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The United States. Land of the free, home of the brave. One of the most recognizable countries on earth, famous the world over for iconic sights, stunning natural beauty, vast landscapes, and unique attractions.
Millions of tourists visit these shores every year, and every single one of them will be able to name at least one famous landmark. But what qualifies as landmarks in America?
A landmark is defined as a historical or notable sight. An artificial or natural feature used to aid navigation. A historical point of interest or significance. A local or national symbol of the people, the place, and the surroundings.
The White House, the Empire State Building, the Grand Canyon, The Golden Gate Bridge…everyone has their favorite. For me, it’s the Statue of Liberty. Being from the UK, it was the first thing we were taught when learning about America for the first time.
What springs to mind when you think of the most famous landmarks in the US? Is it a natural formation, or is it something manmade? Is it somewhere you’ve visited, or is it on your bucket list? And have we included your choice in our list of these iconic and popular tourist destinations? Read on to find out.
- Famous Landmarks in the USA
- 1. The Statue of Liberty National Monument
- 2. The Washington Monument
- 3. The White House
- 4. Grand Canyon National Park
- 5. Mount Rushmore National Memorial
- 6. The Empire State Building
- 7. Golden Gate Bridge
- 8. The National Mall & Memorials
- 9. The Brooklyn Bridge
- 10. The Hollywood Sign
- 11. Niagra Falls
- 12. Yellowstone National Park
- 13. The Seattle Space Needle
- 14. The Hoover Dam
- 15. Monument Valley
- 16. The Alamo
- 17. Yosemite National Park
- 18. The Gateway Arch
- 19. Alcatraz Island
- 20. Times Square
- 21. The Bunker Hill Monument & Freedom Trail
- 22. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- 23. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial
- 24. The Badlands National Park
- 25. Walt Disney World Resort
- 26. Arlington National Cemetery
- Different Types of National Parks and Landmarks
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is the most popular US landmark?
- How many landmarks are in the US?
- What is the biggest landmark in the US?
Famous Landmarks in the USA
1. The Statue of Liberty National Monument
The Statue of Liberty is a United States National Monument that includes both Liberty Island and Ellis Island in New Jersey and New York. The brainchild of artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, this magnificent neoclassical sculpture was a gift as a gesture of friendship from France to the United States.
The statue, dedicated on October 28, 1886, commemorates the centennial of the United States. It was designated as a National Monument in 1924. Recognized as a symbol of freedom and democracy, Lady Liberty is made from copper and stands at a total of 305 feet including the pedestal.
You can visit this iconic landmark by departing from Battery Park on a boat. This tour includes a trip to Ellis Island, with round-trip ferries and museum entrances included.
You can also enjoy a one-hour NYC cruise which offers stunning views of the monument and the city skyline. And check out this article on where to stay in New York for when you’re visiting the Big Apple.
See Related: The New York City Pass Review: Is It Worth It?
2. The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is a 555-foot obelisk in Washington, D.C., erected as a tribute to the first president of the United States, George Washington. Although it’s part of a wider complex of historical landmarks located in The National Mall, it is arguably the most famous in the US capital.
Constructed of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss, it was once the world’s tallest structure between 1884 and 1889, after which it was surpassed by the Eiffel Tower. Located to the east of the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, the obelisk towers above the park, with an observation deck at 500 feet.
Visiting the monument is one of the best things to do in Washington, D.C., and although tickets are free, there’s a small fee if you want to register online and book tickets in advance. You can also enjoy a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the capital, which includes a stop at one of the most patriotic landmarks in America.
See Related: How to Plan a Family Getaway to Washington DC
3. The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Otherwise known as the White House.
One of the most recognizable buildings in the world. When it comes to historic landmarks, it doesn’t get much more legendary than this. I’ve wanted to visit since I first saw it in Superman II in the mid-1980s.
The official residence of the US president since 1800, John Adams was the first Commander in Chief through its doors. Designed by architect James Hoban, it was erected on a site originally chosen by George Washington himself. Public tours of the White House are available, although you do have to book in advance and security is tight – as you might expect.
If you don’t fancy jumping through those hoops, the neoclassical building can still be admired from afar. Try this highly-rated Washington DC walking tour which includes a stop at the presidential home. If you’re short on time, this DC highlights tour might be a better option.
See Related: The Best Walking Tours in Washington DC.
4. Grand Canyon National Park
So far, all of the most recognizable landmarks have been man-made. But anything we can do, nature can do better.
Located in northwestern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is the USA’s most well-known and dramatic national park. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Carved out over millions of years by the mighty Colorado River, the canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and reaches over a mile deep. It is best viewed at sunrise or sunset when the red rocks give off their distinctive, picturesque glow. Try the famous skywalk if you have a head for heights.
One of the best national parks in the US, the Grand Canyon is a bucket-list destination that needs to be seen to be believed. Tours from Las Vegas are popular, and helicopter and Hummer tours are available for the more adventurous. Go here for more of the best things to do in the Grand Canyon National Park.
See Related: Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon
5. Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Four of the nation’s most influential and significant US Presidents are honored at this memorial carved into Mount Rushmore. It is among the most recognizable and controversial historic landmarks in the USA.
Located in Keystone, South Dakota, it was built on land that was illegally taken from the Sioux nation. Work began in 1927, and it opened to the public in 1941.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are depicted in stone sculptures reaching 60 feet above the ground. And as admirable as the sculpture work is, it’s considered one of the most overrated tourist attractions in the US.
It’s even less popular among Native Americans given the sacred value of the stolen mountain it’s carved into. Visit the Crazy Horse memorial instead, which is far more interesting and ethical, and only a short drive away. Alternatively, this Black Hills Monument tour takes in both locations and departs from Rapid City.
See Related: The Best Small Towns in South Dakota
6. The Empire State Building
Not just one of the most famous landmarks in the USA; but one of the most famous and instantly recognizable worldwide. The Empire State Building is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan, New York. The building was designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon and built from 1930 to 1931.
The Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building until 1970 when construction of the World Trade Center began. The building’s 86th and 102nd-floor observation decks are visited by approximately four million tourists each year. An additional indoor observatory on the 80th floor opened in 2019.
As such, it’s a good idea to book in advance if you want to visit this iconic American landmark. This skip-the-line ticket will ensure you’re not disappointed.
If you want to see it from a different angle, this Manhatten helicopter tour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sadly, at the time of writing, biplane rides to attack a giant gorilla are not available.
7. Golden Gate Bridge
Painted in a distinctive custom color called “international orange,” the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is probably the most famous overpass in the world. It spans the Golden Gate Strait, a one-mile-wide body of water that connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean.
Designed by engineer Joseph Strauss in 1917, the bridge was opened in 1937. The 19th longest suspension bridge to date, it links SF with Marin County and takes the top spot for the best things to do in San Francisco.
As well as driving, walking, or cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the best ways to view this wonder of the modern world is from the water. This sunset boat cruise sails under the bridge, and takes in several other points of interest along the way. Crossing the bridge to explore the giant redwoods of Muir Woods is also a popular experience.
See Related: The Best San Francisco Walking Tours
8. The National Mall & Memorials
If you’re going to visit one location in the United States with the most famous monuments within the smallest area, then it’s surely the National Mall in the nation’s capital. We’ve already touched on the Washington Monument, but there’s so much more to discover in this beautifully landscaped park.
There’s the Lincoln Memorial with the huge statue of the legendary president and the words of his second inaugural address on the walls. There’s the haunting Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The dramatic Korean War Memorial.
And the iconic World War II memorial. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a stone’s throw away. The serene Reflecting Pool sits in the middle of them all.
When I visited, I did one of these night-time memorial moonlight tours. It’s the best way to see these powerful and thought-provoking American landmarks in Washington DC. If you’d prefer to visit another time, this guided walking tour covers similar ground during daylight hours.
See Related: Washington DC Sightseeing Pass: Is it Worth It?
9. The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge has appeared in countless films, television shows, and video games. It is the subject of songs by many famous musicians like Jay-Z, Billy Joel, Vampire Weekend, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.
It has seen daredevils, parades, attacks, and high-profile arrests. Its status as one of the most iconic American Landmarks is unquestionable.
Completed in 1883, it was a revolutionary piece of architecture and, at the time, the longest bridge in the world. It connected Manhattan Island to the borough of Brooklyn over the East River. A constant reminder that New York was once two separate cities with two distinct identities.
The best way to explore the bridge and learn about its storied history is to take a guided walking tour. And as one of NYC’s most famous neighborhoods, you should check out this article on the best places to stay in Brooklyn while you’re there.
See Related: Best Restaurants in New York That Locals Will Love
10. The Hollywood Sign
Real estate advertisement? Icon of popular culture? Gaudy, self-absorbed Tinseltown branding? A painful reminder that I’ll never make it as an actor? The most famous sign in the world? Whatever it means to you, there’s little doubt that these giant hillside characters are one of the most recognizable landmarks in the US – and the world.
Erected in 1923 to promote local development, the sign originally said Hollywoodland and was only supposed to be a temporary fixture. Yet it celebrates its centenary this year, so there has never been a better time to visit. There are several ways to access the sign on the slopes of Mount Lee, including via some of the best hikes in Los Angeles.
There’s an official Hollywood sign walking tour that gets you up close and personal with this legendary American landmark. Try an E-Bike tour if you prefer visiting on two wheels. And for the more adventurous, you can enjoy a thrilling horseback ride that departs from a ranch below the letters.
See Related: The 50 Things to Do in Los Angeles
11. Niagra Falls
Although many visitors to this iconic waterfall will tell you the best views come from the Canadian side, it’s still classed as a famous American landmark. Situated in the Niagra Falls State Park, the three waterfalls that make up this spectacular natural wonder combine to produce the highest flow rate on the continent.
The falls are formed by the Niagra River, which plunges down a vertical drop of 160 feet. Shared between the twin cities of Niagra Falls, Ontario, and Niagra Falls, New York, the waterfall is divided in two by the Canadian-US border. If you’re coming from the US side, day trips from NYC are popular.
One of the best things to do at Niagra Falls is to board the legendary Maid of the Mist tour. It takes you into the plunge pool, as close as possible to the thundering wall of water before you. I still have my little blue rain poncho somewhere, a nice reminder of the experience. Be advised – you’re going to get soaked. Try this longer Niagra Falls tour which explores the spectacle from both sides.
See Related: Cell Phones That Can Be Used in Canada
12. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is a vast expanse of outstanding natural beauty that mostly covers Wyoming, also reaching into Montana and Idaho. The park spans a massive 3,468.4 square miles and contains a wildly diverse assortment of natural wonders, and plant and animal life. Since it was established in 1871, it has attracted over one billion visitors.
Thousands of flora and fauna species call Yellowstone home, but it is perhaps most famous for its volcanic activity. Hot springs, volcanic rock formations, and geysers are the main attractions. Folks come from all over the globe to see Old Faithful erupt, which it does, on cue, approximately every 90 minutes.
The best way to visit Yellowstone is to fly into Jackson Hole. From there you can rent a car, or you can take the hassle out of getting there yourself and do a guided Yellowstone day tour. Just make sure you take a look at our Yellowstone packing guide so you know what to bring on your adventure. Oh, and please don’t bother the bison or other wildlife. You’re in their home, and Yellowstone isn’t a zoo.
See Related: The Best Waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park
13. The Seattle Space Needle
There are so many amazing things to see and do in Seattle it can be hard to keep track, but the iconic Space Needle is the city’s most significant landmark. At least, if you’re not counting Mount Rainer in the distance.
Originally built as part of the 1962 World Fair, this observation tower stands 520 feet tall with a revolving cocktail lounge at the top. The Space Needle has become synonymous with Seattle, recognized around the globe as a symbol of one of the coolest cities on the planet. It sits in a park that also features the Museum of Popular Culture, Chihuly Gardens and Glass, and the Pacific Science Center.
This Space Needle admission ticket also gets you into the famous Dale Chihuly Art Museum. You can also enjoy a three-hour guided walking tour of Seattle, which will show you the best viewpoints for capturing the Space Needle. For eats, check out our article on the 20 best restaurants in downtown Seattle.
See Related: Seattle CityPASS Review: Should You Buy?
14. The Hoover Dam
Bordering Clark County, Nevada, and Mohave County, Arizona the impressive Hoover Dam is an enormous hydroelectric power plant holding back the Colorado River. Built by thousands of workers during the Great Depression, it was opened in 1936 and attracts around seven million visitors a year.
Holding back the waters of Lake Mead, the dam sits in Black Canyon. It was named after President Herbert Hoover, who was in office at the time of construction.
An engineering marvel, the dam supplies power to Nevada, Arizona, and California. It prevents seasonal flooding of the Colorado River. It provides water storage and irrigation to the surrounding area.
The technical facts and figures relating to the Hoover Dam are impressive, and you can learn all about this impressive structure during your visit. This tour from Las Vegas is one of the most popular ways to experience the dam. If you want to stay local, try the Hoover Dam Lodge.
See Related: The Best Hotels Near Hoover Dam.
15. Monument Valley
A trip to the iconic Monument Valley is essential for anyone who enjoys Westerns. This staggeringly vast landscape has been the backdrop for countless tales of cowboys on horseback. Located on the Arizona-Utah border, it is one of the most beautiful valleys in the US.
Created over 500 million years, the red sandstone buttes dramatically punctuate the arid landscape. Standing 1000 feet tall in places, the best way to view them is by enjoying the scenic 17-mile Valley Drive. Head to John Ford Point for the coveted panoramic vista.
To take the hassle out of finding the best spots on your own, I recommend this scenic guided tour of Monument Valley. But the only way I would ever see one of the grandest American landmarks is on the back of the beast. Try this Monument Valley horseriding tour and experience this sacred site as nature intended.
See Related: The Most Famous Landmarks in the Southwest
16. The Alamo
Remember the Alamo! When it was founded in the 18th century by Roman Catholic missionaries, nobody knew just how important the Alamo would become in American history. Located in San Antonio, Texas, these stones have a long and storied past. But it was the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 that was to define its legacy.
A pivotal moment in the Texas Revolution, the battle saw the Mexican Army attempt to take the stronghold from Texian defenders. They eventually succeeded, but their victory was short-lived.
It inspired Texians to regroup and defeat the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto. Ultimately, it led to the independence of Texas.
One of the most popular attractions in the Lone Star State, you can use this skip-the-line ticket to enter the Alamo. Something General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna would have loved back in 1836. And while you’re in the area, don’t miss the San Antonio River Walk, which is a landmark in its own right, and one of the best things to do in San Antonio.
See Related: The Best Things to Do on the San Antonio River Walk
17. Yosemite National Park
This famous landmark is a federally protected area in California, encompassing portions of Sierra National Forest to the southeast and Stanislaus National Forest to the northwest. Yosemite National Park is in California’s central Sierra Nevada mountain range and extends to the Mono Lake Basin area.
The park is famous for its impressive waterfalls, and there are more than 25 found here. That includes the highest waterfall in the United States, Yosemite Falls, which plunges from a height of 2,425 feet. Yosemite now receives about four million visitors annually, and most tourists spend the bulk of their time in Yosemite Valley, which is roughly seven square miles of stunning scenery.
There isn’t a definitive best time to visit Yosemite, as the park is open year-round, and offers something for everyone throughout the seasons. Day trips from San Francisco are popular, which also take in the giant sequoias. Two-day excursions are also available if you want to spend the night in Yosemite.
See Related: The 9 Best National Parks in California
18. The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch is a jaw-dropping monument in St. Louis, Missouri that stands 623 feet tall and is made of stainless steel. It commemorates US westward expansion from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Often nicknamed the Gateway to the West, the arch was completed in 1965 and has become a symbol synonymous with the city of St. Louis.
The tallest monument in the USA, its foundations plunge 60 feet into the ground, and it weighs 43,226 tons. It can withstand high winds, earthquakes, and Instagram influencers. It is possible to ride to the top of the arch for stunning views of the city and the Mississippi River below.
This trolly tour is a great way to see the arch and the city it represents, while guided tours with a river cruise are also popular. And you can check out our guide for more things to do in St. Louis while you’re there. And for a place to stay, I highly recommend The Cheshire Hotel.
See Related: Places to Visit in Missouri
19. Alcatraz Island
Once the most notorious and feared maximum security prison in the States, today Alcatraz Island is enjoying its retirement as a popular tourist attraction. Also known as “The Rock,” it last housed inmates in 1963 and closed because it was too expensive to run.
In 1969 the island was occupied for 19 months by a group of Native Americans campaigning for civil rights. It opened to the public in 1973 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Several structures can be explored, including the old cell blocks, a lighthouse, military fortifications, and federal court buildings.
I highly recommend a tour to see Alcatraz island, as it’s a fascinating place to visit. The audio guide tells grim tales of life inside the prison, including daring escape attempts and chilling crimes. Alcatraz City Cruises is the official supplier of tickets, but this San Francisco bus tour will save you money overall with Alcatraz ferry and entrance included.
See Related: Is San Francisco Safe for Travelers?
20. Times Square
When it comes to the most iconic landmarks in the USA, New York City boasts quite a collection on its own. But of all the Big Apple’s acclaimed points of interest, attracting a whopping 50 million visitors a year, Times Square is one of the planet’s most visited tourist hot spots.
Sometimes nicknamed the Crossroads of the World, it is a key entertainment, leisure, transport, and business hub in New York City. Best viewed at night, it comes alive when the sun goes down and the lights come up. It’s particularly famous for the New Year’s Eve ball drop to mark the beginning of a new year.
For seeing Times Square and more, this New York one-day tour is a fantastic way to visit all the major sights. For the night experience, a NYC night bus tour will take in the lights. And if you’re feeling particularly photogenic, you can do a professional Times Square photo shoot for some high-quality snaps of the moment.
See Related: New Year’s Travel Resolutions to Make This Year
21. The Bunker Hill Monument & Freedom Trail
In Boston, Massachusetts, there is a large, granite obelisk in the Charlestown area of the city. Built between 1825 and 1843.
It commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was one of the first major battles in the American Revolutionary War. Towering 181 feet above sea level, the monument features the statue of Joseph Warren, a founding father of the United States.
The monument is part of the famous Boston Freedom Trail, which is one of the most interesting and well-designed tourist experiences I’ve ever had. It involves a walk around the city to visit locations significant to the birth of the country. The Bunker Hill Museum, located across the street and opened in June 1895, also has artifacts from the battle itself and the early history of Charlestown.
While you can walk the Freedom Trail yourself, I would highly advise a guided tour to learn about each location in detail. Guides are often in period dress, and it’s an immersive and educational journey into the past.
See Related: The Best Tours in Boston
22. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Tennessee and North Carolina, straddling the border between the two states. The park is divided between the haunting Blue Ridge Mountains, a subdivision of the broader Appalachian Mountain chain, and the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the larger Southern Appalachians.
The most popular national park in the United States, some of the highest points in eastern North America, are to be found here. Aside from its mountain vistas, it’s notable for waterfalls, biodiversity, and spruce-fir forests. The park also houses several historical buildings from early European-American settlers.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the best scenic drives in the world, connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. There’s so much to see and do in this part of the world it’s impossible to pick a favorite. But if you are driving, this self-guided tour is a great place to start.
See Related: National Parks to Visit in November
23. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a war memorial that commemorates United States Navy sailors, particularly the crew of USS Arizona, who died in the surprise Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
This famous naval American landmark remembers a landmark in American history, as the moment that brought the United States into World War II. Located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, this impressive building has been constructed over the wreck of the USS Arizona. The result is a poignant and powerful memorial on the water.
Pearl Harbor Memorial is run by the National Park Service. Their park rangers are on point for dealing with the amount of visitors here.
See Related: The Best Restaurants in Oahu
24. The Badlands National Park
The Badlands National Park is an American national park in South Dakota and one of the top landmarks in the USA. The park consists of around 244,000 acres of eroding buttes and pinnacles, as well as the country’s largest mixed-grass prairie.
The park also prominently features one of the world’s richest fossil beds, dating from the Oligocene epoch and preserving more than 600 species of plants and animals. Its southern section was formerly a reservation of the Oglala Sioux Indians, with a controversial history of stolen land and massacres at the hands of the US government.
Although a wild and unspoiled landscape, the park is relatively small and has a convenient 30-mile drive through it on the Badlands Loop Road. You can enjoy a self-guided tour stopping at your own leisure to enjoy the views. And if you’re looking for somewhere to hang your hat for the evening, this article will tell you everything you need to know about where to stay in the Badlands.
See Related: The Incredible History of South Dakota’s Wall Drug
25. Walt Disney World Resort
The Walt Disney World Resort is an entertainment complex in Bay Lake, Florida that opened in 1971. Owned and operated by the enormous Walt Disney Company through its Parks and Resorts division, it is the largest single-site employer in the United States, with nearly 65,000 employees.
The resort is home to many legendary cultural landmarks, including the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Town Square, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Epcot’s Spaceship Earth. But one of the most famous landmarks in America has to be the iconic Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom Park.
The best time to visit the Walt Disney World resort is in the winter when it’s much less crowded. These base tickets will get you into the park for your chosen number of days. But you can also go here for information on how to get discounted tickets to Disney World.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Orland, Florida
26. Arlington National Cemetery
One of the more somber famous American Landmarks, the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, is a powerful, emotive, and humbling experience. It contains the graves of approximately 400,000 people, from the Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, through to modern-day conflicts. The white grave markers stretch as far as the eye can see.
The majority of graves belong to military veterans, not all of whom were from the US. Several notable and celebrated figures have also been laid to rest within its 639 acres, including President John F. Kennedy. And the symbolic changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a moving tribute to the fallen.
You can visit the cemetery on your own and admission is free, but you can learn much more about the site and its history on this guided walking tour. Either way, the cemetery is a stark and sobering reminder that we must do better.
See Related: Where to Stay in Washington DC
Different Types of National Parks and Landmarks
To clear up any confusion, here’s a handy guide to understanding the different ways that the National Park Service classifies its sites:
|National Historic Landmark||
|National Recreation Area||
|National Seashore or Lakeshore||