Last Updated July 8, 2020 7/8/2020

12 Iconic U.S. Monuments & Memorials to Visit

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There are many historic places in the United States that teach us about the history, culture, and traditions of the nation. So many of America’s important people, moments, and battles have been honored with monuments and memorials that tell the stories of past generations and epic times. Some of these iconic structures celebrate individuals, while others remind us of progress, tragedies, and hopeful moments. Visit these places to learn about important events, pay your respects, and gain insight into why America is how it is today. These are just some of the most iconic monuments and memorials to visit in the United States.

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Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

One of the top things to do in Washington, D.C, the Lincoln Memorial is a must-see. It is always one of the most famous and visited attractions, located on the National Mall in D.C. and across from the Washington Monument. Construction for the monument began in 1914, and it was dedicated in 1922 by President Warren G. Harding. Inside this memorial, a huge sculpture of Abraham Lincoln is seated in a marble temple, looking straight ahead towards the capitol building. This 16th president of the United States delivered the famous Gettysburg Address, which is inscribed onto the memorial.

U.S.S. Arizona, Honolulu, Hawaii
USS Arizona Memorial

U.S.S. Arizona, Honolulu, Hawaii

A famous date in U.S. history is December 7, 1941, which was the date that Pearl Harbor was bombed in World War II. Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared that this date would live in infamy, and the U.S.S. Arizona is a memorial that preserves this memory. This particular ship was the final resting place of soldiers who were killed on the battleship that morning.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Like many of America’s great monuments and memorials, this one is also located in Washington, DC. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was unveiled in 2011 and was the first memorial of this kind to honor an African-American leader. The design of the monument was inspired by King’s words, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” It’s located in downtown D.C. and represents the struggle for equality, freedom, and justice. This memorial is open 24 hours a day and there is no fee to visit it. A bookstore, restrooms, and drinking water are all located across from West Basin Drive by the main entrance. There are many quotations of King’s engraved on the memorial, on the statue itself, and on the north and south walls.

Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.
Washington Monument

Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.

Located at the corner of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Washington Monument had its first cornerstone laid in 1848 but ran out of funding and remained unfinished for nearly 25 years. This monument honors the first president of the United States and is the tallest structure in the nation’s capital. By law, it will always be. Today, the monument stands 555 feet tall, and you can take an elevator to the top if you stand in line and get tickets in advance.

Statue of Liberty, New York City, New York
Another view of the Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty, New York City, New York

When in New York City, make sure to visit the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty in New York City is a symbol of immigration, hope, and a better life. When immigrants came over to the U.S. from the east, one of the first things they saw was Lady Liberty with her torch held high in the air. It was given to the U.S. from France as a gift of friendship, but it has come to represent an international symbol of democracy and freedom. This monument was dedicated in 1886 and became a national monument in 1924. When you take a ferry over to visit the monument, you can also visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

Bunker Hill Monument, Boston, Massachusetts
Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument, Boston, Massachusetts

The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, when soldiers from New England faced the British army. Officially, British forces claimed the win. But at this bloody battle that took place near Boston, of the 2,400 or so British soldiers engaged, around 1,000 were wounded or killed. Marquis De Lafayette spurred the construction of this monument, which is a 221-foot tall obelisk made from quarried granite. The monument was completed in 1842 and dedicated the next year.

9/11 Memorial, New York City, New York
9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial, New York City, New York

The date 9/11 will forever be remembered in American history. This date represents the most civilian lives ever lost on U.S. soil. Before the terrorist attack, the Twin Towers stood at the site of this memorial. But today, you will find bronze parapets that have been engraved with the names of victims. The purpose of this memorial is to remember and honor the nearly 3,000 people who were killed from the bombings on this day. There is twin reflecting pools nearly an acre in size that has the largest waterfalls made by man in North America. The memorial is open daily from 7:30am to 9:00pm. The museum is open every day from 9:00am to 8:00pm Sunday through Thursday and from 9:00am to 9:00pm on Friday and Saturday.

Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri
Liberty Memorial Landmark

Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri

Many people don’t think of Kansas City, Missouri as a prime destination to learn about American history. But the Liberty Memorial is located here, and it honors the memory of World War I history. This war was called the “war to end all wars,” and there’s also a museum here to teach us about why the war was fought and who the players were. This is a wonderful place to learn about World War I history through film, artifacts, and exhibitions.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

Located in Montana, this battlefield was originally named after General George Custer. Also, sadly it originally only told one side of the story about the fight between the U.S. and the Native Americans who called this place home. But in the early 1990s, it was renamed Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and also featured a Native American memorial, which is pictured here. It’s a sculpture designed by a Sioux artist depicting a battle scene. At this monument, you can learn about the 1876 battle between Custer’s 7th Cavalry and the Lakota-Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. It’s near Crow Agency, Montana and has markers for Native Americans like Crazy Horse and U.S. soldiers who fought here.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Another must-visit memorial in Washington, DC is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which has over 58,000 names inscribed on a black wall made of granite stone. The names are listed in order that the U.S. soldiers were either proclaimed to be dead or have gone missing. Some visitors leave small mementos, like flowers and handwritten notes, at the wall to say final goodbyes that they weren’t able to say in person. There are three parts to this memorial that are worth visiting: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the Three Soldiers Statue, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

A must-see in St. Louis, the iconic Gateway Arch is a 630-foot-tall monument made of stainless steel and known as the world’s tallest man-made arch. In fact, it’s also the tallest man-made monument in the U.S. Construction of the arch cost at least $13 million, and the arch weighs 17,246 tons. An architect named Eero Saarinen won a contest with the design of this arch, which represented the Gateway to the West for early U.S. settlers. You can watch a documentary about the construction of the arch at the Tucker Theater in the Arch Visitor Center and visit the arch between 8:00am and 10:00pm in the summer and between 9:00pm and 6:00pm in the winter. Gateway Arch riverboats also run daily between March and November.

Mount Rushmore, Keystone South Dakota
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore, Keystone South Dakota

One of the most iconic monuments in the entire United States is Mount Rushmore, and it’s uniquely tucked all the way over in South Dakota. This iconic monument features the faces of four U.S. presidents carved into the granite rock face: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. A historian from South Dakota came up with the idea for this monument to bring people in from all over the U.S. and the world to see it. Millions of people visit this landmark each year, which is near Keystone, South Dakota.

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