The 20 Places Every American Should See

The Grand Canyon's Bright Angel TrailBright Angel Trail in the Grand CanyonYellowstone National Park thermal pool
Yellowstone RiverUS Highway 1Golden Gate Bridge
Disney World's Magic Kingdom Disney World Magic Kingdom entranceTimes Square at night
Times Square by dayLas Vegas StripCasinos on the Las Vegas Strip
Hollywood Walk of FameGrauman Chinese TheatreThe Colony Hotel in Miami's South Beach
South Beach MiamiThe French Quarter of New OrleansSt. Louis Cathdral New Orleans
Gettysburg National BattlefieldCanonsIndependence Hall
Independence Hall interiorEllis Island aerialEllis Island Registry Room
USS Arizona MemorialBattleship Missouri MemorialFenway Park
Fenway Park at nightMetropolitan Museum of Art exteriorMetropolitan Museum interior
Millennium Park ChicagoChicago Downtown architectureNashville skyline
Broadway in NashvillePueblo de Taosgraveyard at Taos Pueblo
Washington DC MallMLK tomb
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Many American landmarks inspire people to think big, but few can match the scale and grandeur of the Grand Canyon. A mule ride along Bright Angel trail, shown here, emphasizes the timelessness of the canyon, a geological wonder more than a million years in the making.

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Tour operators run half-day and overnight mule treks along the trails in Grand Canyon National Park.

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In 1872, 2-million-acre Yellowstone debuted as America's first national park, and visitors began flocking to soak in its hot springs, see elk and bison roam its grasslands, gawk at its geyser known as Old Faithful, and hear gray wolves sound chill-inducing howls at dawn.

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Wide-open space is a unique inheritance for every American, and Yellowstone is the most dramatic example of what "wide-open space" really means. Here, the Lower Falls of Yellowstone River.

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Road trips are practically a rite of passage in the U.S. One of the most meditative—and celebrated—drives you can take in the States is the 135-mile stretch of California's Pacific Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Monterey.

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About two hours north of Monterey, Highway 1 crosses San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, a 75-year-old marvel of engineering and aesthetics.

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Walt Disney pioneered the use of technology to create enchanted moments that surpass the mere roll-into-town carnival. His handiwork is probably our nation's most beloved contribution to global culture, in the form of movies and theme parks such as the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

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Admiring Cinderella's Castle, watching Princess Jasmine hug small children, and listening to the animatronic wax model of Abe Lincoln talk in the Hall of Presidents are typical items on the agenda for Disney World visitors.

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Times Square—the stretch of Broadway between Manhattan's 42nd and 47th streets—delivers the most intense straight-up celebration of round-the-clock visual stimulation in the free world. 365 days a year, it's all lights, cameras, and action.

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Climb the translucent, ruby-red stairs above Times Square's TKTS booth (which sells discounted, same-day Broadway tickets) for a better photo-snapping vantage point.

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The neon-lit desert outpost of Las Vegas has a magnetic pull like no other. Every American ends up on the Strip sooner or later, whether for a bachelor party, a girlfriend getaway, a trade show, or a shockingly cheap hotel-and-airfare deal.

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For a sure bet on a clear view of the Las Vegas cityscape—with its glass pyramids, faux Venetian canal, and Eiffel Tower replica—head to the Ghost bar on top of the Palms Hotel and Spa.


In 2013, Helen Mirren, James Franco, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Ron Howard, and another 19 actors and musicians will be added to the more than 2,400 celebrities who've left their handprints and bronze-engraved names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame since 1958.

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Even a few famous animals have left their paw prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Look for Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and even Godzilla.) And check out the Grauman Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, while you're there.

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No place in the country captures Latin-tropical chic like South Beach, with its 23 pastel-hued blocks of hotels, shops, restaurants, and cocktail bars south of Dade Boulevard. Glamorously restored art deco and art moderne hotels dominate Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, which run parallel to the Atlantic.

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Given an average year-round temperature of 75 degrees, SoBe always draws a pretty crowd for people-watching along its ocean promenade and beaches.

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The French Quarter of New Orleans, which is bounded by the Mississippi River, Rampart Street, Canal, and Esplanade, is home to nightclubs lit up in neon, French colonial townhouses draped in ivy, Creole cottages built on stilts, and antebellum mansions whose balconies are laced with intricate ironwork.

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In Jackson Square, a patch of moss-bearded oaks in the core of the French Quarter, you'll find a striking statue of Andrew Jackson, the neo-gothic St. Louis Cathedral (shown), and Cafe Du Monde, which serves the city's signature beignets (fried dough treats).

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Gettysburg National Battlefield is the most visited of the Civil War battlefields, and has a new, $135 million visitor's center. There, a 20-minute film narrated by Morgan Freeman explains how the three-day fight unfolded, and an 1884 Cyclorama depicts an infantry assault in a 359-foot-long-by-27-foot-high wraparound oil painting.

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The landscape you'll see at Gettysburg National Battlefield is close to what the blue and grey saw, as the park service is slowly restoring tracts of land and forest to how they would have looked during the battle. Here, Civil War cannons are lined up along the famous Seminary Ridge.

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The National Park Service runs tours of Pennsylvania's Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United State were created and signed.

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The Founding Fathers didn't need iPads, PowerPoint or big-screen projectors to debate the Constitution of the United States. So it's apt that the National Park Service keeps its tour of Independence Hall, where those famous discussions were held, free of technological gimmicks.

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Four out of 10 Americans have at least one ancestor who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954—a whopping 12 million immigrants in that 62-year period.

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At the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, you'll visit re-creations of the port's key spaces, such the hearing rooms where people's cases were judged, while an audio tour narrated by Tom Brokaw delivers the back story.

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the USS Arizona Memorial, which honors the men who died on the famous battleship sunk in 1941's Pearl Harbor air raid. A scale model of the ship inside the monument's museum gives a sense of what it must have been like to be on the vessel while it was under attack, and public tours include a 22-minute movie presentation, followed by a visit to the Memorial itself.

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Nearby, a nonprofit group maintains the Battleship Missouri Memorial, which was the site of the formal Japanese surrender, while a preserved World War II submarine can be explored at the adjacent USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, run by another independent group.

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No sport is more central to America's identity than baseball, and the best place to pay homage to it is at Fenway Park in central Boston. In operation for 100 years, Fenway is the nation's oldest stadium that's still home to a Major League Baseball team.

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Fenway Park is steeped in lore, such as for its Pesky Pole, a right-field foul rod so nicknamed because Sox player Johnny Pesky hit a two-run homer around the pole on Opening Day in 1946.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City draws more than 5 million visitors each year, and has a permanent collection of nearly 2 million works that span 5,000 years of creativity.

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The Met has seen a slew of recent renovations: to its American Wing, its Greek and Roman galleries, and its galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.

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Daring architecture is a hallmark of the U.S.A., and Chicago has long been the epicenter of our nation's "edifice complex." No other American city has tried to erect as many high rises spanning as many styles as the Windy City—the birthplace of the skyscraper.

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Chicago's downtown is jam-packed with prized buildings: the 110-story Willis Tower, the world's tallest structure until 1998; the John Hancock Center, whose crisscross trusses leave giant X marks rising 100 stories into the clouds; Tribune Tower, a Gothic fantasy of an office complex; Skybridge, a 39-story, glass-plate wonder that resembles a razor-sharp grater; and Aqua Tower, a two-year-old structure that looks like a topographic wave (or a stack of potato chips).

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Soaking up country music in its native habitat is a true American experience. Nashville, Tenn. (a.k.a. Music City U.S.A.) is the best place to do it: It's dotted with twang-accented institutions, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium, which hosted the Grand Ole Opry for three decades.

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Any trip to Nashville should include a tour of the countless honky-tonks along Broadway such as the Bluebird Cafe, a nightly venue that spotlights the best up-and-coming talents in country.

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The Taos Pueblo in New Mexico contains the largest collection of multi-story pueblo dwellings in the country—well worth its UNESCO World Heritage status—and provides an uncommon insight into the culture of the first Americans.

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Some of the 2,000 Tiwa-speaking people who live on an adjacent reservation continue to use this six-century-old settlement for ceremonial rites, such as for the Deer and Matachines Dances. Here, the Christian graveyard at the Taos Pueblo.

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Downtown Washington, D.C., is packed with landmarks—especially along the neaby Mall.


Popular locations in Atlanta's Civil Rights District include Martin Luther King Jr.'s tomb (shown), the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was baptized and ordained and where his funeral was held, and the King Birth Home, a Queen Anne-style house where he lived for the first dozen years of his life.

Check out our picks for 20 domestic destinations we firmly believe every U.S. citizen should visit—from pop culture icons to patriotic landmarks. Consider it your star-spangled bucket list.

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