American history may be short compared to many countries worldwide. However, the country is still rich in landmark sites that tell the story of a new nation's birth. Across the country, the top US landmarks reveal stories of the first people who settled here, the colonists traveling to a new world, and the fierce battles that took place for freedom and justice.
When visiting these famous American landmarks, history comes alive, and you leave with a better appreciation and understanding of the momentous events that occurred right where you stand. From America's brightest moments to its darkest days, these iconic monuments showcase the United States' legacy and the foundation on which the beautiful country is built.
Step back into time on Ellis Island and learn about the immigrants that came through to find a better life or discover the nation’s birth at Independence Hall. Pay your respects at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii or learn about the events surrounding the Alamo in Texas. Explore the remarkable Biltmore Estate in North Carolina or take in the view atop the Gateway Arch in Missouri.
Wherever you go in the country, there’s a landmark signifying an important event in American history. Each one tells its own story, whether it be heroism, disaster, or legacy. These monuments invite visitors to learn more about what shapes the United States and its people: resiliency, determination, honor, and more.
These are the top 25 famous landmarks in the United States that you should add to your bucket list.
Monticello, an expansive red-brick home with white Greek columns and a dome overlooking a sprawling Virginia plantation, was Thomas Jefferson's home for nearly 60 years. Jefferson, the third President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, built this home on land he inherited from his father.
Today, the home is a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can even see a depiction of Monticello on the reverse side of the U.S. nickel. Visitors can purchase tickets to explore the home and surrounding plantation. Much of Monticello has been transformed into a museum with exhibits regarding Jefferson, archaeology, and more.
One of Monticello's most significant aspects was its role as a working plantation where more than 400 enslaved individuals worked and lived. Jefferson himself enslaved many African Americans at Monticello. The plantation exhibits attempt to retell the stories and share the experiences of many people that worked there to respect the legacy they left behind.
Address: 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Also Read: Top 10 Most Famous Historic Homes in America
Located on the western end of Washington, D.C.'s National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial was built to honor the United States' 16th President. Abraham Lincoln, known as the "savior of the Union," was a leader well ahead of his time. He is famously known for his inspiring words of his Gettysburg Address and as the signer of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Two years after Lincoln’s assassination, Congress approved an association to build the Lincoln Memorial. Completed in 1922, the memorial features a 19-foot high statue of the President with inscriptions of his Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address carved on the walls on both sides.
Visitors can climb the steps and enter past tall white columns. Stand in awe beneath the statue and its memorialization of the firm and resilient "Honest Abe." Millions visit each year, and the memorial has been the site of many gatherings of historic caliber; it's the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous speech, "I Have a Dream," in 1963.
Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037
Also Read: Washington D.C. Top 10 Attractions
From 1892 through 1924, more than 12 million immigrants arrived at Ellis Island, looking to begin a new life in the United States. Every individual that passed through was documented through ship manifests and regular inspections. At the end of 1954, Ellis Island closed as an immigrant processing facility and later reopened to the public as a museum.
Today, Ellis Island sits in New York Harbor as a symbol of hope and freedom. Visitors can purchase ferry tickets to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. On the island, guests go back in history to experience the journey of immigrants traveling to the US. A variety of artifacts, a Wall of Honor celebrating American immigrants, and more stand to educate and honor.
One of the most popular activities on Ellis Island is visiting the American Family Immigration History Center. Did your ancestors arrive through Ellis Island? You can find out with the center’s 65 million records, a database that gives visitors the chance to find their ancestral connections on the island.
Address: Battery Park and Liberty Island, New York City, NY 10017
Explore the birth of a nation at Independence Hall, where the founding fathers signed both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Known as the birthplace of America, the building was formerly known as the Pennsylvania State House. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Situated in the heart of Philadelphia, the red brick building stood as a symbol for freedom in the 13 colonies and is now one of America’s most famous landmarks. Step back into history as you enter its doors. Imagine delegates such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson debating and writing the most critical documents in American history.
Visitors can take a tour of Independence Hall, and no tickets are required. On tour, you'll enter the same rooms delegates did all those years ago to debate our country's historical documents. Experience the history from 1776 and on first-hand as you see the Assembly Room and other important sites.
Address: 520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
If you’re looking for a true time warp to experience what life was like in the 1600s, visit Massachusetts’ Plimoth Plantation. The living history museum replicates the original Plymouth colony established by the Pilgrims in the 17th century. Experience what it was like to travel to a new world and start your life from scratch.
Founded in 1947 by history buff Henry Hornblower II, the plantation includes a replica of the Mayflower II, an English village, Native American homesite, barns, a grist mill, and more. In the barns, period actors help care for the same livestock the Pilgrims would have bred. Everything on the plantation, from the people to the land, appears to be straight from the 17th century.
In July 2020, Plimoth Plantation announced it would be changing its name to incorporate "Patuxet," the Wampanoag name for the colonized land. It hopes better represent the Native Americans who inhabited the land. The name change will coincide with events surrounding the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's landing.
Address: 137 Warren Ave, Plymouth, MA 02360
The world changed forever on September 11, 2001, when two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City and two others crashed into the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field. That day marks a historic turning point in a global society. Today, the World Trade Center Memorial stands where the towers once lived, commemorating all who lost their lives that day.
Two deep pools are surrounded by gray barriers with the name of every victim etched into the metal. As you walk around the site, you’ll notice flowers poking out of names as loved ones continue to visit. You’ll soon forget you’re in the heart of bustling Manhattan as the sound of the waterfalls drown out external noise and create a somber atmosphere.
Both pools, about an acre in size, feature the largest human-made waterfalls in North America. Every year on the anniversary of 9/11, a public art installation called "Tribute in Life" lights up the pools and shines into the sky. The show honors the lost loved ones and celebrating New York City's resiliency.
Address: Greenwich St & Liberty St, New York, NY 10006
The USS Arizona, which calls the Pearl Harbor National Memorial home, symbolizes an important day in American history: the attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was hit by Japanese bombers and sank, killing more than 1,000 people. Most of the shipwreck still lies beneath the memorial today.
Today, the battleship’s remains are a National Historic Landmark. Visit the memorial and learn about the people who died that day and how Pearl Harbor was a catalyst for the United States’ entry into World War II. Read survivor stories, learn about Hawaii’s role in the war, and help preserve the memory of those involved.
More than two million people visit the memorial each year to immerse themselves in the history surrounding Pearl Harbor. As just one of several sites of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, take time to visit each one and discover what happened that fateful day.
Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818
In the early 1800s, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set off on a near-impossible expedition to map and explore the country's western portion following the Louisiana Purchase. In about three years, Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific Ocean, mapping the land and building relationships with several indigenous nations.
Upon reaching the Pacific Ocean, the explorers, known as the Corps of Discovery, built Fort Clatsop, an encampment along the Columbia River in Oregon. Today, a replica and memorial were the foundation for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, a land rich in history and natural splendor.
Explore the camp and learn about what Lewis and Clark discovered on their journey. Follow in the footsteps of the two famous explorers and meet the Native Americans who inhabited the land. Become an explorer yourself and hike along similar routes the Corps of Discovery took more than 200 years ago, or take a guided canoe tour on the river.
Address: 92343 Fort Clatsop Rd, Astoria, OR 97103
Located off Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Sumter was the site where Confederate soldiers fired upon the U.S. garrison in 1861. The shots fired that day marked the county entering a several-year battle between the north and south. Today the island fort stands as a reminder of the day the country changed forever.
Accessible only by boat, Fort Sumter is available for visitors looking for self-guided or guided tours. Learn about the beginning of the deadliest conflict in U.S. history, and walk among cannons and brick walls still damaged by artillery fire. National Park rangers are on-hand to tell you more about the fort's history and the events surrounding April 12, 1861.
On the boat ride to the island, visitors can enjoy splendid views of Charleston from the water as well as the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier. Some lucky individuals even spot dolphins along the way!
Address: 1214 Middle St, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482
Also Read: Top 10 American Civil War Sites To Visit
Named for the innovative automobile tycoon and museum founder, the Henry Ford Museum is home to historical items and memorabilia honoring America’s technological advances. Focusing on the advances Americans made during the Industrial Revolution, the Henry Ford Museum explores the history of innovation through the people at the forefront.
Discover flight innovations, like the Wright brothers’ accomplishments, or look inside the bus that Rosa Parks stood up for herself and her race by taking a seat. The numerous experiences and exhibits will leave you feeling more knowledgeable about the technological advances made throughout the last century.
No matter your interests, the Henry Ford Museum has something for all types of inquiring minds. In Greenfield Village, guests can ride in a Model T, one of the original automobiles. The Ford Rouge Factory Tour gives visitors a look inside the making of the Ford F-150 and the progressive practices that came with it.
Address: 20900 Oakwood, Dearborn, MI 48124
The Bunker Hill Monument, a towering granite obelisk, was built in the 19th century to commemorate one of the first battles in the Revolutionary War. On June 17, 1775, thousands of soldiers died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. As one of the early monuments in the United States, it pays homage to those who fought and paid with their lives for freedom.
Today, the Bunker Hill Monument, lodge, and museum are open to all visitors free of charge. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the monument to explore the battle’s history and climb to the top of the monument’s 294 stairs to the top. At the lodge, guests can admire the statue of battle hero Joseph Warren and get up close to a Revolutionary War cannon.
The museum features the park’s main exhibits, where you can learn more about the Battle of Bunker Hill and some of the soldier’s stories who fought there. Discover the history and learn about the monument itself, which took 17 years to build.
Address: Monument Sq, Charlestown, MA 02129
It may seem far-fetched that an island prison is one of the most historical landmarks in the United States. Still, important history would be lost without the mysterious and historic Alcatraz Island. Home to several infamous prisoners, including Al Capone, it was the site of numerous incarcerations.
Once a maximum-security prison, Alcatraz tells the story of incarceration and justice. The National Historic Landmark features several facilities, including a lighthouse, military fort, a military jail, federal prison, and more. From 1969 through the 1970s, Native Americans occupied the island as part of a wave of activism and protests.
Located in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is only accessible by boat. Guests can take a ranger tour or spend hours exploring the exhibits. Take a ride across the bay and experience the mystery surrounding the old facilities. Gaze across the water from a cliffside and imagine the people that once walked the land.
Address: San Francisco, CA 94133
Located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial commemorates the December 7, 1941 attack that sank 12 ships and killed more than 2,400 Americans. Encompassing the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Utah Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, and more, the site educates and inspires visitors.
The attack on Pearl Harbor ignited a conflict that was the catalyst for the United States entering World War II. The event changed the world, American, and Hawaiian history forever. At the memorial, you'll learn about the people and places involved in the attack and stories of heroes that lost their lives on that fateful day.
Two exhibit galleries bring guests as close as possible to experiencing the events leading up to the attack and how it shaped the future of the island and the country. Interpretive exhibits allow visitors to explore the land and learn about the history of that tragic day while looking out onto the harbor.
Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Hawaii
Have you ever wanted to know what it was like living in adobe homes? At Taos Pueblo, visitors can experience just that while learning more about the Pueblo people. To this day, Native Americans inhabited the pueblos, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the country.
Located in northern New Mexico, the community is situated near the Sangre de Cristo Range. Take in the sights as you gaze up at the reddish-brown adobe structures built on either side of a bubbling stream. Immerse yourself in Native American culture and learn a little bit more about the people who live here.
About 150 people live there, welcoming guests to learn about the thousand-year-old traditions that still take place today. Generations of families pass the homes down to descendants. Many of the buildings are still used for religious and cultural activities. When you visit, you'll experience a tight-knit community dedicated to preserving their customs.
Address: Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
The Alamo, an 18th-century Franciscan mission located in San Antonio, saw one of the most significant battles in the Texan Revolution. At the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, defenders held out for a 13-day siege until the Mexicans broke through and overtook the compound. Nearly all Texans in the Alamo were slain that day.
The Battle of the Alamo was a catalyst toward Texan independence from Mexico. Today, the Alamo stands as a symbol of resiliency and determination in the face of tragedy. The complex features tours, preserved buildings, and much more for visitors to explore and take in the history that shaped the Texan Revolution.
At the site, you can take in the battlefield as it looked in 1836 and explore the courtyard, church, and other buildings. Daily tours give you a glimpse into what happened during the siege and tell stories of many who perished there.
Address: 300 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205
Located in the heart of downtown Boston, Faneuil Hall has witnessed centuries of history. Opened in 1743, legendary revolutionaries like Samuel Adams and James Otis gave several speeches calling for freedom from Great Britain. Named the “Cradle of Liberty,” the marketplace was the site of America’s first town meeting.
The marketplace is a stop on the Freedom Trail, a 2.6-mile path that connects all of Boston’s most significant historic sites. Take a guided tour or explore yourself to learn how integral Faneuil Hall was in shaping the country’s history. Discover key events that took place on the cobblestone streets beneath you.
As one of the topmost visited historic sites in the country, Faneuil Hall offers much more than just history. The marketplace features numerous restaurants and local businesses selling handcrafted items and more. Street performers set up in front of the building and give a show to all passersby. Whether you love history or hanging out, Faneuil Hall is the place to be.
Address: 4 S Market St, Boston, MA 02109
In 1863, the American Civil War came to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marking the war's bloodiest battle. At the Gettysburg National Military Park, hear the stories of Confederate and Union soldiers who fought in one of the most influential Civil War battles. Explore the grounds that inspired President Abraham Lincoln to deliver his famous "Gettysburg Address."
The battle marked a turning point in the Civil War and changed the lives of the residents of Gettysburg. Farms and gardens were riddled with fallen soldiers; public buildings were transformed into hospitals. At the park, learn more about how the citizens rebounded and supported war efforts.
Start your tour at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, where thousands of Civil War artifacts retell the battles. Admire the monuments erected across the park and pay homage to the people who lost their lives on the grounds. Walk the battlefield and see history through the lens of the people that were there.
Address: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325
The Black Hills of South Dakota is known for rolling hills that shaped stories of the Wild West. Most notably, however, is the Crazy Horse Memorial, a mountain monument depicting the famous Native American warrior Crazy Horse. Still under construction today, the memorial will show the warrior riding a horse and pointing to his tribal land.
The granite mountain rises more than 6,000 feet above sea level, making it the 27th highest peak in South Dakota. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear chose the mountain for the monument in 1948. Upon completion, it will be the second tallest monument in the world.
Visit the memorial yourself and witness history in action as cranes and construction workers carve into the mountain. Head to the visitor center and learn about the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation's mission to preserve Native American culture and revive its heritage in the region. Museums feature native art from tribes across the country.
Address: Crazy Horse, SD 57730
Perhaps one of the most famous military cemeteries is in Arlington, Virginia. Situated across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place for more than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate families. Upon its establishment, several fallen comrades from earlier wars were reinterred here.
One of the most frequently visited memorials is President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. His brothers are also buried nearby. On top of a hill overlooking the land is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a marble memorial honoring unknown service members from recent wars.
The cemetery holds remembrance services every Memorial and Veterans Day. Thousands of visitors attend to pay their respects to fallen soldiers and their sacrifices for the country. The cemetery is open 365 days a year and is free to all visitors to go and remember the people who rest there.
Address: Arlington, VA
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Virginia
What is it like to live in the country's largest home? At the Biltmore, Estate guests can stay and explore the historic grounds built more than 100 years ago for George Washington Vanderbilt II. The elegant chateau invites you in with charming elegances and original furnishings once owned by the Vanderbilts.
The estate is well-known as a prime example of the Gilded Age, a period during the late 19th century marked by rapid economic growth in the United States. Railroad tycoon George Vanderbilt commissioned the construction of Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, where he loved the scenery and climate.
Visitors at the Biltmore Estate are treated to a luxurious experience. A day spent exploring manicured grounds and the Blue Ridge Mountains ends with a tour of the mansion's historic rooms. Follow with a high-end dinner prepared by some of the country’s greatest chefs. Eight thousand acres offer miles of walking, hiking, and biking as well.
Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
Towering more than 400 feet above the Black Hills of South Dakota stands Mount Rushmore. Carved in the mountainside are four of the country’s most prominent presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. At 60 feet large, the four faces represent America’s “Shrine of Democracy.”
Mount Rushmore represents 150 years of American heritage. Learn about the country's diversity and the preservation of the land as you admire the towering monuments. At the Sculptor's Studio, learn about the carver and why he chose the four presidents on the face of the mountain today.
At the information center, learn about the park’s history and the presidents who helped create the country we know today. Walk toward the Grand View Terrace and the Presidential Trail for breathtaking views of the awe-inspiring mountain. Take a ranger tour around the area, and you may even encounter some local wildlife!
Address: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751
On April 26, 2018, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Montgomery, Alabama, becoming the country's first memorial dedicated to preserving enslaved African Americans' legacy. The somber site features artistic sculptures to symbolize racial terror and help visitors recognize the terror African Americans felt when lynching took place.
The memorial is in the same spot where enslaved people were held in a warehouse. More than 800 steel structures support the center of the site, one for each U.S. county where the lynching took place. Victims' names are carved along the columns with the hope to inspire others to educate themselves and others on racial injustice.
Visit the memorial and learn for yourself about the terrors and injustices that took place. Explore visual exhibits that tell the stories of generations of Americans impacted by racial inequality. Wander this quiet area and remember those 4,400 people who lost their lives to injustice in this country.
Address: 417 Caroline St, Montgomery, AL 36104
Carved onto the “Stone of Hope” in West Potomac Park is the face of Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King Jr. The stone memorial honors his legacy and hopes for freedom and equality for all in the United States. Visit the monument yourself and stand in front of a representation of an awe-inspiring and iconic American figure.
Text from Dr. King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech is scrawled into the marble rock. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope” are the words that represent the struggles many people faced to reach the hope of racial equality. Visitors can roam the plaza and take in the statue that looks over the river toward the horizon.
A 450-foot-long wall surrounded Dr. King’s statue, featuring 14 quotes from many of his speeches and writings. Take it in for yourself and discover the inspiration and motivation that drives us toward equality each day.
Address: 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20003
Standing tall over the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri, the Gateway Arch stands as a symbol of the pioneers who ventured west for the first time and the people who shaped the country as a whole. Known as the “Gateway to the West,” the arch is one of the most famous monuments in the United States.
Visitors can spend a few hours at the monument just taking in its beauty and the surrounding scenery. You can also spend an entire day explore the area, visiting the museum, and riding to the top of the arch. A tram takes visitors up to take in breathtaking views of the vast land.
Pre-boarding exhibits educate visitors on the history of the arch and the stories behind westward expansion up to the 1930s. The museum features six themed areas that tell the stories of the natives and explorers who shaped the land west of the Mississippi River.
Address: 11 N 4th St, St. Louis, MO 63102
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Missouri
Located on California’s central coast in San Simeon, Hearst Castle was the architecturally brilliant home of wealthy miner George Hearst. Today, the castle and surrounding grounds are a museum honoring the Hearst legacy and telling the history of its architecture and unique stories within its walls.
Twenty-eight years of construction created the home that stands today, surrounded by palm trees and mountain views. Dozens of Hollywood's finest wined, dined and stayed there over the years. Today, visitors can learn about the castle's construction, the history of the architecture and art, and the stories of its most famous guests.
An hour-long tour takes you through the most extensive and grandest rooms of the house, including the Assembly Room, Refectory, Billiard Room, and more. Additional tours take you upstairs to find George Hearst's living quarters, the cottages, and kitchens, where guests stayed before the large house was ready.
Address: 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452