A bucket list is a list you make of all the things you want to do before you die. This can range anywhere from skydiving to meeting the President. Though each person’s list is subjective and unique to the individual, there are some things that should be common to all lists.
For instance, if you haven’t been able to get out of your home state much then you will definitely want to do some traveling. Where you go is up to you, but there are some places in the United States that everyone should visit before they die. National landmarks make for great travel destinations, whether you are taking a road trip with friends or going on a family vacation (Read: Take a Break – Top 10 Family Vacation Destinations in the U.S.)
North America is filled with landmarks and famous places from the west coast to the east. Really each of the fifty states is inimitable and worth visiting, but there are some landmarks that stand above the rest in terms of cultural and political significance. These places are our heritage; describing who we were and defining who we are.
Life is sweet but short, so here are the ten U.S. landmarks that you should add right now to your bucket list.
- Mount Rushmore. In the middle of the Black Hills in South Dakota there sits the giant stone busts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. These likenesses are sixty feet high and were carved right out of the mountainside back in the 1930s. Take some time to appreciate these man-made portraits of our past presidents, as well as explore the visitor’s center at the base of the mountain.
- Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is a marvel of biological and geographical diversity. Located in California, the park features waterfalls, granite cliffs, streams, forests, valleys, and even snow and glaciers. Yosemite Valley only represents about one percent of the entire park, but this is the most popular spot for visitors. There are numerous trails that will take you all around the diverse and beautiful landscape. Did you know that Yosemite was the first national park and that it paved the way to creating the entire park system?
- Las Vegas. Las Vegas might be full of itself, but you wouldn’t expect any less from the “Entertainment Capital of the World”. Even before The Hangover people were visiting the city of sin in hopes of a good time. Visit the Strip and step into any of the numerous casino-hotels that have made the city internationally renowned. You will find gambling, dining, shopping and more in the city that is famous for its “don’t ask, don’t tell” mindset. Remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
- Grand Canyon. There are many different canyons in the United States, but none of them are more well-known than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This majestic natural wonder is 277 miles long and its steep rocky walls go down a full mile before they meet the Colorado River. You can spend your time hiking along the rim of the canyon, taking a tour down into the canyon on mule, or even whitewater rafting on the river. The views from the rim are absolutely breathtaking, and it’s easy to see why this is Arizona’s number one tourist attraction.
- Times Square. Much like Las Vegas, Manhattan is a land alive with entertainment and electricity. It’s hard to tell which place is more famous, but Times Square might just give NY the upper hand. One of the most famous locations in the “City that Never Sleeps” the Square features something for everybody at all hours of the day or night. Visit one of the many stores or restaurants, catch the latest off-Broadway hit, or simply stand in amazement at the amount of advertising packed into a single intersection. There is so much to see and do at “The Crossroads of the World” that we couldn’t even begin to describe all of it here. You’ll just have to go and see for yourself!
- The National Mall. If you have never been, then the National Mall and Memorial Parks should certainly be on your bucket list. The area in Washington D.C. features such historic landmarks as The Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument. If you are an ardent jingoist or simply want to learn more about the history of your nation, then take the time to visit and learn from each of these historic places.
- Hoover Dam. If you take a trip to see the Grand Canyon then you would be remiss if you didn’t stop to also see the Hoover Dam, which sits on the Nevada-Arizona border and holds back the great Colorado River. The dam is immense, and for its time it was seen as one of the top engineering feats in the world. The reservoir behind the dam is also the largest in the U.S. in terms of volume. Even more impressive, the dam’s hydroelectric power sends electricity to multiple cities in three different states.
- Gateway Arch. This landmark is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in Missouri, and its purpose is to stand as a monument to westward expansion. The “Gateway to the West” is a symbol of America’s global power and pioneer spirit. Obviously the landmark has much cultural significance, and it has become the iconic image of St. Louis. It is also the tallest man-made monument in North America and largest architectural structure of its kind. The best part is the view of the Mississippi River from inside the very top of the arch.
- The Golden Gate Bridge. Speaking of icons, most people can’t talk about San Francisco without an image of the Golden Gate Bridge in their heads. Considered one of the Wonders of the Modern World, this landmark is probably the most photographed bridge on the planet. Whether you go by car or on foot, journeying across the bridge is quite an experience. It’s even more incredible if you go towards the end of the day, when the setting sun gloriously illuminates the fiery orange infrastructure.
- Hollywood. Some places are on this list because they are beautiful natural wonders, while others make the cut by being famous cultural landmarks. Hollywood, in Los Angeles, California, is definitely more of the second. People travel to Hollywood from all corners of the continent because of its strong cultural identity. America loves movies and movie stars, and Hollywood is the staple of early cinema production. See the infamous Hollywood Sign, take a walk down the Walk of Fame where movie stars are immortalized as stars (yes, it’s a little ostentatious), or catch a flick in the grandiose TCL Chinese Theater (formally known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater). You might not see any real stars, but you will be dazzled by all of the sights, smells, and attractions.
America is a great country and it contains literally thousands of tourist attractions. Picking the top ten was a difficult job, but it was made a little bit easier when one considers the historical, political, and cultural significance of each of these landmarks. Put them down on your bucket list, and if you’ve already been to any then check them off and tell us about your experience in the comment section below!