This great country of ours plays host to so many incredible things, from stupendously beautiful national parks to some of the best sushi restaurants outside of Japan. It’s also home to some of the most recognizable man-made structures in the world, from the Empire State Building that tops the list of best New York attractions to an over-the-top estate in the heart of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains. From skyscrapers to bridges, statues to memorials, these are the most famous buildings and monuments in America.
Famous buildings and monuments
The most recognizable skyscraper in the world was erected in the late 1920s and has been a mobbed tourist destination ever since: these days, it attracts about 3.5 visitors each year. At 102 stories, it’s no longer the tallest building in the country—that title goes to the nearby One World Trade Center—but it’s still one of the most distinctive. Capable of displaying 16 million colors, its state-of-the-art LED light system changes for special events and holidays.
One of the most complicated engineering feats in modern history, the Brooklyn Bridge claimed the lives of about 27 men during its construction between 1869 and 1883. Things are a lot calmer now at the roadway bridge that stretches between Brooklyn and Manhattan and helps define New York City’s iconic skyline. A national historic landmark, the limestone bridge is strolled on daily by more than 4,000 pedestrians and biked over by more than 2,600 cyclists.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Andrea Schaffer
Originally conceived of as a gift from France to the U.S., this 151-foot copper lady was, perhaps, the world’s first crowdfunded campaign: when the French government couldn’t afford to complete and ship the statue stateside, an 1885 drive started by New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer attracted more than 120,000 contributors, most of whom gave less than a dollar. Lady Liberty arrived in pieces shortly thereafter and was assembled on the since-renamed Liberty Island, where she still welcomes visitors to the New York Harbor.
In a city crowded with some of the most recognizable monuments in the world, the Lincoln Memorial stands out for its graceful elegance that evokes a Greek temple. Located on the western edge of the National Mall, architect Henry Bacon’s masterpiece features a larger-than-life, seated Abraham Lincoln exuding calm and steadfastness. Consistently D.C.’s most-visited monument with an average of six million visitors per year, the site looks even more special at night—and you can stop by 24 hours a day.
The world’s tallest obelisk, a 554-foot stone structure that anchors D.C.’s National Mall, took a while to complete: construction began in 1848 but was interrupted several times by the chaos of the the Civil War. Though they are now closed—there’s an elevator for visitors—the monument is also renowned for the 898 steps that lead to 50 different landings.
Maya Lin’s arresting memorial to the dead and missing of the Vietnam War hosts around three million visitors per year. The main part of the monument, known as “The Wall,” consists of two long walls made of black volcanic stone and inscribed with the names of 58,318 casualties. In 2016, Lin—who was only 21 and an undergraduate when her design for the memorial was accepted—received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
When it opened in 1937, San Francisco’s instantly recognizable suspension bridge was both the longest and the tallest in the world, at 4,200 and 746 feet, respectively. It’s since been surpassed by other structures but remains an iconic landmark known around the world. Open both to cars and pedestrians, the bridge is crossed each day by about 10,000 walkers and 6,000 bikes.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/yuyang226
This “Gateway to the West” is the world’s tallest arch, as well as the tallest man-made monument in the Western hemisphere at 630 feet. Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1947 and completed in 1965, the stainless steel-clad arch commemorates Western expansion in the U.S. One of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, the arch welcomes about four million visitors each year.
Erected in the 1870s in Boston’s Back Bay, this Romanesque, rough-stone church is one of the city’s most well known landmarks. Each December, the church welcomes many visitors who line up for its free Candlelight Carols, performances of traditional carols and anthems that have been offered by the Trinity choirs and instrumentalists since 1909.
Formerly known as the Sears Tower, Chicago’s tallest skyscraper was built in 1970 by Sears, Roebuck & Co., then the largest retailer in the world. The black-banded building dominates the Windy City’s skyline and, at 108 stories, is the U.S.’s second-tallest building, surpassed only by NYC’s One World Trade Center.