Who’s ready for an amazing cross-country trek? Think of our rundown of the most famous buildings and moments in the United States as a way to tick off those essentials from your bucket-list and take in our country’s incredible historical sites, towering skyscrapers, iconic bridges and more. We’re talking must-visit locations like Mount Rushmore, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Alamo, the Washington Monument, Trinity Church, Fort Sumter and so much more. And since we have your attention, don’t forget to consult our expert guides to the very best US road trips, beaches and places to visit in the USA right now. Happy travels!
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Famous buildings and monuments
Boasting the carved faces of four American presidents, South Dakota’s granite Mount Rushmore is among the country’s strangest—and most visited—monuments. Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln have gazed out from the peak since 1941, when the project was completed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln. Almost three million people visit the Mount each year, where they can hike up the Presidential Trail to get an up-close-and-personal look at the giant faces.
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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.
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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.
One of the most important buildings in the history of the United States, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is where both the young nation’s Declaration of Independence and its Constitution were debated and adopted into law. Predating U.S. independence, the Georgian-style hall was completed in 1753 and originally housed the Liberty Bell—now displayed across the street in its own building.
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Most Americans know the phrase “Remember the Alamo,” even if they’re not exactly sure what transpired at the 18th-century Spanish mission. Later secularized and used as a fortress, in 1836 the Alamo was the site of a bloody and decisive battle of the Texas Revolution fought between Texas’s early Anglo settlers and the Mexicans (the latter won). One of the most visited historic sites in the country, today the fort welcomes about three million visitors annually.
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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.
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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.
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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 4 million 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.
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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.
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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.
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