Discovering the biggest landmarks in North America is an incredible journey. Even though it houses a modest amount of countries, the New Continent has plenty to offer. The man-made marvels in the United States, the colorful Cuban culture, the mysterious Mayan ruins, and one-of-a-kind natural wonders scattered all around the continent are waiting for you to hop on the plane and visit them.
And if you prefer to travel from the comfort of your armchair, my list here will take you around the most prominent North American landmarks, and who knows, maybe it will induce enough wanderlust to make you plan an adventure of a lifetime!
Statue of Liberty, New York
We start our North American journey with a symbol. But not just a symbol, a symbol that embodies the core belief of an entire nation. Gifted to America by France, the Statue of Liberty resides on a small island in New York and welcomes visitors since 1886. An enduring symbol of independence, the statue represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, and averages more than 4 million guests per year.
It measures 93 meters (151 ft) from the ground to the top of the torch and weighs 204 metric tones. The torch is not open for visitation but if you want to check out the crown view, prepare for a 374 step climb.
Empire State Building, New York
This iconic New York building has been part of the mainstream culture for so long that there’s no place on Earth that hasn’t heard about it.
Built in 1931, the Empire State Building was in fierce competition with the nearby Chrysler Building for the title of highest structure in New York. With its 381 meters (1250 ft), the Empire State won the race and became not only the tallest building in New York but also in the world! The art deco masterpiece held the title for nearly 40 years before the first World Trade Center tower beat it.
Today the Empire State Building may not be the tallest in the world, but it still defines Manhattan’s landscape like nothing else, and it’s undeniably one of the biggest North American landmarks.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
No, this is not a New York landmarks post, but I couldn’t skip the best museum on the continent, right?
There are plenty of world-class museums in the USA, but nothing can beat the Metropolitan. With 17 curatorial departments and more than 2 million (!) works in its permanent collection, the Met simply has it all. The masterpieces of Edgar Degas, Jackson Pollock, and Van Gogh are complimented by the world’s oldest surviving piano, Henry VIII’s armor, an ancient Egyptian Temple, and a vintage Chinese Garden Court.
With an average of 6.7 mln visitors per year, the Met is one of the most popular museums globally, beaten only by the Louvre, the Vatican Museums, and the National Museum of China.
Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota
It’s time to finally get out of New York and explore more of the country. Located near Keystone in the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the most peculiar attractions in North America – Mount Rushmore. Completed in 1941, Mt. Rushmore National Monument is a massive sculpture of the most popular US presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, carved on a mountain.
Although it’s silly to call Mt. Rushmore unpopular, I believe it’s a bit underestimated. It’s a whole engraved mountain, which is incredibly impressive, and it should be way, way more famous if you ask me.
Hoover Dam, Nevada
We move to the west to explore the next incredible man-made marvel – the Hoover Dam. A dam may sound a bit underwhelming for an attraction, but the Hoover Dam is such a great representation of the human’s engineering capabilities it deserves its place on the list.
Opened in 1936, the dam is 221 meters (725ft), and it’s still one of the tallest in the world. It creates the nation’s largest reservoir, and an entire city had to be made to house its workers (Boulder City).
See Also: Top 20 Biggest Landmarks in Europe
Grand Canyon, Arizona
I don’t want you to get the wrong impression that all North American landmarks are man-made. The nature on the continent is second to none, and we take a dip in it with our next attraction – the Grand Canyon. Covering an area of 4,926 km² (1902 mi²), the canyon is neither the largest nor the deepest in the world, but it’s undoubtedly the most famous one. It’s one of America’s favorite attractions, and it even has a human population – the small village of Supai (208 inhabitants) is considered to be the most remote community in the lower 48 states.
Washington Monument, DC
We’re back on the east coast for another symbol – the Washington Monument. The 169 meters-long (555 ft) white obelisk was completed in 1884 and commemorates United States’ first president – George Washington.
A lesser-known fact is that the monument was supposed to be much more impressive. Robert Mills’ winning design was a temple with 30 stone columns and statues of Revolutionary War heroes with Washington driving a horse-drawn chariot above the main entrance, but due to lack of funding, it never came to fruition.
Golden Gate Bridge, California
We’re off to California for our next North American landmark, which is the most famous bridge in the world – Golden Gate Bridge. The west coast icon was completed in 1937 and connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County. It’s 2.7km (1.7mi) long and used to be the longest main suspension bridge span in the world until 1964 when New York City’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge surpassed it.
A lesser-known Golden Gate Bridge fact is that the bridge was supposed to be blue with yellow stripes (yikes). When the steel arrived painted in a burnt red hue, though, the architect decided it’s pleasing to the eye and left it like that.
See Also: Top 20 Landmarks in Africa
Redwood National Park, California
We stay in California to find our next attraction – the Redwood National Park. This park may not be as famous as the other North American landmarks here, but it’s probably my favorite.
Because it is home to the tallest trees in the world – the coast redwoods (and I love trees). The redwoods are just the ultimate trees. They have a lifespan of 500-700 years, some of them exceeding even 2000! They can easily go as high as 91 meters (300 ft), with the tallest, named Hyperion, going all the way to 115 meters (380 ft).
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Our tenth stop is also the last one in the US. Located in the state of Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is one of the most post-perfect national parks on the continent. Established in 1882, it’s the first National Park in the US and is also widely held to be the first national park in the world. Covering an area of 8,983 km2 (3,468.4 square miles), Yellowstone is one of the best places to embrace nature and meet hundreds of species of mammals, birds, and reptilians.
Niagara Falls, Ontario/New York
As far as landmarks in North America go, nothing beats Niagra Falls. Situated on the border of Ontario and New York, the falls are not only the most famous waterfalls on the continent but also one of the most famous ones on the globe. It’s worth noticing that Niagara Falls is not a single gigantic waterfall, but three separate ones called American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Canadian (Horseshoe) falls.
With an average of 30,000,000 visitors per year, Niagara Falls is one of the most visited landmarks in North America and definitely an adventure you should have on your bucket list.
CN Tower, Toronto
It’s time to go further north to Toronto and explore its signature landmark – the CN Tower. One of Canada’s most recognized attractions, the tower was erected in 1976 and in 1995 was designated a Wonder of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Since the tower is 553 meters (1,815 ft) tall, it also serves as a great central navigation spot making orientation inside Toronto effortless.
See Also: The Most Awesome Landmarks in Oceania
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, the old town of Quebec, is one of those landmarks in North America that will immediately transfer you back in time. Surrounded by 17th-century bastions, gates, and defensive works and topped by the impressive Château Frontenac, it’s hard to find more historically-charming town on the continent.
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park
The last Canadian landmark is also the most beautiful on the list. While I simply love Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, Moraine Lake is so postcard-perfect that it is impossible to beat.
Located in Banff National Park in the state of Alberta, the glacially-fed lake starts to thaw in June, and when full, it gets an amazing shade of turquoise. Made extra famous by Instagram and the Youtuber Peter Mckinnon, Moraine Lake is a must-have item on any Canadian bucket list.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
Next, we travel down to sunny Mexico to find one of the most historically significant landmarks in North America – Chichen Itza. The archaeological site in Yucatan used to be the center of pilgrimage for the ancient Maya civilization for over 1,000 years.
Today it averages around 16mln tourists per year (more than double the Eiffel Tower), making it the most visited landmark in the country. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, Chichen Itza is also designated as one of the New Seven Wonders of The World.
See Also: Top 20 Biggest Landmarks in Asia
We stay in Mexico for our next hard-to-pronounce landmark – Teotihuacan. This ancient Mesoamerican city is located in the Valley of Mexico, and it’s the most mysterious attraction on the list. At its peak, Teotihuacan was one of the world’s biggest cities, with more than 150,000 inhabitants. The bizarre part is that they all seemed to disappear overnight.
Many other mysterious surrounds the ancient Mayan city, such as strange metal spheres and an impeccable lining of the pyramids with the planets, but that’s a story for another post.
Old Havana, Cuba
If there were a prize for the most colorful landmark in North America, Old Havana would have easily won it. The pastel buildings, combined with the vintage cars and the distinctive culture, make the journey to the Cuban capital an adventure you should definitely experience before you die.
Great Blue Hole, Belize
I bet you never thought you’d see Belize on this list, but here it is. Housing one of the most unusual natural phenomena on Earth, there was no way I could leave it out. The Great Blue Hole is, well, a giant blue hole in the already very blue Caribbean Sea. It’s surrounded by a coral reef and made famous by non-other than Jacques Cousteau, who declared it one of the world’s top 5 diving spots.
If you ever have the chance to dive into this giant sinkhole, you’ll be rewarded with an abundance of wildlife, such as Caribbean reef sharks, butterflyfish, angelfish, midnight parrotfish, and groupers.
Tikal National Park, Guatemala
For our next landmark, we travel to mystical Guatemala, where we find another stunning Mayan ruin. Tikal National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, is located deep in the lush Guatemala jungle and welcomes over 200,000 visitors per year.
The park used to be a major Mayan city inhabited from the 6th century BC to the 10th century AD. The ruins we have today offer us the chance to stroll through the Mayan streets and enjoy approximately 3000 structures, including various temples and a grand ceremonial center.
The Panama Canal
We cap the biggest landmarks in North America with another man-made marvel – the Panama Canal. The 82 km (52 mi) long artificial waterway in Panama connects the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and makes life easier for 13,000 to 14,000 ships every year. Building the canal, however, was not a light task. It was estimated that 25,000 people have died while digging the Panama Canal, making it the second-deadliest construction project in history (after Burma Dead Railway).
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoyed the biggest landmarks in North America.
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