Have you been on a school field trip or family vacation to a cultural landmark, like Mt. Rushmore or to a local historical battlefield? If so, you know it can be exciting and fun to visit a landmark, nature preserve, historical monument or cultural heritage site. These important sites give us clues to help us piece together the puzzle of our past and learn about today’s American culture. The United States has lots of landmarks and protected places. A landmark is a site or building that has historical significance. National historic sites and historic parks protect historical places that are considered to be culturally significant. Some historical sites, like battlefields and military parks, preserve U.S. military history. National monuments are designated to protect and preserve either important cultural or natural places. Sometimes several sites related to a particular theme are protected and called heritage areas–the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area or Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail for example. Nature preserves, sometimes called reserves, protect habitats for plants and animals, including endangered species.
Many of the landmarks and protected places in the United States are cared for by the Department of the Interior. First established by Congress on March 3, 1849, as a department within the government to handle the country’s internal affairs, the DOI includes the National Park Service. Part of its mission is to provide protection and public access to the nation’s natural and cultural heritage. That may sound like a lot more information than you want to know. What it simply means is that the U.S. government has the responsibility to make it possible for its citizens to visit and enjoy the country’s important places, not just today but for other generations in the future.
When you get to visit one of the national parks like Grand Canyon National Park or Everglades National Park or one of the hundreds of other U.S. landmarks, have lots of fun and learn about their history and how they came to be recognized as important natural, cultural or historical sites. You can also visit most of these places without even leaving home. Through the Internet you can find information and interesting facts, see pictures, videos and even some live webcam views like the Old Faithful Geyser erupting in Yellowstone National Park. If you and your family can’t take a real trip, just choose a site and head out on a virtual adventure.
The Colorado River runs through this spectacular mile-deep canyon that cuts across the Colorado Plateau in Northern Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park (designated in 1919) covers most of its 277 miles, shares sections with the Havasupai and Hualapai Indian Reservations.
The Gateway Arch
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri, is home to the Gateway Arch. Thomas Jefferson was big supporter of westward expansion of the United States and the Arch symbolizes the part that St. Louis played as a gateway for the wagon trains traveling west.
This national memorial, dedicated in 1922 to Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, sits on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It is a symbol of freedom for all and was the site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech in 1963.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
Located in Cooperstown, New York, is dedicated to preserving the history of baseball and promoting an understanding of the impact of the game on America’s culture. It consists of three parts, the museum, Hall of Fame and a library for research.
Paul Revere House
Since 1680, this little wooden house has stood in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. Paul Revere bought it in 1770 and the house became famous as the starting point for his famous midnight ride to warn the colonists of the approach of British troops.
Since it was completed in 1884, the Washington Monument has been one of the most popular sites in Washington, D.C. This monument, built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States, sites at the end of the National Mall.
Everglades National Park
Southern Florida’s Everglades National Park, a subtropical wilderness, is home to many rare and endangered species. In addition to the American alligator, visitors may catch a glimpse of one of the dangerous invaders of the park, the Burmese python.
Bunker Hill Monument
This monument is dedicated to the Battle of Bunker Hill, at the beginning of America’s Revolutionary War, which was actually fought on Breed’s Hill in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1775. The cornerstone for the monument was laid on the 50th anniversary of the battle.
This site of the famous Battle of the Alamo was originally built as a home for missionaries and was called the Mission San Antonio de Valero. Today, it is remembered because of the big role in played in the Texas Revolution in early 1836.
Denali National Park
Denali is a national park and preserve that protects more than six million acres of amazing Alaskan wilderness. It was originally named Mount McKinley National Park. When it was first designated in 1917, the park was much smaller and didn’t even include its namesake, Mount McKinley.
Located in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve, Mount McKinley is North America’s highest peak at over 20 thousand feet. Mount McKinley’s native name is Denali, meaning the high one.
Acadia National Park
Established in 1916, Acadia National Park covers a bit of the coast of Maine, Mount Desert Island and some smaller islands. Near the town of Bar Harbor, it is one of the most-visited national parks, with more than two million visitors every year.
Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the United States, made his home at Monticello. The home, gardens and plantation have been preserved and are open to the public. Monticello is located in Virginia, just outside of Charlotte.
The USS Constitution
This wooden ship was named by George Washington as a tribute to the Constitution of the United States and launched in 1797. Still afloat today, she welcomes the public and reminds visitors of the country’s long history. At home in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, the USS Constitution is undergoing a major three-year restoration, which has not stopped the tours through the ship.
The US Constitution
The United States Constitution makes it home at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Visitors can view this document upon which America is built, along with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.
The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell and its famous crack have come to symbolize freedom for Americans. The bell that rests in the Liberty Bell Pavilion on Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was rung on the day the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Golden Gate Bridge
Finished in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge which spans the entrance to San Francisco Bay has come to symbolize this California city. It takes almost 40 painters to keep up with maintenance of the bridge that is one of the country’s most popular landmarks.
The Niagara River produces the world famous Niagara Falls. Canada and the United States can lay claim to one of North America’s most well-known tour attractions, since Niagara Falls sit in both countries. American Falls are on the United States side and Horseshoe Falls is mostly in Canada. In 2008, Congress designated the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area as a naturally and culturally important to America.
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is carved into a mountain outside of Keystone, South Dakota. Sculpted from the granite of the mountain side, visitors will find the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. It took some 400 workers about 14 years to complete the sculpture.
The White House
The home of the president of the United States, the White House, is also known as the President’s Park and is cared for by the National Park Service. Visitors can tour the White House and learn about its history and the people who have lived in it down through the years.
Library of Congress
In Washington, D.C., the oldest cultural institution of the U.S. government is also the world’s largest library. It serves not just Congress but all the people of America and aims to protect its vast collection of resources for future generations. Visitors can tour the library and learn about the collections and history of this American landmark. Virtual tours are also available online.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, located in Southeastern Alaska, protects over three million acres, much of it designated as a wilderness area, with no roads leading into it. Most visitors arrive by cruise ship, to catch a glimpse of an amazing array of wildlife and to take in the spectacular glacial views.
Statue of Liberty
One of the most important historic places in the United States is the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Dedicated in 1886, Lady Liberty, a gift of friendship from France, stands tall against the city’s skyline and was the sight that thousands upon thousands of immigrants to this country wanted to see as they sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and into the safe harbor. This iconic American landmark still draws visitors from across the U.S. and around the world.
A mysterious desert place, Death Valley, California, is the hottest spot in the United States, as well as the country’s lowest location. Most of the area is encompassed by Death Valley National Park. Despite its barren appearance, Death Valley is a favorite vacation destination for many travelers, especially golfers who play its resort courses.
How does a rock become famous? When it was a much-anticipated landmark for travelers headed west in the 1800s. Independence Rock still occupies its original spot in Natrona County, Wyoming, and is today part of Independence Rock State Historic Site and is a national historic landmark.
Mammoth Cave is a national park, an international biosphere reserve and a world heritage site. This Kentucky cave system is the longest found so far on Earth. Visitors may take guided cave tours during which they not only see Mammoth’s underground wonders, but learn out how and when they were formed.
Old Faithful Geyser
Probably one of the most recognizable natural landmarks on Earth, Old Faithful is located amidst the hot, bubbly, steaming landscape of Yellowstone National Park. The hot springs, mudpots, femaroles and geysers of Yellowstone make up more than half of the geothermal features on the planet.
The Parthenon in Tennessee? That’s right. A full-scale replica of the Parthenon was built in Nashville, Tennessee, to celebrate the state’s 100th anniversary. Where’s Athena? The statue of Athena wasn’t finished until 1990 and she had to wait another 12 years to get her golden coat of gilding. The Parthenon stands in Centennial Park and visitors are welcome year round.
This beautiful fountain at Grant’s Park is one of Chicago’s most popular attractions. Opened in 1927 and restored in 1994, Buckingham Fountain is made of pink marble and boasts displays from 1.5 million gallons of water through 134 jets and 820 lights.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is home to Independence Hall, where both the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed. Formerly called the Pennsylvania Statehouse, this important building is part of Independence National Historical Park.
Located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Jefferson Memorial pays tribute to Thomas Jefferson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd president of the United States. It is cared for and protected by the National Park Service as part of the National Mall & Memorial Parks area.
The Smithsonian is America’s premier educational center that consists of 19 museums and nine research Centers. The Natural History Museum, American Indian Museum, National Zoo and the Air and Space Museum are favorites of visitors to Washington, D.C. from around the world.
American Museum of Natural History
New York City is home to the American Museum of Natural History, one of American’s most important scientific and cultural places. Founded in 1869, the AMNH is a loved by kids and adults alike. Through the museum’s exhibits, visitor’s get to explore the history of the earth and its people.
In 1936, when Hoover Dam was finished across the Colorado River, with Nevada on one side and Arizona on the other, it was the biggest concrete structure ever constructed. Today, it’s still producing electricity for the Southwest and is seen by millions each year as they drive across the dam on their way to Las Vegas and California beyond. Traffic will soon be rerouted to cross the Black Canyon on a new bypass bridge that is an architectural marvel in its own right. When that happens, Hoover Dam visitor facilities and parking will be upgraded.
Historic Route 66
This old highway, or at least what’s left of it, passes by lots of iconic landmarks of American culture. Beginning in Chicago, Illinois, and ending in Santa Monica, California, Historic Route 66 is still called the Mother Road. This highway still attracts fans who want to travel down a road that brings back memories of days gone by.
Mesa Verde National Park
This Colorado national park protects Ancient Pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde which means green table. Park rangers protect this important archaeological site and help visitors learn about the people who lived in the area more than 700 years ago. These spectacular cliff dwellings are one of America’s special cultural heritage sites.