From coast to coast, the United States of America brims with diversity. Check out our picks for the top landmark from each of the 50 states, in order of statehood.
This statue of Delaware’s most cherished patriot stands in downtown Wilmington, DE. On July 1, 1776, Caesar Rodney rode horseback to Philadelphia -- the very next day, the American lawyer and politician from Dover, DE, cast a crucial vote that paved the way for the passage of the Declaration of Independence.
This iconic symbol of American independence carries the words, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Historians believe the copper bell was one of many bells rung to mark the public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk was the first boardwalk in America. It opened in June 1870 to help hotel owners keep sand out of their lobbies. Today, the boardwalk lures many visitors on the way to one of the area’s many casinos … and to a confectioner’s stand for the boardwalk’s famous salt water taffy.
A great leader was born here. Before he ever became America’s leading civil rights leader, Martin Luther King’s moral conscience was shaped at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The Mystic Seaport was one of the first living history museums in America, having opened in 1929. Spanning nearly 20 acres, the museum showcases a recreated 19th-century coastal village with more than 60 historic buildings, as well as a collection of historic ships -- including 4 that are National Historic Landmarks.
Legend has it that the Pilgrims first landed upon a boulder -- it came to be known as Plymouth Rock. That enduring symbol of America’s early history now sits under this granite canopy, built in 1921, at Pilgrim Memorial State Park.
The star-shaped Fort McHenry was built to defend the port of Baltimore against enemy attack. That moment came in September 1814 when the British continuously bombarded the fort for 25 hours. American forces successfully defended Baltimore Harbor -- a move that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter. They fired continuously for the next 34 hours, setting off the Civil War. It would take nearly 4 years for Union forces to regain control of the fort.
In 1857, a man named Sylvester Marsh was climbing New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington when he got the idea to build a railway up the mountain. He put up $5,000 of his own money to fund what would become the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway. Today, the Mt. Washington Cog Railway is the second steepest rack railway in the world, behind Mt. Pilatus Railway in Switzerland.
Monticello stands as an enduring symbol of America’s third president and his genius. Thomas Jefferson designed his Monticello estate in Charlottesville, VA, to embrace both old and new thinking: classical features such as pedimented porticos, mix with sophisticated interior spatial organization and low elevation, borrowed from 18th-century Parisian townhouse designs.
The Statue of Liberty was the first landmark that many immigrants to the United States saw as they approached New York Harbor. A gift from the people of France, the iconic figure represents the Roman goddess of freedom. In one hand she bears a torch, in the other a tablet upon which is inscribed the date of the Declaration of Independence.
Steady winds lured Ohio brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright to Kill Devil Hills, NC, between 1900 and 1903. Their vision was to fly a heavier-than-air machine. The Wright Brothers National Memorial marks that successful effort -- attained on Dec. 17, 1903, following 3 years of trial and error.
When American millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt was looking to build a summer home, he got his wish with The Breakers. Built in 1893, the 70-room mansion in Newport, RI, sits on 13 acres of land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It came with a cool price tag: $12 million (today, the equivalent of $335 million).
The distinctive silhouette of Camel’s Hump stands in the background of this rural scene. The third-highest mountain (and highest undeveloped peak) in Vermont, Camel’s Hump is part of the Green Mountain range. It’s also featured on the state quarter.
Every first Saturday in May, Louisville, KY, is home to the “Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.” The Kentucky Derby marks the annual stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, which race around a 1 1/4-mile track. The tradition began in May 1875, when the first Derby was held before a crowd of 10,000 people.
The Grand Ole Opry was born here. First opened as a church, Ryman Auditorium was later used to broadcast the famed country music stage concert series from 1943 to 1974. In subsequent years, Ryman fell into disrepair, until performances by country singer Emmylou Harris here sparked renewed interest in the space. Today, the 2,362-seat live performance venue hosts a variety of music performances.
The quiet shores of Ohio’s Lake Erie are home to rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest celebration: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Located in Cleveland, the museum preserves the work of rock’s most influential artists and producers through exhibits that span 5 floors -- the museum’s third floor showcases the Hall of Fame and includes a wall with all the inductees’ signatures.
By the banks of the Mississippi River stands Oak Alley Plantation -- so named because of the double row of 300-year-old oak trees that sit alongside each side of the path leading to the mansion. Designed in the spirit of French Creole architecture, the plantation home was built between 1837 and 1839 for a wealthy sugar planter of the day.
In 1905, Indianapolis businessman Carl Fisher envisioned building a speedway to test cars before they went to market. Four years later, ground was broken -- and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was born. Since that time, the speedway has been the site of 248 automobile races -- and sees crowds of more than 400, 000 people in what is the world’s highest-capacity stadium facility.
There’s just something about Mississippi -- more blues singers have come from state than all the other Southern states combined. The Mississippi Blues Trail, which extends from the border of Louisiana into southern Mississippi (and beyond, into Memphis, TN, and Chicago) honors many blues legends, such as B.B. King. Follow the trail to Tupelo, MS -- the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
When the 108-story Willis Tower was completed in 1973 it became the world’s tallest building -- a distinction it held for 25 years. Today, the skyscraper still stands as the tallest building in America. More than 1 million people visit its observation deck each year, taking in views of the Chicago skyline.
Visitors walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. Built in 1940 -- and named after a former Confederate brigadier general -- the arch bridge later became the site of Bloody Sunday, the day in March 1965 when 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by police with billy clubs and tear gas.
In 1787, George Washington ordered the construction of this lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, ME. Two people had died that same year in a shipwreck, a tragedy heightened by the lack of lighthouses on Maine’s rocky coast. Today, the lighthouse remains a towering beacon, standing 80 feet above ground.
The Gateway Arch celebrates America’s westward expansion. At 630 feet (taller than the Washington Monument), it is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. The monument opened to the public in 1967. An accompanying underground visitor center opened in 1976.
Flowing nonstop for 135 miles, Arkansas’s Buffalo National River is one of the last undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. It was named the first National River, under the oversight of the National Park Service, in 1972. The river is popular for fishing, canoeing and camping; it’s also a great place to take a summertime plunge.
Discover America’s entrepreneurial spirit at The Henry Ford, a large indoor-outdoor history museum complex in metro Detroit. Opened in 1929 -- on the 50th anniversary of the lightbulb’s invention -- the museum’s exhibits span historic artifacts (such as Thomas Edison’s laboratory) to classic Americana like these famous double arches.
Midway between Miami and Jacksonville, FL, dreams of outer space take flight. The Kennedy Space Center has been the launch site of every US human space flight since 1968. At the KSC Visitors Complex discover the thrill of takeoff with a Shuttle Launch Experience, a motion control ride that simulates a shuttle launch.
The Alamo is the most enduring symbol of Texas independence. In 1836, Mexican forces waged a 13-day battle on the grounds of a former church. In the end, Mexican forces killed 190 men, including frontiersman Davy Crockett. Soon the battle cry “Remember the Alamo” led Texas forces to victory at the battle of San Jacinto -- a move that secured Texas’s independence.
Take in the awe-inspiring view of the Des Moines River Valley from the High Trestle Trail Bridge. The bridge is located in central Iowa near the town of Madrid, and is the centerpiece of a 25-mile trail that runs from the cities of Ankeny to Woodward. At 2,300 feet long and 13 stories tall, it is the fifth largest trail bridge in the world.
Taliesin, located near Spring Green, WI, was the summer home of the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was where he designed the architecture of Fallingwater and the Guggenheim, among others.
The Golden Gate Bridge has been called the most “beautiful bridge in the country, if not the world.” So just why isn’t the bridge golden? The term “Golden Gate” actually refers to the Golden Gate Strait, which is the entry point to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. As for the bridge’s color -- it’s International Orange, a color that’s often used in the aerospace industry to distinguish objects from their surroundings … in the bridge’s case, visibility on foggy days.
At Lake Itasca in Minnesota, the Mississippi River begins its flow toward Louisiana. The Mississippi’s headwaters are surrounded by the picturesque woods of the Itasca State Park.
Distinguished by its clarity and deep blue color, Crater Lake in southern Oregon has a violent past. A caldera lake, it was formed when the volcano Mount Mazama collapsed.
“Get out of Dodge” -- that popular phrase owes its origins to the wild frontier town of Dodge City, KS. The town’s roots stretch back to 1871, when a rancher built a sod house in the area to oversee his cattle operations. Soon the town grew – and so did the violence. Wyatt Earp, one of the toughest and deadliest gunmen of his day, became marshal of the town in 1876 -- with gun-slinging exploits that earned the town national attention.
The Mountain State marks its 150th anniversary in 2013. In June 1863, at the height of the Civil War, an expanse of land in the Appalachian Mountain range broke away from the state of Virginia, becoming the only state to form by seceding from the Confederacy. Among West Virginia’s must-see sites is the New River Gorge, a 3,030-foot-long steel arch bridge near Fayetteville, WV.
The Strip -- a lot of action happens along this 4.2-mile stretch of Vegas. The Strip runs from Sahara Avenue to Russell Road, with famous resorts and casinos, plus 15 of the world’s 25 largest hotels, in between.
“Pack your wagon” and discover one of the wonders of the West. At 4,226 above sea level, Chimney Rock in western Nebraska is visible for miles -- which is why it was the perfect landmark for pioneering travelers on the Oregon Trail. In fact, it was the landmark mentioned most frequently in journal entries by travelers of the day.
Millions of years of erosion went into making the vibrant, orange, slick walls and canyons of Colorado National Monument. Spanning 20,500 acres, the monument is composed of deep canyons that cut into sandstone and granite in the desert on the Colorado Plateau. Red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and coyotes live among the juniper forests on the plateau.
In September 1883 future US president Theodore Roosevelt visited the North Dakota Badlands to hunt bison. He soon fell in love with the “perfect freedom” of the West. Discover this world of flat desert mixed with petrified wood and rock formations at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- its Painted Canyon Overlook offers visitors unparalleled vistas in a myriad colors.
In 1923 South Dakota historian Doane Robinson envisioned carving the likenesses of US presidents into South Dakota’s Black Hills region. It took 14 years and 400 workers to complete Mount Rushmore, with the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln intricately carved into the granite. Today, Mount Rushmore is South Dakota’s top tourist draw.
St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park features a small island in its center called Wild Goose Island. Folklore surrounds its name -- the story goes that 2 young lovers met on the island where they were turned into geese … and so given the chance to stay together forever and flee their disapproving tribes.
Seattle’s Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. It features an observation deck at 520 feet and a rotating restaurant (at 500 feet) that offers diners 360-degree views of the city.
Middle Fork of the Salmon River spans 110 miles, and includes 300 ratable rapids and 6 natural hot springs, making it a popular whitewater rafting destination.
Two-thirds of the world’s geysers are located at Yellowstone National Park -- among the park’s 300 geysers, Old Faithful is its most famous. In 1870, Old Faithful became the first geyser in Yellowstone to be named, earning its name due to its predictable eruptions every 91 minutes.
The largest Mormon temple, Salt Lake Temple took 40 years to complete. The cornerstone was laid by Brigham Young, the second president of the Mormon Church and founder of Salt Lake City.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial honors all who were affected by the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The memorial includes a reflecting pool, field of empty chairs, survivors’ wall and survivor tree. The eastern gate, seen here, represents the last minute of peace before the bombing.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico contains the most expansive collection of ancient pueblos and ruins north of Mexico.
In the midst of the Arizona heat, Havasupai Falls offers a relaxing swimming hole -- making it the perfect place to cool off in the Grand Canyon.
The highest mountain peak in the United States, Mount McKinley in Alaska is regularly climbed with 58% of climbers reaching the top.
Situated on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, the USS Arizona Memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship, marking the final resting place of 1,102 soldiers who were killed on that fateful attack that led to the United States’ involvement in World War II.