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The Checklist of United States Iconic Sites for Tourists

May 26th, 2009

It’s not the checklist of things that I think are necessarily great, it’s more just the collective “wisdom” (or my interpretation thereof) of the most famous sites in the USA:

  • The Alamo
  • The Empire State Building
  • The French Quarter
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • The Grand Canyon
  • Hollywood — It’s a ghetto, but it’s an iconic ghetto to which people attach unrealistically romantic expectations. Ergo: checklist.
  • Hoover Dam
  • The Liberty Bell
  • Mount Rushmore
  • The National Mall (Washington Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol, Smithsonian)
  • Niagara Falls
  • Old Faithful
  • St. Louis Arch
  • Statue of Liberty

The Next Flight: Alcatraz, Arlington National Cemetery, Broadway (Times Square), the Brooklyn Bridge, Cape Canaveral, Central Park, Death Valley, Disneyland, Ellis Island, the Everglades, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Freedom Trail, Gettysburg (although it’s not like there’s anything to see…), Kitty Hawk, the Las Vegas Strip, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Pike Place Market, the San Diego Zoo, the Sears Tower, Waikiki Beach, the White House, Wrigley Field



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  1. Telkontar
    May 27th, 2009 at 08:49 | #1

    The Empire State building is boring. I’ve got pics if you want thim. The French 25 cents is worth about that much unless you’re a Mardi Gras partier — then you lose your soul. Golden Gate is meaningless; I like the Narrows better (ditto for other bridges). Grand Canyon is a big hole. Might be nice to hike inside it, though. Hoover Dam is tiny. Go to Grand Coulee if you want a big dam that poduces 3 times the electricity of Hoover. Rushmore is overrated, but the surrounding country is interesting. Niagara & Old Faithful are nice — thank the artist. The arch is nothing and conveys no edifying sentiment.
    2nd Flight: A prison is a prison. Arlington evokes sentimentality that is appropriate; Gettysburg does the same, but you get to imagine walking 1.5 miles across an open field while the Union shells you or the hand-to-hand on Little Roundtop — it’s much more vivid. (I’d go again.) Nothing in NYC worth seeing, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe a museum or two. The Balto and Togo statues, maybe. Death Valley is a desert; it might make you grateful for rivers. Disney is Disney; I like it; it’s funner with kids. Ellis Isle doesn’t figure in my lineage. Everglades are nice; gators are fun to see. Fisherman’s Wharf is a tourist trap and not worth the thought (kind of like Frisco generally). Vegas Strip is like the French $0.25 — who cares? Miami Beach is not a great beach. Pike Place has decent seafood. Sears Tower has inferior views of Chicago.
    Even as a checklist, the standards are quite low. I prefer the day hikes in the itinerary.
    Am I the only person who comments? I guess I need a life.

  2. May 28th, 2009 at 13:00 | #2

    Well, so, it wasn’t the list of the 14 things *I* like the best. It’s the 14 things that everyone has heard of and that you just sort of have to see, like them or not.

    That said: the view from the Empire State Building at night is pretty dang cool, the Golden Gate Bridge was very meaningful to anyone coming back from the Pacific at the end of WWII for instance (but mostly it’s just a major icon), Grand Canyon is great (but I like Bryce, Zions, Canyonlands better), Hoover was better before they castrated the tour post-9/11, and I’m expecting to spend less than 20 minutes at Rushmore but am hoping to be surprised.

    Second Flight: But it’s an *iconic* prison, I also thought Arlington was dang cool, Gettsburg I found boring (grass with plaques and a road) though admittedly I’m ambivalent toward the Civil War (sorry), I kind of think *everything* in NYC is worth seeing, Death Valley was boring and too big but the pictures are pretty, I don’t care much about Ellis either (same reason I guess — also same reason I don’t care for the Civil War though), I’ve had mostly good times in SF, hate Vegas strip likewise (it was cool for the first three hours on my first trip but went downhill fast after that), not sure there’s *anything* great about Miami (but the beach is iconic), Pike Place is probably a stretch for the list (even though it’s cool), and I only included Sears Tower to try and curry the favor of my brother who lives in Chicago.

    I’m going to enjoy the day-hikes more than the icons. But: they’re icons, and this is a checklist, so I can’t not do them if I get the chance. And I’ve enjoyed abusing the punctuation around the word “but” throughout this comment.


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