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Photo: Global Jet

Budget Travel has a list of 8 heritage-heavy places. What others would you add?

America may be a young country, but a lot of complex history gets packed into 233 years of nationhood — especially when you’re talking about a place as geographically and ethnically diverse as the USA.

Understanding American heritage in its entirety is a daunting task, but here are 8 sights Budget Travel thinks will get you started:

Photo: Mike Miley

1. Sears (Willis) Tower - Tallest building in the U.S., standing in the hometown of the world’s first skyscraper.
2. Gettysburg, PA - The site of perhaps the most pivotal battle of the U.S. Civil War.
3. Yellowstone National Park - The first-ever designated national park…in the world.
4. New York Harbor - A solid chunk of American ancestry passed through here, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
5. Monticello - Thomas Jefferson’s domed house in Charlottesville, VA.
6. Graceland - A nod to pop culture, Elvis Presley’s well-touristed home makes the list.
7. Pearl Harbor - The setting of the story of how America was drawn into WWII.
8. Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church - The Atlanta church of one of America’s most revered figures of conscience, Martin Luther King, Jr.

The limits to this topic are quite broad, as Budget Travel acknowledges,

In trying to come up with a list of places every American must see, we knew we’d raise some hackles.

Here are a few from the shortlist that didn’t make the cut:

Now it’s your turn. What places do you think every American “must see” to better understand the heritage we were born into? Tell us in the comments.

Community Connection

Does the very phrase “must see” make you cringe? Commiserate with kindred spirits in 10 Words and Phrases We Never Want to See in Travel Writing Again.

Culture + Religion


About The Author

Hal Amen

Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.

  • Kathy

    The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a really neat structure. Plus for thoughtful tourists not just taken with its cool shape or nice views, it commemorates the jumping-off place for the western migrations. Perhaps not somewhere all of our ancestors passed through, but it’s certainly a central part of the historically-constructed American identity.

  • Akila

    I would pick Niagara Falls and the Las Vegas Strip over Graceland any day of the week. I personally think Graceland is overhyped and uninteresting.

  • Joel

    Can I say that I’m glad that the Sears Tower is still called the Sears Tower by people even though it’s name has been “officially” changed. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it being the “Willis Tower”

  • joshua johnson

    I would add any bluff outcropping over a angry, fog laden Pacific. The whole Manifest Destiny to wester to the Pacific defined how Americans see themselves and relate to the land and their God.

  • Carlo Alcos

    Been to Yellowstone and Pearl Harbor, will be in NY early next year, not that I’m ticking anything off any lists. I’d love to do a big tour of the national parks.

  • Turner

    I’m biased by Texas history of course, but the Alamo, San Antonio.

  • Travel destinations

    Boasting a breadth of three thousand miles, spanning all manner of different climates and terrains, US top vacation spots some of the greatest variety in the world. One week you could explore the red rocks and desert of Arizona, the next you could be in the wilderness of Alaska, and the next along the coast of Maine. Willis Tower is at the time of its completion in 1973 it was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the World Trade Center towers in New York. Currently, Willis Tower is the tallest building in the United States and the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

  • Matt Stabile

    I’d add Arlington National Cemetary to the list.

  • glacier gal

    Glacier National Park, MT. More beautiful than Yellowstone overall and not as people. Oh and the glaciers in the park will be gone by 2020…

  • Sarah

    What a terrible American I am… Haven’t yet visited a single location on that list. Yosemite will be up next, for sure. As soon as the snow melts…

  • Sarah

    Oh. That said Yellowstone, didn’t it. See, I’m a terrible American…

  • Cathey

    Funny how you can live so close to a popular destination and never see it. Actually it’s more criminal than funny, I guess. Lived near the Statue of Liberty all my life and never saw it. Now I’d love to go back and see it. And agree whole heartedly about the Native American history (thanks BTW!). Trail of Tears is a must for me. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  • Adam Roy

    Willis Tower?!?! Willis Tower?!?!? The hell with that. It’ll always be the Sears Tower to us Chicagoans.

  • Chanelle Carlin

    How about the Capitol in Washington DC? The White House, Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson Memorials, not to mention the Vietnam memorial, and don’t even get me started on the museums!

    How about Boston, Mass?

    Finally, the Space Needle in Seattle, site of the 1962 World’s Fair is worth seeing, plus then you can take in the sites of Seattle and learn about our timber and fishing heritage as well a the impact northern europeans and SE asians have had on our country.

  • urlaub

    The gateway arch is really an impressiv building. Especially the elevators are awesome. I really recommend everybody to check it out.

  • Eye Poker 1

    I can tell you first hand the folks at Wounded Knee have no interest in White Folks coming around.  We were jumped by 8 guys at the cattle gate and if we weren’t armed at the time we would have experienced a bit of “payback”.

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