Experience American landmarks at their best

India has the Taj Mahal, Paris has the Eiffel Tower. But some of the world's most beautiful landmarks in the world are in the United States.

The April issue of Travel and Leisure magazine has a list of the greatest American monuments, and on "The Early Show" Tuesday Sara Spanolo, an editor of the magazine, discussed how you can make the most of a possible visit to each of these American destinations.

So how did Travel and Leisure come up with this list?

Spagnolo explained the magazine was looking for amazing landmarks throughout the country that were free or very affordable. She added the magazine also considered geographic distribution.

Check out the landmarks that made the list:

1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota

  • Carved into a granite mountain face in South Dakota's southwesterly Black Hills
  • This sculpture of four of America's most influential presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt) was considered an extraordinary feat of engineering when it was completed in 1941. It's still majestic today, bringing in more than two million visitors per year.
  • How to See It: If you visit in winter, you'll be able to avoid the summer crowds and see the monument dusted with snow. In warmer months, though, try to catch the evening lighting ceremony (starting at 9 p.m.), where park rangers slowly illuminate the enormous granite faces above.

2. The Giant Forest, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, National Park

  • Located in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, this three-square-mile forest of massive giant sequoias is home to the General Sherman Tree, the world's largest tree by volume (52,508 cubic feet).
  • The other trees here are jaw-dropping, too. On average, they are as tall as 26-story buildings and have base diameters wider than many city streets.
  • Equally awe-inspiring as these conifers' grand size, though, is their age: most are between 1,800 and 2,700 years old.
  • How to See It: If you're short on time, take a two-mile hike through the Giant Forest on the Congress Trail, which begins at the General Sherman Tree. With more time to explore, though, you'll want to take the steep quarter-mile staircase to the top of Moro Rock, a granite dome that offers gorgeous views of the Great Western Divide and the forest below.

3. New Orleans Garden District

  • A designated National Historic Landmark, this enclave of opulent antebellum mansions-shaded by huge oaks and adorned with stately columns and intricate wrought-iron balconies-is one of New Orleans's grandest neighborhoods.
  • It escaped Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed because of its location on high ground, so a turn through the area today is as impressive as it would have been back in the 19th century, which most of the homes date to.
  • How to See It: Take the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, which runs along the northern boundary of the district.

4. Niagara Falls

  • More than 750,000 gallons of water per second thunder down this iconic 167-foot waterfall-the most powerful on the North American continent.
  • The falls straddle the border between the U.S. and Canada, and though some argue that Horseshoe Falls - set on the Ontario side - is more spectacular than the smaller American Falls, the landmark has held a particular place in American history ever since 1901, when Michigan schoolteacher Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over the falls (and survive) in a barrel.
  • How to See It: Take a half-hour water tour on the Maid of the Mist ferry, which has boarding docks in both countries.

5. The Wave, Coyote Buttes, Arizona

  • Set in the remote Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in northern Arizona, this dazzling rock formation, which looks like a cresting wave frozen in time, isn't easy to access: you'll need a permit from the Bureau of Land Management, which allows only 20 people per day to visit the delicate landform. But getting to see this fiery swirl of Jurassic-age sandstone, carved by the wind more than 190 million years ago, is well worth a little advance planning.
  • How to See It: From the Wire Pass Trailhead, it's a three-mile hike out to the Wave over sandy terrain. Summer temperatures soar to more than 100 degrees, so bring plenty of water.

6. Port Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

  • Illuminated for the first time in 1791 by whale-oil lamps, this lighthouse is located within the beautifully landscaped grounds of Cape Elizabeth's Fort Williams Park.
  • Attached to a red-roofed Victorian keeper's house, the 92-foot-tall white conical tower is often seen as a symbol of Maine's beauty. From its location on a commanding point at the southwestern entrance to the harbor, you can take in crisp salt air as well as endless views of the ocean and rocky coastline for which the state is known.
  • How to See It: Arrive early to climb the tower, as fewer than 300 tickets are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis per day. You can also enjoy the lighthouse in a more leisurely manner, by gazing up at it while picnicking in the park.

7. Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.

  • This stately 555-foot monument, built in the bladelike shape of an Egyptian obelisk and completed in 1884, is the most prominent structure in the American capital city. Built in honor of the nation's first president, the marble monument has served as a backdrop for some of the country's most historic moments, including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. It's at its most beautiful when mirrored in the Reflecting Pool at sunrise or sunset, and especially on the Fourth of July with evening fireworks bursting overhead.
  • How to See It: Though admission into the monument is free, tickets are required and long lines form to get inside every day. A better bet: enjoy the exterior of the monument from the steps of the Lincoln Monument, or from the tidal basin during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in April.

Comments