Whether you’re planning to visit in person or want to find videos explaining them, America is full of iconic places. Here are some of the best ones to visit on your next trip.
23 Most Iconic Places in America in 2024
What is it that makes a place iconic? Is it any historical events that happened or natural beauty? Either of those would suffice, but when you get right down to it, an iconic place is famous regardless of the reason.
To be truly iconic, a place is often one that almost everyone can describe in general terms, even if they’ve never been there.
They might not recall every detail, but if you say “Grand Canyon,” most people will know you’re talking about a genuinely gargantuan canyon somewhere in the country’s southwest.
Essentially, iconic places are part of the common cultural understanding, often for unique qualities that help them stand out. Below, you’ll learn more about what you can find at each of them.
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic landmarks worldwide and one of the things most associated with America. Originally a gift from France, this copper statue in New York was dedicated in 1886 and made into a National Monument in 1924.
Unlike some other iconic places, it’s possible to experience the Statue of Liberty in many different ways.
You can fly past it, take a sightseeing boat tour around the island, or land at Liberty Island and visit the museum. It’s hard to miss if you’re on a trip to New York City.
Most iconic for its New Year’s celebrations, Times Square is one of the cultural centers of New York City. Frequently hosting street performers and events of all kinds, countless people pass through the square and visit the shops lining it every day.
It’s often worth standing around and looking at the billboards decorating the square.
Many people buy time on the boards for special events, so you never know what you’ll see on them. The square itself is free to visit, but the stores in the area are expensive, so keep tabs on your spending.
Arguably the most American place in the world, the White House in Washington, D.C., is the residence and workplace of the president. It’s also easily one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
For security reasons, visits are often limited, but guests to the area can go to the nearby White House Visitor Center. It’s hard to make a full-day trip out of an excursion to the White House.
But you can mix this with seeing many other sights in the area. The crowds can get thick at certain times of the year, so consider visiting in the off-season if you want the best chance of seeing everything.
Hung in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Liberty Bell is an iconic monument to the ideals of freedom. It saw about 90 years of use, summoning lawmakers in a time long before better methods of communication, before eventually cracking sometime near the 1840s.
A repair job stopped the crack from growing, but another fissure soon developed. Today, the bell is silent, unable to ring.
However, it remains a monument to freedom, especially once abolitionists seeking to end slavery realized the inscription on the bell, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” applied to their cause.
Pearl Harbor is iconic for entirely different reasons than most other places on this list. While there’s some debate over whether the U.S. government knew the attack was coming, there’s no debate that on December 7, 1941, Japanese soldiers attacked the naval base in Hawaii and jump-started the U.S. into joining World War II.
The Pearl Harbor memorial area is a relatively somber location, a reminder of the death and destruction that can come out of nowhere in wartime.
However, Hawaii’s tropical placement means the weather is excellent for a visit throughout the year, so you can easily see the memorial anytime you’re in the area.
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Although the incomplete statues themselves are controversial, there’s no denying that the giant faces of Mount Rushmore make an impact when you see them. The overall park is open throughout the year, although the facilities close on December 25th.
Be sure to visit the sculptor’s studio if you get the chance, which tells more about the process of creating the monument and provides a large sample of the original design. You can also visit the gift shop or grab some ice cream while there.
New York has a lot of iconic places, but Niagara Falls stands out as a natural wonder. Launching over 680,000 gallons of water per second over the main falls, it’s hard to understand the sheer size of this place until you visit.
Niagara Falls is also open 365 days a year, with easy access from both Canada and the United States.
The Canadian side offers better views of the area, so it’s worth visiting from both sides. If you have the time, take the hike down into Niagara Gorge or ride on a boat tour to get up close and personal with the falls.
Rather newer than most other places on this list, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is a truly enormous shopping center.
Featuring an indoor theme park and over five hundred stores, you can find almost any type of product within its sprawling walls. This mall is so large — bigger than several baseball stadiums combined — that it has multiple attached hotels that focus on visitor services.
So if you’ve ever been in the mood for an incredible shopping spree, you won’t find anywhere better to do it.
The iconic orange coloring of the Golden Gate Bridge is a standout feature in San Francisco, visible from almost everywhere in the city with no particular difficulty. It was also thought to be near-impossible to construct before its completion in 1937.
Made with over a million tons of concrete and enough cables to circle Earth more than three times, the Golden Gate Bridge regularly withstands aggressive winds, powerful tides, and fog that would corrode lesser structures.
It’s also an easy visit since all you need to do to experience it in person is drive over. So make sure to pass over it if you visit San Francisco.
Seattle doesn’t have too many iconic buildings, but the Space Needle stands out from the crowd — literally, as it’s built well away from other skyscrapers.
A revolving glass floor on the top provides an outstanding, panoramic view of the Pacific Northwest’s most notable city. Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Space Needle is one of the world’s most-photographed structures and part of a larger park area with plenty of other sights to enjoy.
Oh, and the Needle’s pretty safe. Each of its high-speed elevators has seven cables, with just one of the cables sufficient to hold the entire weight of the elevator it’s attached to.
Yellowstone National Park is easily one of the largest iconic sites in America. Covering about 2.2 million acres, this park contains almost half of the world’s active geysers and has numerous active geological sites, ranging from mud pots to rivers.
Yellowstone is also unusually accessible. You can visit a campground (if you reserve far in advance) or stay in a lodge within the park, but you can also use webcams to see some of the best sights from a distance.
Notably, much of the park has also bounced back from the fires of 1988, when almost a third of the entire park went up in flames.
As a result, Yellowstone is greener every year, with new growth replacing the old. You can easily spend a week touring this place, so give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it at your own pace.
The Grand Canyon is big. No, seriously. The canyon is about 277 miles long, and there are places where it’s as much as 18 miles wide.
The deepest parts of the Grand Canyon are more than a mile down, which is further below ground level than the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, is above ground.
Here, you can see the rocks carved down for incredible geological formations or reserve a spot at a campground to hike through nature.
If you want a different view, you can rent a helicopter to fly through the canyon and get a better view of the place. Either way, this is one of the most stunning sites in the country, and it’s worth going in person if you can.
Las Vegas is a sprawling desert city and a monument to creativity and engineering, but nowhere is this more prominent than on the section of Las Vegas Boulevard, known simply as The Strip.
The Vegas Strip is an entertainment experience like no other in the country, featuring numerous thematically prominent and unique hotels and casinos.
Each casino on the strip has its own characteristics and style, so it’s hard to say that one is universally the best for every visitor.
Also, don’t feel like you have to stay on the strip. Vegas has numerous other high-quality attractions, including the surreal and immersive Area15 district, just minutes away.
Read Next: The Best and Worst Times to Visit Las Vegas
Some people say that every kid wants a Disney vacation. That’s probably exaggerating, but not by much. Disney World is easily the largest and best option, though.
It has four main theme parks in the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom areas, and the Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks. That’s a lot of fun in one spot.
As an iconic place, Disney World is somewhat unusual because most people don’t know what most of its attractions look like.
That is, people know that Disney World exists, but more for the idea than its appearance. Either way, if you love theme parks, it’s worth visiting.
Covering almost 1200 square miles within California, Yosemite National Park is an iconic destination for millions of people each year and perhaps the single best national park in the country.
This park features towering cliffs, tall waterfalls, ancient trees, and numerous camping opportunities. The park itself is open year-round from the western side, although other entrances may close at different times of the year.
Plan to stay at least one night and possibly more, though, because it will take time just to get through the park and reach its many destinations. If you love the wilderness, visit Yosemite.
Read Next: The Best and Worst Times to Visit Yosemite
The dominating force in film worldwide, Hollywood is both a neighborhood and a destination. Its enormous sign alone is an iconic sight for anyone coming to the Los Angeles area, visible from most of the city from its high location.
Famous sights within the area include the Walk of Fame, the Universal Studios Hollywood Resort, the La Brea Tar Pits, and Griffith Park (including several major sights, like the L.A. Zoo and the Griffith Observatory).
For entertainment in Los Angeles, it’s hard to beat the place where most of it gets made.
17. Central Park
Covering 843 acres in the middle of New York City, Central Park is a stunningly accessible place. It probably couldn’t be built today if only from sheer size.
Even the most conservative estimate of its land value puts the park at over $50 billion, but it would probably be worth over a trillion if developed. And yet, despite that, the park is free for everyone to enjoy.
Manhattan is a busy place, so Central Park’s existence as an open and accessible area makes it priceless to the locals. It’s worth visiting on any trip to the city as a departure from all the hustle and bustle elsewhere.
What does it take to make a beach iconic? The United States has over 95,000 miles of shoreline, and South Beach in Florida is a tiny fraction of a percent of that shore.
What makes this beach stand out is the incredible entertainment, ranging from nightclubs to restaurants that aren’t available at most other beaches.
South Beach also has stable temperatures throughout the year, with consistently warm weather even in the middle of winter. This means it’s always a good time to visit, and you can avoid the crowds during the summer months.
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It’s incredible how much a good sign can affect a place. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest area don’t have many iconic locations, but Pike Place Market is a hub of creativity in the middle of one of the most expensive urbanized areas on the west coast.
Boasting various restaurants and casual eateries, specialty food shops, unique arts and crafts, and a farmer’s market offering fresh produce, Pike Place Market is a great way to spend an afternoon in Seattle.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the fish throwing, an old tradition in the area that doubles as entertainment.
One of the most infamous lockups in American history, Alcatraz, is a small island that initially served as a military fortress and jail before becoming a high-security prison.
The reasoning was simple: the waters in San Francisco Bay are so cold and strong that they assumed nobody could realistically swim away from the island to escape.
This assumption is wrong, although no inmate was successful in an escape attempt. These days, there’s an annual triathlon involving the island, and about a million people visit the island each year to look around.
Built at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter is iconic mainly because it’s the site of the opening of the American Civil War. The Confederacy attacked the fort on April 12, 1861, kicking off a battle that redefined the nation.
The fort is only accessible by boat and features various educational programs and well-maintained artifacts of its era. It also has numerous kid-friendly programs, ensuring there’s always something to do and enjoy in the area.
Gettysburg is iconic for two reasons. First, it’s the site of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, with an estimated 28,000 casualties. That alone would be enough to make it notable, but it was also the inspiration for President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
This brief speech rapidly accelerated the drive and commitment to ending the war. Make sure to get a tour with one of the local guides if possible.
One thing you won’t find advertised online is the fact that professional guides in the area have astoundingly comprehensive knowledge of the battle, able to point out the exact activities occurring at innocuous-looking sites.
Iconic for different reasons than anywhere else on this list, Arlington National Cemetery at the edge of Virginia is one of the nation’s largest military cemeteries.
It has an estimated 400,000 graves across 639 acres, and it remains one of the most famous burial sites for soldiers of America.
Arlington is also the host of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument for deceased soldiers whose remains haven’t been adequately found or identified. The tomb is regularly guarded under strict protocols, and serving in this duty is considered one of the highest honors available.
Things to Consider
America is a big country if you try to cross it, so most of the iconic places are further apart than you’ll find in other countries.
Worse, the more popular destinations tend to cluster on the coast, although there are some incredibly inland destinations like Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon. You can tour many of the places above virtually, but you’ll need to plan a trip if you want to see them in person.
Consider taking public transportation like trains when possible, especially when gas costs remain high. Finally, remember the difference between a short-visit place and a long-visit place.
You’re probably not going to spend an entire day looking at the Golden Gate Bridge unless you love bridges, but you could easily spend a week checking out the sights in and around the Vegas Strip or camping at the Grand Canyon.
A long-visit place is a destination for a vacation, but a short-visit area is only somewhere to see along the way to somewhere else.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have about iconic places in America:
What is the most iconic place in America?
The most iconic place in America is probably the Statue of Liberty, which is even more well-known around the world than places like the White House and Times Square.
What is the most-visited city in the USA?
New York City is undoubtedly the most-visited city in the country, both by American citizens and visitors from other countries.
What is the best state to visit?
Each state has its own valuable qualities, but California has a little bit of everything. From mountains and beaches to rural villages and upscale modern cities, you can find almost anything within a few hours of driving.
What is the most boring state?
Idaho. While this northwestern state does have a growing population, it doesn’t have the kind of significant tourist attractions most other states do, so there are no uniquely iconic places in Idaho just yet.
What is the best state to live in?
What makes a state ideal to live in depends on personal preference. However, Washington State is a particularly good place to live thanks to its high median income, lack of a state income tax, incredibly diverse scenery, and easy access to entertainment.
So, What’s the Most Iconic Place in America?
From places of incredible natural beauty to manmade structures and even shopping destinations, there is no shortage of iconic places in America.
It’s difficult to say that any one place truly stands out in such distinguished company, but if we have to pick, the Statue of Liberty is not just iconic in America, but also worldwide.