From national parks to iconic symbols of freedom and democracy, these popular and highly regarded U.S. tourist attractions cannot be missed.
America is a patchwork quilt of many different landscapes, cultures and sights that have inspired awe since ancient times – or at least since the country’s founding. The U.S. is also filled with superb hiking areas, action-packed cities, thrilling theme parks and more. To help you decide which domestic destinations you should visit, U.S. News created a list of the top things to see and do in each U.S. state and Washington, D.C. Read on to learn more about America’s greatest tourist attractions.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center: Huntsville, Alabama
Get a lesson in American space travel at Alabama’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. A Smithsonian affiliate, the center has one of the world’s largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia, as well as Space Camp. You’ll also find a planetarium, a recreation of the Discovery Shuttle, a flight simulator and a virtual reality experience of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Admission is $30 for adults 13 and older, $20 for kids 5 to 12 and free for younger children, with some activities and experiences that cost extra.
Denali National Park and Preserve: Alaska
To see some of the most beautiful landscapes the U.S. has to offer, head to Alaska and its Denali National Park and Preserve. Here you can view North America’s tallest peak, Denali, standing at more than 20,000 feet, and climb it if you dare. The national park boasts many activities inside, including hopping on a bus tour of the 92-mile park road, hiking, camping, fishing and meeting the sled dogs that patrol the park. For a backcountry adventure, book a tour
by ATV or zipline. Denali is busiest from May through September. Admission fees – $15 per person 16 and older – are valid for seven days. You can pay them online in advance or purchase entry in person at the Denali Visitor Center in the summer or at the Murie Science and Learning Center the rest of the year. There is no entrance station, so you’ll need to keep your receipt with you to show if asked.
Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona
One of America’s greatest natural wonders is the Grand Canyon, a massive canyon carved by the Colorado River millions of years ago. Some of the park’s most popular activities include hiking the Rim Trail, taking a mule trip into the canyon and rafting on the Colorado River. Other great ways to experience the Grand Canyon, one of the top things to do in Arizona, are tours by helicopter or Hummer
. The best time of year to visit is in the spring or fall: Both seasons offer milder weather and thinner crowds than summer while avoiding winter’s snowy conditions and closures. To enter the park, expect to pay $35 per vehicle or $20 per person if arriving by bike, on foot or via one of several free shuttle buses. Keep in mind some shuttles only operate during select months.
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Hot Springs National Park: Arkansas
The nation’s oldest national park, even older than Yellowstone, Hot Springs National Park preserves 47 thermal springs with 4,000-year-old water flowing from Hot Springs Mountain. This park in Hot Springs offers hiking through the Ouachita Mountains, camping, scenic drives, bird-watching and more. Visitors enjoy exploring the history of Bathhouse Row, soaking in the springs at the Buckstaff Bathhouse, drinking the water, filling bottles to take home or even just touching the springs. The park is free to enter.
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Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco, California
The Golden Gate Bridge, which has connected San Francisco to Marin County since 1937, is one of the country’s most recognized landmarks. It took four years to build this nearly 2-mile-long bridge. While it may look red to the eye, the bridge is painted international orange partly so it’s visible through San Francisco’s characteristic fog. The structure has been featured in numerous films, including “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the 1978 adaptation of “Superman” and “The Maltese Falcon.” To see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, you can drive from one end to the other (though there is a southbound toll, starting at about $8), join a free walking tour, bike across it or book a cruise
to view it from the San Francisco Bay. The bridge is especially busy in the summer, so your visit to one of the top things to do in California may want to wait for a shoulder season like fall or spring.
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Pikes Peak: Cascade, Colorado
Nicknamed America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak inspired author Katharine Lee Bates to write her anthem “America the Beautiful.” Those who want to reach the top of this more than 14,000-foot-tall mountain, which sits about 30 miles west of Colorado Springs, can do so by hiking, biking, taking a cog rail train to the top, driving on Pikes Peak Highway or joining a small group tour
. During the 19-mile journey to the summit, you’ll enjoy fantastic views of lakes, mountains and local wildlife. Once you’ve arrived at one of the top things to do in Colorado, head into the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor House to sample some of its world-famous doughnuts made with special high-altitude ingredients and a top-secret recipe developed in 1916. Access to the highway costs $10 per adult and $5 per child aged 6 to 15, or $35 per car of up to five passengers. Although the area generally experiences mild weather throughout the year, the summit’s temperature is typically 30 to 40 degrees cooler than Colorado Springs, so dress accordingly.
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Mystic Aquarium: Mystic, Connecticut
All ages can enjoy Mystic, a charming seaport village considered one of the top things to do in Connecticut. This quintessential destination offers a range of tourist attractions, including the Mystic Aquarium. This family-friendly institution has indoor and outdoor exhibits and serves as the only New England aquarium with beluga whales. Families can get hands-on by touching sharks, sting rays and crabs, attending a show with California sea lions or even painting with a seal. Tickets start at about $29 for adults and $21 for children and vary depending on the date. After your visit, wander through the village along the Mystic River and past local shops and restaurants.
DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum: Fenwick Island, Delaware
Dreaming of lost treasure and the vast riches from countless shipwrecks that may lie below the sea? Explore your fantasies at the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum in Delaware, which offers an impressive collection of recovered shipwreck artifacts dating back to the 17th century. You’ll find at least 10,000 items at any given time, though artifacts are rotated throughout other museums around the world. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
Walt Disney World Resort: Orlando, Florida
If you’re a kid at heart, chances are you’ll love visiting Walt Disney World Resort just outside of Orlando. This treasured destination, which opened its doors in 1971, welcomes millions of visitors every year. The more than 40-square-mile property features four theme parks, two water parks, numerous resorts and the Disney Springs entertainment area. Magic Kingdom is home to classic rides like Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion, while Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom host an array of popular festivals and offer sections modeled after Disney movies like “Toy Story” and “Avatar.” Although Walt Disney World is busy year-round, you’ll likely find milder weather and fewer tourists if you arrive in the spring or fall, when school is in session. One-day tickets start at $109 for visitors aged 10 and older.
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World of Coca-Cola: Atlanta, Georgia
Road to Hana: Hana, Maui, Hawaii
For an overview of Maui’s beauty, drive from Kahului to Hana on the 52-mile Road to Hana. The journey – which typically takes between two and four hours to complete – offers fantastic views of scenic rainforests, waterfalls and seascapes as you travel around 620 curves and across nearly 60 bridges. You can sign up for a private or group tour
if you’d rather not make the drive yourself. To seek out even more jaw-dropping panoramas, venture about 10 miles southwest of Hana to Haleakala National Park. Hana itself is a charming town with a black sand beach, a tropical botanical garden and the state’s largest Hawaiian temple. Maui’s consistently mild climate draws visitors year-round, though fall’s thinner crowds make it a terrific time to drive the Road to Hana. You can download audio guide apps that will lead you to great stops and hikes along the way.
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Kirkham Hot Springs: Lowman, Idaho
A popular activity in the state of Idaho is to visit one of its many hot springs. Visitors can soak in these geothermal pools, and one of the best known is Kirkham Hot Springs, just north of Lowman. Head down a wooden staircase to experience multiple pools at various temperatures at this site. There’s even a feature that feels like a hot shower. These natural springs are free to visit, though they are busiest during the summer months due to a nearby campground.
Chicago River: Chicago, Illinois
To glimpse Chicago’s world-renowned architecture and many of its must-see tourist attractions – from The Magnificent Mile to Lake Michigan to the Willis Tower – in a short amount of time, consider exploring the Chicago River. The Chicago Riverwalk is a picturesque spot to enjoy a leisurely stroll, while the riverfront Chicago Architecture Center is the place to go to check out skyscraper models before signing up
for a Chicago architecture river cruise
. You can also get out on the river by climbing aboard a Chicago Water Taxi or renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from companies like Kayak Chicago. Spring and fall are great times to visit Chicago, as the weather is pleasant and crowds are thinner than what you’ll find in the peak summer season.
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Indianapolis, Indiana
Lay your eyes on the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway track, home of the Indianapolis 500 auto race and designated a National Historic Landmark. Inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, which is located inside the 2.5-mile oval track, you’ll find countless race cars, memorabilia, trophies, photos and more celebrating the sport of auto racing. You can also opt to take a tour on the track itself, stopping at the famous Yard of Bricks and, if you wish, “kissing” it according to tradition. If you want to ride on the track, avoid the month of May when it’s in use for the annual Indianapolis 500.
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The Field of Dreams: Dyersville, Iowa
Baseball fans won’t want to miss a stop at the site of the filming of the movie “Field of Dreams” in Dyersville, Iowa. An Academy Award nominee for best picture in 1990, this classic film inspired many in the pursuit of their dreams. Here amidst the cornfields you can tour the iconic farm house
, explore the field and take home a souvenir from the Baseballism store. In 2021, the site hosted its first Major League Baseball regular season game, with plans for future games. Home tours are $20 for adults, $12 for kids 3 to 12 and free for children 2 or younger.
Oz Museum: Wamego, Kansas
Dorothy might not be in Kansas anymore, but the next time you’re there, you can explore everything there is to know about Dorothy and “The Wizard of Oz” at the Oz Museum in Wamego. You’ll find first editions of the book, board games, collectibles and more at this quirky tourist attraction. Museum highlights include recreated ruby slippers, movie posters, actor autographs and props from the Broadway musical “Wicked.” Entry is $10 for adults, $8 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for younger kids.
Kentucky Horse Park: Lexington, Kentucky
In the thoroughbred country of Kentucky, visit the 1,200-acre Kentucky Horse Park, a perfect stop for horse lovers. Here in Lexington, known to many as the Horse Capital of the World, you’ll learn all about the history of our relationship with horses at three museums, engage in equine presentations, go on a horseback ride, and even watch competitions and breed shows. Kids will love walking through the Hall of Champions barn to meet retired racehorses who now call the park home. Ticket prices start at $16 for adults and $8 for children 6 to 12 but are free for kids younger than 6. Prices increase during the summer, so you may want to consider visiting during the milder fall or spring.
French Quarter: New Orleans, Louisiana
A visit to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without a stop in the French Quarter. Home to world-famous Bourbon Street, the French Quarter – founded in 1718 – is one of the Big Easy’s most historic neighborhoods. Local must-dos include savoring a beignet at Cafe du Monde, sampling one of the city’s signature hurricane drinks at Pat O’Brien’s and enjoying authentic Creole cuisine at Brennan’s. The French Quarter also features key attractions like St. Louis Cathedral (the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic cathedral in the U.S.) and Jackson Square (a National Historic Landmark named for its bronze statue of Andrew Jackson). Book a walking tour
to acquaint yourself with the ghosts, voodoo and vampires of the neighborhood. Since New Orleans can get hot and muggy during the summer months, consider visiting in December or January, when average highs sit in the 60s.
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Acadia National Park: Bar Harbor, Maine
Explore coastal Maine throughout the 47,000-acre Acadia National Park, situated about 50 miles from Bangor. Known for Cadillac Mountain, a great place to watch the sun rise, this attraction also offers beautiful coastal views, beaches and more than 100 miles of hiking trails. Passes cost $30 per vehicle to enter or $15 per person by bike or on foot, and reservations to drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain may be required during peak months. Acadia National Park, one of the top things to do in Maine, is busiest during summer, so consider a fall visit to see autumn leaves or perhaps plan to enjoy fishing during the spring. If you do happen to come in summer, though, you’ll be just in time to attend free public events through the Cultural Connections in the Park program, held in partnership with the nearby Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor to educate visitors about the local Native American tribes. The museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, delves into the art, history and culture of the Wabanaki peoples native to the land.
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National Aquarium: Baltimore, Maryland
Tucked into the Inner Harbor of Baltimore is the National Aquarium, home to award-winning exhibits and more than 20,000 aquatic animals. Immerse yourself in the interactive “Living Seashore” exhibit, which allows you to see and touch more than 150 sea creatures, and in unique habitats like an Indo-Pacific reef. Dolphin lovers will enjoy observing the aquarium’s colony of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and even signing up to watch a training session or 4D movie. If one day doesn’t sate your marine mania, the National Aquarium offers a sleepover experience for an after-dark adventure behind the scenes. Admission to this attraction is $39.95 for adults and $29.95 for children ages 3 to 11. The Inner Harbor offers a convenient cluster of museums to browse after your aquarium visit, from the Maryland Science Center to the American Visionary Art Museum to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which celebrates local Black history and culture.
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Freedom Trail: Boston, Massachusetts
See many of Boston’s most historic sites along its 2.5-mile Freedom Trail. This attraction features 16 museums, churches, historical markers and even a ship that tell the story of our country from the American Revolution forward. Top stops along the trail include Old North Church, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the Paul Revere House, the USS Constitution and the Old State House. Walk the trail yourself, sign up for an adventure by bicycle
or book one of many other tours that specialize in topics such as women, African Americans, pirates, pubs, the macabre history of Boston and more.
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Mackinac Island: Michigan
Slip back into days gone by with a trip to quaint and historic Mackinac Island in Michigan. On this island, you’ll find no cars or chain hotels – only charming inns, bed and breakfasts, and historic hotels. Known for its world-famous fudge, Mackinac Island is the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll, a carriage ride or a bike ride. Other fun family activities include a tour of the Colonial-era Fort Mackinac, horseback riding or fishing on the Great Lakes. When traversing the roadway around the island, look out for the informational panels of the Native American Cultural History Trail.
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Mall of America: Bloomington, Minnesota
Treat yourself to some retail therapy at the largest shopping and entertainment destination in the U.S. Located about 10 miles south of downtown Minneapolis, the Mall of America features more than 500 shops, 60 restaurants, a miniature golf course, an aquarium and the ride-filled Nickelodeon Universe. After a busy day of shopping or riding roller coasters, unwind at the Radisson Blu Mall of America or the JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America; both hotels are directly connected to the mall for easy access. Like many malls, holidays and weekends are generally when crowds are at their thickest, so consider visiting during the week.
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Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum: Tupelo, Mississippi
Memphis, with its famed Graceland, might be the main city that comes to mind when you think of Elvis Presley, but the “king” was actually born in Tupelo, Mississippi. At the site of his birthplace, you can visit the home where he lived for the first few years of his life, walk in the building where his family attended church, see statues that represent his journey and take home a souvenir from the gift shop. Tickets start at $10 for adults and $5 for children 7 to 12 for one attraction, with younger kids admitted free.
Gateway Arch: St. Louis, Missouri
The midcentury modern Gateway Arch, designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1948 and completed in 1965, sits in Gateway Arch National Park between St. Louis’ Old Courthouse and the Mississippi River. Measuring 630 feet high and 630 feet wide, the stainless steel structure is the tallest man-made monument in the U.S. It stands as a symbol of America’s westward expansion. Travelers can take a tram ride to the top for expansive city and river vistas, but past visitors recommended heading to the arch before noon to avoid crowds. Tram rides start at $15 for adults and $11 for children ages 3 to 15, with exact fees varying depending on the day and time of year. The Museum at the Gateway Arch is free to visit.
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Glacier National Park: West Glacier, Montana
One of America’s most beautiful landscapes, Glacier National Park expands through Montana dotted with mountains, lakes, alpine meadows, glaciers and waterfalls. Its popular 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road offers picturesque scenery, though you’ll want to check ahead to see if you need a reservation to access the road. Outside of your car, hike more than 700 miles of trails or enjoy biking, fishing, boating, cross-country skiing and more. Entrance fees in the warmer months cost $35 per vehicle for a seven-day pass or $20 per person by foot or bike. Most businesses and services are only open May through September, making it the busiest – but also the best – time to visit one of the top things to do in Montana. Summertime at the park also features the Native America Speaks program, where tribal members share some history and culture with visitors through stories, music and dance.
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Chimney Rock National Historic Site: Bayard, Nebraska
One of the most famous sites along the American West’s Oregon Trail, Chimney Rock stands at more than 4,000 feet tall and once indicated to 1800s travelers headed west that they were on the right path. Made from Brule clay, volcanic ash and sandstone, this iconic rock was also once home to a nearby Pony Express station and later a telegraph and stage station. Today you can drop by the Chimney Rock Visitor Center and nearby cemetery with no fees for admission.
Las Vegas Strip: Las Vegas, Nevada
Mount Washington Cog Railway: Mount Washington, New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, head to the majestic White Mountains to embark on the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world, which also happens to be the second steepest. In this unusual form of transportation, you’ll make your way through three climate zones and up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, in less than an hour. As you head to the base to board the railway, enjoy a stop at the Upper Ammonoosuc Falls and look out for bears and moose who call the area home. Bring your jacket to explore the summit, where temperatures are quite a bit cooler than at the base, and take some time to check out the visitor center and rooftop observation deck. Tickets start at $49 per person.
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Cape May: New Jersey
New Jersey’s southernmost beach has been drawing vacationers since the Colonial era, making Cape May the nation’s oldest seaside resort and one of the state’s top things to do. This historic town on the Jersey Cape, located about 45 miles from Atlantic City, offers 2.5 miles of family-friendly beaches with various activities and a scenic promenade for walking and biking. The nearby Washington Street Mall’s quaint shops and range of local restaurants immerse travelers in the pleasant atmosphere of Cape May, while grand Victorian houses such as the Emlen Physick Estate offer an opportunity to admire its architecture and history. Keep an eye out for dolphins, book a ghost tour or stop by a vineyard – either way, you’ll never be bored.
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White Sands National Park: Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico
Get ready to be dazzled by the world’s largest gypsum dune field at White Sands National Park in New Mexico. At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert, the dunes stand around 4,000 feet above sea level and extend more than 270 square miles. Made of hydrous calcium sulfate, which causes their white color, the dunes are formed from minerals left from evaporating lakes. You can drive, hike or bike the dunes – or, better yet, “sled” them on special plastic snow saucers available for purchase in the gift shop. Admission fees are $25 per vehicle or $15 per person walking or biking.
Statue of Liberty: New York City, New York
It’s hard to imagine a better symbol of America than the Statue of Liberty, gifted by France to celebrate 100 years of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. While there are plenty of ways to see the famous lady on Liberty Island, a ride on the free Staten Island Ferry is the cheapest. To learn more about Lady Liberty, you could book a guided tour or cruise
. This New York City sightseeing option does not stop outside the attraction, though; if you want to go inside, you will need to pay $12.30 per child aged 2 to 12 or $24.30 per adult for a pedestal reserve ticket from Statue City Cruises. The ticket includes a cruise to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, as well as pedestal access. Buy your tickets in advance, especially during the busy summer months.
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Wright Brothers National Memorial: Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Learn more about the origins of flight at this memorial to Wilbur and Orville Wright, who famously achieved flight here in 1903. At the Wright Brothers National Memorial in the Outer Banks, you can see a full-scale replica of the Wright Flyer and camp buildings similar to those used by the brothers to work on their airplane. The Wright brothers lived in Dayton, Ohio, but conducted many of their flying experiments on North Carolina’s beaches because of their privacy, reliable winds and wide-open spaces. Tickets to the memorial cost $10 per adult, while kids aged 15 and younger get in free. Plan a visit to one of the top things to do in North Carolina in spring or fall to avoid encountering hordes of tourists and paying extra for accommodations during the Outer Banks’ peak summer season.
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Theodore Roosevelt National Park: North Dakota
Discover the vast wilderness that once enchanted President Theodore Roosevelt. In the Badlands area of North Dakota, this national park beckons you with wild horses and bison, scenic drives and hiking trails. Gaze out over the Painted Canyon, discover prairie dog “towns,” explore the 36-mile scenic loop drive and the Theodore Roosevelt North Unit Scenic Byway, and wander the Old West cowtown of Medora. Entrance fees cost $30 per vehicle for a seven-day pass or $15 per person on foot or bike – or even on horse.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Cleveland, Ohio
Designed by architect I.M. Pei, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame sits in downtown Cleveland right on the shores of Lake Erie. Inside you can see myriad music memorabilia like John Lennon’s guitar, Jam Master Jay’s gold chains and the Pink Floyd tour replica of The Wall. You don’t have to be a die-hard rock ‘n’ roll fan to enjoy the many exhibits, both permanent and temporary, in this one-of-a-kind museum. Visit in the summer to attend their outdoor concert series. Ticket prices start at $35 for adults and $25 for kids 6 to 12 in the peak season from May through September, but kids 5 and younger can go for free. Currently, the museum requires tickets booked in advance
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First Americans Museum: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Showcasing the collective histories of 39 First American Nations, this museum celebrates the cultural traditions, histories, diversities and contributions of the First Americans. Set on the banks of the Oklahoma River across from downtown Oklahoma City, the museum has a symbolic east-to-west arrival. The 175,000-square-foot complex has state-of-the-art galleries with First American exhibitions detailing history, culture and art, educational programs and a full-service restaurant and cafe serving Native-inspired cuisine. In the museum store you’ll find one-of-a-kind basketry, pottery, textiles, jewelry and art by First American artists.
Mount Hood: Oregon
An iconic sight on Portland’s skyline and Oregon’s tallest mountain, the larger-than-life Mount Hood is the region’s prime skiing area even in summer; it’s also home to forests, waterfalls, the Clackamas River and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. In and around the volcanic Mount Hood, enjoy plentiful hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, fishing, local foods and more. Follow the Infinity Loop for a road trip through many of the area’s top sites, including orchards, vineyards, the historic Oregon Trail and local shops. To soak up all the mountain and surrounding gorge have to offer, consider booking a guided day trip
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Liberty Bell: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Located just north of Independence Hall inside the Liberty Bell Center, the Liberty Bell is a universal symbol of American democracy and freedom. In addition to laying eyes upon the 2,080-pound bell’s famous crack, visitors can view this Philadelphia relic’s world-renowned inscription: “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.” Also available in the Liberty Bell Center are X-rays that reveal the interior of the bell, as well as exhibits explaining how the bell was used to fight against slavery and support women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement. There is no fee to see the bell, but travelers will want to arrive early to avoid long wait times on warmer days. For a more comprehensive exploration of the birthplace of America, sign up for a guided walking tour
on Philadelphia’s history.
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The Breakers: Newport, Rhode Island
See what life was like for the Vanderbilt family in the late 1800s at the opulent Breakers mansion, a Renaissance-style “summer cottage” that covers nearly an acre of the 13-acre Newport property it’s set on. With a classic Italian palazzo design by Richard Morris Hunt, the 70-room home, now a National Historic Landmark, features ocean views, a Great Hall with a 50-foot high ceiling and a Dining Room with Baccarat crystal chandeliers. When you’re finished ogling this grand display of wealth, take a stroll down the nearby 3.5-mile Cliff Walk. Tickets to see the house and grounds cost $26 for adults and $8 for ages 6 to 17. You can also book a trolley tour
of Newport’s historical mansions that includes admission to The Breakers.
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Fort Sumter National Monument: Charleston, South Carolina
See where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter National Monument in historic Charleston. The fort was occupied by the Confederate States Army for nearly four years during the Siege of Charleston. This must-see for history buffs is only accessible by boat, so for an up-close look you’ll need to pay for an excursion with Fort Sumter Tours. Each round-trip boat tour costs $32 per adult and $19 per child aged 4 to 11 and lasts about two hours. The experience includes time to explore the fort on foot, plus a cruise past the Battery and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. For a fully narrated exploration of the Charleston Harbor, hop on a sightseeing boat tour
. Summertime is often hot and muggy here, so consider a spring or fall visit.
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Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Keystone, South Dakota
Pay tribute to some of America’s greatest presidents at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This impressive granite landmark features the 60-foot-tall faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, four former presidents who together represent 150 years of U.S. history. Get the closest view of the monument on the Presidential Trail, which also features the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village to learn about local Indigenous tribes. Meanwhile, families will likely enjoy participating in the memorial’s Junior Ranger Program or taking a narrated bus tour
through the area. Another popular activity is the lighting ceremony, an evening summer event that includes illumination of the presidents’ faces and a ranger talk. To access the memorial, a $10 per vehicle parking fee applies, though admission is free. For a decreased chance of rain and fog, avoid visiting in May or June.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: Nashville, Tennessee
Country music fans will want to head to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville to explore this genre of music and its historical roots. Inside you’ll find more than 2.5 million artifacts, including photos, costumes, recordings, instruments and more. You can even view items like Elvis Presley’s solid gold Cadillac, Gene Autry’s lunchbox and Johnny Cash’s boots and leather overcoat. Tickets to this tourist attraction, which you can book in advance
to skip the line, range from about $18 for ages 6 to 12 to $28 for adults. For more music history, visit the nearby National Museum of African American Music, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, Ryman Auditorium and the Johnny Cash Museum.
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The Alamo: San Antonio, Texas
Originally founded as a mission in 1718, the Alamo represents Texas independence and freedom. The historic site is best known for its role in the Texas Revolution, when in 1836 close to 200 soldiers defended the property for 13 days against Mexican Gen. Santa Anna and his 2,500 troops. The Alamo now stands as a tribute to many Texas soldiers, including James Bowie and Davy Crockett, who died during the battle. Today, visitors can check out the site’s many historic buildings, artifacts and gardens before or after exploring other must-see tourist attractions like the River Walk and the Spanish Governor’s Palace; both sit within walking distance of the Alamo in downtown San Antonio. There is no fee to visit the property, but to go inside the Alamo Church you will need to reserve a timed ticket in advance. Guided tours are also available for $30 to $40 per person depending on age.
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Zion National Park: Utah
For a truly otherworldly landscape, head to the breathtaking Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. This national park is filled with red rocks, canyons, waterfalls and hanging gardens, many of which can be viewed while hiking, biking, canyoneering or horseback riding. Some of the protected area’s most popular hikes include the Angels Landing trail – with sheer drop-offs on either side and chains for hikers to cling to – and The Narrows, a trail that involves trekking through a river inside a slot canyon. Adventure lovers can also book an off-road slot canyon tour
by UTV. The park is busiest from March through October, so consider arriving early to avoid long lines at the entrance or using the free shuttle to prevent parking troubles. Note that during peak months Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles, but other park roads are open. Admission costs $35 per vehicle or $20 per person entering on foot or via bike. Check ahead to see if you need advance reservations for the shuttle or a permit for certain popular hikes.
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Smugglers’ Notch Resort: Jeffersonville, Vermont
A favorite of families, Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont’s Green Mountains offers year-round fun from skiing in the winter to hiking in the summer. You’ll be hard-pressed to get bored at “Smuggs” with seemingly every activity under the sun at your fingertips, including water parks, playgrounds, a skate park, mountain biking and numerous activities planned daily like hikes and llama treks. If you visit during ski season, you’ll also be just in time for ice skating, tubing and snowshoe fun. Choose from accommodations ranging from one- to five-bedroom condos across five communities. For a deeper dive into the natural wonders of Vermont during your stay, check out Smugglers’ Notch State Park in nearby Stowe.
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Colonial Williamsburg: Williamsburg, Virginia
Delve into life in the past at Colonial Williamsburg, our country’s largest and most prosperous colony. You can see original homes, buildings and shops in this 18th-century Williamsburg town, as well as recreations of 18th-century trades, rare animals and restored gardens on the 300-acre site. Top attractions include the Capitol, Governor’s Palace, George Wythe House and Bruton Parish Church. History fanatics will love interacting with townspeople, taking a tour or browsing authentic wares at America’s largest living museum. Single-day tickets start at about $26 for kids 6 to 12 and $47 per adult, or you can stay at participating resorts to get free admission.
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Space Needle: Seattle, Washington
When you think of Seattle, chances are the Space Needle immediately springs to mind. Designed for the space-themed 1962 World’s Fair, the futuristic structure was renovated in 2018 to include the Skyrisers – glass benches that allow travelers’ feet to dangle as they lean over the city – and The Loupe, the world’s only rotating glass floor. Less adventurous visitors who want to enjoy panoramic views of the city, Puget Sound and Mount Rainier can take in their surroundings through floor-to-ceiling windows. The 605-foot-tall Space Needle is open every day, and tickets start at $35 for adults and $26 for children 5 to 12. Exact fees vary depending on the season.
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White House and the National Mall: Washington, D.C.
Built in 1800, the home of America’s commander in chief is a top U.S. tourist attraction, as is the neighboring National Mall. While you can walk by the White House at any time in Washington, D.C., it’s also possible to take a free tour of select rooms. To make the request
, you’ll need to contact your congressional representative or your country’s embassy between 21 days and three months before your visit; spaces are limited and fill up quickly. If you’re unable to secure a spot on a tour, you can still enjoy photo-worthy views of the White House from the surrounding 82-acre President’s Park on the National Mall. Be sure to explore the National Mall, the country’s most visited national park, which stretches more than 2 miles from the U.S. Capitol to the century-old Lincoln Memorial. Along the way you’ll find myriad other historical sites, such as the Washington Monument, the iconic 555-foot obelisk built in 1884, or the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial honoring the civil rights leader. If all those attractions aren’t enough history for you, stroll the pedestrian-friendly boulevards toward the 11 free Smithsonian museums housed on the National Mall, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest addition.
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Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers and just an hour outside of Washington, D.C., this historic town hosted abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 raid on the federal arsenal that lit the fuse on the Civil War. The Lower Town of Harpers Ferry comprises a range of sites that tell the stories of civil rights and war. While you soak up all the history, perhaps with a visit to John Brown’s Fort, you can also explore the beautiful scenery along the famous Appalachian Trail, enjoy a meal at Hamilton’s Tavern 1840 and stroll through the John Brown Wax Museum, located in a historic building from the time of Brown’s raid.
Lambeau Field: Green Bay, Wisconsin
Sports fans won’t want to miss an opportunity to lay eyes on the famed Lambeau Field, home of Wisconsin’s NFL team, and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. Book one of several tours of the stadium that allow you to descend to field level through the players’ tunnel, experience premium seating areas, and learn about the stadium and the Packers organization; one option even includes visiting the press box and team locker room. Tours start at $21 for adults and $12 for children 6 to 17. Admission to the Hall of Fame, which is $18 for adults, can be combined with various tours. Note that, on home game days, tours are not offered and only game ticket holders can visit the Hall of Fame.
Yellowstone National Park: Wyoming
Unfurling across the northwest corner of Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park encompasses more than 2 million acres filled with wildlife and jaw-dropping natural wonders like Old Faithful, Lower Falls and Yellowstone Lake. More than 10,000 geothermal features such as geysers and mud pots give this awe-inspiring outdoor paradise its brilliant colors. The park, 4% of which creeps over the borders into Montana and Idaho, is open year-round and offers different experiences during each season. You’ll find the most tourists in the summer, while winter offers more elbow room at attractions because some roads and facilities are closed. For in-park accommodations, you’ll have your pick of up to nine lodges (options vary depending on the season). There are also 12 campgrounds with thousands of sites available if you visit in the warmer months. Consider embarking on a guided safari
or navigating Yellowstone National Park in a recreational vehicle, as this allows you to explore before and after the crowds arrive and depart for the day. Entrance fees are $35 per vehicle or $20 per person on foot, bike or skis.
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