The heroes and defining moments of America’s history are celebrated with dedicated memorials - landmarks that honor past presidents and pay tribute to the brave souls who sacrificed their lives for the prized privilege of freedom. These five must-see memorials are symbols that reveal a chapter of America’s past and celebrates the progress this nation has made.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
The Wright Brothers’ monumental contribution to modern aviation is commemorated by the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where the world’s first successful powered flight conducted by brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright took place in 1903. Chasing their dream of flight by conducting experiments in their bicycle shop in Ohio, the pair of self-taught engineers migrated to the beachy shores of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, where the constant stream of wind contributed to the successful flights of their simple glider. The memorial is poised atop a hill where a boulder marks the site of take-off, and overlooks the original runway where the Wright Brothers achieved their first 12-second flight.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Dedicated in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., honors the more than 58,000 men and women who sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. Etched in chronological order of death between the years of 1959 and 1975 in one of America’s most divisive wars, the reflective walls of black granite lay embedded in a V-shape on the ground, with one end reaching towards the Lincoln Memorial, and the other towards the Washington Monument. A profound and moving tribute to America’s dedicated service people, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by then-21-year-old Yale architecture student Maya Lin, who won the public design competition for the memorial.
A date etched in modern American history, the 9/11 Memorial mourns the loss of nearly 3,000 lives in a terrorist attack at New York City’s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Two reflecting pools sit at the former site of Downtown Manhattan’s most prominent skyscrapers, where the waters of North America’s largest manmade waterfalls tumble 30 feet below from the edges of the pools. Bronze panels bear the names of the victims of a tragedy that witnessed the greatest amount of civilian lives lost in a terrorist attack on American soil. A museum just beyond the memorial details the events of 9/11 and how America and the world beyond was deeply impacted by this attack.
Statue of Liberty
Known in full as Liberty Enlightening the World, New York City’s iconic Statue of Liberty was a gift to the nation from the people of France, and commemorates the international friendship that flourished between these two countries during the American Revolution. This 151-foot tall copper monument was designed by Eiffel Tower engineer Gustave Eiffel, in collaboration with sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, who dedicated more than a decade to perfecting the structure of Lady Liberty. Disassembled into 350 pieces, the Statue of Liberty was shipped to New York City and erected on Liberty Island in October of 1886 as an American icon that symbolizes freedom and justice for all. Ascend the set of 146 arduous steps to Lady Liberty’s crown for sweeping panoramic cityscapes and harbor views, but reserve tickets online in advance.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
South Dakota’s most famous landmark takes the form of four presidential faces carved into Mount Rushmore’s granite surface in the state’s Black Hills. Each structure towering roughly 60 feet high, the stony faces of past leaders George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln peer at its visitors. The idea of Mount Rushmore National Memorial was conceived by Doane Robinson in 1923 in a bid to boost tourism in the area, and was carved into the granite faces of Mount Rushmore, the area’s highest peak, by sculptors Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln, between 1927 and 1941. The best times to witness the sheer grandeur of the memorial is at dawn or dusk, when its faces are illuminated by natural light.