The Ultimate Guide to the 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the U.S. [2020]

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Update: In light of the spread of COVID-19, parks or attractions may be closed or partially closed. There may also be procedures in place for visiting these sites. To plan your visit, please check with the official site websites for more details.
There are 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites scattered throughout the U.S. Each one offers visitors the opportunity to witness some of the most amazing natural landscapes in the world, as well as learn the history of some of America’s most culturally significant landmarks.

The Continental U.S. is home to 21 of these amazing sites, while 2 more are in Hawaii, 1 is in Puerto Rico — and there is even a site that spans the northern U.S. into Canada.

Here’s a bit of background info on when and why these sites were recognized, and a detailed list of all 24 U.S. UNESCO sites along with information on how to visit them.

What is UNESCO?

UNESCO — or The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization — is a key part of the United Nations. Created in 1945 by Ministers of Education from China, the U.K., the U.S., and the USSR, the organization was set up to promote peace through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms.

Following 2 horrific world wars in less than a generation, it became widely accepted that political and economic alliances were simply not enough to ensure world peace.

UNESCO’s mission is simple but far-reaching: “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication, and information.”

In the years since its inception, the organization has focused on numerous challenges and fought against social and humanitarian injustice the world over. UNESCO’s unique competencies in education, the sciences, culture, communication, and information enable them to focus on several broad objectives.

Among its most significant achievements is the 1978 Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice that states that all human beings are equal no matter where they are from.

The World Heritage Committee was formed in 1976, and UNESCO’s subsequent World Heritage List was first inscribed in 1978.

Each of the World Heritage sites in the U.S. has been classified as either of cultural, natural, or mixed importance and, therefore, worthy of UNESCO’s ongoing research and protection.

1. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (Missouri)

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Image Credit: Emily Dickinson via UNESCO

Location: Missouri

Year of Inscription: 1982

Type: Cultural

Cahokia Mounds is the largest and earliest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico and it is a truly stunning example of a cultural, religious, and economic center of the Mississippian tradition. Telling the story through 1,600 hectares of pre-urban living, it remains one of the most important archaeological sites in North America.

Located just 20 minutes from downtown St. Louis, visitors are welcome daily from 8:00 a.m. until dusk. There is an impressive interpretative center where visitors can explore the museum’s exhibition galleries, visit the orientation show theater, or listen to a lecture in the public programming auditorium.

There are also self-guided tours, professional tour guides, walking trails, and the impressive 100-foot-high Monks Mound — the largest earthwork in North America. Admission is free, but visitors are encouraged to make a donation.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest major airport is St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL), which services both international and domestic flights and is just 19 miles from the center of Cahokia.

By Road:

The interpretative center and entrance can be found on Collinsville Road.

From St. Louis City and West County — Take I-55/70, 64 or Highway 40 and 44 across the Poplar St. Bridge into Illinois, then take exit 6 (Highway 111).

From North St. Louis County and St. Charles — Take I-270 E into Illinois to I-255. Take I-255 S (Memphis) to exit 24.

From Northern and Eastern Illinois Via I-55/70 — Take I-55 S or I-70 W to I-255 exit 10, just past Collinsville. Take I-255 S (Memphis) to exit 24, Collinsville Road.

From I-64 — Take I-64 E or W to I-255 N. Take I-255 N to exit 24, Collinsville Road.

By Public Transportation:

The Madison County Transit Bus #18 travels between downtown Collinsville and various locations in downtown St. Louis, out to Collinsville Road.

Where to Stay

Hampton Inn, Collinsville — This mid-range Hampton by Hilton hotel is located just 5 miles from Cahokia Mounds and offers family suites and bedrooms, an indoor heated pool, free Wi-Fi, and a hot breakfast served daily.

Super 8 Hotel, Collinsville — You’ll find comfortable and affordable overnight accommodations at the Super 8 Collinsville, complete with free Wi-Fi and a free breakfast buffet. The hotel is located a short drive from Cahokia Mounds, as well as other attractions in the area.

DoubleTree, Collinsville — This upscale, full-service hotel has everything you need for a superior stay in Collinsville. Guests have access to the bar and restaurant, heated pool, and a well-equipped fitness room, as well as free Wi-Fi and an on-site business center.

2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Image Credit: Christopher O’Toole via Pixabay

Location: New Mexico

Year of Inscription: 1995

Type: Natural

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is home to more than 100 natural limestone caverns that are notable for their size and diversity. The Carlsbad and Lechuguilla caverns are renowned for the beauty of their decorative rock formations, and this is one of the few places in the world where rare speleothems continue to form.

The visitor center is open from 8:00 a.m. until dusk every day, and visitors can choose to hike or use the elevator to access the interior of the caverns.

A 3-day ticket is available for $12 for visitors over 16, and younger visitors are free. Guided ranger tours are also available, starting from $7 per adult.

Hot Tip: From Carlsbad Caverns to Yosemite and Joshua Tree to Yellowstone, our national parks are some of the most iconic places you will ever see. Our ultimate guide to U.S. national parks covers how to visit each and every one.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest major international airports are El Paso International Airport (ELP) or Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ). Local airlines fly between Albuquerque and Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport (CLD).

By Road:

The park is accessed by a scenic 7-mile entrance road.

From the North — Take Highway 285 S to Highway 62/180 to the park, or I-25 S to reach Highway 285 S.

From the West — Take I-40 E to I-25 S, then take Highway 285 S to Highway 62/180 S to the park.

From the East — Take I-40 W to Highway 285 S and follow it to Highway 62/180 S to the park.

From the South — Take I-10 E or W to State Road 54 N to Highway 62/180 N to the park.

By Public Transportation:

Carlsbad is served by both Greyhound and TNM&O bus lines.

Where to Stay

Days Inn, Carlsbad — This family- and pet-friendly hotel offers an indoor pool and hot tub, free Wi-Fi, and breakfast facilities all located close to the entrance road to the Carlsbad Caverns.

Comfort Suites, Carlsbad — This 2-star hotel offers good-sized suites, free Wi-Fi, and a seasonal pool, all centrally located for access to the park and the town of Carlsbad.

La Quinta Inn & Suites Carlsbad — An upmarket roadside hotel with a traditional bar and restaurant, this La Quinta also has an outdoor swimming pool and gym. Family-sized suites are also available.

3. Chaco Culture (New Mexico)

Chaco Canyon
Image Credit: David Mark via Pixabay

Location: New Mexico

Year of Inscription: 1987

Type: Cultural

Based on approximately 4,000 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, Chaco represents more than 10,000 years of human cultural history in the Chaco Canyon. Visitors can see the thriving homelands of the Puebloans of New Mexico, the Hopi tribe of Arizona, and the Navajo of the Southwest.

Home to the most exceptional concentration of pueblo houses, the visitor center is open at 8:00 a.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Closing times vary. Individual entrance fees start from $15 for a 7-day pass or $25 per vehicle.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest local airports are Farmington (FMN), Gallup (GUP), and Durango (DGO), while Albuquerque (ABQ) is the closest international airport where you can access local flights.

By Road:

The park can only be accessed by driving across 13 to 33 miles of unmade and unmaintained roads.

From the North — Turn off of U.S. 550 at CR 7900 and follow signs to the park boundary and unmade access roads.

From the South — There are 2 routes off of Highway 9, both of which can become impassable. You can reach the park from Highway 57 and Highway 371, but you should call ahead for conditions before you travel.

By Public Transportation:

There are no public transportation options that serve the Chaco region.

Where to Stay

The only lodgings available close to the park are campgrounds. For motels and hotels, the closest town is Bloomfield, some 60 miles away.

Best Western Territorial Inn & Suites, Bloomfield — A clean and comfortable hotel that offers an indoor pool, cable TV, and a complimentary breakfast.

Super 8 Hotel, Bloomfield — Budget accommodations for the money-conscious traveler, this hotel has spacious bedrooms, free Wi-Fi, and breakfast facilities.

Step Back Inn, Aztec — This cute and cozy family-run pioneer-style hotel will add an authentic feel to your visit. Amenities include air conditioning, tea and coffee facilities, and Wi-Fi.

4. Everglades National Park (Florida)

Mangroves in the Everglades National Park
Image Credit: National Park Service

Location: Florida

Year of Inscription: 1979

Type: Natural

This Florida national park has been a natural World Heritage site since 1979 and is still one of the most visited on the planet.

Famous for its vast subtropical wilderness, the Everglades is home to many rare and endangered species, including the manatee, the Florida panther, and the American crocodile, as well as numerous wading birds and the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem.

Due to the expansive nature of the park, it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and can be accessed via 3 separate entrances based in Homestead, Miami, and Everglades City. There are 4 major visitor centers, and the park operates throughout both the wet and dry seasons.

Visitors can arrive by car, motorcycle, on foot, and even by powered paddle-craft, and entrance fees range from $8 to $30 per visit, depending on the mode of transport. Annual passes are available from $55.

How to Get There

The Everglades spans 1.5 million acres across the southern part of Florida, and its 3 main entrances are all easily accessible.

By Air:

Both Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Miami International Airport (MIA) are within easy reach of the Everglades, and there are further charter flights available for those looking to fly directly to Everglades Airpark.

By Road:

For the Homestead Entrance

From Miami — Take the Florida Turnpike (Route 821) before merging with U.S. 1 at Florida City. Turn right at the first traffic light onto Palm Drive (State Road 9336/SW 344th St.) and follow the signs to the park.

From Key West — Drive north from the Florida Keys on U.S. 1, then turn left on Palm Drive (State Road 9336/SW 344th Street) in Florida City and follow the signs to the park.

For the Miami Entrance

From Florida Turnpike — Get off on exit 25A (from the north) or exit 25 (from the south) and take U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail / SW 8th Street) 25 miles west to Shark Valley.

From Naples — Take U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail/SW 8th Street) 70 miles east to Shark Valley.

For the Everglades City Entrance (Naples)

From I-75 (Alligator Alley) — Take exit 80 (State Road 29) and turn south into Everglades City. Once in Everglades City, follow signs to the park.

From Naples — Take U.S. 41 E (Tamiami Trail) towards Miami to State Road 29 into Everglades City, then follow the signs to the park.

Where to Stay

Everglades City Motel, Everglades City — This newly renovated family- and budget-friendly hotel is in the heart of the Everglades. Accommodations include air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a restaurant next door, and reduced fares for airboat tours.

Bonaventure Resort & Spa — An upscale Floridian resort that offers a wealth of amenities, including a golf course, an on-site spa, swimming pools, tennis courts, and first-class accommodations.

Port Of The Islands Everglades Resort — A beautifully-appointed hotel offering direct access to the Ten Thousand Islands of the Everglades. Stay in style in this comfortable and convenient hotel.

5. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Glacier Bay National Park
Image Credit: National Park Service

Location: Alaska

Year of Inscription: 1979

Type: Natural

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve offer unique opportunities for scientific studies of tidewater glacial landscapes, as well as important intact ecosystems that are constantly evolving across the vast and varied landscapes of Alaska.

A site to behold, the park encompasses over 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines, and deep sheltered fjords — all offering visitors the rare opportunity to see dynamic glacial landscapes firsthand.

The park is open year-round, although services are significantly limited during the winter. The Visitor Information Station (VIS) is open from May to September, and opening hours vary depending on the month of your visit. Ranger tours are available, as well as boat tours of Glacier Bay.

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How to Get There 

The park can only be accessed by plane or boat, and all transport is dependent on weather conditions on the day.

By Air:

The airport of Gustavus (GST) is closest to the park entrance, and local flights operate from Juneau International Airport (JNU). Yakutat Airport (YAK) offers air taxi services to Dry Bay, and daily jet services fly to Yakutat from both Juneau and Anchorage.

By Road:

There is no road access to the park — only to the nearby town of Gustavus, where you can catch a boat or air taxi to the bay. There is a simple road system in the town itself that carries travelers to and from the airport and the lodge headquarters.

By Public Transportation:

Because of the remoteness of this location, public transportation is severely limited. You can catch a taxi or minivan on the peninsula itself for short journeys, or jump on a ferry boat or air taxi across to Glacier Bay.

Where to Stay

Blue Heron B&B — A charming bed and breakfast set within a 10-acre homestead. Run by local Alaskan folk, you will get a real feel for the beauty of this remote part of the world during your stay here.

Glacier Bay Luxury Lodge — Upscale cabin-style accommodation with hot tubs and plenty of fresh air await in this traditional Alaskan resort overlooking the mountains. Guests can enjoy a private landing strip, massage services, and a communal theater room.

Wild Alaska Inn — Enjoy whale watching and stunning scenery from the comfort of this cozy, family-run bed and breakfast in Gustavus.

6. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Grand Canyon National Park
Image Credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Location: Arizona

Year of Inscription: 1979

Type: Natural

Perhaps one of the most iconic sites in all America, Grand Canyon National Park is one of the greatest ongoing geological spectacles on Earth.

Its vastness is stunning, and the twisting and turning 276.5 miles of parkland was originally formed during 6 million years of geologic activity and erosion.

Visitors to the park can take in the vistas of both the South and North Rims of the canyon and enjoy abundant opportunities to go hiking, horseback or burro riding, rafting, swimming, or simply take in the super-fresh air.

While the rims differ greatly in their unique rock formations and wildlife, both areas are a fantastic representation of the history and geology of the region.

The South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and includes access to the Grand Canyon Village and Desert View, while the North Rim is closed from December 1 to May 15. Both rims have extensive visitor facilities, including visitor centers, camping grounds, and ranger tours. Weeklong passes range from $20 to $35, and annual passes are available for as little as $70.

How to Get There

By Air:

You can access the South Rim using Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG), and McCarran International Airport (LAS), or pick up limited local flights into Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN).

You can access the North Rim using Flagstaff (FLG), which can be reached by connecting flights from Phoenix (PHX).

By Road:

Depending on which rim you are planning to visit, you will need to tailor your travel directions accordingly:

To the South Rim:

From Flagstaff — Take I-40 W to Williams, then take Highway 64 N to the South Rim.

From Phoenix — Take I-17 N to Flagstaff, then I-40 W to Williams, then Highway 64 N to the South Rim.

From Las Vegas — Take Highway 93 S to Kingman, Arizona, then take I-40 E to Williams. From Williams, take Highway 64 N to the South Rim.

To the North Rim:

From Flagstaff — Take Highway 89 N to Bitter Springs, then take Highway 89A W to Jacob Lake. Highway 67 will carry you south to the North Rim.

From Phoenix — Take I-17 N to Flagstaff, then Highway 89 N to Bitter Springs. Follow Highway 89A W to Jacob Lake before joining Highway 67 to the North Rim.

From Las Vegas — Drive north on I-15 to Route 9, then continue to the Route 59 turn off until it leads into Route 389. Continue east on U.S. 89A to the junction with Route 67 to reach the North Rim.

Hot Tip: Planning a trip on Route 66? Check out our guide to the best road trips in the U.S. with detailed highlights and stops recommended across the historic 2,400 miles and 8 different states of “The Mother Road.”

By Public Transport:

Greyhound, Amtrak, The Grand Canyon Rail, and the Trans-Canyon Shuttle buses all service the South Rim. The North Rim is accessible by local shuttle services.

Where to Stay:

Cameron Trading Post Grand Canyon Hotel — This historic hotel offers a charming restaurant, plenty of Native American artwork, and authentic Southwest charm throughout.

Bright Angel Lodge — Offering plenty of natural rustic charm, this bright and affordable lodge-style hotel offers family accommodations at the heart of the Grand Canyon.

El Tovar Hotel — An opulent and luxurious lodge that offers some of the finest accommodations in the Grand Canyon. Charm and character by the bucketload can be found here.

7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee)

Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Image Credit: Thomas H. via Pixabay

Location: Tennessee

Year of Inscription: 1983

Type: Natural

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an area of exceptional natural beauty with scenic vistas of mist-shrouded mountains and clear-running streams. The park offers acres of undisturbed forests and includes the largest block of virgin red spruce to be found anywhere on Earth.

Visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park can experience the last remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. There are also plenty of stunning spots to enjoy hiking, fishing, and horse riding, as well as ranger-led tours.

The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but some areas are closed in winter. The entrance to the park is free.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest major airport is McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) in Knoxville, Tennessee, while the closest regional airport is Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) in North Carolina.

By Road:

To reach the main entrances to the park, head toward Gatlinburg, Townsend, or Cherokee:

From Gatlinburg — Take I-40 to exit 407, TN-66 S. Continue onto US-441 through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge into the park.

From Townsend — Take I-40 in Knoxville to exit 386B, then US-129 S to Alcoa/Maryville. At Maryville, proceed on US-321 N/TN -73 E through Townsend. Continue straight on TN-73 into the park.

From Cherokee — Take I-40, then exit 27 to US-74 W toward Waynesville. Turn onto US-19 and proceed through Maggie Valley to Cherokee and follow the road into the park.

Where to Stay

Glenstone Lodge, Gatlinburg — This upscale family-friendly lodge offers a wealth of amenities at the heart of the Smoky Mountains National Park, including a dual-level swimming pool, hot tubs, and even an indoor putting green.

The Riverhouse Motel, Gatlinburg — A relaxed and casual motel offering comfortable and affordable accommodation in Gatlinburg. There is also a pool, free Wi-Fi, and easy access to the mountains.

Sidney James Mountain Lodge – Downtown Gatlinburg — Offering a mix of lodges and hotel rooms, the Sidney James Mountain Lodge offers well-appointed accommodation in this authentic Appalachian mountain town.

8. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Image Credit: Tommy Beatty via Pixabay

Location: Hawaii

Year of Inscription: 1987

Type: Natural

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park contains Mauna Loa and Kilauea, 2 of the world’s most active and accessible volcanoes, where ongoing geological processes are easily observed. It is also a superb example of island-building throughout the centuries, despite the difficulties of living under the threat of volcanic eruption.

Visitors flock to the park to drive the crater rim, hike through the backcountry, or experience ranger-led tours that tell the story of this magnificent island.

The park itself is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while the Kīlauea Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Weeklong passes cost between $12 and $25, and the park has free admission on certain national holidays.

How to Get There

By Air:

Both Hilo International Airport (ITO) and Kona International Airport (KOA) service the island and can be accessed from a variety of mainland U.S. international airports.

By Road:

From Hilo — Travel 30 miles southwest on Highway 11 to the park entrance.

From Kailua-Kona — Travel 96 miles southeast on Highway 11 to the park entrance.

From Waimea and Hilo, you can also travel on Highways 19 and 11 for a more scenic route to the park.

Public Transport:

Hele-On Bus is a public bus service that operates limited routes across the island.

Where to Stay

Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo — This exclusive upscale hotel offers an authentic Hawaiian experience with a wealth of amenities, including swimming pools, a fitness center, an on-site golf course, and fine dining.

Volcano House — Stay in the park’s only lodgings perched on the very edge of the crater rim. Sumptuous accommodation is on offer, with stunning views out across the volcano.

Chalet Kilauea — This boutique hotel is just a mile away from the park entrance and offers peaceful, authentic charm throughout. Stay in style on the stunning island of Hawaii.

9. Hollyhock House (California)

Hollyhock House
Image Credit: Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock

Location: Los Angeles, California

Year of Inscription: 2019

Type: Cultural

Hollyhock House was built between 1919 and 1921 and was the first Los Angeles commission for the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Originally built for the American oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, the magnificent building is now the centerpiece of the Barnsdall Art Park in the Olive Hill neighborhood of Los Feliz. As a dedicated patron of the arts, Barnsdall dreamt of creating an artist’s commune in the middle of Los Angeles.

Sadly her dream was never fully realized as intense differences of opinion between her and Wright saw only 3 of the buildings ever reaching completion.

In 1927, the residence and 11 acres of grounds were donated to the City of Los Angeles for use as an art park and library. Visitors are now able to enjoy the compelling mix of Mayan-, Aztec-, Asian-, and even Egyptian-style architecture. You will able to see how Wright was able to create something incredible from Barnsdall’s request to seamlessly blend outdoor and indoor living.

Tours of the house are available but must be booked in advance.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest major international airport is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is 11 miles away, while Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) is just 7 miles away. Taxis and rental cars are available at both airports for your onward journey to Los Feliz.

By Road:

Hollyhock House is located at 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027.

From Burbank — Take the I-5 S/Golden State Freeway in Los Angeles, then take exit 141 onto Los Feliz Avenue. From here turn left onto N. Vermont Avenue, right onto Franklin Avenue, left onto N. Berendo Street, and finally right onto Hollywood Boulevard.

From Downtown Los Angeles — Follow street signs to merge on to US-101 N to Melrose Avenue, then take exit 6B for Melrose Avenue towards Normandie Avenue. Turn left onto N. Edgemont Street, before taking a final right turn onto Hollywood Boulevard.

From Santa Monica — Join I-10 E towards Los Angeles, then take the US-101 N to Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Take exit 6B from US-101 N and left onto N. Edgemont Street, before taking a final right turn onto Hollywood Boulevard.

By Public Transportation:

Bus: Metro lines 180/181, 2/302, 206, and 780 all run close to Hollyhock House, and the DASH line will also get you there quickly and easily.

Train: The Red Line Metro train will take you close to the entrance of the park.

Taxis and Ubers are also available easily within the local area.

Where to Stay

The Hollywood Hotel — Packed full of Hollywood glamour, this hotel offers beautifully-appointed bedrooms and wonderful amenities in the heart of historic Hollywood. With an outdoor pool, meditative atrium garden, and an on-site wellness center, this is one of the best in the area.

The Dixie Hollywood Hotel — Offering affordable accommodation close to Hollywood’s heart, this mid-range hotel offers an outdoor pool, a business center, and a bright and spacious motel style bedrooms. With on-site parking and a stellar location, this is a great base for exploring the very best LA has to offer.

Travelodge by Wyndham Hollywood-Vermont/Sunset — Located close to Universal Studios Hollywood and Vermont Avenue, this hotel offers family-friendly accommodation in an enviable Hollywood location. Offering spacious bedrooms and an outdoor swimming pool, this hotel is superbly situated close to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theater.

10. Independence Hall (Pennsylvania)

Independence Hall
Image Credit: Jeff Smith via Pixabay

Location: Pennsylvania

Year of Inscription: 1979

Type: Cultural

Independence Hall is deemed the birthplace of America, with both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution having been debated and signed within its walls. The building has been preserved and long revered as home to the founding documents from which the principles of freedom and democracy have influenced lawmakers around the world.

Visitors come to breathe in the unique historical importance of the building, as well as learn about the early democratic lives of America’s forefathers. There are learning programs and guided tours to be explored and enjoyed here. You can also take in the Liberty Bell at the Liberty Bell Center across the road from Independence Hall.

Independence Hall is open year-round, but the entrance is by guided tour only. Tickets are free but must be pre-booked from March to December. All visitors will be subject to security screening prior to admittance.

How to Get There

By Air:

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is approximately 11 miles from Independence Hall.

By Road:

Parking is available at Philadelphia Parking Authority’s AutoPark at Independence Mall, an underground garage located directly below the Independence Visitor Center.

From Valley Forge and the West — Take the exit from I-76 to I-676, continue to 6th Street exit (Independence Hall exit), turn right on 6th Street to find parking.

From New Jersey — Travel westbound via Benjamin Franklin Bridge (U.S. 30), then follow signs for 6th Street (Historic Area).

From Bucks County and the North — Take I-95 S, then take exit 22 to Callowhill Street, and turn right onto Callowhill Street to 6th Street.

By Public Transport:

SEPTA Regional Rail stops at Jefferson Station, while Amtrak stops at 30th Street Station. SEPTA Buses and New Jersey Transit Buses both stop near the visitor center.

Where to Stay

In the heart of the Historic Area, there are plenty of hotels to choose from. Here are 3 of the best:

Loews Hotel, Philadelphia — This upscale city center hotel offers well-appointed accommodations for the urban traveler. Close to the Historic District, amenities here include a fitness center, on-site spa, and beauty salon.

Club Quarters Hotel, Philadelphia — This classy boutique hotel is in a central location that makes it the perfect base for visitors to Independence Hall and other attractions. Amenities include a fitness club and an Italian restaurant.

Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District — A reliable chain hotel situated at the heart of the Historic District. Enjoy spacious suites and family rooms, golf facilities, and an on-site spa before exploring the streets of Philadelphia.

11. La Fortaleza and San Juan (Puerto Rico)

La Fortaleza
Image Credit: Serge Yatunin via Shutterstock

Location: Puerto Rico

Year of Inscription: 1983

Type: Cultural

As a collection of 3 forts and a historic executive mansion that is still in use today, La Fortaleza and the town of San Juan are an unforgettable example of the European forces that set down roots in the Caribbean.

Historically and culturally important to the Americas, the fort, the mansion, and the city of San Juan are a fine representation of the island’s fortifications built between the 16th and 20th centuries.

Visitors to the region can explore the magnificent military structures and take a journey back in time in the restored walls of La Fortaleza. This imposing building, dating from 1533, is the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere.

You can take a 30-minute guided tour and experience the Moorish gardens, the dungeon, and the chapel. Security is tight since this is the official residence of the governor of Puerto Rico, so you should be prepared to show your passport or I.D. on arrival.

The site is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and guided tours are offered daily except holidays. The entrance to the site is free. Visitors should also take time to visit both the Del Morro and Castillo de San Cristóbal during their stay.

Hot Tip: Whether you’re exploring history or looking for a relaxing beach break, Puerto Rico has it all. See why Puerto Rico made our list of the best cheap beach vacation destinations in North America.

How to Get There

By Air:

Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) is the closest airport to La Fortaleza and San Juan. Flights operate daily from across the continental U.S.

By Car:

From the Airport — Join the Expreso Román Baldorioty de Castro/PR-26 from the airport, then follow Avenida Luis Muñoz Rivera and Calle Sol to Calle Clara Lair and La Fortaleza.

By Public Transport:

Shuttle GO Puerto Rico offers a shuttle bus service from the airport to San Juan and out to La Fortaleza.

Where to Stay

Hotel Milano, Old San Juan — Set in a historic 19th-century building, this low-key hotel offers casual yet well-appointed rooms, as well as an excellent restaurant and a rooftop terrace.

CasaBlanca Hotel, Old San Juan — This Spanish-style hotel offers an eclectic cafe and a roof deck with stunning views out across the port. Enjoy rooftop lounging and bathing in this pretty hotel that is the first EPA Energy Efficient Certified Hotel in Puerto Rico.

S.J. Suites Hotel — Simple yet comfortable lodgings can be found in this straightforward and affordable hotel offering a business center and a cozy lounge.

12. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

Mammoth Cave National Park
Image Credit: National Parks Conservation Association

Location: Kentucky

Year of Inscription: 1981

Type: Natural

Mammoth Cave National Park is the most extensive cave system in the world, with over 285 miles of surveyed cave passageways, and one of the most magnificent ecological sites in the U.S. It is also home to some of the richest cave-dwelling flora and fauna ever recorded.

Visitors can enjoy extensive ranger-led cave tours deep beneath the Earth, or go kayaking, canoeing, or fishing on both the Green River and Nolin River. Camping is also popular in Mammoth Cave National Park.

The site is open year-round, although the visitor center is closed on Christmas Day. Operating hours vary depending on the season. Wild Cave Tours are currently charged at $12 per person, and there are restrictions on the use of strollers and wheelchairs.

How to Get There

By Air:

Louisville International Airport (SDF) and Nashville International Airport (BNA) are both about 90 miles from Mammoth Cave and offer daily flights to all parts of the U.S. and beyond.

By Road:

From the North — Take I-65 S from Louisville all the way to exit 53, then turn right and continue until you reach the park visitor center.

From the South — Take I-65 N from Nashville to exit 48, before turning left and continuing to the park visitor center.

From the East — Take the Bluegrass Parkway, Cumberland Parkway, and U.S. 68 until you reach the park visitor center.

From the West — Use U.S. 68 and 80, Natcher Parkway, and Western Kentucky Parkway to I-65 and follow signs to the park, or take a detour through Brownsville.

By Public Transport:

Southeastern Greyhound Bus serves Cave City, but the bus station is closed on weekends and holidays.

Where to Stay

Sunset Terrace Rooms, Park City — Set in the heart of Mammoth Cave National Park, this historic lodge offers rustic comfort and well-appointed accommodation at affordable prices.

Grand Victorian Inn, Park City — A charming, adults-only inn within a Victorian building that offers an excellent restaurant and comprehensive library. Rural charm and a historic feel add grandeur to this country-style inn.

Days Inn By Wyndham, Cave City — A comfortable and convenient roadside property with an outdoor pool, plus free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Perfect for families looking for modern amenities close to the Mammoth Cave National Park.

13. Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)

Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park. Image Credit: National Park Service

Location: Colorado

Year of Inscription: 1978

Type: Cultural

Mesa Verde National Park was named a World Heritage site in recognition of its exceptional archaeological relevance, and it is considered to be the finest example of the prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan culture with its spectacular “cliff dwellings.” From single-room storage units to entire villages, the site is quite something to behold.

Visitors to Mesa Verde will enjoy exploring some of the most notable and best-preserved archaeological sites in the form of the unusual cliff houses. Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Spruce Tree House are among the most famous of the many unusual historic houses in the park, with more findings being made on a routine basis.

Guided tours are available, and the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum tells the history of the unique Puebloan culture. Opening hours for both the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center and the museum vary with the season, and ranger-guided tours start from $5 depending on the time and location of the tour itself.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest airports to the park include Cortez (CEZ), Durango (DGO), and Farmington (FMN). A range of international and local flights are available to each of these airports.

By Road:

The Mesa Verde National Park entrance is in southwestern Colorado. Take Highway 160 between the towns of Mancos and Cortez and about 35 miles west of Durango. Once you enter the park, the first view of a cliff dwelling is 21 miles (approximately 45 minutes) along with a steep, narrow, and winding road.

By Public Transport:

The closest bus terminal is located in Durango. Car rental is needed to get from the bus terminal to the park. The entrance to Mesa Verde is 35 miles from Durango.

Where to Stay

Holiday Inn Express Mesa Verde-Cortez — This budget-friendly chain hotel offers well-appointed accommodation alongside a complimentary fitness center, an indoor pool with a whirlpool, and a heated outdoor pool.

Hampton Inn Mesa Verde/Cortez — Modern rooms and studios are available in this low-key, comfortable hotel offering an indoor pool, a gym, and free breakfast.

The Retro Inn, Mesa Verde — Fun and funky motel accommodation close to Mesa Verde. Enjoy comfortable, cozy bedrooms with quirky interiors in this hotel that also offers outdoor games, horseshoes, lawn bowling, badminton, volleyball, giant chess, and board games.

14. Monticello and the University of Virginia (Virginia)

Monticello
Image Credit: Skeeze via Pixabay

Location: Virginia

Year of Inscription: 1987

Type: Cultural

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S. and an author of the Declaration of Independence, was also a highly-skilled architect and the founder of the University of Virginia.

The Monticello plantation was built and designed by Jefferson and remains a building of high architectural and historical significance. The University of Virginia is one of the most historically important seats of learning in America and is renowned for its historic foundations, student-run honor code, and secret societies.

Visitors to both buildings can enjoy spending hours taking in the stunning architecture and learning about the foundations of the liberty and freedom of the American people.

Monticello is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and guided tours are available to show you the grand home Jefferson designed and built for himself and his family. You can also enjoy the sweeping vistas and extensive gardens. Day passes, and tour tickets start from $21 per adult visitor.

How to Get There

By Air:

Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO) is the closest airport to both locations.

By Road:

Travel between both locations should take around 15 minutes. From the University of Virginia’s head east on W. Main Street toward 12 1/2 Street NW, then turn left onto Cherry Avenue. Continue onto Elliot Avenue before turning right onto VA-20 S/Monticello Avenue. A left turn toward the Monticello Loop will take you to the entrance of the Monticello visitor center and parking.

By Public Transport:

Charlotte Area Transport offers regular bus services between the 2 locations.

Where to Stay

Holiday Inn Charlottesville-Monticello – This classic hotel is a 5-minute drive from both Monticello and the university and offers good quality accommodation complete with an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a traditional American restaurant.

The Inn At Monticello, Charlottesville — This historic hotel offers refined lodgings in a B&B surrounded by wooded gardens and a creek. Gourmet breakfasts are on offer, and the inn is less than 2 miles from Monticello.

The Inn At Darden, Charlottesville — This full-service hotel offers corporate style accommodation for leisure and business travelers alike. Amenities include an on-site pub and restaurant as well as business services.

15. Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point (Louisiana)

Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point
Image Credit: National Park Service

Location: Louisiana

Year of Inscription: 2014

Type: Cultural

The Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point is a testament to Native American culture and heritage that comprises 5 mounds and 6 semi-elliptical ridges separated by shallow depressions and a central plaza. There is also an informative and educational museum of artifacts on site.

The earthworks were created for residential and ceremonial purposes by a society of hunter-fisher-gatherers as far back as 3700 B.C., and this remarkable feat of construction remained unsurpassed for at least 2,000 years.

Visitors can learn about the enormous trading network that stretched for hundreds of miles across the continent while they wonder at the engineering marvel that took over 5 million hours of labor to create.

The site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day. Daily ranger-led tram tours are offered, as well as historical and nature programs. The entrance costs $4 per adult.

How to Get There

By Air:

Poverty Point is located in northeast Louisiana and is a considerable distance from any major cities. The nearest airport would be considered Shreveport (SHV), a 3-hour drive away.

By Road:

From I-20 — Take the Delhi exit and travel north on LA 17, east on LA 134, and north on LA 577. I-20 can be accessed from many other major routes in any direction.

By Public Transport:

There is no scheduled public transportation that services the remote location of Poverty Point.

Where to Stay

La Quinta Inn, Monroe — This modern and comfortable travel hotel offers a selection of cozy bedrooms and super-sized suites, as well as high-speed internet access and a free Bright Side breakfast.

Residence Inn by Marriott, Monroe — A bright and welcoming hotel located close to nearby attractions and amenities. Family rooms are available, and visitors can enjoy extras, including a fitness center and indoor swimming pool.

Best Western, Delhi — With its seasonal pool, the Best Western in Delhi offers clean and comfortable accommodation close to Poverty Point as well as easy access to riverboat casinos and the Black Bear Golf Course.

16. Olympic National Park (Washington)

James Island off the Olympic Coast in Olympic National Park
James Island off the Olympic Coast in Olympic National Park. Image Credit: Danielle Archuleta via the National Park Service

Location: Washington

Year of Inscription: 1981

Type: Natural

With its spectacular coastlines, scenic lakes, majestic mountains, and amazingly temperate rainforests, Olympic National Park is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty. Because of the biological evolution, ecological variety, and sheer splendor of the Olympic National Park, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981.

Visitors will get to see the incredible natural spectacles firsthand throughout the almost 1 million acres of parkland that protects a vast wilderness, as well as thousands of years of human history and the animals that live there.

The park is open 24 hours a day all year round, but you should check weather conditions before you travel. A 7-day pass costs between $15 and $30 depending on your mode of transportation. You can spend your time hiking, walking, fishing, camping, or enjoying other outdoor pursuits, but camping permits and additional fees may apply.

Hot Tip: Olympic National Park — featuring the Olympic Peninsula Loop and Rialto Beach — is the perfect cheap weekend getaway!

How to Get There

By Air:

The closest major airports are Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) or William R. Fairchild International Airport (CLM) in Port Angeles.

By Road:

You can reach Olympic National Park via the I-5 corridor or by one of the quieter state roadways. Once you arrive on the Olympic Peninsula, you will need to connect to Highway 101 to reach any of the entrances and destinations in and around the park.

From Olympia — Take I-5 to Highway 101.

From Tacoma — Take State Route 16 to Bremerton; take State Route 3 N from Bremerton to State Route 104.

From Washington/Oregon Coast — Connect to Highway 101 in Aberdeen.

By Public Transport:

You can reach parts of the park by ferry, and Washington State Ferries operates services throughout the year. Alternatively, Olympic Bus Lines and the Clallam Bus System run services to the most popular parts of the peninsula.

Where to Stay

Olympic Lodge, Port Angeles — This hotel offers elegant lodge-style accommodations, plus a heated outdoor pool and a casual bistro that serves up filling breakfasts just 2.2 miles from the Olympic National Park Visitor Center.

Quality Inn & Suites, Sequim — Just off of Route 101, this simple but comfortable roadside hotel offers an outdoor pool and meeting space, plus free parking, breakfast, and Wi-Fi.

Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park — Take a break from reality in this remote oceanfront hotel on a bluff that is the only coastal lodge along a 73-mile stretch of Olympic National Park. Rustic rooms and authentic cabins help you switch off completely with no internet or phones.

17. Papahānaumokuākea (Hawaii)

Papahānaumokuākea
Image Credit: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Location: Hawaii

Year of Inscription: 2010

Type: Mixed

Papahānaumokuākea is an isolated linear cluster of small, low-lying islands and atolls that extends roughly 250 kilometers northwest of the island of Hawaii. The area is a fine example of native Hawaiian culture, as well as home to deepwater habitats that feature extensive coral reefs and lagoons.

It is one of the largest protected marine areas in the world, and visitors come to see the vast array of wildlife that call the islands their home. If you’re lucky, you may be able to capture a glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, green sea turtles, or a Laysan albatross, among the many thousands of other creatures that live in this vast natural habitat.

The coral reefs are also a major draw, as is the opportunity to learn about and see firsthand the history of the islands and its people. Papahānaumokuākea is extremely remote, and opening hours change depending on the time of year.

How to Get There

By Air:

Charter flights are available from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu, but these can be expensive and are not flown daily. Tourist opportunities are severely limited on the islands, and most visitors attend as volunteers to assist conservation groups.

By Road:

You can only access the islands by air or sea. Rangers and conservationists have limited use of vehicles on the larger islands.

By Public Transport:

Conservation groups and ranger services operate boat trips to the islands. However, you can only visit as a volunteer.

Where to Stay

Sheraton Kauai Resort, Koloa— A luxurious 4-star oceanfront resort that offers traditional Hawaiian dining, as well as 2 outdoor pools, a fitness center, and easy access to the beach.

Kalaheo Inn, Kalaheo — Situated close to local shops and restaurants, this casual hotel offers suite-only accommodations complete with kitchens or kitchenettes, as well as kids’ games, BBQ grills, and an on-site steakhouse.

Marjorie’s Kauai Inn, Lawai — On a hilltop high above Old Koloa Town, this traditional B&B offers stunning scenic vistas as well as country-style rooms with kitchenettes, a swimming pool, a hot tub, and free use of beach equipment for visitors.

Hot Tip: Visiting paradise on points is possible! See our guide to the best ways to fly to Hawaii with points and miles.

18. Redwood National and State Parks (California)

Redwood National Park
Image Credit: David Mark via Pixabay

Location: California

Year of Inscription: 1980

Type: Natural

Covering some 38,982 acres, the Redwood National and State Parks‘ primary attraction is the expansive coastal redwood forest that has existed for over 160 million years. Containing some of the oldest and tallest trees in America, it is also renowned for the rich intertidal, marine, and freshwater stream flora and fauna that can be found there.

Breathtakingly beautiful, the park is a popular spot for those looking to camp out in the backcountry. Most visitors to the parks come to “get back to nature” and enjoy hiking, cycling, fishing, or camping, as well as ranger-led tours to see the natural beauty of the park and safely observe the wildlife.

The park is open 24 hours a day all year round; visitors centers are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from May through November and close an hour earlier in the winter. Redwood National Park is free to visit, while the state park offers day tickets and camping passes from $17.

Hot Tip: Strap on your VR goggles for an immersive virtual tour of some of the world’s tallest trees. We have the details in our guide to virtual tours of popular tourist attractions around the world.

How to Get There

By Air:

The Redwood National and State Parks cover a huge swathe of California. The nearest regional airports are Jack McNamara Field (CEC) in Crescent City, Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR), and California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport (ACV). These are all accessible using various domestic air carriers.

By Road:

From Oregon – Take U.S. 101 to exit at North Bank Road/Calif. 197 and continue southeast to the junction with U.S. 199 in the heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

From Central Oregon (Grants Pass/I-5 corridor) – Take U.S. 199/Redwood Highway and travel southwest to the northeast boundary of the parks near Hiouchi, California for the Crescent City Information Center.

From the California Coast (U.S. 101) — The Kuchel Visitor Center near the parks’ southern boundary is located north of Eureka, just off of U.S. 101. Continue north on U.S. 101 to access Bald Hills Road or Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.

From Central California (Redding/I-5 corridor) — From Redding, exit Eureka Way/CA 299 and continue west to U.S. 101. Then travel north on U.S. 101 ~30 miles to the Kuchel Visitor Center, or continue north for the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.

By Public Transport:

Redwood Coast Transit (RCT) offers services from cities such as Smith River, Crescent City, Gasquet, Klamath, Orick, and Arcata.

Where to Stay

The Lost Whale Inn Oceanfront B&B, Trinidad, California — Set off Route 101, this family-run oceanfront B&B offers colonial-style accommodations with well-appointed bedrooms, balcony views, a private beach, and delicious homemade breakfasts.

Holiday Inn Express, Klamath — This comfortable hotel offers low-key accommodations with air-conditioned rooms, an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and even its very own casino.

The Historic Requa Inn, Eureka — A solid redwood traditional inn offering cozy and well-appointed accommodations throughout. At this family-run venture, every bedroom is uniquely designed, and the focus is on peaceful relaxation and the ability to feel at one with the history and nature of the region.

19. San Antonio Missions (Texas)

San Antonio Missions
Image Credit: USA-Reiseblogger via Pixabay

Location: Texas

Year of Inscription: 2015

Type: Cultural

This historical site preserves 4 of the 5 Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio that were originally established by Catholic religious orders to spread Christianity among the local natives. Regarded as the pinnacle of the spread of religion in the U.S., Missions Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada represent the largest concentration of Spanish colonial missions in North America.

Visitors come to the San Antonio Missions to explore these historic sites as they stroll along the 8-mile stretch of recreational trails, pedestrian bridges, and pavilions to see each of the 4 locations. The visitors center at Mission San José offers video presentations that tell the stories of the missions’ rich history.

Entrance to the sites is free, and all churches are open between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. There is parking available at each of the missions.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest airport is San Antonio International Airport (SAT).

By Road:

The Mission Trail is a 15.5-mile round-trip that will take you past all of the churches and as far north as The Alamo.

From Downtown San Antonio — Head out onto Roosevelt Avenue, then turn left onto S.E. Military Drive. Take a slight right toward Mission Parkway, and the Visitors Center is further down on the left.

By Public Transport:

VIA operates service to and from San Antonio Missions Park.

Where to Stay

La Quinta San Antonio, Brooks City Base — Just off I-37, this casual and modern hotel is just a 7-mile drive from Mission Park and offers an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness room, and a hot breakfast every day.

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott San Antonio Brooks City Base — Comfortable and clean accommodation close to Mission Park that offers an outdoor swimming pool, a gym, and a daily breakfast service.

Knights Inn, San Antonio — A no-frills hotel just a 5-minute drive from Mission Park. Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, air conditioning, and fresh daily breakfast.

20. Statue Of Liberty (New York)

Statue of Liberty New York Ellis Island
Image Credit: Freddy G via Unsplash

Location: New York

Year of Inscription: 1984

Type: Cultural

The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift to America from the people of France to recognize the ongoing friendship between these 2 countries. The enormous copper statue stands 93 meters tall and is the most iconic landmark in the U.S.

Lady Liberty holds her torch high to the millions who have landed on American shores in search of freedom and opportunity. She serves as a symbol to the world of the ideals of liberty upon which the U.S. was founded.

Visitors make a ferry journey to explore both the Liberty Park grounds and Ellis Island, which was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants into the U.S. and housed the country’s busiest immigration station, as well as a hospital. You can explore the pedestal of the statue, or climb 20 stories up to inspect the view from the crown, and learn all about the statue’s history at the visitors center.

Liberty Island is open every day except December 25. The park is accessed via the Statue Cruises ferry that departs from Battery Park or Liberty State Park before 1:00 p.m. Tickets start at $3 to climb to the crown, and ranger-led or self-guided tours are also available.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest major airport is Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), which offers both international and domestic flights and is 10 miles from the Statue of Liberty. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is 30 minutes away.

By Road:

You can pick up the ferry from Battery Park in New York or Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

From Battery Park — Take the East Side Drive (FDR Drive) south to Battery Park and State Street or the West Side Highway/West Street/Route 9A S to Battery Place. Designated parking is not available, and private parking lots fill up early in the day.

From Liberty State Park — Take the New Jersey Turnpike Extension to exit 14B. Follow the signs to Liberty State Park/Ferry to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

By Public Transport:

The Liberty Island Ferry and the Ellis Island Ferry operate daily. The MTA operates subway trains and buses that stop at all designations close to both parks and the ferry.

Where to Stay

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New York City – Financial District — This classy 4-star hotel is close to the entrance of Battery Park and offers a wealth of amenities, including an all-day restaurant, a 24-hour business center, and a gym.

Holiday Inn Express New York City – Wall Street — Offering budget accommodations at the heart of the financial district, this Holiday Inn has modern rooms, free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, and a daily hot breakfast close to Battery Park.

The Wagner at the Battery — If you want to experience a touch of the good life in the Big Apple, The Wagner is a 5-star hotel that offers sleek suites with views across the Hudson River and the Upper Bay. Deluxe accommodations with parking and a fine dining restaurant await.

21. Taos Pueblo (New Mexico)

Taos Pueblo
Image Credit: Rob Robinson via Pixabay

Location: New Mexico

Year of Inscription: 1992

Type: Cultural

Situated in the valley of the Rio Grande, this settlement of adobe dwellings and ceremonial buildings represents the enduring culture of the Pueblo Native Americans. Established as far back as the late 13th century, Taos Pueblo is a remarkable example of traditional Native American architecture that continues to be a thriving community today.

Visitors come to learn more about the highlights of the culture, history, and people as they tour the most significant areas of the village. Guided tours are recommended, as Taos Pueblo is a living Native American community, and some of the buildings remain private residences.

Located at the base of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountain range, Taos Pueblo offers a unique insight into the traditions and culture of the Pueblo people. The site is open every day between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and tickets start from $16 per adult.

How to Get There

By Air:

The nearest regional airport is in Santa Fe (SAF), which operates limited local services. Albuquerque (ABQ) offers an increased selection of national and international carriers.

By Road:

From Santa Fe — Take US-285 N to US-84 W, then U.S. Hwy 285 N to NM-68 N to Cam Del Paseo Pueblo Norte in Taos, then follow signs for the site entrance.

From Albuquerque — Take I-25 to Santa Fe before exiting on 599 N to bypass Santa Fe, then take Highway 68 to Taos.

By Public Transport:

Greyhound offers services to Taos from throughout the U.S.

Where to Stay

The Historic Taos Inn, Taos — Set across several adobe houses dating from the 1800s, this landmark inn offers authentic style, relaxed lodgings, and a lively bar with nightly entertainment and fine dining in the Doc Martin’s Restaurant.

El Pueblo Lodge, Taos — Made up of several early 20th-century adobe buildings on a 3-acre site, this casual hotel offers cozy, traditional bedrooms, a private apartment, and an outdoor heated pool and BBQ area.

El Monte Sagrado, Taos — This 4-star hotel offers a taste of the Southwest with luxury accommodations, an award-winning spa, and a popular bar and restaurant in a tranquil setting.

22. Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (Montana)

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
Image Credit: Mishella via Shutterstock

Location: Montana

Year of Inscription: 1995

Type: Natural

When Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park in Montana combined in 1932, they officially became the world’s very first International Peace Park.

Situated directly on the border between the 2 countries, the park is now one of the most outstanding examples of Northern American parklands — rich in plant and animal species as well as prairie, forest, alpine, and glacial features.

Visitors come to experience the exceptional scenery and stunning outdoor opportunities to be found in this park, including trail hiking, cycling, ranger-led tours, fishing in Lake McDonald, and camping in the backcountry. There is also the awesome opportunity to travel 10 miles of the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road that runs from the West Glacier to Lake McDonald Lodge.

Opening hours for all visitors centers and rangers stations vary throughout the seasons. During the low season in winter, heavy snow can make areas of the park inaccessible. Fees start at $20 for a single pedestrian pass and go up to $30 for a 7-day vehicle pass.

How to Get There

The park covers over 1 million acres, so getting there will vary greatly depending on which part of the park you plan to visit.

By Air:

The Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is located near Kalispell and is approximately 30 miles west of the West Entrance. Missoula International Airport (MSO) is located approximately 150 miles south of the West Entrance.

Great Falls International Airport (GTF) is located between 130 and 165 miles east of East Glacier Park, St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier entrances.

Car rentals are available at airports, and shuttles are available at the Kalispell airport.

By Road:

From Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls — Take Highway 2 N to West Glacier to the West Entrance. This entrance provides access to the Lake McDonald area, the Apgar Visitor Center, and is the west entry point to the Going-to-the-Sun-Road.

For the St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier entrances, the closest town is Browning. All 3 entrances can be reached by taking Highway 89 N from Great Falls to the town of Browning, and then following signage to the respective entrance.

By Public Transport:

Amtrak’s historic Empire Builder train line stops year-round at West Glacier (Belton), and West Glacier Amtrak runs a service between Apgar and the Lake McDonald Lodge. There is also a shuttle bus that runs across the park itself provided by the NPS.

Where to Stay

Kalispell Grand Hotel, Kalispell — Dating from 1912, this classic brick hotel offers cozy and authentic Montana-style lodgings complete with whirlpool tubs, balconies, a massage center, and an art gallery.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kalispell — A reliable and affordable modern accommodation just 8 miles from the Glacier Park International Airport. This is a straightforward hotel that offers a heated indoor pool, complimentary breakfast, and Wi-Fi.

Red Lion Hotel Kalispell — A bright and friendly lodge-style hotel in the heart of Kalispell. The hotel offers a free airport shuttle to Glacier Park International Airport, a 24-hour cafe, and a beautiful indoor swimming pool.

23. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

Yellowstone National Park
Image Credit: David Mark via Pixabay

Location: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

Year of Inscription: 1978

Type: Natural

Yellowstone National Park was established as the world’s first national park in 1872. Many tribes have used the park as their home, both before and after the arrival of Europeans across the Americas. Because it was so important to so many groups, a Protection Act was set up to prevent it from ever being developed, thus allowing the park to evolve exactly as nature intended it to.

As one of the most iconic parks in the world, visitors come to explore the renowned geyser Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the hot springs, the Lamar Valley, and even the grizzly bear and wolf museum. They can also enjoy a full array of outdoor activities ranging from backcountry camping to hiking, cycling, and fishing.

The park is open year-round, but July and August are the only months where every area is accessible to the public. Changing weather conditions mean you should check the individual opening hours of each entrance, visitors center, ranger station, or campground before you leave. Weeklong passes cost between $20 and $35, and annual passes start at $70.

How to Get There

By Air:

Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD), Yellowstone Airport (WYS), Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Bozeman Yellowstone Airport (BZN), and Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) all offer access to various regions of the park. For international travel, Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) and Denver International Airport (DEN) offer local flights for your ongoing journey.

By Road:

There are numerous entrances to the park and a variety of gateway towns that surround it.

Park entrances can be accessed by using US-212, I-90, I-80, I-25, and I-15. Numerous scenic routes can be enjoyed as you make your way to the park, including the Buffalo Bill Scenic Route and the Bear Tooth Highway. Route 191 runs through the park itself.

Where to Stay

Again, many gateway towns surround the vast open spaces of Yellowstone National Park, meaning there are plenty of places to stay.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel — One of the most iconic places to stay in the park is this restored colonial building that dates back as far as 1891 and overlooks Yellowstone Lake itself. The lodge offers beautiful bedrooms, refined dining, and boat rentals.

Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park — Offering bright, modern, and comfortable accommodations, this basic lodge is an affordable way to stay and explore all areas of the park. Amenities include a lakeside restaurant, a lounge, and a gift store.

The Lake Hotel, Yellowstone National Park — The Lake Hotel is one of a series of hotels built to accommodate visitors to Yellowstone National Park in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has a pioneer feel throughout and offers comfortable cabins for families, as well as camping facilities by the lake.

24. Yosemite National Park (California)

Yosemite National Park
Image Credit: David Mark via Pixabay

Location: California

Year of Inscription: 1984

Type: Natural

Yosemite National Park is one of the oldest nature preserves in the U.S., and it’s packed full of geological formations and biological diversity. Spanning nearly 1,200 square miles on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range in central-eastern California, the park attracts over 3 million visitors each year.

Tourists come to see the various ecological attractions as well as the unique wildlife and plants that can be found there. The most popular attraction within the park is Half Dome, a granite formation that rises nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor. Visitors also come to witness the grandeur of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, and Mirror Lake.

There is camping available within the park itself, and visitors can also enjoy fishing, hiking, trail riding, and a host of other outdoor activities and tours. Yosemite National Park is open 365 days a year, and there is a $20 per car entrance fee.

How to Get There

By Air:

Fresno Yosemite International (FAT), Merced Airport (MCE), and Modesto City-County Airport (MOD) are the closest regional airports to the park, while San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) are the closest international airports.

By Road:

From San Francisco/Bay area — Take I-580 E to I-205 E to Highway 120 E (Manteca) or Highway 140 E (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.

From Sacramento — Take Highway 99 S to Highway 120 E (Manteca) or Highway 140 E (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.

From Reno and Lake Tahoe — Take U.S. 395 S to Lee Vining; take Highway 120 W into Yosemite National Park (open late May/June through October, depending on conditions).

By Public Transportation:

Greyhound provides regular bus services to Merced where you can transfer to YARTS to continue to Yosemite Valley.

YARTS also provides limited service to Crane Flat, White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows daily during the peak season.

Where to Stay

The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley — Dating from 1927, this historic landmark hotel is set on a valley floor with views of Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Falls. It offers warm, cozy bedrooms along with grand public spaces and an outdoor pool.

Evergreen Lodge, Yosemite Valley — This rustic mountain lodge is family-friendly but also a favorite retreat for couples. Amenities include a massage cabana, an outdoor pool, and lots of lively activities for guests to participate in.

Hotel Charlotte, Groveland — A beautifully preserved historic inn located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The bed and breakfast hotel offers boutique accommodations close to the entrance of Yosemite National Park.

Final Thoughts

Every single one of the 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites in America is of immense value to the people who visit, as well as the flora and fauna that live there. Thanks to their designated World Heritage status, each of these sites will be protected forever against harm or destruction from natural disaster, war, or pollution.

UNESCO has ensured that vast swathes of stunning natural landscapes will never be under the threat of development or destruction. This, in turn, means that our cultural history can be understood and appreciated, our native animals are protected from extinction, and everyone gets the opportunity to appreciate some of the most beautiful terrains on Earth — right here in America.


Frequently asked questions

How many UNESCO World Heritage sites are in the U.S.?

There are 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the U.S. The Continental U.S. has 21 of these sites with a further 2 more in Hawaii and 1 in Puerto Rico.

Which country has the most UNESCO sites?

Italy is the country with the most UNESCO World Heritage sites with a total of 54. China comes in second with 53 sites and Spain in third with 47 sites. There are a total of 1,121 sites in the world.

What does UNESCO stand for?

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO was established in 1945 following World War II. The World Heritage list of sites was first inscribed in 1978.

What was the first UNESCO World Heritage site in the U.S.?

2 U.S. sites were added to the list at the same time: Mesa Verde National Park and Yellowstone National Park. They were added in the second-ever session of the committee in 1978.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

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4 comments

  1. Hollyhock house is not on this list…why?

    Reply

    • Hi JW. The incredible Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House is the newest addition (#24) to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the U.S. We’ll get it added to the list!

      Reply

  2. Cahokia Mounds is in Illinois, not Missouri.

    Reply

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