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The Alamo in San Antonio
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Check out the most famous buildings and monuments in the USA

In which place will you find this important American building? Here are the cities and landmarks you need to know.

Written by
Lauren Rothman
&
Tim Lowery
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Grab your favorite architecture buff and get ready to play "in which place will you find this important American building?" Brush up on your own knowledge of famous buildings and monuments in the United States by visiting them in person. Take in our country’s incredible historic sites, towering skyscrapers, iconic bridges and more by ticking off these essential destinations on your bucket list.

Must-visit locations like the Empire State building, the Alamo, Mount Rushmore, the Brooklyn Bridge, Trinity Church and Fort Sumter are historically significant, while newer buildings like the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles demonstrate new techniques in architecture and design. Some of these iconic buildings and monuments are even more impressive when seen in-person, offering amazing views. Others offer an immersive trip back in time.

While you’re researching famous buildings for your next trip, be sure to check out our guide to the most stunning castles in the U.S. When you’re done with architecture-spotting, consult our expert guides to the best beaches in the U.S. and the best national parks in the U.S. for some iconic natural beauty. Wherever you visit in the U.S., you’re sure to find some amazing views.

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Famous buildings and monuments in the U.S.

Mount Rushmore in Keystone, SD
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Mount Rushmore in Keystone, SD

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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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Manhattan

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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  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • National Mall

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.

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites

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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  • Attractions

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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  • Things to do
  • Presidio

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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  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • National Mall

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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  • Attractions
  • Monuments and memorials
  • Midtown West

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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  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Downtown

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.

Discover the best things to do in St. Louis

 

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Back Bay

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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11. Fort McHenry in Baltimore

Baltimore’s Fort McHenry was built in 1798 and played a key role in the War of 1812, when, in 1814, U.S. armed forces successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British Navy. Later, during the Civil War, it served as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers and sympathizers. The fort is the one referenced in the Star Spangled Banner and receives hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

  • Attractions
  • Monuments and memorials
  • Liberty Island

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.

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  • Things to do
  • Loop

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.

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  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • National Mall

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.

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Fort Sumter in Charleston
Photograph: Shutterstock

16. Fort Sumter in Charleston

Two battles of the American Civil War took place at this seaside fort in Charleston: one in 1861 and one in 1863, when the Union tried (and failed) to wrest it from Confederate control. Completely leveled at the end of the war, the fort was later restored by the U.S. Army and today welcomes visitors at an education center and museum.

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17. Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC

Built at the height of the Gilded Age by a Vanderbilt, this expansive estate located outside Asheville mimics France’s Versailles Palace, with its steeply pitched, slate-tiled roof. Inside, 250 rooms divided between four floors include 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and three kitchens, as well as 65 fireplaces and a formerly men-only “Bachelors’ Wing.” Today, visitors to the 8,000-acre estate can gawk at original art by Renoir and Singer Sargent, magnificent 16th century tapestries and a library that houses 10,000 volumes.

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  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Downtown

Downtown L.A.’s most recognizable building is a masterpiece designed by Frank Gehry, a distinctively rippled, stainless-steel coated structure that houses the L.A. Philharmonic as well as the L.A. Master Chorale. Walt Disney’s widow Lillian donated the initial $50 million needed to get the project off the ground, and the concert hall was completed in 1996. Its renowned acoustics come courtesy of a fir- and oak-paneled interior.

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