When you think of the United States, many images pop into your head. When you think of things that are traditionally and classically American, you think of hot dogs at ball games, the National Anthem, or any of the many beautiful National Parks the county has to offer.
The country is rich in history and leaves behind many famous landmarks that you can visit today. For example, in the Northeast United States, you can still observe all the history of the states included in the original 13 colonies.
In Philadelphia, you can view the Liberty Bell, and in Boston, you can view where the Boston Tea Party occurred. You can even check out where the Pilgrims first made landfall at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.
U.S. Landmarks You Have to See in 2023
Narrowing down some of the most famous landmarks is no easy task, but we’re here to help — we’ve listed 15 of our picks for the best American landmarks we think everyone should see in their lifetime. Let’s dive in!
1. Statue of Liberty
There is no place more classically American than the Statue of Liberty. When people think of the United States, one of the first landmarks to come to mind is the blue-green Lady in the bay of New York City, New York.
In 1865, when the American Civil War was ending, a French historian came up with the idea that France should create a statue to gift to America as a symbol of democracy. It also represented the friendship between the people of the United States and the people of France.
The statue was built and dedicated in 1886 in the Upper New York Bay on Liberty Island. The statue then became a representation of freedom for immigrants coming into the country seeking the freedom America had to offer and democracy.
It became a long-lasting symbol of reaching success and was the first thing anyone sailing in saw as they came into the country for the first time. Immigrants would arrive in the country at nearby Ellis Island, where they viewed Ms. Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty is not only one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, but it is also one of the most recognizable in the world. The statue stands tall with her torch raised in her right hand and her tablet in her left hand.
2. Hollywood Sign
Another iconic American landmark is the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California. Built in 1923, the sign originally read “HOLLYWOODLAND” to promote a new housing development.
It has since been changed to the iconic white “HOLLYWOOD” letters. The sign draws thousands of tourists from all over the world every year to take pictures with the sign, which can be observed from below or above if you’re willing to hike up the hills.
The sign is a cultural icon and represents the movie-making industry that thrives in Los Angeles. It has been featured in many movies, TV shows, and famous photographs.
3. Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch, known as the “Gateway to the West”, is a National Historic Landmark in Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Missouri. It is the world’s tallest arch and is an international symbol for the city of St. Louis.
It is a popular tourist destination and offers rides and tours to the top of the Arch. The Arch overlooks the Mississippi River and is located at the site of the founding of St. Louis on the west bank. When visiting the state, the Arch is a must-see for your trip.
4. The Alamo
The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is an internationally and locally known landmark and popular tourist destination for those visiting the state. The Alamo Mission, also known as just The Alamo, is a historic Spanish fortress compound built in the 18th century and was the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1936.
American heroes James Bowen and Davy Crockett died at this location when the Mexican troops reclaimed the Alamo under General Santa Anna.
Many American soldiers died at this location, making the Alamo a memorial and museum rich in American and Texas history. Today, visitors can view the Alamo from the outside or take a guided tour inside.
5. The White House
Another iconic American landmark is none other than the White House. The White House is where the President of the United States lives, and it has served that purpose since its inception.
When anyone thinks of Washington D.C., they automatically picture the beautiful White House, as it is on many photographs and postcards in the area. You can view the White House from the street, and sometimes they even offer tours for visitors.
6. Cloud Gate “The Bean”
The Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago, Illinois, is a prominent sculpture that has become a representation of the city of Chicago. It is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in Chicago and is a major tourist destination for visitors.
It draws people in due to the strange shape, resembling a giant bean. It has a highly polished exterior that is reflective and distorts the Chicago skyline in the background, making it perfect for photos.
The architect’s design was inspired by liquid mercury and features an arch that you can walk underneath. If you choose to walk underneath or take a picture by the Bean, you will have unique photos to look back on for your memories.
7. Space Needle
The Space Needle is a tall, needle-shaped, futuristic building built in Seattle, Washington, that has become a local and internationally known landmark. It is a prominent figure in the Seattle skyline.
It was built in 1962 and was inspired by the aspirations of the Space Age. The landmark continues to be a talking point and tourist destination for Seattle, and when people around the world think of the city, they often picture the Space Needle.
The Needle’s flying saucer-shaped top offers visitors a 360-degree indoor and outdoor view of downtown, Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and multiple mountain ranges, including the Cascade mountains. It is a beautiful, breath-taking experience to go up inside the Space Needle.
8. Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a giant sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore that features four of the Nation’s most well-known Presidents and is an internationally and nationally recognized icon.
The four Presidents featured are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It is located in the Black Hills near the city of Keystone, South Dakota.
Read Next: The Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore
9. Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is another iconic landmark in Washington, D.C. When tourists from other countries and visitors think of Washington D.C., they picture the Washington Monument due to its unique shape and how it has been depicted in many shows and movies.
It mimics the shape of an Egyptian obelisk, made to honor George Washington, the first and most essential Founding Father.
At one time, it was the tallest building in the world. It draws many visitors today, who are coming to the area for the first time to explore what the U.S. capital has to offer.
10. Golden Gate Bridge
Another famous landmark in California is the Golden Gate Bridge, representing San Francisco, California. It draws millions of tourists and guests each year to take pictures with, walk across, bike across, or even admire from a helicopter above.
The Bridge’s beauty is unmatched, and when it was completed in 1937, it was considered the tallest and longest suspension bridge in the world. It has been recognized as the gateway to America and is the first landmark many see when arriving in America through San Francisco Bay.
11. Route 66
U.S. Highway 66, known as Route 66, is a well-known highway that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. It is famously known as the “Mother Road” because, during the Great Depression, it paved the way for many migrants from the Midwest seeking jobs and a better life in California.
It is still well-known today, and there are many stops along Route 66 that are rich in history and can take you back in time.
It was commissioned in 1926 and paved in the 1930s, providing a trucking route through the Southwest. The highway has often been romanticized for TV and movies and is featured in many popular songs and modern writing.
During its birth, it symbolized freedom and mobility for every citizen able to afford to own a car. It symbolized a turning point for the country, and many people sought to travel Route 66 to see what the hype was about. It is still just as famous to this day.
While traveling Route 66 today, you can make many fun stops as you drive. Stop at Pops Diner in Arcadia, Oklahoma, for an old-fashioned coke float or fresh pie.
The diner features one of Route 66’s most famous icons- the giant neon, a bottle-shaped sign that has become a symbol for the highway. Another great all-American stop is the Leaning Tower of Texas in Groom, Texas, which is a leaning water tower that looks like it is just on the brink of toppling over.
It was originally an advertisement for a truck stop at the location. No matter where you choose to stop along the route, you are sure to feel the all-American nostalgia.
12. Monument Valley
Monument Valley is an expansive area of land that covers approximately 92,000 acres along the border of Arizona and Utah. Its red rock formations and tall sandstone towers are akin to being on Mars.
It is one of the most photographed places on Earth and is known as an icon of the American West. Many people have seen Monument Valley depicted in many movies and TV shows, as it is a popular set for Western-themed movies.
It is a quintessential representation of the American West and is great for hiking and biking. The formations formed during the Permian period, and the area was once part of the seafloor.
Sediment and sandstone formed layers of rock on top of each other for millions of years. When there water receeded, it left behind these beautiful formations that have been standing tall ever since.
13. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is a large group of three waterfalls plunging over a very steep cliff on the border between Ontario, Canada, and the state of New York. It serves as a boundary between countries and is a famous tourist destination for people visiting from all over the world.
When visiting, you can take a boat to the bottom of the falls or take a tour behind the falls. The tour takes you through the underground system and allows you to view the falls from inside.
Although it represents both countries, it is still an American icon and draws many people every year to spectate its powerful beauty. Since this landmark is on the border of the United States and Canada, you can visit both countries.
The American side of the Falls boasts many tourist activities, and is a short drive from shopping malls and iconic cities such as Rochester and Buffalo.
14. Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is another United States National Memorial in Washington D.C. It is on the Western side of the National Mall across from the Washington Monument. The Memorial exterior is in the shape of a temple.
The interior features a statue of Founding Father Abraham Lincoln sitting down in a chair and looking down at visitors. The Lincoln Memorial is also nationally recognized and draws millions of tourists every year.
15. World Trade Center Memorial
The World Trade Center Memorial remembers the tragic events of September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. It is an important American memorial dedicated to all the victims of the tragic attacks.
9/11 is known around the world, and many people come to pay their respects to the memorial every year. There are two large fountains with the names of all the 9/11 victims carved into the stone that sits in the pits that used to once hold the foundations of both World Trade Centers.
Although the memorial is a humbling experience, it is highly respected and well-known across the country.
Things to Consider
When visiting these landmarks, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
When planning your trip to any of the above landmarks, you want to keep in mind what the weather will be like during the time you are visiting.
For example, if you plan on visiting the Space Needle in Seattle, you want to plan and pack for more rainy, cold weather, especially if visiting during the winter months. You want to keep in mind that during cloudy days, you may not get the best view of the city below.
So you may want to plan your visit where the weather is known to be sunny and warm. On the other hand, if you plan on visiting the Alamo, Route 66, or Monument Valley, you will want to pack for warm weather.
Make sure you bring lots of water, summer clothing, and snacks, as it gets scorching hot at all of these locations during late spring through the summer.
Another factor to keep in mind is what National Holidays will be going on during your stay. For example, if you are visiting the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial, crowds will be much bigger during holidays such as the 4th of July or Memorial Day.
If you are wanting to see the fireworks in Washington D.C., these are perfect times to go, but if you are wanting to avoid large crowds, it may not be the best time of year for your to visit.
Hours of operation
Not all of the landmarks on our list are available to you 24/7, especially man-made ones such as the Statue of Liberty, the Gateway Arch, the Space Needle, or The Alamo.
You want to plan ahead of time and check hours of operation so you are not stuck waiting outside these locations during off-hours when you wished to go on a tour or visit inside.
You always want to plan your lodging ahead of time so you are not stuck wondering where you will stay when you are in the city of your destination.
There are many options to choose from around any of these national landmarks, being that they are all very popular tourist destinations. You can plan on booking a nice hotel, or even an Airbnb to save some money and find a unique stay.
Transportation is one of the most important factors to keep in mind on your trip, as not all of the cities on this list provide public transportation.
For example, in San Antonio, Texas, people in the area heavily depend on their vehicles for transportation due to how large and spread apart Texas is. If you are traveling Route 66, you want to have a private vehicle available to you so you can cruise the highway and make your stops along the way.
On the other hand, in cities like Seattle, Washington D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, there are many more options for public transportation such as light rail and buses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions? We have answers:
What state has the most landmarks?
The U.S. state that has the most famous landmarks is New York City, New York. From the Statue of Liberty to Wall Street, to the Brooklyn Bridge and Ellis Island, these only name a few of the many famous and historic landmarks in the city.
You would initially think that Washington D.C. would have the most famous landmarks, but New York City surpasses it with how many it contains in the city.
What is the oldest landmark in the United States?
Taos Pueblo in the beautiful state of New Mexico is the oldest known landmark in the United States. Approximated to have been built around 900 AD, it is a group of pueblos that include both residential and ceremonial buildings.
They were built by the Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe and they are considered the oldest standing structure left in the United States.
What is the most well-known landmark in the world?
The most well-known landmark in the world is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Although this is not an American landmark, is it worth mentioning as it is the most famous landmark in the world.
What is the most famous landmark in the United States?
The most famous landmark in the United States is by all means the Statue of Liberty. It is the most visited landmark, and most recognized when someone thinks of the United States.
What are two other famous landmarks in America not listed on our list?
Two famous landmarks that were not included on our list include the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Redwood National Park in California. The Grand Canyon is iconic for being a vast, beautiful canyon that was formed over many years by the river.
Many tourists visit the Grand Canyon to hike, kayak, and bike every year. Redwood National Park is famous for the giant Redwood trees that can grow up to 22 feet wide and 367 feet tall.
One of the trees has a section of the trunk removed so a car can drive through the width of the tree. This is another very popular tourist destination and American landmark.
So, What are the Best American Landmarks?
Regardless of which landmark you choose to visit, or if you choose to visit a handful on our list, you will be in awe of the beauty and power each iconic American landmark has to offer.
From the beautiful green forests of the Pacific Northwest to the amazing red-orange sand of the Southwest to the sandy beaches and palm trees the Southeast has to offer, America the beautiful never has a shortage of beautiful places to visit.