Sears Tower, Chicago. It's fitting that the country's tallest building, the Sears Tower (recently renamed Willis Tower), is in the same city that built the first skyscraper. Chicago's innovation sparked a worldwide race that continues to redefine city skylines.
Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The site of the Civil War's bloodiest battle and of one of Abraham Lincoln's most famous speeches, Gettysburg National Military Park is a lasting memorial to the devastation caused by, and the reasons for, the war that remade the union.
The USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor. The infamous 1941 attack crippled the Pacific fleet and brought America into World War II. The iconic, Alfred Preis–designed bridge hovers over the midsection of the sunken battleship, which remains the underwater grave for 1,177 of her crewmen.
(Michael T. Sedam/Corbis)
New York Harbor. It's still easy to imagine the bay as millions of immigrants might have perceived it on their way to the United States: the promise of the Statue of Liberty, the judgment of Ellis Island, and the hope of Manhattan's skyscrapers rising in the distance.
Monticello, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence and helped define the nation's claim to liberty. Jefferson's home at Monticello is filled with thousands of his prized artifacts and is a fascinating exhibition of the progressive, transformative ideas of its owner.
Canary Springs at Yellowstone.
Yes, other National Parks are stunning, but Yellowstone, signed into being by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, was the very first in the world—and established an early precedent for land conservationists internationally.
The majestic park is home to more than 65 species of mammals, including bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, bison, and more than 1,000 gray wolves.
Upper Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone. Bordered by Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, this national park preserves an enormous natural bounty: It is home to 10,000 hot springs and 300 geysers, numerous lakes and rivers, and 290 waterfalls.
Graceland, Memphis. Elvis Presley blended the homegrown sounds of the Delta blues and country music and shared them with the rest of the world. Graceland, his home, is a similar melting pot of styles and tastes. Like his music, it's American through and through.
Don't think Graceland qualifies? More than 600,000 visitors yearly disagree. And they take it very seriously.
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta. The struggle for racial equality has taken place all over the country, but for Martin Luther King Jr., it began in the church where he was baptized, delivered his first sermon, and served as co-pastor with his father until his death in 1968.
Martin Luther King Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church. King's soaring speeches clarified the goals of the civil rights movement and extended the country's promise of freedom; his example of nonviolence remains an astounding contribution to the country's history of dissent.