15 American Landmarks that Define the US
When traveling across the country, American landmarks (those highly-recognizable man-made and natural places) are usually at the top of itineraries. If not, there’s a good chance those landmarks will be pretty useful as meeting places.
If you’re planning a trip or assigned to create an itinerary, make sure to include any applicable hot spots from this list of the top 20 American landmarks that you should visit at least once in your life.
15 American Landmarks You Should Take Time to Visit
Let’s start with the most popular ones:
- Address: Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York
- Visitor Info: Open every day except the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving) and December 25
This is “THE” landmark of all USA landmarks. It has been included in dozens of movies, from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1942 film “Saboteur,” to the original 1968 “Planet of the Apes.”
The Statue of Liberty was a joint effort between France and the United States, intended to commemorate the lasting friendship between the peoples of the two nations.
Standing at a height of 151 feet and weighing 200 metric tonnes, the Statue of Liberty was erected in 1886 to commemorate the abolition of slavery and end of U.S. Civil War. At that time when millions of immigrants were arriving, this monument stood as the welcoming statue of hope and new beginnings.
- COOL TRIVIA: This statue wasn’t supposed to be green. Its skeleton is made of iron, but its exterior is copper, which turned green due to oxidation. People in charge of the statue leave the green coating be because it supposedly protect it from quicker deterioration and further damage.
- Address: San Francisco, CA
- Visitor Info: The bridge welcoming center is open from 9am to 6pm daily, but make sure to check here for updated schedules.
It’s included in one of our top 25 bridges in the US for good reason. The Golden Gate bridge is visited by around 15 million people from around the world each year.
The Golden Gate bridge was completed in 1937 and was at the time the longest suspension bridge in the world. While this bridge doesn’t hold the title anymore, the Golden Gate remains an iconic structure to this day and is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Near the Golden Gate bridge is the Fisherman’s Wharf, dozens of fresh seafood restaurants, a park and other San Francisco attractions.
- COOL TRIVIA: The paint color of the bridge was supposed to be either silver or black, but the bridge’s architect Irving Morrow saw the red primer painted on some parts of the steel and convinced the government to painting the entire bridge in that orangey red color.
- Address: Washington, D.C.
- Visitor Info: Each monument and attraction found inside the National Mall has its own opening hours and fees.
About 25 million people visit this Washington, D.C. landmark because going there simply means you’ll be able to go face to face with some of the most famous US national landmarks, such as the Lincoln memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington Monument, the White House, U.S. Capitol Building, and about 300 acres of land.
Read more about Washington D.C. statues and other famous monuments in the US.
- Address: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
- Visitor Info: There is no cost to visit the iconic sign, but some limitations to trails may be in place every now and then, so check before you begin your hike.
Situated on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Hollywood Sign overlooks the entire Los Angeles. It measures 45 feet tall and 350 feet long.
It was originally built “HOLLYWOODLAND” for a real estate company in 1923, but was rebuilt in 1949 to reflect the famous word “HOLLYWOOD.”
In the 70s, this sign was in pretty bad shape. Thankfully, it has been preserved with the help of non -profit Hollywood Sign Trust and people like Hugh Hefner who made a $900,000 donation for the 2010 fundraising that met over $12 million. This fundraising helped built the 138-acre Griffith Park (where you could hike to the sign in trails with varying levels), or just breathe in the glorious views from the Griffith Observatory.
5. Times Square
Times Square has been fondly referred to as a hub that never sleeps.
The melting pot where about 300,000 tourists and local people pass by the Times Square on a daily basis. It is where you’d find the best of American theater, culture and since it is also the center of commerce, you’ll find many flagship stores of US brands here.
The Mount Rushmore was completed in 1941 after 14 years and 400 workers carved the 60-feet-tall faces of four American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt into the massive granite.
About 3 million visit this monument, but it is also as controversial since the area (Black Hills) is sacred to the Lakota Sioux, the original occupants of the area when white settlers arrived.
For The Sioux, Mount Rushmore was built on land the government took from and the monument celebrated European settlers who killed many Native Americans during the late 19th century.
If you came to Mount Rushmore in exploring history, make sure to drop by the Crazy Horse Memorial as well.
It is located in Black Hills and depicts Crazy Horse, the Sioux warrior who fought against anyone who threatened their traditions and territories. This memorial, once finished, is set to be the world’s largest mountain sculpture at 563 feet.
In 1939, to counter Mount Rushmore, then Sioux Chief Henry Standing Bear invited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to lead the project. Ziolkowski bought a mountain top with granite ridge, financed the project privately, and began carving the memorial for the Sioux nation.
Crazy Horse’s face was completed in 1998, but it is still in progress as of 2020 under the Crazy Horse Foundation.
8. Space Needle
The Space Needle is an observation tower in Seattle, Washington and considered to be an icon of the city and the Pacific Northwest. It was built in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood as part of the 1962 World’s Fair, which drew over 2.3 million visitors.
As one of the most famous Seattle landmarks, you can go to the top of the tower (for a fee) and have a majestic view of downtown Seattle. There’s an area available for rent, so if you’re dreaming of being on top of the world while getting married, then this is probably the venue for you.
9. Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is one of history’s most famous symbols of freedom and justice.
The Pennsylvania Assembly had the Liberty Bell made in 1751 to mark the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, which served as Pennsylvania’s original Constitution.
The Bible verse “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” and information about the Bell’s maker are written on the bell.
After the Civil War, the Liberty Bell spent several decades touring the country before coming to rest in Philadelphia. Between 1753 and 1846, the Bell rang to mark the signing of the Constitution, and the deaths of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson.
After 90 years of use, the bell showed a narrow split. No one knows exactly when in 1840 the first crack of the bell happened, but the city of Philadelphia tried to repair it in 1846 and restore the tone by intentionally spreading the crack further. Unfortunately, this resulted in silencing the bell for good.
Cloud Gate, affectionately called “The Bean” by locals, is a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor. It was created in 2004 as a centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in the Loop community.
Inspired by liquid mercury, Cloud Gate is one of the world’s largest permanent outdoor art installations and one of the most photographed places on earth. It is 33 feet high, 42 feet wide, 66 feet long and weighs a whopping 110 tons.
11. The Gateway Arch
This 630-feet structure is taller than the Statue of Liberty and Washington Monument. It is the world’s tallest arch, tallest man-made monument and Missouri’s tallest building.
The Gateway Arch was designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen. It was built of stainless steel and cost $13 million to build.
Also called “The Gateway to the West,” this arch commemorates Thomas Jefferson’s vision and St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States.
If you’re not afraid of heights, you can take a tram to the top of the arch and see as far as 30 miles away and a view of the Mississippi River.
12. Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is a stunning music venue that has been around since 1925 in Nashville, Tennessee.
This isn’t as popular as other famous American landmarks listed here, but if you’re a country music fan, this should definitely be in your bucket list. Or include it in your Nashville, TN itinerary.
Appropriately called the “home of American music,” The Grand Ole Opry is one of the most sought-after stage for live entertainment.
This isn’t just any city hall – the Philly city hall is jaw-dropping in its beauty. The tower itself is 548 feet tall, topped by a 37-foot bronze statue of William Penn.
Philadelphia’s City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States with over 14.5 acres of floor space. Up until 1987, this was the tallest building in the city as well.
I recommend you join the guided tours to learn about the building’s history and if possible, check out the lavishly-decorated public rooms and go up at the open-air observation deck for a memorable view of the city.
When it comes to the most famous American landmarks in movies, the Empire State Building probably tops the list. It has been a landmark of the New York skyline since 1931.
I’m sure visiting the Empire State Building is far from the most unusual things to do in New York, but it is definitely worth the visit.
Take in all the 1,200 feet of views from the observation areas on floors 86 and 102.
15. Las Vegas Sign
If you’re visiting Las Vegas, make sure to take time taking a photo by the iconic Las Vegas Sign. Ironically, this sign sits in the median at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South, which is outside of the city limits and in the town of Paradise.
There’s nothing else to see here, since the sign is located far from all the flashy lights, but this kitschy 50s-style sign would definitely make you excited for what’s in store.
Where to go Next?
These famous American landmarks are just the tip of the iceberg.
So which city do you go next?
I hope these landmarks give you inspiration for your next trip.