Whether you’ve seen them in person or not, you’ll undoubtedly recognize these wonders from East Coast to West Coast.
From the iconic flame that soars above Lady Liberty to the limestone-inlaid mission that begs to be remembered, the most iconic landmarks across America are able to tell the story of the country’s proud past while symbolizing a strong future.
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The Statue of Liberty
Presented to the United States in 1886 as a gift from France, Lady Liberty is a near-universal symbol of freedom and democracy, standing 305 feet and 6 inches high on Liberty Island. You can get a sense of the thrill millions of immigrants must have experienced as you approach it on the ferry from Battery Park and see the statue grow from a vaguely defined figure on the horizon into a towering, stately colossus. Here’s Fodor’s Guide to all things New York City.
Holding back the mighty Colorado River, this massive feat of engineering creates hydroelectric power and helps provides water for seven states and a portion of Mexico. In 2010, the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge opened to allow for faster travel through the area. But it’s still worth stopping to admire the Art Deco wonder and tour the facilities.
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The Freedom Trail
This path through central Boston provides a chance literally to walk in the footsteps of America’s forefathers. It leads past locations where much of the drama that would bring about the American Revolution unfolded, from Faneuil Hall to the Old North Church to the site of the Boston Massacre.
Part of the Gateway Arch National Park, this iconic structure symbolizes the importance of St. Louis as the Gateway to the West. Be sure to ride to the top for great views of the city and the Mississippi River.
In this building the Declaration of Independence was signed, George Washington was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army, and the Constitution was ratified. In other words, there’s no other structure in the United States that’s loaded with more historical significance. The Hall is part of Independence National Historical Park, where you’ll also find the Liberty Bell and several museums.
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Golden Gate Bridge
The suspension bridge connecting San Francisco with Marin County, completed in 1937, is a triumph in just about every way. With its 1.7-mi span and 746-foot towers, it’s both beautiful and durable—it was built to withstand winds of more than 100 mph and was undamaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. The bridge’s walkway provides unparalleled views of the Bay Area.
In the midst of South Dakota’s Black Hills, 60-foot-high likenesses of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt are carved into a massive granite cliff; the result is America’s most famous memorial. From sunset through 9 pm, the majestic faces are dramatically illuminated at night.
This one-time Franciscan mission stands as a monument to the nearly 200 Texan volunteers who fought and died here during a 13-day siege in 1836 by Mexican general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The Texans lost the battle, but they ultimately won their bid for independence with “Remember the Alamo” as their rallying cry.
The National Mall
Washington’s Mall is surrounded by a collection of great American landmarks, with the Capitol at one end, the Washington Monument at the other, and the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Memorial (among many others) near at hand. There are also nearly a dozen museums bordering the Mall.
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The first shots of the Civil War were fired on this fort on a man-made island in Charleston’s harbor. The 34-hour battle that ensued would result in defeat for the Union and turn Fort Sumter into a symbol of Southern resistance. Today the National Park Service oversees it, with rangers giving interpretive talks and conducting guided tours.
Fort Jefferson National Monument
Built between 1846 and 1875, Fort Jefferson is the largest all-masonry fort in the United States and today makes up one part of the seven keys of Dry Tortugas National Park. It was originally intended as a barricade from the Gulf of Mexico, but was never fully completed due to lack of supplies during the Civil War, when it was used as a makeshift prison. See why Teddy Roosevelt declared it a National Monument as you explore the moss-laden brickwork and more than 2,000 arches.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
This American landmark wouldn’t exist—nor would modern aviation, for that matter—without the brilliant ingenuity of two brothers from Ohio. Wilburn and Orville swapped their bicycle shop for the windy shores of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina to test their flying machine, changing history with 12 seconds of powered flight. The monument stands atop a hill overlooking the original Wright brother’s runway, where visitors can walk the distance of that first flight.
Belle of Louisville
Steamboat travel played a large role in the story of America’s growth. In the early 1900s these behemoth boats chugged up and down major rivers through the country to transport travelers to and from new destinations. This historic ship was built in 1914, and remains the oldest operating steam-powered boat in the United States. Today it transports up to 650 guests for two-hour lunch and dinner cruises along the Ohio River for the chance to float back through time.
Grand Ole Opry
Dubbed the “home of American music,” the Grand Ole Opry has given rise to some of the country’s most iconic artists, from Dolly Parton to Loretta Lynn. It all began in 1925, when the stage was used to house a local radio broadcast, but has since grown into one of the most sought after stages for live entertainment. Catch a performance at this historic venue or book a backstage tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the stories, names, and lyrics that have made this Nashville gem such an American icon.
Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument (a.k.a. Hearst Castle)
Although no princes or dukes have ever called this castle home, the former occupants of Hearst Castle were nothing short of American royalty. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst used the expansive estate as a home and playground for entertaining Hollywood elite, athletes, and politicians between 1919 and 1947. It has since been converted into a museum and National Historic Landmark where visitors can tour the 46 guestrooms and the grounds, including the stunning Neptune Pool and the private theatre where Hearst screened first-release movies alongside guests including Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, and more.