6 of the Tallest Tourist Attractions in the U.S.
6 of the Tallest Tourist Attractions in the U.S.

From massive architectural marvels to gargantuan natural formations, America is home to a number of lofty landmarks that tower above the ground below. Many of these incredible sites provide uninterrupted viewpoints from high in the sky, offering visitors spectacular, unobstructed views from hundreds of feet in the air.

While anyone afraid of heights may not be interested, these locations are a must-visit for travelers looking to stand in the shadow of this country’s most impressive structures and monoliths. Here are six of the tallest tourist attractions in the United States.

The Stratosphere Tower - Las Vegas, Nevada

Aerial view of the Stratosphere hotel in Las Vegas by the strip.
Credit: RAW-films/ Shutterstock

At its base, the Strat is your typical Vegas-style hotel and casino. But what makes this site unique is the Stratosphere Tower, an observation deck that reaches heights of 1,149 feet into the air. This tower is the tallest building not only in Las Vegas but all of Nevada, and is also the tallest freestanding observation tower anywhere in the country. Amazingly, original plans for the tower featured a design that was even taller, reaching heights of 1,800 feet. But despite not achieving those lofty heights, the tower still offers one of the most majestic views in the Southwest.

The Stratosphere Tower contains multiple observation decks, a decadent Top of the World restaurant, and even a laugh out loud comedy club. But if you’re a thrillseeker, then the Strat offers a couple of particularly heart-pounding experiences. First there’s the Big Shot, launching passengers 160 feet into the air at 45 mph from a starting height of 921 feet above the ground. Then there’s the X-Scream roller coaster, which extends 27 feet out over the edge of the tower, dangling riders 886 feet above the Las Vegas Strip.

Gateway Arch - St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis downtown city skyline and Gateway Arch at twilight.
Credit: f11photo/ iStock

From its base to its peak, St. Louis, Missouri’s Gateway Arch is the tallest monument anywhere in the United States, culminating at a measurement 630 feet. If that's not enough, it’s also the largest arch in the entire world. Constructed between 1963 and 1965, this memorial was the brainchild of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, who designed the arch to commemorate the legacies of Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and other notable figures responsible for the exploration of the American West.

If you’re having trouble imagining how this compares to other notable American monuments, here’s a few examples: The Gateway Arch is 75 feet higher than the Washington Monument (which is still the world’s tallest obelisk). Also, the heads of Mount Rushmore were designed to the scale of a 465-foot-tall person, meaning if those four Presidents had bodies they still wouldn’t be as tall as the Gateway Arch. Contained within the Gateway Arch’s 43,000 tons of concrete and steel is a tram ride to the top. Here, guests can gaze out at a distance up to 30 miles to the monument’s east and west.

Cadillac Mountain - Bar Harbor, Maine

Sunrise in Acadia National Park observed from the top of Cadillac mountain.
Credit: Ultima_Gaina/ iStock

While there are taller mountains elsewhere in the United States — the 20,310-foot-tall Denali, for instance — Cadillac Mountain offers a particularly awe-inspiring experience. Located in Maine’s Acadia National Park and reaching a height of 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest point on America’s eastern seaboard, meaning unobstructed views of the coastal, island landscape that lies to the mountain’s east.

However, the most incredible time of year to hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain is from the second week of October until the first week of March. During those months, the peak of the mountain is the first place in the continental United States where onlookers can view the sunrise — at other times of the year, that honor lies with Mars Hill, located closer to the Canadian border. So whether you’re a hiker looking to conquer a mountain or an early bird seeking the morning sun, Cadillac Mountain is well worth the visits.

Royal Gorge Bridge - Cañon City, Colorado

The highest bridge in the world over meadow. Royal Gorge Bridge is in Colorado.
Credit: narawon/ iStock

Few experiences on this list are as precarious as the walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge. Located in Colorado, this bridge is known to be America’s highest suspension bridge, and is composed of 1,257 wooden planks suspended 956 feet above the Arkansas River deep down below. The bridge was actually built in 1929 as part of a concerted effort to attract tourists to the region, and given the surrounding natural beauty it remains a well-attended attraction to this day.

For those looking for some added thrills, the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park offers a ride along the Cloudscraper Zip Line. Taking passengers 1,200 feet up into the air above the river, the zip line is accessible by gondolas that depart from the visitor’s center. Don’t worry, you’ll be back at the visitor’s center in no time once you’re strapped in and the ride begins.

Hyperion - Redwood National Park, California

View up towards Hyperion and other redwood trees.
Credit: Stephen Moehle/ Shutterstock

Unlike other attractions on this list, this one is currently off-limits to the public, but that doesn’t make it any less worth mentioning. Redwood National Park serves as a reminder not only of America’s beauty, but also just how darn tall trees can get. Of the trees in the park, none are taller than Hyperion, reaching heights of 380 feet. Not only does that height mean Hyperion is 75 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, but it’s also taller than any of the other three trillion trees on planet Earth!
Hyperion is one of the many mighty redwoods located on park grounds, including other notable trees such as Helios (377 feet) and Icarus (371 feet). Hyperion was “discovered” in 2006 by hikers Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, though the surrounding region was subsequently overrun by hikers, forcing the park to shut down access for the time being. Until access to Hyperion (hopefully) re-opens, there are plenty of other mammoth trees to lay eyes upon in the region. One such famous tree is located in nearby Sequoia & Kings Canyon, home of the tourist attraction known as the General Sherman Tree. Though General Sherman “only” reaches heights of 275 feet, it’s also the world’s largest tree as measured by volume.

One World Trade Center - Manhattan, New York

Aerial of Lower Manhattan skyline at sunset viewed from above Hudson River.
Credit: Ultima_Gaina/ iStock

No American skyscraper reaches a higher apex than One World Trade Center in New York City. With a total height of 1,776 feet — a number deliberately chosen to pay homage to the year America declared independence — the building is an incredible example of the country’s resilience and its ability to overcome tragedy. One World Trade Center’s roof actually only extends to heights of 1,368 feet, but an 18-piece spire adds the additional 408 feet of length.

While the majority of the building is used for office space, One World Observatory is open to the public, which offers 360° panoramic views of the city as well as neighboring New Jersey and even Connecticut (on a clear day). With 71 elevators in the building all told, the elevator to the observation deck is an experience in itself. Lined with virtual screens, this 47-second elevator ride shows passengers how NYC evolved from a prehistoric forest into the bustling metropolis it is today.

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