18 Iconic National Monuments Every American Should Experience

Krystal Smith

The United States takes pride in having several monuments that showcase its rich history. From documenting iconic moments to commemorating the fallen, we take a look at 18 of the most important monuments that you should visit at least once: 

Statue of Liberty (New York)

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The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the U.S.U.S. to commemorate the centennial of American independence and is a universal symbol of freedom. In 2023, over 3.87 million people visited the monument, taking the opportunity to climb to the statue’s crown to view New York City.

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

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One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is a vast chasm carved by the Colorado River over millions of years. The canyon’s colorful layers of rock attract millions of visitors each year either on foot via a manmade walkway or by helicopter for the ultimate experience. While not a memorial monument, this natural wonder is not to be missed.

Alcatraz Island (San Francisco, California) 

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A former military prison turned notorious federal penitentiary, Alcatraz Island is steeped in history. Visitors can take a ferry to the island and tour the prison grounds, including the infamous solitary confinement cells.

Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, California)

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The Golden Gate Bridge is an internationally recognized symbol of San Francisco. Tourists can stop to take pictures o, walk, bike across the bridge, or take a ferry for a more laid-back view.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota) 

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Mount Rushmore is a colossal sculpture featuring the faces of former United States Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The Presidential Trail allows for up-close views of the sculptures, and the best spot for a full photograph is The Grand View Terrace.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho) 

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Yellowstone is America’s first national park and features geothermal features, including geysers, hot springs, and mud pots. The park is also home to wildlife, such as bison, elk, and grizzly bears. Hiking, camping, and exploring the park’s many lakes and waterfalls are popular activities at these monumental sites. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina, Tennessee)

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The Appalachian Mountains are a haven for hikers, campers, and nature lovers looking for stunning mountain views. The waterfalls offer great photographic opportunities, and nature lovers can enjoy diverse plant and animal life. 

Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Washington D.C.)

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The moving tribute to the men and women who served in the Vietnam War is one of the most emotive memorials in the U.S. The memorial consists of a black granite wall inscribed with the names of over 58,000 American service members who died or are missing in action.

Lincoln Memorial (Washington D.C.)

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This neoclassical temple honors President Abraham Lincoln and is a popular tourist destination for those wishing to celebrate Lincoln’s legacy. The centerpiece of the memorial is a 19-foot-tall marble statue of Abraham Lincoln seated in a contemplative pose.

Castle Clinton National Monument (New York City, New York)

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Originally built as a fort in the early 1800s, Castle Clinton once served as a defensive structure, an immigration depot, and an aquarium over the years. Today, the monument offers educational programs and cultural events to showcase the experiences of millions who entered the U.S. through this point, a gateway to a new life.

Muir Woods National Monument ( California)

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Located just north of San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument is home to a towering old-growth redwood forest. Locals and tourists hike among the trees on one of the three trails and learn about the redwood forest ecosystem in the visitor center.

Korean War Memorial (Washington D.C)

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The Korean War Veterans Memorial, located in Washington, D.C.’s West Potomac Park, is not far from the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. It was dedicated in 1995 and memorializes those who served in the Korean War (1950–1953).

George Washington Memorial Parkway (Virginia)

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The George Washington Memorial Parkway is a 25-mile scenic parkway along the south bank of the Potomac River. It’s maintained by the National Park Service. The area’s highlights are Theodore Roosevelt Island, where visitors can learn about Roosevelt’s life and accomplishments, and Great Falls Park, where they can enjoy picturesque waterfalls. 

Natchez Trace Parkway ( Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee)

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The Natchez Trace Parkway is a scenic 444-mile road that winds through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. It roughly follows the path of the historic “Old Natchez Trace,” a travel corridor used by Native Americans, European settlers, and slave traders for centuries.

Arlington National Cemetery

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Arlington National Cemetery is a 639-acre cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. It is the resting place for over 400,000 soldiers, veterans, and their families.

Wounded Knee Monument (South Dakota)

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The Wounded Knee Monument is a memorial on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota that commemorates the Lakota people, who were victims of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.

Crazy Horse Memorial (South Dakota)

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The Crazy Horse Memorial is an impressive mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began work in 1948, inspired by a friendship with Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear. You can view the ongoing sculpting progress from an observation platform and learn more about Crazy Horse and Lakota culture through educational exhibits and films.

Plymouth Rock ( Massachusetts)

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Plymouth Rock is the historical site where the Mayflower Pilgrims were believed to have set foot in 1620. It’s a simple glacial boulder located on the shore of Plymouth Harbor within Pilgrim Memorial State Park. It has become a powerful symbol of their arrival and the founding of one of North America’s first permanent European settlements.

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