America's 21 Coolest World Heritage Sites
Thought you knew America? Think again. Take a tour of America's UNESCO World Heritage sites -- rich in natural beauty, individual genius and traditions that stretch back 1,000 years.
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Statue of Liberty
For a time, the Statue of Liberty was just a bunch of pieces packed away in crates, a gift from France. Then newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer spearheaded a nationwide campaign to raise funds to assemble it. Some 120,000 Americans contributed, putting Lady Liberty on her pedestal.
Olympic National Park
Mountains, glaciers, pristine rivers -- they're all here. As the longest undeveloped coast in the contiguous US, this geological wonder in Washington State has many star attractions -- including Ruby Beach, with its foggy shoreline.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Descend into a prehistoric world of natural caves and underground passageways in … Kentucky. Yes, the Bluegrass State is home to the world’s most extensive cave system, shaped over 100 million years.
La Fortaleza at San Juan
In the 1600s, everyone wanted a piece San Juan. So Roman Emperor Charles V ordered the building of La Fortaleza (The Fortress) to defend its harbor. Today, it’s home to Puerto Rico’s governor, making it the world’s oldest executive mansion.
Yellowstone National Park
The spectacular sight of geysers spewing water and steam into the air only happens in a few places on Earth. The main stage for many is Yellowstone National Park -- it contains the world’s largest concentration of geysers.
Pueblo de Taos
This Pueblo Indian residential complex isn’t just history. About 150 people -- descendants of Native Americans who’ve called this area home for 1,000 years -- live within these sun-dried, mud-brick buildings in a stretch of valley in northern New Mexico.
In this building, American history took shape … and found a voice. Both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall -- cementing it as the birthplace of the United States of America.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Before the Pilgrims, there were the Cahokia, an ancient, pre-Columbian people who made their home in what is now Illinois. Some 20,000 of them settled in a place called Cahokia Mounds -- a city that, in 1250 A.D., was the largest north of Mexico.
Yosemite National Park
What happens when glaciers erode? Yosemite National Park tells one story through cliffs, domes and 5 of the world’s highest waterfalls -- all part of the distinctive natural beauty that emerged through repeated glacier movements over millions of years.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Some 750 feet below ground, New Mexico's Carlsbad Cavern awaits. Distinguished by huge chambers, the cave includes decorative rock formations, from columns to stalactites.
Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
In 1932, Canada and Montana created the world’s first "international peace park" -- the union of Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park. Explore the area’s diverse geography, from prairies to mountains. Maybe even check into the Prince of Wales Hotel, overlooking the Canadian town of Waterton.
This is where life begins and the spirit returns. So says native Hawaiian lore about this stretch of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Spanning 1,200 nautical miles, its coral reef colonies showcase 7,000 marine mammals, sea turtles, bird, invertebrates and fish -- making it the largest conservation area under the US flag.
Mesa Verde National Park
Some of the world's best-preserved cliff dwellings are found here. For 900 years, southwest Colorado was home to Pueblo Indians. Within tiered cliffs, they built sandstone dwellings -- including Cliff Palace. Its 150 rooms suggest this was a grand place of communal gathering.
Just as he helped shape a new country, Thomas Jefferson dreamed of reviving ancient Roman architecture. Over 4 decades, Jefferson designed and built Monticello. Today, Jefferson's Virginia estate endures as a top neoclassical interpretation of a villa rustica (Roman country house).
Redwood National and State Parks
There are trees, and then there are trees. California is home to some of the tallest -- and oldest -- ones in the world. The redwoods stretch back 160 million years, when they populated many moist, temperate regions of the world, but now mainly find a home on the West Coast.
Grand Canyon National Park
Come face to face with 2 billion years of history. It took millions of years for the rushing tides of the Colorado River to cut through prehistoric rock, creating the Grand Canyon. Here, at Horseshoe Bend, the Colorado River makes a sweeping U-turn.
For 4 centuries, the land we now know as New Mexico was home to an ancient Native American people, the Pueblos. In time, the Pueblos migrated from the area, leaving behind Chaco Canyon -- a testament to the culture that once thrived amid massive sandstone structures like this.
Everglades National Park
When sea levels rose after the Ice Age, a rich natural wonderland was born: a subtropical wilderness home to freshwater marshes, pine rocklands, seagrass, birds, reptiles … all part of an intricate ecosystem whose future many preservationists now fear is uncertain.
Great Smoky Mountains
There’s a reason it’s the most-visited US park. Stretching from Tennessee into North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains remain relatively untouched … with more than 3,500 plant species and dozens of endangered animals in parkland that holds nearly as many trees as in all of Europe.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
See the Earth take shape before your eyes. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to 2 of the world’s most active volcanoes. A continual flow of lava kneads the park's ground into an amazing kaleidoscope of shapes and colors.
Kluane National Park
Some of the world’s longest, most impressive glaciers can be found within Kluane National Park. It’s part of a trio of national parks, straddling the border between Canada and Alaska. Mountains, lakes, glaciers and valleys all await -- including Quill Creek, on the Canadian side, which flows from the St. Elias Mountains.