported by 54 ionic columns, spotlighting the 5,79 metre (19 ft) bronze statue of the third U.S President, Thomas Jefferson.
According to the artist, John Russell Pope, the design is a reflection of Jefferson’s love of classical architecture. Inside the monument, look for excerpts from Jefferson’s famous speeches, as well as the Declaration of Independence.
This famous landmarks in the US post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.