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    What to see in the United States of America: the iconic destinations

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    Martí Micolau

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    To the question "what to see in America”One could answer with an encyclopedia. There are so many attractions, places of interest and places to visit that a lifetime would not be enough to see them all (after all we are talking about a boundless continent), nevertheless, for those who are preparing to organize their first trip to America it is quite normal that in mind the question of which are yours main destinations, or rather, yours iconic attractions, those beauties that make this land immediately recognizable and that somehow represent it in the common symbolic imagination.

    I then tried to draw up a sort of Top 20 places to visit in America (understood as the United States of course) using as a criterion not my taste, but the popularity and symbolic value of a tourist destination. I have included natural beauties and cities in this list, remembering that you can also consult our pages dedicated to the most beautiful American cities and the most beautiful natural parks in the United States.


    • New York
    • Grand Canyon
    • Monument Valley
    • Niagara Falls
    • San Francisco
    • Route 66
    • Antelope Canyon e Horseshoe Bend
    • The Yellowstone Geysers
    • Hollywood to Los Angeles
    • Western Town and Ghost Town
    • Monte Rushmore
    • Places of power in Washington DC
    • Scenic Highway 1
    • Chicago architecture
    • Lighthouses on the New England Coast
    • The French Quarter of New Orleans
    • The Florida Keys
    • The Las Vegas Strip
    • The Giant Sequoias
    • The Art Deco of Miami

    New York

    In the imagination of many, New York, the symbolic city of the East Coast, is synonymous with America, even if it is a city so particular that it represents a unicum quite distinct from the rest of the States. There are many recognizable symbols in New York but out of all there are at least 4 that stand out from the others and that cannot be missed during a visit to the city:

    • Statue of Liberty: it is the most famous statue in America, erected in 1886 on the island of Liberty Island, right in front of the famous New York skyline, of which you can enjoy a priceless panoramic view from the statue.
    • Brooklyn Bridge: One of the most scenic bridges in the world, connecting the island of Manhattan to the suburb of Brooklyn. The bridge can be crossed by car, on foot, and even by bicycle, and offers great views of the city and the East River.
    • Times Square: The incredible concentration of neon lights, commercial signs and over the top characters makes the crossroads between Broadway and Seventh Avenue something unique in the world. Among other things, this is where the main concentration of theaters is located where you can see the famous Broadway musicals.
    • Empire State Building: King Kong's historic skyscraper is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable symbols of New York. The panorama that can be admired from the top of the skyscraper is very impressive, allowing you to admire all the main skyscrapers of New York from above.

    Obviously there is much more to visit in the city, there are so many things to see that you could stay a week in New York without getting bored. To organize a city holiday, take a look at our dedicated travel guide, where you can find tips on attractions, travel, accommodation and much more ... below, instead, I link to my article which contains a complete overview of everything interesting about 'is to do in the city.

    What to do in New York

    Grand Canyon

    America's most famous natural attraction is an immense gorge in Northwest Arizona carved out over the centuries by Colorado River, which can reach up to 16 km in diameter and over a mile in depth. There are basically 3 areas that can be visited of the Grand Canyon, the South Rim, the North Rim, and the West Rim, each offering splendid views of the canyon's immensity but each also has its advantages and disadvantages.

    Il South rim it is the most touristic area, better equipped but also less suitable for those who love to contemplate the beauties of nature in complete solitude, alternatively it is therefore possible to fall back on North Rim, less beaten by mass tourism but also a little more inconvenient to reach and with an essentially reduced opening window during the year. The West Rim instead, managed directly by the Indians, it can boast a very famous attraction in America, the Skywalk, a transparent walkway that allows you to walk over the canyon.

    Another particularly striking way of visit the Grand Canyon is to take a helicopter tour from Las Vegas, with the option of being picked up from your hotel and landing at the bottom of the canyon, a once in a lifetime experience. Whatever type of visit you prefer, I recommend that you take a look at our travel guide dedicated to the park.

    Grand Canyon: our travel guide

    Monument Valley

    The landscape of Monument Valley is the most classic of the panoramas that symbolize the American Far West and is located in northern Arizona, also bordering on the state of Utah. The three red rock monoliths that stand alone on the desert floor have been used as a backdrop for countless films. The park is located in one Navajo Indian Reservation, and the natives who manage the park do not hesitate to call it the eighth wonder of the world.

    Exploring the meanders of Monument Valley, with your car or with a Navajo guide, you can also admire other suggestive viewpoints, such as Totem Pole, Artist's Point or the famous John Ford's Point. But that's not all, just outside the park entrance is one of the most famous and iconic viewpoints of road trips: Forrest Gump Point, so called because it was used by the famous film by Robert Zemeckis.

    Those looking for a memorable overnight stay experience will not be able to miss the opportunity to sleep at The View, the hotel from which you can enjoy the sunrise and sunset over Monument Valley directly from your hotel room. To find out more, I point out my in-depth article:

    What to see in Monument Valley

    Niagara Falls

    Speaking of natural wonders, they certainly cannot be missing Niagara Falls, the most famous waterfalls in America. These are not particularly high waterfalls (about 52 meters) but what is striking is their range, which helps to create a spectacular scenery that attracts a huge amount of tourists. Where are? On the border between the United States and Canada, particularly between the New York State and the province of Ontario.

    Niagara Falls are 3 in total: Horseshoe Falls (on the Canadian side), American falls e Bridal Veil Falls (on the American side). In addition to observing them from their respective shores, you can do some activities to admire the power of the falls up close, for example taking the boat tour (Maid of the Mist or Hornblower), the Cave of the Winds excursion or even a helicopter tour.

    Usually, the most usual way to visit them is to take a tour from New York (organized or do it yourself). To find out more, you can read our in-depth information on how to visit Niagara Falls from New York, or our page dedicated to the falls, where you will find all the information you need to organize a visit.

    Niagara Falls: our guide

    San Francisco

    Few cities in the world can boast the personality of San Francisco, a charming city on the California coast, the cradle of cultural and protest movements of all kinds, from the Beat Generation to the Hippies. But in addition to the cultural ferment and the eccentric vocation, the City by the Bay it is also a splendid city full of attractions and viewpoints.

    The most representative icon of San Francisco is inevitably the Golden Gate, the famous red bridge that crosses the bay, always surrounded by a suggestive fog. You can cross it either by car or by bicycle, perhaps arriving straight at the coastal village of Sausalito, and then return to the city directly by ferry.

    Off the bay there is another important place for those visiting San Francisco, the island of Alcatraz, the famous maximum security prison from which it was said it was impossible to escape and which also hosted illustrious inmates, such as Al Capone.

    More typical icons of San Francisco are the Victorian houses (do not miss the famous Painted Ladies), the historic Cable Cars trams and, finally, Lombard Street, one of the most particular streets in the world. But there is obviously much more in the city, read this article for a complete reconnaissance:

    What to see in San Francisco

    Route 66

    Rarely does a road, however long and rich in history, acquire a legendary aura like that of Route 66, an ancient route now disused (at least officially) that crosses the belly of America from Chicago to Santa Monica. Traveling along this road is a bit like embarking on a journey through time, in search of an America that was and that still does not resign itself to not being. Along this road you will encounter family-run shops and shops, lots of neon signs, eccentric attractions of all kinds and lots thanks to . For many this is the real America!

    Taking this road requires not only several days, but also a little preparation, which is why we have dedicated an entire section of this site to it and in particular I would like to point out a detailed guide to help you find the route and choose all the stages and overnight stays along. the itinerary.

    How to organize a trip on Route 66

    Antelope Canyon e Horseshoe Bend

    Slot canyons are one of the wonders that alone are worth the trip to the American Southwest. These are very narrow natural gorges in which the erosion action of rivers has modeled the rocky conformations, giving them sinuous and suggestive shapes, and right here the sun's rays creep in at certain times of the day, creating amazing light effects.

    The most famous of the American slot canyons is Antelope Canyon, located in the city of Page, in northern Arizona. To visit it you will need to make use of an Indian guide, who will accompany you along the meanders of the canyon with group visits. To book the visit and know everything you need to visit the canyon, I refer you to our detailed guide on how to do a tour in Antelope Canyon.

    As you may have understood, Arizona is an authentic hotbed of breathtaking views and just 2 steps from Antelope Canyon you will find the now famous Horseshoe Bend, a bend in the Colorado River whose shape is similar to that of a horseshoe and which, precisely at this point, generates a spectacular panorama. If you want to know how to reach it and at what time it is best to photograph it, read our article on Horseshoe Bend.

    To visit both independently or with an organized tour, I refer you to our dedicated in-depth study:

    Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend: how to visit them both?

    The Yellowstone Geysers

    From the desert heat of Arizona we move towards the imposing mountain beauty of Wyoming, particularly in the western region, bordering Montana and Idaho. Here, above a large volcanic caldera, rises the Yellowstone National Park, one of America's most stunning natural wonders, boasting the largest concentration of geysers in the world.

    The park is so large and full of places to visit that it takes 3 days for a visit to do it justice. In addition to the geysers, of which the most famous is Old Faithful, here you will find thermal springs of a thousand colors (Grand Prismatic Spring), suggestive petrified terraces (Mammoth Hot Springs), spectacular waterfalls (Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone) and lush rich valleys of local fauna (Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley).

    Travel to Yellowstone: how to organize it?

    Hollywood to Los Angeles

    Hollywood is a district of the city of Los Angeles and its fame is essentially due to the fact that it has become the symbol of American cinema. In fact, the most famous films were produced here, thanks to the presence of the best known Film studios. Those who want to relive the myth of Hollywood cinema in some way will find a number of themed attractions that will be difficult to resist.

    From the famous Hollywood Sign, visible from various parts of the city, to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, whose sidewalks are paved with stars with the names of Hollywood star, passing by the TCL Chinese Theater, one of the most famous cinemas in the world, with the footprints of many famous actors and directors in the square in front, and ending with a visit to one of the film studios in the area (the most famous are Universal Studios , but there are also others). For a complete overview of all the things to do in Hollywood, read our guide:

    What to see in Hollywood

    Western Town and Ghost Town

    Nothing represents the history of America like the Far West, that era when cowboys, outlaws and gold miners raged through the dusty streets of western towns. What is left of these legendary cities? Do they still exist? Yes, fortunately there are many in the United States western town, some are well preserved, others reconstructed, some have become ghost towns (ghost town), abandoned after the exhaustion of the gold field that gave rise to them, others are still inhabited.

    In our section dedicated to Western Cities and Ghost Towns you will find many towns of this type to visit. Among the most interesting, the ones that can be easily inserted in a classic itinerary of the American parks are Bodie, Oatman, Calico and Pioneertown.

    Monte Rushmore

    Among the most representative symbolic places of the United States of America, the Monte Rushmore, the famous mountain on which the faces of 4 important presidents of US history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt e Abraham Lincoln.

    The sculpture is located in South Dakota, in the Black Hills region, 37km from Rapid City and 5km from Keystone, and was conceived by Doane Robinson, who was asked to come up with an idea to enhance the region's tourist appeal.

    After 14 years of work supervised by the architect Gutzon Borglum, the monument was inaugurated in 1941 and became popular all over the world. Visiting Mount Rushmore you can also take the opportunity to explore the other places to visit in the Black Hills, such as Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, etc ...

    How to visit Mount Rushmore

    Places of power in Washington DC

    Washington DC is the city that symbolizes US power. The monuments, museums and memorials that populate the National Mall are a constant reminder of American history and the ideal. Suffice it to say that here are the White House, home of the US president, the Capitol, seat of Congress, the Supreme Court, the most important legal body in the nation, the Lincoln Memorial, the monument from which Martin Luther King gave his famous speech. I have a dream, the National Archive, where the declaration of independence is kept, and a series of splendid museums of art, history and technology to visit all for free.

    In short, walking a stone's throw from the most important buildings of American political power, Washington is for you. Obviously there is much more to see in the city, so for a complete reconnaissance I refer you to our dedicated guide:

    What to see in Washington DC

    Scenic Highway 1

    The United States is the quintessential nation of gods travel on the road and consequently include an incredible amount of scenic roads; undoubtedly one of the most famous is Highway 1 (o Pacific coast highway), the scenic road that runs along the rugged California coast, allowing you to admire spectacular views.

    Usually this road is used to cover the stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles, even if the Highway 1 it continues even beyond the 2 cities. Passing from the inside, the itinerary between Los Angeles and San Francisco would undoubtedly be shorter, but the beauty of this coastal stretch pushes travelers to lengthen the journey, taking a intermediate stop in one of the coastal towns.

    The most beautiful point of this scenic route is the one that corresponds to Big Sur, where the Bixby Creek Bridge, the famous scenic bridge over the Pacific, and Pfeiffer Beach, a beautiful beach that offers unforgettable sunsets. But there is also much more waiting for you along the coast, to know all the stages you can read my dedicated article:

    All stops along Highway 1

    Chicago architecture

    La skyline Chicago rivals that of New York in architectural beauty. In this city, prestigious names in modern architecture such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Bruce Graham have made an invaluable contribution, of which, a shining example, is the Willis tower (formerly known as Sears Tower), the glass-floored skyscraper that offers a great view of the city.

    Another great element of Chicago's pride is Millennium Park, a real open-air museum dotted with works of art and architectural installations, among which the best known is undoubtedly the Cloud Gate, the famous bean-shaped sculpture.

    The boat trip at sunset under the bridges of the Chicago River is very suggestive, but a visit to this city would not be complete without fully enjoying its lively music scene: waiting for you at the back of bars and cafes you will find an endless number of jazz and blues clubs.

    For a complete overview of the city's attractions, take a look at our dedicated guide.

    What to see in Chicago

    Lighthouses on the New England Coast

    If the Pacific coast is rightly considered one of the must sees of road trips in America, even that of New England is no joke. Along the rugged coastline of Massachusetts and Maine lie a number of scenic spotlights which contribute to the creation of a truly evocative landscape, even more so if the journey is undertaken in the autumn season, when the New England foliage gives its best.

    In addition to the lighthouse tour, the New England coast is particularly good for whale watching and lobster tasting (here you can get a good price and get on the fishing boats to stock up with local fishermen). To organize an itinerary, I refer you to our dedicated resource:

    New England lighthouse tour: how to organize it?

    The French Quarter of New Orleans

    Famous throughout the world for its effervescent carnival, New Orleans is the most unique city in the southern United States and what most distinguishes it from other cities is its famous french quarter, with its buildings with cast iron balconies and bright colors. The main artery of the neighborhood is Bourbon Streetteeming with jazz clubs, cocktail bars, and Cajun restaurants, while street performers, food stalls and local crafts throng around the French Market and Jackson Square.

    Although the French Quarter is the real beating heart of the city, in New Orleans, as you can imagine, there is much more to do. For more information, I refer you to our dedicated guide:

    What to see in New Orleans

    The Florida Keys

    In Florida, south of Miami and the Everglades park is the Overseas Highway, a stretch of over 170 km that runs along the sea through an archipelago of islands known as Florida Keys, which represent a real paradise for those in search of diving and tropical climate.

    The islands along this stretch are many but the most famous is undoubtedly Key West, a splendid town with an exuberant personality, renowned for its spectacular sunsets (celebrated with the Sunset Celebration) and for the characters who have left an important trace here, Ernest Hemingway above all.

    To best juggle the various Keys and choose where to stop, as always, I refer you to my dedicated article:

    Keys Islands: how to organize a trip

    The Las Vegas Strip

    Las Vegas is the city of excess, walking along its Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard South) is a surprising and at the same time alienating experience. Casino-hotels built following the most disparate architectural themes (from Egyptian pyramids to reconstructions of modern cities) overlook this street dominated by signs, neon lights and lots of kitsch.

    Do not underestimate the length and the remarkable amount of attractions of this street: the path is long and the things to do, free and not, are really many, starting with the fireworks that many Las Vegas hotels offer their visitors. To find out more, I link to my dedicated guide.

    What to see in Las Vegas

    The Giant Sequoias

    One of the typical Californian natural beauties that attract tourists from all over the world are undoubtedly the large Sequoia trees, gigantic specimens that grow mainly on the mountain parks of the Sierra Nevada, while the "cousins" Redwood they proliferate on the Pacific coast, where Redwood National Park is found.

    Although there are several nature reserves where these trees grow, the privileged place to admire them in all their majesty is Sequoia National Park, a mountain park in the Californian hinterland 327 km away from Los Angeles. Here, among the many impressive specimens of Giant Sequoia, you can admire the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world in terms of volume.

    If your curiosity in terms of mammoth trees is still not satisfied, you can also go in search of giant sequoias in the neighboring park (Kings Canyon) and, over 200 km away, in Mariposa Grove, within the boundaries of the beautiful Yosemite National Park .

    Parco Sequoia: how to visit it?

    The Art Deco of Miami

    Miami is famous for its beaches and social life but its most distinctive and recognizable element is theArt Deco architecture, which graces South Beach a lot, particularly along the streets of Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue.

    In this area, between the end of the twenties and the forties, hotels, night clubs and cinemas were built following the style of an ornamental architectural current of European origin, albeit revisited in a tropical style.

    This area is so significant that it is named Art Deco Historic District (or Miami Beach Architectural District). For a detailed itinerary that contemplates the best Art Deco examples of this area, I refer you to our guide:

    Art Deco Historic District: recommended itinerary

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