North America is filled with must see attractions. Hundreds of locations draw millions of tourists to natural landmarks, historic sites and exciting places. Some are old, some are new. Some are geological wonders. Some are manmade structures. Here are our picks for the top 20 must see attractions in North America.
The Niagara Falls is an amazing natural wonder located on the border of the United States and Canada. The Falls are the must see attraction in North America. The geological wonder consists of three waterfalls. The Horseshoe Falls border New York State and Ontario, Canada. The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are in New York State. The Falls attract an average of 12 million visitors from all over the world each year, and there is much to do and see besides the amazing water falls. There are tours, parks, restaurant, shopping, interactive exhibits, casinos and luxury hotels. Since 1900, daredevils have attempted to go over the Falls in enclosed barrels. Some were successful and some were not. During the mid-twentieth century, the Falls became a popular honeymoon destination. The Niagara Falls are definitely a must see attraction inn North America.
Walt Disney World Parks
Walt Disney World is the most visited resort in the United States. Walt Disney and his brother Roy opened a theme park Disneyland in Anaheim, California in 1955 and wanted to open a supplemental park. Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was created in Orlando, Florida and opened in October 1971. Epcot Center followed in 1982, Hollywood Studios opened in 1989, and Animal Kingdom followed in 1998. The resort is often used as a corporate meeting destination, and 52 million people visit the parks each year. There are many resorts and different types of Amusement Parks. Walt Disney World is the most popular family trip destination. The Magic Kingdom’s iconic Cinderella’s Castle, Space Mountain, and are fun for people of all ages. Epcot Center celebrates the countries of the world and science. Animal Kingdom provides rides and adventures in a safari atmosphere. There are also two water parks associated with Disney World as well as golf courses, restaurants, shopping and more.
New York City has many must see attractions including Central Park, Rockefeller Plaza, Radio City Music Hall, Fifth Avenue, Wall Street, Broadway and Ellis Island. Time Square, located in Midtown Manhattan at Broadway and Seventh Avenue, is the United States’ most famous intersection. It’s home to commercial business, entertainment venues, hotels and restaurants. It’s also the bub of the Times Square has been called “The Crossroads of the World”, “The Center of the Universe” and “The heart of The Great White Way”. Over 50 million people, mostly tourists, cross the intersection each year. Originally called Longacre Square, it was renamed Times Square in 1904 when The New York Times moved its headquarters there. Since 1907, the iconic New Year’s Eve celebration has been held in Times Square when the “ball is dropped” at midnight. The annual celebration attracts over a million visitors every December 31 except when the event was during World War II. During the Great Depression, the area became seedy but was revived in the 1990’s. “Good Morning America” is broadcast live at ABC’s Times Square Studios. Well known for its bright advertising signage, Times Squares is home to neon and LED lighting jumbotron.
The capital of the United States, Washington DC, has multiple attractions, but visitors must be sure to check out the National Mall. The national park begins at Capitol Hill and stretches toward the Potomac River and is home to several memorials including the Washington Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and memorials honoring the wars that the United States have fought. The National Mall is a gathering place for people witnessing the United States Presidential Inaugurations. The National Mall is also home to the Smithsonian Institute. The Institute features several museums including the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The National Mall is also used as a place of peaceful protest.
The Mayan ruins Chichen Itza is located on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Chichen Itza means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza people”. It was the Mayan’s largest and most densely populated city between 750 AD and 900 AD and most likely a spiritual center. The ruins of the city are managed by the federal government. The architectural ruins of Chichen Itza are some of the most visited in the world with more than 2 million tourists a year. Many of its stone buildings have been restored. Preserved structures include El Castillo, the Great Ball Court, a skull platform, the Sacred Cenote, the Temple of the Warriors, and the Group of A Thousand Columns.
The Getty Center
Endowed by the Getty Trust, the Getty Center features the Getty Museum in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. In 1997, the $1.3 billion Center opened to the public. It’s beautiful hill top architecture and gardens overlook the city of Los Angeles. The J. Paul Getty Museum draws nearly 2 million visitors each year. The Getty Center includes the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust. The buildings were designed by Richard Meier for beautiful views and safe from earthquakes and fires. One of the most visited museums in the United States, the J. Paul Getty Museum includes pre twentieth century European art and nineteenth and twentieth century American and European photographs.
The CN Tower
The skyline of Toronto, Canada is defined by The CN Tower. The 553.3 foot communications tower was completed in 1976. The tower was the worlds tallest free standing structure until 2009 when the Canton Tower was built in Burj Khalifa. Built on the Canadian National railroad lines by the Canadian railway company, the CN Tower attracts more than 2 million visitors a year. Not only does the tower serve as a communications tower, but it also has an observation deck and a restaurant with amazing panoramic views of Toronto. Since 1995 the CN Tower has been controlled by the Canada Lands Company. The same year, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the CN Tower one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World.
The USS Arizona memorial is in Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. It is the resting place of 1,102 bodies of United States Marines killed during the surprise attack by the Japanese on the morning of December 7, 1941. The events of that morning would lead the United States into World War II. The United States Navy established the harbor as a base in 1899. The memorial was built in 1962 and is visited by more than 2 million people each year. The memorial is built over the wreckage of the bombed ship, the USS Arizona. It is one of several United States memorials as part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Another important memorial to visit is the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City. The Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorists who had hijacked jet passenger airplanes and flew them into the office skyscrapers on the morning of September 11, 2001. The memorial features two waterfalls honoring the thousands killed that morning. The waterfalls are built over the footprints of the Twin Towers.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is an extensive United States park established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. The expansive park covers nearly 3,500 miles in parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Best known for its protected wildlife and geothermal features, Yellowstone National Park attracts millions of visitors every year. Yellowstone is well known for its geysers. There are at least 1,280 known geysers. “Old Faithful” erupts regularly and is probably the most well known geyser in the world. Wildlife includes bears, wolves, elk and bison.
The Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail covers 2 and a half miles in Boston Massachusetts. The trail follows a path in the city that marks several sites that were important to the American Revolution. Many of America’s founding fathers lived in Boston and the city was home to many Revolutionary events. It was also home to many of the meetings where the American strategy for the war were held. The Trail begins at Boston Common and winds through downtown through the North End and ends in Charlestown at the USS Constitution. The Trail is marked by red lines or red bricks. Sites along the trail include churches, graveyards and the naval frigate at the site of the “Boston Tea Party”. Other sites include the Old State House, the Old South Meeting House and Paul Revere’s house. The Freedom Trail was conceived in 1951 by journalist William Schofield. Mayor Hynes made the idea a realty, and by 1953, more than 40,000 walked the trail annually. The Freedom Trail remains a popular attraction. It is a great way to get a history lesson at your own pace.
In the heart of New Orleans and its oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter, Bourbon Street. The French Quarter of Louisiana is its most historic and carries the legacy of New Orleans’ French heritage. Bourbon Street has always had a risqué reputation as home of the city’s red light district. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the street was lined wit nightclubs with over 50 burlesque and striptease shows. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the street was cleaned up and made as a pedestrian plaza inviting tourists. Many festivals are held in New Orleans’ French Quarter and along Bourbon Street. The most popular is Mardi Gras. The street is still home to bars and strip clubs, but it is also home to fine dining, shopping, art exhibits and live Jazz music performances.
The Grand Canyon is one of North America’s most amazing natural formation. It is a part of the Colorado River basin and has been formed over the last 70 million years. It is located in Arizona and stretches 277 miles with width up to 18 miles and a depth of more than a mile. The river valley in the Colorado plateau is a site to behold. The is home to Native Americans and draws in 5 million tourists each year. It is a great place to sightsee, camp, hike, skydive and raft. Helicopter tours are regular. The biological diversity of the Grand Canyon is vast and many species of animals inhabit the Canyon.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 460 feet and rises 230 feet above the Capilano River in North Vancouver, British Columbia. The Canadian walking bridge draws over 800,000 tourists a year. The bridge was built in 1989 by Scottish civil engineer George Grant Mackay who served as the park commissioner for Vancouver. The bridge was made of cedar planks and hemp ropes. It was replaced with a wire cable bridge in 1903. Edward Mahon purchased the bridge in 1910 and sold it to “Mac” MacEachran in 1935 who invited native Americans to place totem poles in the park. Ten years later “Mac” sold the bridge to Henri Aubeneau, and the bridge was completely rebuilt ten years after that. The site has been owned by Nancy Stibburd since 1983. Stibbard brought more tourists to the park and the bridge by adding different walkways across different areas of the canyon. Guests of the Capilano Suspension Bridge can enjoy the beautiful park land high above the canyon floor.
No visit to San Antonio, Texas is complete without a visit to the Alamo. The Spanish Mission was the site of the Battle of the Alamo, an important point in the Texas American Revolution. During the 13 day siege between February 23 and March 6, 1836, Mexican troops assaulted and killed all but two Texan defenders. The site became known as a battle site instead of a mission. The Texas Legislature would purchase the land and buildings during the early twentieth century and the Alamo’s chapel became a State Shrine. The Alamo is the most popular tourist destination in Texas. It inspired the quote “Remember the Alamo” and inspired several movies.
Denali National Park
Alaska’s Denali National Park is one of North America’s most beautiful attractions. It features Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America that rises 20,320 feet. There is also abundant wildlife living in the park. Bus tours offer sights of grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves and Dall sheep. The park is filled with picturesque lakes, rivers and tundra landscape. It is home to the large Kahiltna Glacier. Wintertime activities include dog sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. The 6 million acre park is located in central Alaska.
Whistler, Canada is a must during any visit to western Canada. The ski resort town grew in the early twentieth century and built itself up in a bid to be a location for the 1960 Olympics but lost the bid. Just a two hour drive from Vancouver, Whistler Village and Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort are breathtaking. It is the largest ski resort in North America. Blackcomb Mountain opened in 1980. The mountainous and forested area of Canada has always been a winter retreat, but it has become a summer retreat as well. The Village increased in popularity after becoming a venue in the 2010 Olympics. It is also a retreat for golfing, hiking, biking and other summertime activities.
For roller coaster enthusiasts, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio is a popular destination in North America. The amusement park on Lake Erie opened in 1870 and is the second oldest operating amusement park in the United States. The park has over 75 rides including 16 roller coasters. It is the only park in the world with five coasters higher than 200 feet. Cedar Point has received awards including the Golden Ticket Award for “Best Amusement Park in the World” for 16 consecutive years. Over 3.6 million visitors come the park each year. Cedar Point has several buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park has both indoor and outdoor water parks and a historic hotel, The Breakers with a boardwalk leading to the beaches of Lake Erie. Every October Cedar Point hosts Halloweekends with Halloween themed attractions
The Las Vegas Strip
Just about everyone in the world has to make a trip to Las Vegas in their life time. The 4.2 mile strip along South Las Vegas Boulevard is home to the major resorts and casinos of Las Vegas, Nevada. Up until 1959 casinos and hotels were based in downtown Las Vegas along Freemont Street with some resorts out of the city limits. After 1959 large resorts and casinos were built on what would become to be known as “The Strip”. Some of the largest resorts are located there. Las Vegas become a place for gambling, vacationing, seeing live shows, and getting married. Many of the original casinos and resorts have been taken down to be replaced by modern luxury hotels. Caesars, Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Paris, New York New York, MGM and Luxor are just some of the massive and popular resorts and casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
The Golden Gate Bridge
When visiting the San Francisco – Oakland area of California, it would be impossible to miss the Golden Gate Bridge. The iconic “orange vermilion” also called “international orange”, colored steel suspension bridge links San Francisco to Marin County. The color was chosen to make the bridge appear in the notorious San Pacific Ocean fog that rolls into the city San Francisco Bay daily. Construction of the bridge began in 1933. At the time of its opening in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the tallest and longest suspension bridge in the world. At 4,200 feet tall, the bridge is the tallest in the United States today. The bridge is 1 mile along above the San Francisco Bay and is the most photographed bridge in the world. When visiting San Francisco, tourists have many attractions to see, but the bridge is certainly the most visible.
Mont Royal Park
It would be impossible to miss the massive Mont Royal Park on a trip to French Canadian city Montreal. The vast park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same designer who created the plans for New York City’s Central Park. The public park has walking paths, bike paths, lakes and lookouts. Mont Royal Park offers educational opportunities, music venues and spacious grounds to lay around. The park typically helps visitors to Montreal get their bearings as they sightsee the grand city.