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Most Iconic Landmarks in Every State

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With so many incredible U.S. landmarks from coast to coast, where do you start? In every state, you’ll find endless opportunities to gaze at natural wonders, discover the country’s fascinating history, or witness incredible man-made feats of engineering. But as spectacular as each of these sites are, it’s the stories they tell that give them true significance. Here’s everything you need to know about the most iconic landmark in each of the 50 states.

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Alabama: Edmund Pettus Bridge

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama
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The 1,248-foot-long Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma became a symbol of the civil rights movement’s Selma-to-Montgomery march, which eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But the road there wasn’t easy. During the first march on March 7, 1965, nonviolent protesters were stopped on the bridge by state troopers in what became known as Bloody Sunday. Two days later, Martin Luther King Jr. led people on a second march, but they turned around on the bridge when they saw armed troopers. On the third attempt, protesters departing March 21 successfully made the 54-mile trip to Montgomery — 25,000 strong when they reached the capital. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush commemorated the 50th anniversary of this historic event in 2015, by symbolically walking across the bridge with thousands of other Americans.

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Alaska: Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska
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Established as Mount McKinley State Park in 1917, the 4.7-million-acre park was renamed Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. As Athabascan legend has it, a Native American named Yahoo was seeking a spouse, when the wife of the second raven chief offered her daughter. But she came with a warning — the raven chief already wanted to kill Yahoo. The chief started a storm and launched a spear at Yahoo's canoe, but Yahoo changed a giant wave into stone, and the spear ricocheted off of it. He did it a second time with an even bigger wave. When Yahoo awoke, with his new wife by his side, he saw that he had created two mountains, Foraker and Denali — the latter of which is also known as the great one, the highest point in North America at 20,310 feet tall.

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Arizona: Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon in Arizona
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In 1540, conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led a Spanish army from Mexico City in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, rumored to be filled with wealth. When they arrived at the villages of Hopi Mesas, a smaller group led by García López de Cárdenas and guided by the Hopi split off, hoping to find a river that led to the Gulf of Mexico. After 20 days, they arrived at the Grand Canyon and estimated that the rapids of the Colorado River at the bottom were too intense for ships to sail. Convincing the Spaniards that this area wasn’t navigable, the Hopi were able to keep the land to themselves for another 235 years — until Joseph Christmas Ives of the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers reached the canyon by river in about 1857.

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Arkansas: Little Rock Central High School

Front view of Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas
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When the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case declared “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” Little Rock Central High School became the national stage for spotlighting the resistance African Americans faced for simply trying to get an equal education. On the first day of school on September 3, 1957, nine African American students — who came to be known as the Little Rock Nine — were turned away by the Arkansas National Guard. It wasn’t until September 23 that the students made it into the school, where they were met with riots. The next day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent 1,200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division. The students were escorted in on September 25, protected by soldiers, and through their perseverance, the teens became true civil rights heroes.

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California: Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
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Since 1937, the Golden State has been synonymous with the 1.2-mile Golden Gate Bridge linking the 49-square-mile San Francisco peninsula to Marin Country to the north. An entrepreneur named Charles Crocker had proposed the project back in 1872, but it wasn’t until 1919 that city engineer Michael M. O’Shaughnessy was tasked with executing the idea. Cost became a prime concern as most estimated a $100 million price tag. But engineer Joseph Baermann Strauss said he could do it for far less — and he got the job. In 1921, he turned in his first design, estimated to cost $17 million, and the plans were revealed the following year. After years of approvals — and financial concerns during the Great Depression — construction started in 1933 and the suspension bridge in “International Orange” paint opened May 27, 1937.

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Colorado: Pikes Peak

Colorado landscape with Pikes Peak in the background
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The 14,115-foot-tall Pikes Peak inspired the “spacious skies” and “purple mountain majesties” we sing about in “America the Beautiful.” In fact, the song started as a poem written by English literature professor Katharine Lee Bates while she was on a Colorado lecture trip in 1893. She first published the poem on Independence Day 1895 and continued to perfect the words until 1913. The popularity of the song gave Pikes Peak — acquired by the United States in 1803 during the Louisiana Purchase and named after explorer Lieutenant Zebulon Pike in 1806 — its nickname of “America’s Mountain.”

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Connecticut: Yale University

Yale University in Connecticut
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Back in the 1640s, clergymen sought to create a college in the United States that followed the “tradition of European liberal education.” Yale University was founded as the Collegiate School in Saybrook, Connecticut, in 1701, and moved to New Haven in 1716. A Welsh merchant named Elihu Yale then decided to donate 417 books, a King George I portrait, and the proceeds of nine bales of goods. Apparently impressed, the school was renamed in his honor in 1718 as Yale College — and eventually became Yale University in 1864.

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Delaware: Delaware Memorial Bridge

Delaware Memorial Bridge with night traffic in Delaware
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In 2019, a record 18.3 million vehicles drove from New Jersey into Delaware by crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge, a 3,650-foot-long suspension bridge. To put that in perspective, lining up that many cars would wrap more than twice around the Earth’s circumference. But that may not have been possible when it first opened on August 15, 1951, with one span. Just four years later, more than eight million vehicles passed over the bridge — double the original estimate — so a twin span was added in 1968. While the original span had to be shut for a rehaul three days later, both spans (with a total of eight lanes) opened on December 29, 1969.

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Florida: Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World in Florida
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After Walt Disney’s success with Disneyland in Anaheim, California, he had visions for a much grander project in Florida, dubbed “Project X.” In a 25-minute video, Disney outlined his plans for a utopia of sorts that he described as a “planned environment demonstrating to the world what American communities can accomplish through proper control of planning and design.” Calling it the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” or EPCOT, he saw the theme park as a mere sliver of his new world. But two months after the video, Disney passed away. Walt Disney World opened as a theme park five years later, in 1971, with EPCOT opening in 1982. In the 1990s, the company founded Celebration, Florida, meant to be a city in line with Disney’s thinking, but it never quite followed the imagineer’s vision.

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Georgia: Centennial Olympic Park

Centennial Olympic Park with fountain and ferris wheel in the background
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Before the 1996 Summer Olympics took place in Atlanta, the CEO of the Olympic Games’ Atlanta Committee, Billy Payne, was staring out his office window when an idea hit. What if the run-down part of town in front of him was transformed into the epicenter of the Games, a place for fans and athletes to gather? Afterward, the park was transformed to be fit for daily use and remains one of the most popular gathering places in Georgia’s capital. The park’s five 60-feet-by-60-feet Quilt Plazas and Water Gardens tell a striking story of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Games (including the Quilt of Remembrance memorializing the site of the July 27, 1996, bombing and an eternal flame for its victim Alice Hawthorne).

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Hawaii: USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
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Just 15 minutes into Japan’s surprise attack on the United States on December 7, 1941, the largest ship in the U.S. Navy’s fleet at the time, the 608-foot long USS Arizona, was bombed, killing 1,117 sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. The event marked the country’s entry into World War II. The ship now remains where it sunk, with a memorial designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis in 1962 floating over it. One of the few National Parks to offer free admission, a visit starts at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center before boarding a boat over to the memorial.

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Idaho: Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon in Idaho
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The otherworldly landscape of the (fittingly named) Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho comes from the lava flows that erupted between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago. Through the deep cracks in the earth — known collectively as the Great Rift — lava poured out during eight eruptive periods, creating a 618-square-mile lava field. Geological activity continues to alter the region, and the area may be due for a major change. Historically, eruptions have occurred every 2,000 years — which means Craters of the Moon is currently overdue for one.

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Illinois: The Cloud Gate

The Cloud Gate in Chicago
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Unveiled in 2004, Chicago's Cloud Gate sculpture, lovingly known as The Bean, quickly became the icon of the Windy City. Until then, the biggest addition to Millennium Park was Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time in the 1920s. So in the 1990s, a committee started looking at artists that had done large outdoor works and narrowed it down to American Jeff Koons and Indian British Anish Kapoor. Koons’ idea involved a 90-foot-high observation platform with a slide, but that would have taken attention away from Michigan Avenue, so Kapoor’s 110-ton reflective stainless steel structure was chosen instead.

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Indiana: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Formula one car on the racetrack
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By 1908, Indianapolis was producing the fourth highest number of automobiles in the country, so Carl G. Fisher and his partners decided to build a common testing facility, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which opened in 1909. After all, the state’s roads weren’t that developed, and car manufacturers could use a place to test out cars at higher speeds. While mostly meant to be private, they also figured that occasional events could give prospective car buyers a peek at vehicles in action with races. In 1911, Fisher decided to focus on one major race, and the first Indy 500 took place.

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Iowa: Field of Dreams Movie Site

Cornfields with large light
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Sue Riedel braved the cold December weather in Iowa in 1987 and knocked on a stranger’s door. She was volunteering with the Dubuque Chamber of Commerce on a project with the Iowa Film Board to find a location for a baseball movie called Shoeless Joe. Don Lansing of Lansing Family Farm — about 27 miles east of Dubuque — couldn’t believe his luck. A major Hollywood production about a sport he loved, wanting to shoot on the farm that had been in his family since 1906, seemed like a dream. But that dream came true, and the Oscar-nominated movie, renamed Field of Dreams, premiered in 1989.

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Kansas: Keeper of the Plains

The keeper of the plains in Wichita Kansas, Missouri
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The land where the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers meet in the center of downtown Wichita is sacred ground to the Native American people. To commemorate its status, in 1974, local Kiowa-Comanche artist Blackbear Bosin designed a five-ton, 44-foot-tall steel sculpture called Keeper of the Plains to keep an eye on the city. In 1999, the city began a restoration project that gave the sculpture even more stature, and in 2007, it was moved to a more prominent site and raised on a 30-foot pedestal.

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Kentucky: Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory with baseball bat statue leaning against brick building
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When John Andrew “Bud” Hillerich was about 14 years old, he worked as an apprentice in his dad’s Louisville woodshop. As a baseball fan and amateur player, he’d sometimes make bats for himself and his friends. When he was 17, according to family legend, he skipped work to catch a Major League game with the Louisville Eclipse, and he saw player Pete Browning break a bat. Bud made him a new one and Browning — whose nickname was the Louisville Slugger — got three hits with that bat. Clearly his craftsmanship was a home run, and the Louisville Slugger bat was trademarked in 1894.

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Louisiana: Bourbon Street

Crowd of people walking down Bourbon Street
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When the city was founded in 1718, the famed Bourbon Street was part of its original plan — a 13-block stretch in the French Quarter that went from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue. French engineer Adrien de Pauger decided in 1721 that it should carry the name of the French ruling family at the time, the House of Bourbon. But its reputation for revelry didn’t come until New Orleans shut down its Storyville district in 1917, and the city needed a new center for its entertainment. Maxime’s opened at 300 Bourbon Street in 1926, introducing a new way of nightlife that the city is still known for today.

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Maine: Portland Head Lighthouse

Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine at sunset
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Concerned about British attacks on the American colonies, Cape Elizabeth started keeping eight soldiers on guard at Portland Head in 1776. By 1791, the 72-foot-tall Portland Head Lighthouse lit by 16 whale oil lamps stood on the cape. Over the years, a keeper’s house was built, Fresnel lenses were added, and the lighthouse was raised 20 feet for better visibility. There is, however, one mystery: On Christmas Eve 1886, a three-masted sailing ship Annie C. Maguire crashed into the ledge, even though the crew saw the lighthouse. Today, there is a marker where the shipwreck occurred — and the landmark is better known as one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.

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Maryland: Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry in Maryland
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When the British captured the capital of Washington, D.C., on August 24, 1814, a well-known physician named Dr. William Beanes was taken prisoner, so prominent lawyer Francis Scott Key was recruited to help negotiate his release. Key and Colonel John Skinner sailed the Chesapeake Bay to the British ship, the HMS Tonnant, where they successfully negotiated Beanes’ release. However, there was one major stipulation: They couldn’t go back to Baltimore until the British attacked Fort McHenry. Key watched the British attack for 25 hours — and that’s when he looked across and saw that the American flag was still waving, which inspired him to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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Massachusetts: Fenway Park

Fenway Park in Massachusetts with clear blue skies
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When the first pitch was thrown at an exhibition game between the Red Sox and Harvard College on April 9, 1912, little did fans know they were inaugurating the stadium that would continue to host games for more than a century — and is now the oldest baseball stadium in use by a Major League Baseball team. The area was originally marshland known as the Back Bay Fens, which was drained and turned into the Emerald Necklace park designed by architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Boston neighborhood became known as West Fens or Fenway Park when ground was broken for construction on September 25, 1911.

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Michigan: Hitsville U.S.A.

Hitsville U.S.A. in Michigan at dusk
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When songwriter Berry Gordy borrowed $800 from his family to start Motown Records in 1959, he didn’t just launch a record label — he changed American culture, bringing the country together over a love of artists like Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Jackson 5. As a tribute to Detroit, he took the “Motor City” nickname and switched it to “town” to come up with “Motown.” The Hitsville U.S.A. headquarters on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit is now home to the Motown Museum.

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Minnesota: Mall of America

Front view of Mall of America in Minnesota
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Bloomington used to be the heart of Minnesota’s sports, with both the Twins baseball and Vikings football teams based at the Metropolitan Stadium. But when they moved their home bases to downtown Minneapolis in 1982, they left behind a 78-acre space. Proposals started flooding in — including one from the Triple Five Group behind the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, a gigantic entertainment complex with stores, theme parks, attractions, and hotels. They wanted to mimic the concept in the U.S. as the Mall of America — and in 1989, the project broke ground. When it opened August 11, 1992, with 10,000 employees running 330 stores, it revolutionized the idea of a mall. To this day, it is the largest mall in the country.

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Mississippi: Vicksburg National Military Park

The civil war monument at the battlefield in Vicksburg, Mississippi
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If there’s one thing that the North and South could agree on during the Civil War, it was that Vicksburg was essential to victory. President Abraham Lincoln said, “Vicksburg is the key, the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket,” while Confederate President Jefferson Davis said, “Vicksburg is the nailhead that holds the South’s two halves together.” While the Confederates had a ring of forts with more than 170 cannons looking over the city, the Union army led by Ulysses S. Grant descended in May 1863. On July 4, the Confederates surrendered, allowing the Union to control the Mississippi River and splitting the Confederacy in half.

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Missouri: Gateway Arch

Gateway arch in Missouri with green trees in front
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When he was just 12 years old, Eero Saarinen won a matchstick design contest. That early indication of his architectural creativity proved to be true again in 1948, when he won the nationwide contest for the design of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the St. Louis waterfront with his vision for a stainless-steel arch. Adding to the innovative design of what is now known as the Gateway Arch, the 630-foot structure also has an integrated tram system — conceived by college dropout Dick Bowser in two weeks — that’s made up of eight five-seat capsules on each side, rotating 155 degrees to keep visitors upright as they seamlessly ride to the top.

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Montana: Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park with mountain views and water in the front
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When Glacier National Park was established in 1910, there were more than 100 glaciers. Now only 26 named glaciers exist — the rest have melted. Indeed, perhaps nowhere else in the United States are the effects of climate change so blatant as in this 1,583-square-mile UNESCO World Heritage site. While the planet’s temperature has gone up 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, the temperature in this area has been increasing at double that rate, leading to faster melting as well as higher chances of wildfire. Along with Waterton Lakes National Park across the border in Canada, the two parks make up Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park — the first of its kind straddling two countries.

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Nebraska: Carhenge

Carhenge in Nebraska
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The origins of Stonehenge may be a mystery, but the story behind Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska, sure isn’t. Experimental artist Jim Reinders was at a family reunion in 1987 when he decided to recruit his relatives to help build a proportionate replica of the British landmark using jalopies. With mostly cars, plus a truck and an ambulance, their junk-yard depiction received newfound attention in 2017 when it was deemed one of the most effective places in the country to see the solar eclipse.

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Nevada: Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

Las Vegas sign at sunset
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Sitting on the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard, far out of the shadows of all the fancy casinos, was a long-forgotten sign reading “Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas.” But when John Woodrum bought a motel across from it in the 1970s, he noticed an interesting phenomenon: Tourists were coming out of nowhere to take pictures with the relic, even though it was dingy and never lit up. So he decided to run out a power line and light it up again, giving the historic neon sign new life. Now the Vegas icon has its own driveway and parking — and if you’re lucky, an Elvis Presley impersonator will take your photo for you.

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New Hampshire: Mount Washington

Mount Washington in New Hampshire in the fall
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As the peak of New Hampshire's White Mountains, 6,288-foot-high Mount Washington is known for its extreme weather conditions. Back in 1870, scientists started heading up to research forecasting. A station was maintained there until 1892, but it wasn’t until 1932 that four civilians decided to go back up — without pay — to endure the conditions in search of meteorological insight. On April 12, 1934, as a super hurricane barreled in, they recorded the fastest wind gust ever at 231 mph. While their record was overtaken in 1996 with a 253 mph gust during a cyclone in Barrow Island, Australia, the Mount Washington Observatory now allows visitors to take a peek into their world with tours.

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New Jersey: Lucy the Elephant

Lucy the Elephant in New Jersey on a stormy day
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Four years before Margate even became a city, Philadelphia engineer James V. Lafferty decided he needed a way to attract real estate investors to the marshlands south of Atlantic City. So he built a six-story elephant in 1881 to serve as his office. With the elephant’s eyes as windows, he was able to give prospective buyers a pretty great view of the land. Yet it didn’t quite work. He had to sell the building in 1887 and various owners tried to tame the creature over the years, using her as a hotel, tavern, and restaurant. Officially named Lucy in 1900, she faced demolition in the 1960s until the Margate Civic Association stepped in to raise money — and the novelty building moved to its current location in 1970. Now a National Historic Landmark, Lucy again started accepting overnight stays in February 2020 with a listing on Airbnb.

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New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico
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An incomprehensible 250 to 280 million years ago, an inland sea created more than 300 limestone caves in its fossil reef. Native Americans lived in the area 12,000 to 14,000 years ago, and Spanish explorers passed through in the 1500s, but one of the first records of someone entering the Carlsbad Caverns wasn’t until 1912, when 16-year-old cowhand Jim White found an entrance. By 1915, photos were being taken; in 1923, one appeared in The New York Times. As a system of more than 119 limestone caves under the Chihuahuan Desert, the site was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

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New York: Statue of Liberty

Closeup of the Statue of Liberty
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The idea for a centerpiece of the New York Harbor ironically started abroad in 1865, when French anti-slavery activst Édouard de Laboulaye proposed creating something for the United States’ centennial. By 1870, French sculptor Auguste Barhtoldi started to design a sculpture that would represent liberty, as well as the two countries’ friendship. What became the Statue of Liberty was built in sections, with the arm and torch first being shown at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 and the head and shoulders at the Paris Universal Exposition in 1878. The rest was created and put together in Paris from 1881 to 1884, when the pedestal’s construction also started. Symbolically presented in France on July 4, 1884, Lady Liberty arrived in the U.S. on June 17, 1885 — but the pedestal wasn’t done yet. She was finally unveiled on October 28, 1886.

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North Carolina: Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate in North Carolina with green lawn in front
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During an 1888 family trip with his mother, George Vanderbilt was immediately taken with Asheville. The very next year, he started building a dream home, hoping to construct a European-style chateau in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. With a team of 1,000 — including American architect Richard Morris Hunt, Viennese sculptor Karl Bitter, and Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino — he sped up the process by creating his own materials, building a kiln that could make 32,000 bricks a day and a woodworking factory to create pieces needed for the interiors. Completed in 1895, the 250-room Biltmore House is still the country’s largest privately owned home.

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North Dakota: Fort Union Trading Post Historic Site

Fort Union Trading Post Historic Site
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Sitting near where the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers meet, the Fort Union Trading Post in Williston was built by Jacob Astor's American Fur Company in 1828 at the request of the Assiniboine nation and soon became one of the most essential places for the Northern Plains Tribes to do business. From its opening to 1867, tribes including Plains Cree, Blackfeet Plains Chippewa, Mandan, and Hidatsa traded buffalo hides and beaver pelts for goods from eight countries. Each year, they received more than 25,000 buffalo robes and sold more than $100,000 in goods, turning it into western American’s longest-lasting fur trade post.

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Ohio: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame building across the water
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When the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame decided to build a museum in 1985, all the likely contenders were on the list: New York, San Francisco, Memphis, and Chicago. But thanks to Cleveland's dedication to the project, the unlikely city won out — and has become a pilgrimage for some of music’s greatest, even earning the city the nickname “Rock and Roll Capital of the World.” Chuck Berry and Billy Joel attended the 1993 groundbreaking, and the opening celebration in 1995 included performances by James Brown, Bob Dylan, and Aretha Franklin. Every year, new inductees are added to the current 338 honorees, with the 2020 class including Whitney Houston, The Doobie Brothers, Depeche Mode, and The Notorious B.I.G.

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Oklahoma: National Cowboy Museum and Western Heritage Museum

Statue of Coming Through the Rye at National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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In the 1950s, Kansas City’s Chester A. Reynolds worried that the country’s Western heritage was being lost, so he started taking submissions for a city that wanted to be home to a new institution. He landed on Oklahoma City and incorporated as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in 1955. A design contest was held, and the museum opened ten years later in 1965, with a roof silhouette of white peaks, appearing like tents on a prairie. With displays on history, culture and art, the museum features the work like that of painters Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell and sculptor James Earle Fraser. In 2000, it changed its name to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

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Oregon: Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls in Oregon
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Located about 30 miles east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge is Multnomah Falls — the state’s tallest waterfall and one of its most popular attractions, with two million visitors each year. Cascading 635 feet in two veil-like tiers in front of basalt cliffs, the natural beauty was formed about 15,000 years ago, when an ice dam ruptured in Montana and the torrent of waters went westward, creating much of what is now Oregon’s Columbia River and the Willamette Valley. In 1914, lumber tycoon Simon Benson gave 300 acres around the falls to the city of Portland and also financed the Benson Bridge that crosses the falls.

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Pennsylvania: Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania
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While it just might be the most famous bell in the country, no one living today has ever heard the Liberty Bell ring. Originally ordered from London’s Whitechapel Foundry in 1751 for the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, the bell cracked on the first ring. Instead of sending it back for repairs, it was melted down and recast by locals John Pass and John Stow — and effectively signaled many of Philadelphia's meetings for nearly nine decades. Eventually another crack appeared in 1846, and metal workers tried to fix it by using a technique that required widening the fissure. Unfortunately, that caused another crack to form, and the bell hasn’t rung since.

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Rhode Island: The Breakers

The Breakers in Rhode Island
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Cornelius Vanderbilt II followed his grandfather’s footsteps into the transportation business and became New York Central Railroad’s president in 1885. With the new clout, he also bought a wooden house named The Breakers in Newport. When the house burned, Vanderbilt hired architect Richard Morris Hunt in 1893 to build a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style villa, which remains one of the most grandiose summer cottages in the area — symbolizing the family’s wealth.

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South Carolina: Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade

Aerial view of Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade
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This 1.2-mile stretch of oceanfront boardwalk is the heart of Myrtle Beach’s trademark summer lifestyle with attractions, restaurants, and festivals. But the pathway from 14th Avenue North to First Avenue North as we know it today only opened in 2010 after a $6.4 million initiative. Amusement had long been in the DNA of the old logging village, ever since a one-story wooden pavilion was built in 1908 as part of the Seaside Inn, and rides and attractions started springing up around it.

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South Dakota: Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore in sunset
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When New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore was in South Dakota inspecting mining claims in 1884, he asked a local for the name of a mountain in the Black Hills National Forest. Reportedly, the local said there wasn’t a name, so it became Rushmore Peak, then Rushmore Mountain, and eventually Mount Rushmore. Decades later, historian Doane Robinson was trying to boost tourism to the area and reached out to Gutzon Borglum, who was working on Stone Mountain in Georgia. The artist decided to put George Washington in the most prominent position to represent the birth of the nation, with Thomas Jefferson representing the country’s growth, Theodore Roosevelt for the development, and Abraham Lincoln for the preservation. Each face had its own dedication as it was completed: Washington in 1930, Jefferson in 1936, Lincoln in 1937, and Roosevelt in 1939. The final touches on the carvings were finished in 1941.

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Tennessee: Graceland

Front view of Graceland in Tennessee
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Long before Graceland was home to its most famous inhabitant, it was part of the S.E. Toof family’s 500-acre property and named after one of the family members, Grace. Her niece Ruth Brown Moore built the mansion in 1939 and often hosted classical music recitals since her daughter was a Memphis Symphony Orchestra harpist. In 1957, coming off a successful year, Elvis Presley decided it was time to set up some roots. His parents had seen the property and placed a down payment of $1,000 before he bought it for $102,500 when he was 22. Since he was busy filming Jailhouse Rock, his parents and grandmother moved in first on May 16, 1957, and he joined on June 26.

8

Texas: The Alamo

The Alamo at night lit up with lights
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Built as Mission San Antonio de Valero in 1718, the compound we now know as the Alamo was taken over in the 1800s by Spanish military troops, who began calling it “El Alamo,” the Spanish word for cottonwood, as well as an homage to their hometown of Alamo de Parras. In December 1835, Texan volunteer soldiers including Davy Crockett seized the fort — and remained there until Mexican troops attacked on February 23, 1846. While the Texans numbered only 200, compared with over 1,000 Mexicans, they held on for 13 days. While they lost the Battle of the Alamo, it still showed their strength and led to “Remember The Alamo” being a rallying cry during the Mexican-American War the following decade.

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Utah: Bryce Canyon National Park’s Hoodoos

Hoodoo rock formations in Bryce Canyon National Park
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The stunning hoodoos that give Bryce Canyon its iconic geological formations are made up of so many subtle hues that it’s impossible to count. They first started forming around 50 million years ago when rocks were deposited near sea level. But then a couple million years ago, the tectonic plates started shifting, with the Farallon Plate moving under the North American plate. The rising heat that was created pushed the North American plate up to an altitude ideal for hoodoo formation — since for about 200 nights a year, the area experiences both above and below freezing temperatures. So when water came through, the freeing and melting in essence carved out the shapes we know today.

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Vermont: Ben & Jerry’s Factory

The store sign of Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Vermont
Credit: Jay Yuan/ Shutterstock

Signing up for a $5 mail-order course in ice cream-making from Penn State might have been the best decision Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield ever made. With that knowledge and a $12,000 investment, they opened up Ben & Jerry’s Homemade at an old gas station in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978. By 1980, they were packing their ice cream in pints and delivering them to local restaurants; by 1985, they had opened their first factory in Waterbury, where you can now get a peek at the pint-making process.

5

Virginia: Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia
Credit: Ed-Ni-Photo/ iStock

What is now the Arlington National Cemetery was originally known as the Arlington Estate. George Washington’s adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Curtis, established the estate to honor the first president, eventually passing the property down to his daughter Mary, who married Robert E. Lee in 1831. When the Civil War began, the Lee family abandoned the estate, and the U.S. Army seized it in 1861 because of its strategic view of Washington, D.C. Three forts were built, but on May 13, 1864, the first body was buried since the area cemeteries were getting full. Just over a month later on June 15, Arlington became a national cemetery with 200 acres, which has grown to 639 acres.

4

Washington: Space Needle

The Space Needle in Washington with the city behind
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If it weren’t for the 1962 World’s Fair theme of “The Age of Space,” the Seattle skyline might look different today. Hotel executive Edward E. Carlson, one of the fair’s organizers, was in Stuttgart, Germany, where he was inspired by a tower with a restaurant up top — and started doodling on a napkin. He named his drawing the Space Needle, and it opened in April 1962 with a 520-foot saucer sitting 605 feet high in the sky. To make sure it attracted attention, during the fair, there was a 40-foot-tall natural-gas-powered torch burning a flame at the top. But it was criticized for using too much gas and soon removed.

3

West Virginia: Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry in Wast Virginia
Credit: Justin Fegan/ Shutterstock

Located where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet, the historic community of Harpers Ferry, started when Robert Harper bought the land and started a ferry to get across the Potomac to help settlers moving into the Shenandoah Valley. Thomas Jefferson visited in 1783, the year Harpers Ferry was incorporated, and called the view “one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.” By the 1830s, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Winchester & Potomac Railroad and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal all converged there, turning it into a crucial hub.

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Wisconsin: Devil’s Lake State Park

Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin
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Devil’s Lake State Parks’s bluffs are part of one of the continent’s oldest rock outcrops, the Wisconsin’s Baraboo Range, which formed 1.6 billion (yes, billion) years ago. Rivers flowed, sand accumulated and seas withdrew (and then reinvaded and withdrew again) — and that was all before the Ice Age hit 15,000 years ago. At that time, the Wisconsin Glacier covered the eastern half of Baraboo Hills causing the rivers to reroute — and one of those abandoned river valleys became Devil’s Lake. The surrounding stunning rock formations, like Devil’s Doorway, were formed by water freezing and thawing in rock cracks over the years.

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Wyoming: Old Faithful

Old Faithful in Wyoming with a rainbow
Credit: KingWu/ iStock

With more than 10,000 hot springs, fumaroles, mudpots, and geysers, Yellowstone National Park is home to half of the world’s hydrothermal features. But of the nearly 500 geysers in the park, only six are predictable, making Old Faithful unique for its punctuality. It erupts every 63 to 70 minutes for 1.5 to 5.5 minutes. The natural wonder helped make Yellowstone the world’s first national park in 1872.
































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