Vacation Destinations for Families: U.S. National Landmarks
On your family vacation this year, swing by some of America's most historically significant landmarks.
Mount Rushmore (Keystone, SD)
The iconic Mount Rushmore features the massive likenesses of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt chiseled into solid granite. Each face is about 60 feet high. Surprisingly, the total cost of carving the faces was less than a million dollars, and no lives were lost in the 14 years that the project was under construction.
Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, CA)
Something about the Golden Gate Bridge captures the imagination. The orange-colored bridge spans 1.7 miles to connect the city of San Francisco with Marin County, to the north. San Francisco's famous fog is never more picturesque than when it rolls off the bay around the uprights of the Golden Gate.
Washington Monument (Washington, D.C.)
The capital of the United States has the lion's share of the nation's historic landmarks, including the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and much more. The Washington Monument, a pure white obelisk that recalls ancient Egyptian architecture, may be the most singular. It is the tallest structure in the city, and admission is free.
The Alamo Mission (San Antonio, TX)
The battle that turned into a rallying cry - "Remember the Alamo!" - happened in San Antonio, at a small religious compound. Mexican forces, led by General Santa Anna, laid siege to the Alamo, which was defended by a small group of American forces under the command of Colonel James Bowie. While Bowie and his men lost the battle, their bravery under fire inspired their compatriots in subsequent engagements.
Gettysburg Battlefield (Gettysburg, PA)
The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, proving a decisive - though costly - victory for the Union army. Every summer, history buffs re-enact the battle for onlookers and tourists. The battlefield was also the site of Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address, in which he proclaimed that a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Statue of Liberty (New York, NY)
Since it was erected in 1886, the Statue of Liberty has greeted newcomers to America with one hand held high. Today, it is still a symbol of freedom to people around the world. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the statue was closed to visitors, but as of July 4, 2009, tourists can once again climb up to Lady Liberty's crown.
Hoover Dam (Boulder City, NV)
The Hoover Dam, located on the border between Nevada and Arizona, is one of the most impressive feats of engineering in the United States. The dam provides hydroelectric power to much of the southwestern part of the country, including Los Angeles, and the reservoir it created, Lake Mead, supplies water to Southern California and Nevada. Only 30 miles from Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam makes an excellent day trip.
The Liberty Bell (Philadelphia, PA)
A symbol of the American Revolution, the Liberty Bell is a popular attraction in Philadelphia that draws more than two million visitors each year. Legend holds that the bell was rung to announce historic occasions such as the formation of the First Continental Congress, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. Its famous crack is actually one of many - the bell was damaged and repaired several times during the 18th century.
Grand Canyon (Arizona)
Visiting the Grand Canyon could be a weeklong adventure. Families can camp on both the Northern and Southern Rim, and at the canyon floor. A skywalk allows visitors to walk out an astonishing 3,600 feet above the bottom of the canyon. Besides the miles of hiking trails on offer, visitors can also ride donkeys to the canyon floor, take helicopter tours, and go whitewater rafting.
Space Needle (Seattle, WA)
The Space Needle is the most iconic image associated with Seattle, Washington. The futuristic tower was built for the 1962 World's Fair. At the time, it was the largest structure west of the Mississippi, although it has since been usurped by the Stratosphere Resort in Las Vegas. The top of the Space Needle features an observation deck, as well as a rotating restaurant.