Tourist Attractions are the basic pillar of the country economy. From national parks to iconic symbols of freedom and democracy, these popular and highly regarded U.S. attractions cannot be missed.America is a patchwork quilt of many different landscapes, cultures and sights that have been around since ancient times or the country’s founding.
The U.S. is also filled with superb hiking areas, action-packed cities, thrilling theme parks and more. The USA is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world and some of the most recognizable icons on the globe. For anyone in the enviable position of having unlimited time and resources, these are the top attractions to include on your itinerary.
20. Mount Rushmore
Perhaps the most unmistakably American landmark is Mount Rushmore, a national memorial located in South Dakota. Constructed in the early 20th century, Mount Rushmore depicts the faces of four former American presidents, each of which is carved and blasted from the side of a rock face. Visitors can admire the larger-than-life faces of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The short Presidential Trail at the base of Mount Rushmore provides better views and an interesting perspective on the landmark.
No visit to Los Angeles is complete without a trip to Venice Beach. Its canals and beaches are spectacular, but the biggest hit is undeniably the Venice Beach Boardwalk. This is a truly entertaining spot where street performers juggle, dance, sculpt and sing for passersby. Shop for souvenirs, grab a refreshing drink and bring some small bills for a stroll on the boardwalk. After stopping to admire a live performer, many visitors tip a dollar or two to show appreciation.
The Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is home to the preserved homes of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Many of these homes, which are carved right from caves and rock faces, date back to the early 13th century. Today, it is possible to walk beneath the overhanging cliffs and tour these ancient abodes. The Balcony House is especially well preserved, and it boasts 40 rooms that are accessible exclusively by ladder. The nearby Cliff Palace is even bigger, and it is believed to have housed more than 100 people in its 150 original rooms.
Extending over the waters of Lake Michigan is Navy Pier, an enormous pier in the heart of Chicago’s coastal Streeterville neighborhood. Within the pier, there are countless attractions suited to the whole family. Beautifully manicured gardens are the ideal place for a scenic stroll, and lots of souvenir shops are a wonderful way to snag gifts on a vacation to Chicago. The pier is also home to the Chicago Children’s Museum, two theaters and an abundance of excellent restaurants.
Carlsbad Caverns is a collection of over 115 caves. Located in southern New Mexico, these caverns are carved from limestone, and it is possible for visitors to descend more than 900 feet (275 meters) below the surface of the earth on a guided tour. The largest single cave chamber in all of North America is found here and is known as the Big Room. Within the room itself, visitors can set off on a 90-minute walk exploring the incredible underground environment.
15. Bryce Canyon National Park
Located in Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is a breathtaking display of rock formations. Technically, Bryce Canyon isn’t a canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters. Mormon settlers once called the canyon home, but now most visitors come for the awe-inspiring views and the magnificent hiking opportunities. Sunset Point is one of the most popular vantage points, offering panoramic views of the red, yellow and orange rock formations. Queen’s Garden Trail is another favorite, because it offers green trees amongst the red rocks for a brilliant juxtaposition.
14. Walt Disney World in Orlando
Orlando, Florida, is a hub of amusement parks, but none is so popular as Walt Disney World. Many travelers don’t realize that Walt Disney World is actually made up of several distinct theme parks, including the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and the Blizzard Beach Water Park. Visitors will be able to enjoy thrill rides, watch Broadway-quality shows and explore the nightlife, cuisine, shopping and entertainment at Disney Springs.
13. Glacier National Park and the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Montana’s Glacier National Park offers some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the United States. Mountains, lakes, glaciers, valleys, and waterfalls combine to form a spectacular alpine landscape. One of the best ways to truly appreciate the terrain is from the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. This narrow road, hugging the mountain side as it winds its way up and over the 7,747 ft Logan pass, opened in 1932. Due to the elevation and climate, the road is only open during the summer months. Visitors who have the opportunity to visit the park will not want to miss a chance to see the sights along this road. Glacier National Park also has some unique historic lodges and lovely hiking trails.
12. Freedom Trail in Boston
Boston’s Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile walking route that leads past some of the city’s most important historical attractions. A line of red bricks, inlaid in the sidewalk marks the route, making it an easy way for tourists to find their way around. Information on the trail and the sites can be found at the Visitors Center in the Boston Common, which is a good place to start your tour. Sites along the Freedom Trail include the State House, Old State House, the Old Granary Burying Ground, Old City Hall, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, and many more.
11. St Louis Arch
This famous “Gateway to the West” in St Louis is both symbolic and eye catching. Rising above the city, gleaming in the midday sun and illuminated at night, the arch can be seen from miles away on the otherwise flat surroundings. It was built in the early 1960s and stands in Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park. Elevators offer transportation to the top of the arch where visitors are treated to great views out over the city and surroundings.
The gambling mecca of the world, Las Vegas is situated in the midst of the southern Nevada desert landscape. Casinos can be found throughout Las Vegas, but the strip, a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South, contains the most of them. It features giant mega-casino hotels, decorated with lavish care and attention to detail to create a fantasy-like atmosphere. The casinos often have names and themes that evoke romance, mystery, and far-away destination.
Home to the most popular beach in the Hawaiian Islands and possibly the most famous beach in the Pacific, Waikiki has been a tourist destination for over a century. Today this area is a cross between tropical paradise and modern city. Relaxing on this beautiful stretch of beach with palm trees blowing in the wind will certainly let you know you are in the tropics, but the high rise buildings and busy street in behind are a reminder that you are not far from civilization. Shopping, dining, surfing, and sunbathing are all part of what makes this small section of Oahu so popular with tourists of all ages from all parts of the world.
8. Golden Gate Bridge
Arching across San Francisco Bay, joining San Francisco and Marin County, the Golden Gate Bridge has been a California icon since it was built in the 1930s. Contrasting with the blue water, the bridge’s orangish-red color is an aesthetic accent that brings a unique quality to the city. It also has a unique presence when it is shrouded in fog with just the peaks of the main towers projecting through the low lying cloud. The bridge is approximately 2 miles long and part of Hwy 101 or SR 1.
9. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is home to a huge ancient volcano which has resulted in a dramatic landscape and awesome natural phenomena. Geysers and hot springs, along with incredible waterfalls along the Yellowstone River are just some of the attractions drawing in huge numbers of tourists each year. The park, the oldest national park in the USA, is also home to all kinds of wildlife, with free roaming bison, bighorn sheep, antelope, black bears, and grizzly bears.
8. Sedona Red Rock Country
A two-hour drive north of Phoenix is Sedona, Arizona. Sedona isn’t a big city, but it is a major tourist attraction in the USA thanks to its gorgeous red rock landscape. Known as Red Rock Country, this region is an outdoor lover’s dream. Countless canyons, creeks and paths encourage outdoor activity, with Cathedral Rock Trail being one of the local favorite hiking spots. One of the most interesting spots in Sedona combines the new with the old, with the contemporary Chapel of the Holy Cross built right into the side of the red rocks themselves.
7. Yosemite National Park
In the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, there is Yosemite National Park. This extraordinary destination is known the world over for its amazing scenery. Within this single park, visitors can peer off spectacular granite cliffs, admire clear waterfalls and see sequoia trees that are hundreds of years old. Yosemite Valley is a top spot to explore in the park, because it boasts the enormous Yosemite Falls as well as the granite monolith called Half Dome.
6. Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, located on the coast of Florida, boasts a lot of space-related attractions. One of the best is the Kennedy Space Center, which has been the launch site for every US human space flight since 1968 and currently operates as a launch site for unmanned rockets. Visitors can learn more about the early pioneers into space, and they can also experience the tension and excitement over the rush to the moon. There is even the chance to participate in the Shuttle Launch Experience, which replicates the experience of space travel.
5. Denali National Park
The Denali National Park and Preserve is located in Interior Alaska and contains Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. The word “Denali” means “the high one” in the native Athabaskan language and refers to Mount McKinley. In addition, the park protects an incredible wilderness area that contains grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and numerous other creatures.
4. White House
The White House in Washington DC is the official residence and office of the President of the United States. It was built between 1792 and 1800 and first used by President John Adams. After the 9/11 attacks it has become more difficult to visit the White House and today tours are available only for groups of 10 or more and must be requested up to six months in advance through your member of Congress or your country’s US Ambassador.
A universal symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty is America’s most familiar icon and the largest statue in the world. Standing 152 ft in New York Harbor, visitors can admire the statue from various points around the city, particularly Battery Park, or take a ferry right to the statue. For people who plan to go out to the statue, options include grounds tickets, pedestal tickets, or crown tickets, which allow different levels of access to the site. Anyone who plans on going inside the Statue of Liberty is encouraged to make advanced ticket reservations.
2. Niagara Falls
Situated along the Canada-US border, Niagara Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in the world. The water from Lake Erie flows into Lake Ontario over these massive waterfalls, known for the great quantity of water that is constantly tumbling over the vertical drop. The amount of water going over the falls is actually reduced in winter, when more water is used to produce hydroelectric power. Most visitors will not notice a difference.
Niagara Falls is actually a set of three falls, consisting of the largest section known as Horseshoe Falls, a second section on the American side of the river known as the American Falls, and a much thinner section located next to the American Falls, known as Bridal Veil Falls. On clear days, the plume of mist rising from Niagara Falls can be seen from as far away as the CN Tower in downtown Toronto, Canada, on the opposite shore of Lake Ontario.
1. Grand Canyon
This incredible natural attractions is one of the most visited places in the United States. Carved out by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon cuts deep into the landscape, creating dramatic cliff walls and ledges. Visitors standing on the rim of the canyon can see down to the canyon floor a mile below, and look out over the ridges and cliffs that run as far as the eye can see. The South Rim is the most visited section of Grand Canyon National Park, with a large visitors center, regular bus service along the Rim in the high season, and a walkway that runs along the canyon with numerous viewing points and platforms. The North Rim, which also has lookout areas, provides a different perspective. This section of the park has limited access from November to May due to snow and winter conditions.