Planning a travel photography trip around America? Want to know some of the most famous monuments to visit and how to get the best photographs of them? In this post, we share some of the highlights of America in pictures, with tips on how to achieve your own Instagram worthy photos.
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Famous Manmade US Monuments- Highlights of America in Pictures
Visiting the USA can be daunting. Heck, even just visiting a new state can be tough. And, as someone who wants to take photos and capture these places in the best possible way, it can be even more overwhelming. Where are the best photo spots? Where should you stand to get the iconic shots of certain monuments of landmarks?
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you caption the very best photos of America’s most famous man-made landmarks, which includes a map of the exact locations to get ‘the shot’ and some tips on how to capture it. To help, we’ve separated them into famous US monuments on the East side and central/ west side of the USA- just to make it easier to find places.
Of course, there are plenty of incredible places in America we weren’t able to put into this guide, but I’d love to hear your suggestions- feel free to drop them into the comments below.
Map of the most famous man-made monuments in the USA
America in Pictures- Famous US monuments to the East
Statue of Liberty, New York
Photographed by Kenny from Knycx Journeying
The Statue of Liberty, located on Liberty Island in New York City, is probably the most famous monument in America. This colossal neoclassical sculpture is a national treasure that represents the value and spirit of the United States of America – freedom. It is one of the most visited and most recognized landmarks of New York and is a must-see for any New York first-time visitors.
What is the Statue of Liberty?
The statue was a gift from the people of France in 1886. Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, with it’s metal framework created by Gustave Eiffel (The civil engineer who built the Eiffel Tower), the statue is a copper-and-stell green lady holding a torch above her head, holding a tabula ansata inscribed JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776: the national day of USA), overlooking the New York Harbour.
How to visit the Statue of Liberty
The only way to visit the Statue of Liberty Island is by ferry and there are plenty of ferry shuttle services that carry visitors to the island. The Ellis Island Ferry departs from Manhattan’s downtown, connecting both Liberty Island and the Ellis Island. Liberty Harbor Cruise and Island Cruise take passengers on a journey to enjoy the magnificent view of the New York skyline from the water.
America in Pictures: How best to photograph the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is open to the public all year round and it has different scenery in different seasons. The best time of the day is at 8:30 am as the crowds are much much smaller and the face of the statue catches the rising sunlight.
Given that the statue is 93 meters in height, the best way to photograph the Statue of Liberty is from the water. Hop on a New York water taxi that takes off near the Brooklyn Bridge and the yellow vessel will get close and stop right in front of the Statue of Liberty so you can take as many shots as you like.
TOP TIP: Use image stabilisation, especially when the water is rough, and don’t set your exposure for too long as the motion of the boat/ water will make it blurry.
Empire State Building – one of the most famous US national monuments
By Kelly of Travel New York Now
Located at 20 West 34th Street, the Empire State Building is easily one of the most iconic buildings in NYC and one of the most incredible landmarks to visit in the USA.
To get here, just take either the 1/2/3 train to Penn Station or the N/Q/R/W or B/D/F/M train to Herald Square and walk from there.
Best time to visit this famous US monument?
The Empire State Building is typically only open from around 9:00 am to 12:00 am daily. However, do note that their hours are extremely irregular. So, always check their website for the most up to date information possible. As a result, try to visit first thing in the morning if you want to avoid the crowds and around sunset if you’re looking for the best photos.
Also, although the Empire State Building is open all year long, the best time to visit is January when you won’t find an enormous crowd here. However, bundle up and bring an extra-sturdy tripod because it will be extremely windy and cold once you get to the top.
America in Pictures- how to get the best photos
Pay close attention to the weather because even minimal cloud cover can totally obstruct your view. Luckily though, staff are happy to exchange your tickets for a different day, free of charge, if the weather is less than stellar when you visit during your 2 days in NYC.
And while there is an observation deck on the 102nd floor, you will be surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. Therefore, for the best photos, head to the 86th floor and take stunning panoramas of the New York City skyline, with the One World Trade Center off in the distance.
You also have a wealth of ticket options to choose from, with general admission to both observatories starting at $77.00 per person.
For the best photos of the Empire State Building itself, be sure to visit the Top of the Rock Observatory at Rockefeller Center for unobstructed views of this Art Deco masterpiece.
Brooklyn Bridge/Lower Manhattan skyline
Photographed by Sydney from A World in Reach
For incredible views (and photos!) of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Lower Manhattan skyline in New York City, make your way to Pebble Beach in Brooklyn. Finding a great view of the city should be on everyone’s New York City itinerary, and Pebble Beach has one of the best views.
The Brooklyn Bridge is the most famous of NYC’s bridges, and while there are several great spots to view it, Pebble Beach is definitely one of the best. Pebble Beach is located in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn.
How to get to Pebble Beach
Take the subway to either the York Street or High Street metro stations. From there, you’ll have about a 10-minute walk to Pebble Beach. Once you get close, there will be signs marking the beach’s location.
Admission to Pebble Beach is free. There’s no bad time to visit Pebble Beach, but make sure to bring a coat if you’re visiting on a cold or windy day. The views are great at any time of day, but they’re especially pretty after dark when the lights of the city are illuminated. It’s also a popular spot to visit for sunset photos.
America in Pictures: How to get this photo
Walk down to the rocky beach (or the paved area just above). You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Brooklyn Bridge with the lower Manhattan skyline, including One World Trade Center, in the background. To the right, you can also see the Manhattan Bridge.
When photographing the Brooklyn Bridge, Jane’s Carousel will also be in view. This makes for especially nice photos at night.
If you’re already in the area, make sure to head to the DUMBO-Manhattan Bridge View, another iconic NYC photo spot.
The White House – one of the USA’s most famous monuments
Photographed by Terri from Female Solo Trek
Located in Washington, DC, the 132-room White House is the residence of the President and First Lady of the United States. Every president since 1800 has lived in this mansion. The architecture style is Federalist and the architect James Hoban designed it.
After the War of 1812, the charred building was painted white, thus its name.
America in Pictures: Where to take the best photos of this famous US national monument
The address of the White House is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW., which is just north of Sixteenth Street (nicknamed Avenue or the Presidents.)
The grounds of the White House are fenced and patrolled by security guards. But you can take selfies near the fence.
The easiest way to visit the White House is to take the Metro (McPherson Square, Vermont Avenue exit). You can avoid parking and traffic problems. The White House is perfect to visit any time of year but photos of a snow-clad White House in the winter are stunning. You cannot pay to tour the interior of the White House.
According to the National Park Service, the White House tour is free of charge, but it is on a first come, first serve basis (minimum 21 days in advance but up to three months).
Early morning and sunset are the most picturesque times to photograph. You can choose two views—Pennsylvania Ave NW (north side) or National Mall (south side). Even if you don’t have a SLR with a Zoom lens, you can take surprisingly good photos of The White House with an iPhone.
Washington Monument – iconic American landmark
Visited by Terri from Female Solo Trek
There is no more stunning sight than to witness the exploding fireworks on the 4th of July against the backdrop of the Washington Monument, one of the most famous and iconic landmarks in America.
Built to honor the nation’s first President George Washington, this Egyptian obelisk is 555 feet and 5 1/8 inches tall. It is 55 feet wide at the base. Construction started then halted after the money ran out in 1854, then resumed 25 years later.
It was impossible to match the marble so the building is two-toned. When completed in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world.
How to get to the Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is located on the National Mall. The address is 2 15th St NW, Washington DC. Travel by Metro (Smithsonian exit) is recommended as parking is quite difficult. You do have a 10-minute walk across the mall to reach the venue.
How to get the best photographs of the Washington Monument
The best time to visit is late March if you want to experience the national Cherry Blossom Festival and tour the Washington Monument. It is free to tour but $1 convenience fee is charged. Reserve online at recreation.gov (one ticket per individual).
It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily but closed on Dec. 25, July 3 (part day), and July 4. The best place to photograph is from the Tidal Basin, so the Washington Monument can be the backdrop for the Yoshino cherry trees. Alternatively, you can always get a get a great photo at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial across the reflecting pool. The golden hour (before sunrise and sunset) will produce awe-inspiring shots.
Blue Ridge Parkway- incredible manmade US landmark
Photographed by Bret and Mary from Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide)
The absolutely epic Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles through the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This world-renowned scenic driving route is the most visited unit of the U.S. National Park system, drawing more than 15 million visitors each year.
Part of FDR’s New Deal in the years after the Great Depression, construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began back in 1935. Some 460+ miles of it were completed by 1966, but the remarkably picturesque 8-mile stretch that runs from the Linn Cove Viaduct to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina wasn’t finished until 1987.
Best place to photograph this incredible US landmark
Located at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 302.8, the Rough Ridge Overlook is home to the 1.5-mile Rough Ridge Trail, which takes you on a moderately strenuous hike to some of the most stunning Blue Ridge Mountain overlooks you’ll ever see.
The trail is a little steep and can get extremely muddy after heavy rains, but it’s well-maintained and offers lots of spots to rest along the way as needed. It’s arguably one of the best hikes in North Carolina, leading to one of the most photogenic spots on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.
There are several different overlooks that are great for photos on the way to the top. The iconic summit of Grandfather Mountain looms large above you, the impressive engineering marvel of the Linn Cove Viaduct is in the valley below, and rolling, misty Blue Ridge Mountains stretch as far as the eye can see all around you.
The trail can get crowded on weekends and even weekday afternoons in peak season (September-October), so we suggest going early in the morning. That way you can ensure getting a parking spot, the air is cool, the heat of the sun hasn’t turned the ubiquitous blue mist to haze, and the radiant autumn colors will really pop against the brilliant blue sky.
Cloud Gate ‘Bean’- famous modern US monument
Photographed by Ophelie from Limitless Secrets
Cloud Gate in Chicago is one of the most incredible landmarks to visit in the USA! This huge stainless-steel sculpture with an original shape, nicknamed “the Bean”, is located in the heart of AT&T Plaza in the Millennium Park in Chicago.
Created by the Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, it was built between 2004 and 2006. Its gigantic proportions 33 by 66 by 42 feet (10 by 20 by 13 m) allow you to walk around and under it! It’s easy to access as it’s Chicago downtown and it’s free. It’s one of the best instagram spots in Chicago!
Best time of day to photograph this iconic US monument
The best time to go is at sunrise. The Bean being the most iconic landmark of Chicago, it’s very popular. Therefore, you must be aware that it’s always busy during the day.
You can choose many different perspectives to capture the reflection of the skyline on the sculpture! Depending on the time of the year you will be there, you can have the bean under the snow, surrounded by blooms or by autumn leaves. It looks stunning all year long!
Nearby Places of Interest
After admiring Cloud Gate, take the time to explore Millennium Park. There are many interesting places around this green space like the Millennium Monument, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (hosting annual art events), the Crown Fountain (an interactive art and video sculpture), and the Lurie Garden.
The Art Institute of Chicago, one of the oldest and largest art museums in the USA, is also located not far from the Bean.
The Gateway Arch
Visited by Jessica from Unearth The Voyage
The Gateway Arch is the world’s tallest arch standing at 190-meters. It is an impressive monument built on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis. The arch was built to represent St. Louis’ role in westward expansion and is also called “The Gateway to the West.”
How to visit this famous US monument
To get to the Arch you will need to park in a lot nearby and walk to the monument. The best parking area to access the park where the Gateway Arch is located is 200 Washington Ave, St.Louis, MO 63102.
The Arch is located inside of the Gateway Arch National Park. The walk is an easy 0.4-mile walk from the parking area. You can also see the arch from highway I-40 or I-55 when crossing over the Mississippi River.
America in Pictures: Best time to photograph this iconic landmark
The best time to go to the Gateway Arch is in the spring, summer, or fall. During the winter it can be a bit cold to walk around the park, but you can visit the museum which is inside or go to the top of the Arch.
The best time of day to visit the arch is earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, don’t visit mid-day.
There is no cost to access the park surrounding the Arch or to visit the museum located under the Arch. If you’d like to take the tram to the top of the Gateway Arch, tickets are $17 for adults and $13 for children during standard times and $19 for adults, $15 for children during peak times which are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Best spot to photograph this monument from
The Arch can easily be photographed by standing on the grassy area in front of the arch or even further back closer to the Old Courthouse.
The best GPS coordinate to take a beautiful picture of the entire arch is: 38°37’31.1″N 90°11’15.2″W. This GPS coordinate is located in Luther Ely Smith Park which is the grassy area right in front of the Arch on the west side (opposite side of the Mississippi River).
Alternatively, to get the arch and the St Louis skyline in, cross the river and get it all from the other bank.
Famous US Monuments in Western America
If you’re planning a trip to western America, here are some of the most famous man-made landmarks to visit- and how best to photograph them.
Mount Rushmore- one of America’s most famous monuments
Visited by Candice from CS Ginger
Mount Rushmore is one of the most famous landmarks in the United States. It is found in the middle of the Black Hills, about 90 minutes from Badlands National Park.
The project took 14 years to complete, finishing in 1941. Today, you can see four presidents carved into Mount Rushmore – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
How to visit this iconic monument
Parking is close to Mount Rushmore. There is a short walk from the parking garage to the landmark. Parking is $10 per vehicle or $5 for seniors.
Once you get to Mount Rushmore, there are lots of fun places to explore after admiring the beautiful sculpture. As you walk in, you will walk through the Avenue of the Flags. This is a great place to first admire Mount Rushmore as you are walking in.
America in Pictures: How to photograph this famous US landmark
The main viewing section is the Grand View Terrace. From here, you have a clear and unobstructed view of the presidents. After admiring the sculpture from here, you can walk along the Presidential Trail. At the end of the Presidential Trail, be sure to stop in at the Sculptor’s Studio to learn about how Mount Rushmore was made.
Another interesting stop is at the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center. It has interactive exhibits explaining the history and how Mount Rushmore was made.
When to visit
The most popular time to visit Mount Rushmore is from June to August. This time of year will have the largest crowds. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, September and October are great months to visit.
Visited by Jess from Uprooted Traveler
EDITORS NOTE: Oh, we had some debate on this one. Should this landmark be in our man-made post or in our best natural landmarks in the USA? But the road in itself is a masterpiece, and that makes it a man-made marvel.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park is not only one of the United States’ most stunning scenic drives- it’s also an architectural marvel.
Spanning 50 miles from the park’s east to west side and traversing the Continental Divide, the Going-to-the-Sun Road was painstakingly designed around the dramatic Rocky Mountains, alpine lakes, and lush forests along the road’s path.
Driving it is nothing short of breathtaking. You skirt along a road literally carved into mountain sides and take tight curves along nail-bitingly dramatic cliffs, all while feeling completely immersed in the beauty of the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
Not only is the Going-to-the-Sun Road one of the best examples of the U.S. National Park System’s thoughtful design around the country’s diverse topography and scenic features, but it was also one of the very first roadways, within the parks, that was specifically built for visitors in automobiles (making it even more impressive!).
Best place to photograph this US landmark
There’s a very famous overlook called Big Bend (see map)
You can either enter the Going-to-the Sun Road directly from the park’s West Glacier entrance (in West Glacier, MT) or its St. Mary’s Entrance (in Browning, MT).
Best way to photograph this famous US landmark
Because of the staggering elevation of Glacier’s mountains and the associated heavy snow accumulation along the road, large parts of the Going-to-the-Sun Road aren’t accessible until early to mid July every year. They close by mid-October so make sure to plan your visit in the summertime!
And while the road is always spectacularly gorgeous, the lighting on the mountains around sunrise and sunset truly make this an otherworldly experience. Be sure to make plenty of stops along your drive. For example, the Big Bend Overlook (about 45 minutes east of the West Glacier entrance) provides incredible views of the rugged mountains and colorful valleys of the park.
How to get in to the park
Entrance to the park will cost you $35, unless you have a valid U.S. National Parks interagency pass, like America the Beautiful. And be aware that as of May through September, 2022, you’ll need a highly coveted vehicle reservation to enter the Going-to-the-Sun Road (which the park system implemented due to the overwhelming popularity of the park!).
Photographed by Lori from Southerner Says
The first of its kind, The Hoover Dam is an architectural wonder and one of the most incredible landmarks to visit in the USA. Located approximately thirty miles from Las Vegas in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, seeing the Hoover Dam in person is a must when in southern Nevada. Because it’s so large, photos just don’t do it justice.
The Hoover Dam spans and regulates the Colorado River that divides Nevada and Arizona. Visitors staying in Las Vegas that want to see the dam will need a rental car to get there.
The drive from Las Vegas to the dam is fairly direct and mostly interstate driving. For those without access to a vehicle, another option is to book a Hoover Dam tour with a local tour operator. Most of those companies even offer convenient hotel pick-ups.
How to view the Dam
Once at the dam, there are a couple of ways to see it. Most people take advantage of the free parking and do a free self-guided tour that includes viewing the dam from overlooks at different levels and an easy walk across the dam.
However, the Bureau of Reclamation – the government organization that oversees the dam operation – offers more up-close tours of the dam. Those tours can be booked online for a fee. See the government website for tour options.
America in Photos: The best vantage point for photos of this iconic manmade US landmark
Touring the Hoover Dam is a unique experience but to get the very best viewpoint and to photograph the dam in all its glory, visit the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. This new, much needed bridge was constructed and replaced the previous highly congested old highway route across the dam.
As part of the bridge plans, a pedestrian path alongside the bridge was included. This is where the best views of the Hoover Dam can be found. Simply walk to a preferred vantage point and snap away. Access to the pedestrian bridge is available from a free parking lot before you get to the dam. Interpretive information and interesting info about the area is found along the path.
The Hoover Dam can be visited anytime of the year but remember that southern Nevada is the desert. Summer temperatures can easily top 100F so a morning or early evening visit is best. To make a day of it, plan on visiting Boulder City, “the city that built the dam” and nearby Lake Mead.
Golden Gate Bridge (View 1)
Photographed by Emilie from Love Life Abroad
The Golden Gate Bridge is the icon of the city of San Francisco in California and connects the main city to Marin County on the Northside. When visiting California and the city of San Francisco, you’ll definitely want to capture the beauty of this famous red bridge. And one of the best places to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge is at the Golden Gate View Point.
How to photograph this iconic US landmark
Address of photo location: Old Conzelman Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941, United States.
To get to the Golden Gate View Point on the north side of San Francisco, you’ll have to drive outside the city and use the Golden Gate Bridge. When driving across the bridge, tolls are collected in the southbound direction (driving into San Francisco). But it’s free when driving away from the city (to the Golden Gate View Point for example). So if you’re itinerary involves exploring the north coast, keep this photoshoot for your way out of the city.
Where to park
Once you get to the viewpoint area, you’ll want to find parking, which can be tricky if you’re visiting in the peak season. You can park along Old Conzelman Road or by the Battery Spencer Overlook. You may have to wait a bit to find a parking spot, but it’s totally worth it.
Note that there have been some incidents of thefts in the area, so leave no valuable objects in your car.
There are no parking fees or entrance fees to the viewpoint. The Battery Spencer Overlook is also free of charge and a good place to visit while in the area. It’s walking distance to the Golden Gate View Point.
Best time to photograph the Golden Gate bridge
Now, it’s time to admire the Golden Gate Bridge and to take many photographs. As for any photoshoot, it’s best during the golden hours, but you’ll get beautiful pictures at any time of the day, even if it’s foggy or cloudy.
Golden Gate Bridge (View 2)
Photographed by JJ from The Minivan Bucket List
The Golden Gate Bridge is a modern architectural wonder and one of the most iconic man-made structures in the world. It opened in 1937 and spans 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate strait from the San Francisco Peninsula to the Marin Headlands.
There are several ways to experience the wonder of the bridge, whether you want to drive a car or ride a bike across it, sail underneath it on a boat tour, or just view it from afar. Whatever your preference, it’s definitely something you’ll want to add to your California Bucket List.
The bridge is often shrouded in that famous Bay Area fog, which can make it a challenge to photograph.
How to Shoot the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
The best option on foggy days is to get as close as possible or even on it, whether by boat, car, or bike. You may not be able to photograph the entire bridge, but you will get some nice moody photos – the burnt orange color of the bridge was designed to stand out against the fog.
If you get lucky with the weather, then there are three places that are the best spots to shoot the bridge. One is the Golden Gate Overlook in the Presidio, where you can take photos head on of traffic crossing the bridge framed nicely by some cypress trees.
If you want to take photos of the bridge with the city skyline in the background, then the best place to do that is Battery Spencer on the Marin Headlands side.
But if you want the angle seen in the photo with the beach in the foreground, head to Baker Beach. Park in the lot at the end of Battery Chamberlin Road (see map) then walk to the far north end of the beach.
Hollywood Sign- famous US monument
Visited by Lina from World of Lina
In 1923, the Hollywood Sign was initially created as an advertisement for a local real estate agency in Los Angeles. Over the years, it got more and more recognition and people decided to just leave it up.
Today, the nine white letters on top of Hollywood hill are among the most famous landmarks in California and frequently appear in different movies and series, making them one of the most iconic monuments in America.
Best viewpoints to see the Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood Sign is visible from many spots in Los Angeles. Some of the best include Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park Hiking Trails, Lake Hollywood Park and Barnsdall Art Park. Moreover, don’t forget to climb to the top by the sign to enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the city.
It’s not reachable by car and the best way to get there is to take one of the multiple hiking trails on Mt. Hollywood starting from the Observatory parking lot. Or you can take the trail starting from the Bronson Canyon entrance to Griffith Park. Depending on how fast you walk and which trail you choose the hike takes around 2-3 hours.
No matter what way you choose, make sure to go there early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid crowds and/or the heat.
Photographed by Jenifer from The Evolista
Set in Laguna Beach, one of the prettiest California beach towns, is a stone tower reminiscent of fairy tales. Pirate Tower is a 60 foot tall, narrow rock castle perched against a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The tower was originally built as a staircase for a homeowner to get from the top of the bluff down to the beach. While it is not open to the public, it is one of California’s hidden gems that makes for incredibly beautiful photographs, especially at sunset.
Hot to get to Pirate Tower
The official address is 2700 Victoria Dr, Laguna Beach, CA and you can just type Pirate Tower into Google for directions. It is very easy to find but your biggest challenge will be parking, especially on weekends during the summer. There is no parking available at the stairs down to the beach so look for a spot on Pacific Coast highway. Pay attention to street signs to avoid a ticket.
From PCH, walk a few short blocks to the stairs at the intersection of Sunset Terrace and Victoria Drive. It will lead you down to a sandy beach. On the right side, you will see the rocks you need to walk around to get to the tower. Time your visit to go at low tide so you can make it around the bend safely.
Best spot to photograph this famous US monument from
You will find a pool area where you can stand to get the best photo. Once you’ve finished getting your shots, take time to enjoy the sunset. There’s nothing like enjoying the pacific ocean from a beautiful California beach.
We hope that helped you plan your trip and figure out the best locations to capture these icons of America in pictures. Let me know which one was your favourite.