The Statue of Liberty is, without a doubt, the most American thing you can do in New York. (Photo: iStock)
Our fifty states are individual and diverse, yet there are common threads that bind us together. These things that we share as a country are heartbreak, courage, creativity, and inventiveness.
Yahoo Travel went in search of those experiences in each state that shout to the world, “This is America!” These are the places and activities that define us, telling the story of who we are, what we have endured, and what we have built. These are the experiences that keep us together.
Here is America state by state.
Channel your inner astronaut. (Photo: U.S. Space and Rocket Center)
At the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Hunstville, you can experience the history of the Saturn V rockets that led the way into space. Future generations of space explorers dream of life beyond Earth through hands-on exhibits and at week-long Space Camp.
Feel the thrill of the gold rush era of the late 1800’s that brought westward movement and prosperity as prospectors searched for the yellow earth. At the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, you can walk in the footsteps of the early explorers of our 49th state.
The Grand Canyon, in all its grandeur, has come to symbolize the incredible geologic beauty that lies between our coasts. Feel the enormity of the canyon the way early settlers did by braving a guided mule trip, or the way Americans of the early 1900’s enjoyed it by staying at El Tovar, the historic lodge built on the canyon rim in 1905.
Commercial success defines us as much as the historical hardship. Walmart rose from humble Arkansas beginnings to become the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world. Stand at the checkout counter at the original Walton’s 5 & 10 store in Bentonville for a true American retail experience.
The mighty General Sherman. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Feel the majesty of the redwood forests at the foot of the world’s largest tree—nicknamed General Sherman, located in Sequoia and Kings National Parks.
Anyone who has ever started a hobby coin collection knows that the little “D” next to the date refers to the Denver Mint. Sometimes it is the tiniest shared things—like our coins, that bring us together. Reservations are required for the 45-minute tour.
Mark Twain rises above masses of brilliant American authors as one of the most memorable and perhaps the most accurate in describing life in America during difficult times. Learn more about the author’s life and travels at Mark Twain House.
Related: The 50 Best State Parks in America
Sip from Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine as part of your exploration of the history of early Spanish occupation. The city is also home to Fort Mose, the site of the first free African-American settlement in the country, and Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the country.
Visitors tour the Georgia home known as the Little White House used by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Photo: AP)
Roosevelt’s Little White House stands as a reminder that humble surroundings often produce humble, yet strong leaders who understand the principle “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Follow that with a stop at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum for an closer look at perhaps our most humble president of all.
Even as we celebrate our county’s greatest achievements, we must never forget the greatest sacrifices. The attack on Pearl Harbor was perhaps one of the most unifying events in our nation’s history. Visits to the memorials of the USS Arizona, the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin, and the USS Oklahoma provide solemn reminders of those before us who gave their lives for freedom.
Relive the cattle ranching history of the West by spending time on a dude ranch. Many states offer working ranch experiences, but those in Idaho come with spectacular mountain views, ghost towns, and a glimpse at life in another era. The Dude Ranchers’ Association is a good start at finding the American dude within you.
Sometimes to appreciate the greatness of our country, you need to see it from a different perspective. The Ledge, on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower in Chicago allows you to do just that. The Chicago River, the shores of Lake Michigan, and the iconic Wrigley Field lie 1,353 feet below you, giving you an unparalleled view of the third largest city in the country.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is home to one of the country’s most famous auto races. Attending any race at the “Brickyard” is great, but what if you could experience the thrill of a victory lap on the track? It’s an unmatched opportunity to feel the excitement of either Indy car racing or NASCAR.
Farming is a way of life in Iowa. (Photo: John Deere)
In a state that has been called “the most American” state of all, it is difficult to choose an individual experience. We looked at the Field of Dreams Movie Site, the John Wayne Birthplace, and settled on the John Deere Museum as a symbol of the country’s agricultural greatness. Learn the history of mechanized farming and even take a factory tour of one of four plants where the green machines roll of the assembly lines.
Dodge City is where you start your journey into the history of the Wild West, one of the most notable eras of our nation’s history. Walk through historic Boot Hill Cemetery or watch reenacted gunfights for a glimpse into the past.
In a state filled with history, we chose the Bourbon Trail as a symbol of American ingenuity in the creation of a distinctly American distilled beverage. Along the trail you can slip into mock speakeasies, learn the process of distilling, and of course, sip some of the finest bourbon and whiskey in the country.
New Orleans’ French Quarter is more than a place to drink, dine, and party. It is a firm reminder of the Spanish and French influences on our history. Visit the La Petit Theater, the oldest continually operating theater in the country, or tour the Cabildo, the original seat of power during the Spanish colonial era.
The giant boot in front of the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport is a clear symbol of the American spirit of exploration. We have to admit though, that it was tempting to choose the king of American horror novels, Stephen King, as the most American thing in the state.
Baltimore Harbor is where Francis Scott Key wrote the words to The Star Spangled Banner. Although the USS Constellation was not in the harbor during the battle that inspired our national anthem, you can step aboard her today and relive nautical history of the early year of our nation.
Old South Meeting House in down town Boston (Photo: Thinkstock)
Boston National Historical Park includes historical sites like Paul Revere House, the Old North Church, and the Old South Meeting House, the site of the meeting of 5,000 patriots that led to the Boston Tea Party.
The Henry Ford Museum traces the history of the man and the industry that shaped not only the course of our country, but also that of the entire world. To absorb the full measure of the man and his machines, take the Insider’s Tour of the museum.
Americans love to shop, so much so that Mall of America hosts between 35 and 40 million shoppers every year. It is so packed with things to see and do that you’ll want to do more than drop by for an afternoon of shopping. Try staying a weekend at the mall with a luxury room at the Radisson Blu.
The mighty Mississippi River played a huge role in the history of our country. Perhaps the best way to experience life in Mississippi along the river is from the river itself. Try a cruise with stops in river cities like Natchez and Vicksburg, like this one from American Cruise Lines.
Related: The Best Hotel in Every State
The Gateway Arch is currently celebrating fifty years as a memorial to the early pioneers and the westward expansion of our nation. Ride the tram to the top of the arch for sweeping views from the towering monument.
For more than one hundred years, the National Bison Refuge has worked to preserve a herd of bison that trace their heritage to the original herds that once roamed the Great Plains, providing a living link to our past. Drive the scenic loops, or for a close-to-nature adventure, hike the trails. Just don’t forget your camera.
These sculptures are a tribute to four pioneer families departing westward from Omaha in covered wagons. (Photo: First National)
We think the whole city of Omaha is the most American thing Nebraska. Walking among life-sized sculptures at First National’s Sculpture Parks in the heart of the city is the best way to experience the pioneer spirit of both the state and the nation.
Las Vegas is the epitome of an American playground, but let’s not forget the engineering feat of Hoover Dam. Exploring deep in the tunnels within the dam and seeing the massive turbines are a breathtaking reminder of American ingenuity and fortitude.
The state motto: “Live Free or Die” is about as American as it comes. The statue memorializing John Stark, who originally spoke the words, is in General John Stark Park in Manchester. Seeing the words inscribed there serve as a reminder not to take those words lightly. Also in the park is a display of canons and cannonballs used in the fight for American freedom.
Let’s face it, you may be able to get hot dogs in other states, but if you want true dog Nirvana, you go to New Jersey. This list of the top 100 hot dogs is a good place to start on your quest for the perfect American dog.
San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe is the oldest church in the country, located in the second oldest city, both of which are beautiful reminders of our roots. Built in 1610, then rebuilt twice since, the sculptures and paintings in the chapel transport you back to a pre-American time in our history.
The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for the United States around the world. (Photo: Thinkstock)
While a dozen great American symbols come to mind, the easy New York choices are the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. For an in-depth look at the hardships of the hopeful immigrants who passed through the island’s halls, take the hard-hat tour of the Hospital Complex where the sick were quarantined.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial pays tribute to yet another American invention that continues to shape the world. See replicas of their gliders, pace off the short distance of 120 feet covered by that first historic flight, then try to imagine your life without the luxury of flight.
The National Buffalo Museum not only honors the animal, but the American cultural significance surrounding these majestic beasts. Learn the details of the life of a Plains Indian, then meet the herd of thirty bison maintained by the National Buffalo Foundation, including the rare albino named “White Cloud.”
There are two halls of fame in Ohio that exemplify things we hold dear in America: the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After you have experienced you favorite teams and rock bands, make the trip to Akron for a tour of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens where you get a glimpse into the life of one of America’s wealthy industrialists of the late 1800’s—Frank Seiberling, co-founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
The Cherokee Heritage Center honors the history and contributions of the Cherokee people to the fabric of the nation. You cannot stand amid the Trail of Tears exhibit and not be moved.
Lewis and Clark National Historical Park honors the legendary explorers who led the way west. Hiking the trails in the footsteps of the great explorers may be the most American experience in the West.
Fort Adams defended our coast in the Revolutionary War with American bravery from the most innovative military installation of its time. A tour takes you through underground tunnels and atop the overlook with its breathtaking views of Narragansett Bay as our forefathers would have experienced it.
Just as New Jersey gives us the great American hot dog, South Carolina gives us Barbecue, best experienced by stopping at as many BBQ joints as you can find.
Think big, iconic, and nationally symbolic and one monument always come to mind: Mt. Rushmore. An overwhelming sense of pride and patriotism is the usual result as you walk the Avenue of Flags where 56 flags represent our fifty states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
A guitar painted with the likeness of Elvis Presley stands outside RCA Studio B. (Photo: AP)
This state holds two keys to our musical past and present: Graceland and Nashville, alternatively known as Music City U.S.A. Music lovers can walk the street known as Music Row, see the Historic Studio B where Elvis recorded, or hit the honky tonks each evening for a sample of uniquely American music.
NASA Space Center honors and explores the past and continuing contribution of the Johnson Space Center to manned space flight. The hands-on exhibits and glimpses into control rooms, new and old, leave you wanting more knowledge and more space adventures.
The railroad’s contribution to western expansion is honored at the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Visit the historic site, then plan a scenic train ride of your own like the Heber Valley Railroad south of Salt Lake City.
The Vermont Marble Museum lets you explore the history of the quarries that contributed marble to some of our nation’s greatest memorials and buildings, including the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial.
The Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park marks the spot where our nation made the decision to end the Civil War and become whole again. Tour the village and see the actual pencil used by General Lee to amend the terms of the South’s surrender.
Explore planes new and old. (Photo: Future of Flight Aviation Center)
What the Wright brothers began, one American company in particular, chooses to continue, leading the way for American aviation. Boeing Future of Flight is a factory tour and a history of aviation rolled into one.
Coal continues to fuel progress in our nation. Explore the history and the heritage of Appalachian coal country along the National Coal Heritage Trail.
The Harley Davidson Museum is America on two fast wheels. Even if you don’t ride, a closer look at the 100 year-old company is a trip into the history of industrial America.
Yellowstone National Park is the oldest, largest, and often the most treasured of our national parks. From bear, bison, and wolves, to hot springs and geysers a trip through our first national park brilliantly exemplifies the beauty of this land we call home—America.
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