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The One Attraction You Just Have To Visit in Each State

Arches National Park, Utah
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You’re ready to head off on your vacation, armed with a checklist of the “must-see” places. But each state has such an embarrassment of riches, it’s almost impossible to see everything that’s worthwhile.

Don’t finalize your plans until you consider this list of both well-known and easy-to-miss sights to make sure your tour is complete.

Alabama

U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
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The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and NASA’s space centers in Houston and Florida get all the attention, but space buffs find hidden jewels at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

There visitors can marvel at an array of rockets, watch 3-D space films and peruse space-centered exhibits — including one that gives a feel for what it’s like to live and work in space.

Hitting the road soon? Check out: “The Best Roadside Attraction To Check Out in Every State (and D.C.).

Alaska

Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve
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Denali National Park and Preserve is named after 20,310-foot Denali, North America’s highest mountain. The peak had been dubbed Mount McKinley in 1917 to honor President William McKinley, but efforts long sought to return to the name natives had for the peak. The name Denali (meaning “The Great One”) was restored in 2015.

Denali National Park comprises 6 million acres of natural beauty.

Arizona

People river rafting in Grand Canyon National Park
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The Grand Canyon is up to a mile deep — from the tablelands of the Colorado Plateau down to the twisting Colorado River — and up to 18 miles wide in places along its 277 river-mile length. The canyon is filled with some of the most interesting geographic formations in the world.

Visit Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim any time of the year, and take in the North Rim during warmer months — it closes for the winter until mid-May. The two different views are equally awe-inspiring.

Arkansas

Hot Water Cascade at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas
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Guests continually flock to “The American Spa” of Hot Springs National Park to take a dip in its soothing, therapeutic thermal waters.

Take time to hike through the lush natural surroundings, too, and pay a visit to the historic city of Hot Springs. The park surrounds part of the city, making it one of the more accessible national parks.

California

Hollywood sign
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California boasts plentiful natural wonders, so this choice may spark debate. But you need to see the world-famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles at least once.

The sign had read “Hollywoodland” when the 43-foot-tall letters were erected in 1923 as an advertisement of sorts for a real estate development. The “land” later disappeared, and the sign became its own tourist attraction.

Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park
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Mesa Verde National Park in the southwest part of the state offers a spectacular view into the culture of the Ancestral Pueblo people, also known as the Anasazi, who lived in the area from 600 to 1300 A.D.

The park encompasses close to 5,000 known archaeological sites — including the must-see Cliff Palace, the park’s largest cliff dwelling.

Connecticut

Yale University
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Even if you’re decades beyond your formal education, if you’re in Connecticut, you’ll want to stop in New Haven and tour Yale University.

Guides give the history of the university’s magnificent architecture and landmarks. Also, they discuss some of Yale’s most famous alumni — including inventor Eli Whitney, child care and parenting expert Dr. Benjamin Spock and four of the past eight U.S. presidents.

Delaware

Nemours Mansion
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One of the most opulent homes of the wealthy du Pont family — owned by American industrialist and financier Alfred I. du Pont — is the 3,000-acre Nemours mansion and gardens in Wilmington. The late 18th-century French-styled mansion has 77 rooms and the largest formal French gardens in North America.

Florida

NASA Kennedy Space Center Museum
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If you visit Kennedy Space Center in Central Florida on the right day, you can see a rocket launch. But even if you go at another time, you’ll have more than enough to do as you visit the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Rocket Garden and more.

Georgia

Live oak trees in Savannah, Georgia
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Visit Savannah and just take in the natural beauty, including the 100-plus-years-old oak trees that are a highlight of the city and surrounding area. You’ll find plenty just by driving around, or you can take a formal tour and learn how they became such an integral part of the area’s history.

Hawaii

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor
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Of course, you’ll frolic in the ocean and on the sand when you’re on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, but don’t miss the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu.

More than 1.8 million people visit every year to pay their respects to those killed in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces, remember the Japanese-Americans interned during the war and honor other heroes.

You’ll need reservations to visit other sites including the USS Arizona Memorial, which was built over the remains of the sunken battleship and marks the final resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on that ship.

Idaho

Bicycle on Sun Valley road.
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Sun Valley residents boast that the resort city has the world’s best ski resorts, but its gorgeous landscape is also perfect for biking, hiking, golf and other outdoor activities in seasons other than winter. Shop, dine and otherwise enjoy the area before the snow falls.

Illinois

President Abraham Lincoln's tomb in Springfield Illinois
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The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site in Oak Ridge Cemetery is the final resting place of President Abraham Lincoln; his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln; and three of their four sons.

The site, located in Springfield, also includes the public receiving vault where Lincoln’s final funeral services were held.

Indiana

Restored Historical Bridge in Bridgeton Indiana
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Those covered bridges made famous in art and movies still exist in many places in rural Indiana. Check out Wikipedia’s listing of covered bridges to find the ones closest to where you’ll visit in Indiana, or just head right to Parke County.

Also known as the covered bridge capital of the world, the county is home to 31 covered bridges and the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival.

Iowa

Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa
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The “Grotto of the Redemption” in West Bend comprises nine different grottos, and each man-made cavern displays a scene in the life of Jesus Christ.

The religious shrine — which has been described as the “Miracle in Stone” — was the vision of a German-born local priest, who stockpiled rocks and precious stones and built it over the course of 42 years beginning in 1912.

Kansas

Keeper of the Plains Indian in Wichita, Kansas
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Ever since 1974, the “Keeper of the Plains” crafted by a Native American artist has stood watch at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers in downtown Wichita.

The 44-foot steel sculpture was erected in honor of the United States’ bicentennial. It also marks an area that is sacred to Native Americans and home to the Mid-America All-Indian Center.

Kentucky

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
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Even if you’re not a sports fan, you need to visit The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory to see the 120-foot-tall bat outside. It’s the world’s largest.

Then go ahead and step inside. You’ll discover the history of those famous bats and even see how they’re made. And don’t miss the 17-ton “Play Ball” sculpture of a baseball glove — which you can climb on.

Louisiana

The French Quarter
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Everything you’ve heard about the always party-ready French Quarter in New Orleans is probably true. Music, refreshments, shopping, food, street artists, horse-drawn carriage rides, ghost tours — the district is like nowhere else in the world.

You could likely spend a week or more just in the Quarter, as locals call it, and not hit everything.

Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine
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Rocky coasts, granite cliffs, lighthouses, picturesque streets and world-class seafood are among the reasons the town of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island is a perennial destination for those who love New England.

Just don’t get so caught up in town that you don’t take time to hike, climb or bike in nearby Acadia National Park — aka the crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.

Maryland

The National Aquarium
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Do you think that if you’ve seen one aquarium, you’ve seen them all? If so, get ready for a surprise at the world-renowned National Aquarium in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This is a world-class aquarium and pioneer in conservation that cares for animals ranging from dolphins to pythons and bats.

Massachusetts

Ralph Waldo Emerson house
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The home of the renowned philosopher, poet and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson sits on a residential street in Concord.

When you take a break from touring the Revolutionary War sites in the area, take a drive over and see where Emerson read, wrote and worked.

Michigan

Detroit, Michigan
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When you’re in Detroit, look for the 24-foot-long arm-and-fist “Monument to Joe Louis” sculpture by artist Robert Graham at the intersection of Jefferson and Woodward Avenues.

An array of luminaries started in Detroit, including heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, known as the “Brown Bomber.” Locals call this statue, dedicated to him in 1986, “The Fist.”

Minnesota

First Avenue Nightclub
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First Avenue in Minneapolis is one of the most iconic rock clubs in the United States, a venue for countless renowned musicians but perhaps most known as the launching place of late rock icon and Minnesota native Prince. As a writer for the Minneapolis StarTribune wrote:

“Paisley Park will forever be known as the place where Prince resided and died, but First Avenue is truly where Minneapolis’ newly deceased rock icon came to life.”

Mississippi

Birthplace of Elvis
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Most people connect Elvis Presley with Memphis, Tennessee, where he built the stately mansion he dubbed Graceland, but he was born and spent his early years in nearby Tupelo, Mississippi.

You can drive by his childhood home or take a formal tour of all the important sites from his early years.

Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri
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You can’t visit Missouri without traveling to St. Louis to view the 630-foot-high Gateway Arch, which was constructed along the Mississippi River as a monument to President Thomas Jefferson’s vision and St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the U.S.

The nation’s tallest man-made monument is hollow, housing a tram system that carries visitors up to an observation deck.

Montana

Glacier National Park in Montana
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The National Park Service calls Glacier National Park the “Crown of the Continent” because on its rocky heights are the headwaters for streams and rivers that flow out across the rest of the continental United States.

Depending on the time of year you visit, activities include fishing, cross-country skiing, biking and hiking more than 700 miles of trails.

Nebraska

Buffalo Bill farmhouse
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Showman and scout William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was one of the most well-known characters in the Wild West, so you can’t pass up Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park. Visitors to his North Platte estate, now a historical park, can see where he lived and worked.

Nevada

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Sure, there are millions of things to experience in Nevada, but everyone should see the famous Las Vegas Strip at least one time. You’ll find shops, restaurants, world-class casinos and even museums like Madame Tussauds. And, believe it or not, a lot of the attractions in the hotels are free.

New Hampshire

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse
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You just can’t visit New England without taking in at least one of the region’s many lighthouses, and the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse should be it. This beauty in New Castle is historic and tourist-friendly — being New Hampshire’s only mainland lighthouse.

New Jersey

House in Cape May, New Jersey
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Yes, New Jersey is home to Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore, both tourist draws — but those who love architecture and history will especially enjoy historic Cape May, a city that boasts a wealth of historic homes. You can soak in the history from your car or take one of the many tours offered.

New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
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Think of New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park as the premiere spot for exploring caves in all their glory.

Its 119 caves boast an array of beauty and wonders — perhaps none more famous than the bat colonies that inhabit them. People come from around the world to watch as anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million bats fly out of the caverns each evening in summer.

New York

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There are millions of things to see in the Empire State, but most visitors invariably think of either Times Square or the Statue of Liberty. Take a ferry ride from New York City across New York Bay to the Statue of Liberty National Monument on Liberty Island.

“The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World,” a gift of friendship from the people of France to the U.S., was dedicated in 1886 and deemed a national monument in 1924. Seeing it and going to nearby Ellis Island — which served as a U.S. immigration processing center from 1892 to 1954 — is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

North Carolina

Biltmore Estate
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A 250-room French Renaissance chateau, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville is one of the most enduring landmarks of the late 19th century’s Gilded Age, an era of industrialization and rapid economic growth for America but also a time of abject poverty and economic inequality.

The home built by George Vanderbilt, whose family still owns the property, now contains high-end lodging, restaurants, a winery and shopping.

North Dakota

 Fort Union Trading Post
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The Fort Union Trading Post on the upper Missouri River, now a national historic site, was vital between 1828 and 1867, when the commercial operation established by real estate mogul and investor John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Co. facilitated trade in buffalo hides and other furs for goods imported from other lands. This made it the most important fur trading post on the upper Missouri River.

Ohio

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
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Sure, you’ll see memorabilia and exhibits at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but don’t forget to check out the calendar for live music, too. A must-see for any music lover.

Oklahoma

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The historic home of American petroleum businessman Waite Phillips is now the Philbrook Museum of Art. This tranquil corner of Tulsa hosts pieces from artists throughout the world, as well as Native American artists. The museum also holds events and offers tours of its elaborate gardens.

Oregon

Crater Lake
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Crater Lake National Park is widely recognized but not as heavily visited by tourists as many other national parks.

The Outdoor Society says the lake, the nation’s deepest at 1,946 feet and formed when a volcanic eruption collapsed a mountain, is “surrounded by beauty in every direction.” That’s especially apparent if you stay at Crater Lake Lodge, which is 1,000 feet above the lake and offers unparalleled views of the peaks of southern Oregon’s Cascade Range.

The lodge opens mid-May for the season.

Pennsylvania

Independence Hall in Philadelphia
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You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful historic site than Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Now a national historic park, it is where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were adopted.

Rhode Island

The Breakers mansion in Newport, Rhode Island
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The city of Newport is a study in contrasts with quaint historic homes and opulent mansions.

Drive around the area to soak up the history and see the privately owned historic homes. Then book a tour so you can see the mansions. Don’t miss The Breakers, once owned by the Vanderbilt family. The Preservation Society of Newport County has described it as “the grandest of Newport’s summer ‘cottages.’”

South Carolina

Rainbow Row
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Sure, you can tour mansions and historic sites in Charleston, but don’t forget to take a walk down Rainbow Row. There you’ll see historic row houses painted the colors of the rainbow.

South Dakota

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Don’t miss Mount Rushmore, a national memorial and a must-see. Here the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are carved into the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Tennessee

Graceland, home of Elvis Presley
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Elvis Presley’s Graceland home, located in Memphis, is still open for tourists. The offerings have expanded in recent years, with the addition of a state-of-the-art museum, entertainment and retail complex honoring the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, known to most as just “The King.” Graceland’s Meditation Garden is also the resting place of Elvis, his parents and grandmother.

Texas

Alamo, Texas
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The Alamo, a historic mission in San Antonio, was the site of a major battle during the Texas Revolution, during which the Texas defenders were decimated by Mexican forces. It’s stunning to stand inside the small structure and think of the men whose courageous stand prompted others to fight for Texas.

The Alamo is also part of the San Antonio Missions, a region that encompasses four other missions, among other sites. In 2015, the San Antonio Missions was designated a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Utah

Arches National Park
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More than 2,000 natural stone arches populate Arches National Park in southeastern Utah, near the city of Moab. The geographic oddities, including “Delicate Arch” (seen above), are one-of-a-kind sites that keep visitors returning to the red-rock wonderland year after year.

Vermont

Hildene, Vermont
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Hildene, a Georgian Revival mansion in Manchester, was the summer family home of Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of President Abraham Lincoln who survived to adulthood. It went on to house other Lincoln descendants until 1975.

Virginia

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George Washington’s Mount Vernon, home of America’s first president, now features tours and other activities. The grounds also boast buildings with multiple exhibits and displays, plus elaborate gardens.

Don’t miss the tombs and the fully functioning reconstructions of Washington’s gristmill and whiskey distillery — one of the nation’s largest whiskey distilleries in 1799.

Washington

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The Public Market Center — more commonly referred to as Pike Place Market — is arguably the most famous farmers market in the U.S.

The sprawling complex overlooking Seattle’s oceanfront features an array of restaurants and vendors selling fresh veggies and fruit, artisan foods, bouquets of fresh-cut flowers, unique hand-crafted goods, art and clothing. It’s also home to the original Starbucks cafe, at 1912 Pike Place.

West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge
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West Virginians boast that whitewater rafting is better in their state than anywhere else in the country, and there’s nowhere better for that challenge than New River Gorge National River, especially in the spring.

Even if you’re not into rafting, the national park offers nature tours and lush hiking paths.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells
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Whenever you mention visiting Wisconsin, locals usually say you need to visit “the Dells.” Perhaps that’s because the city of Wisconsin Dells, on the Wisconsin River, boasts an array of theme parks and activities and calls itself The Waterpark Capital of the World.

But there are an equal number of natural attractions — including the Dells of the Wisconsin River, a five-mile gorge whose name comes from the French dalles, or narrows. Those who enjoy the river say visitors must see the area’s sandstone cliffs.

Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
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Yellowstone National Park is perhaps best-known for Old Faithful Geyser, but don’t miss the hot springs.

No, you can’t go in these hot springs — as some visitors tragically learn, they are deadly. But boardwalks like those along Mammoth Hot Springs allow you to get close to the remarkable colored water and pass through clouds of steam drifting off them.

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