When the New Seven Wonders of the World came out, I added my two cents—it wasn’t always favorable, because there’s a lot that doesn’t make much sense in how that global contest panned out. Buy that list inspired me to look the countries—including the USA—that I visit with an eye toward the natural, manmade, and cultural wonders unique to each place. After visiting more than 100 countries, I have a keen eye for the truly special.
Now, I’ve shared the Seven Wonders for a of wide swath of the world, including wonders in Japan, the Philippines, Egypt, Australia, Spain, New Zealand, and others. It’s a passion of mind to share those pieces of history of global significance that not only celebrate the country in which they reside, but many of which are part of our global heritage.
Determining Worthy 7 Wonders in America
As an American, it intrigued me to consider the 7 Wonders of the USA. What are the best sites in the U.S.—and what is the criteria for choosing our “wonders.” Good Morning America came out with a list of the Seven Wonders of America. It is, frankly, misguided in some of the choices for what stands out most in the USA.
Across America are a number of worthy sites. Yet this is the list the show came up with: New York City, Golden Gate Bridge, Saturn V Rocket, The Badlands (South Dakota), Grand Canyon, Arctic National Wildlife Preserve, National Mall (Washington D.C.)
Let’s start with the 7th choice, New York City??? (that should be said in the same voice as the El Paso Salsa commercials). If New York as an entity gets to be included, why not San Francisco? Why does that city just get a bridge? My guess is the show couldn’t choose between the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Time Square, so it just lumped them all together. I agree that New York might need to be represented on such a list, but putting the whole city on it really is sort of cheap.
As for The Badlands I’ve been to the Badlands several times. I like the Badlands. However, it doesn’t belong on this list. I can’t say I’d rate it over half a dozen other national parks, including: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Volcanoes, Everglades, Zion, Arches, Arcadia, Denali, or even Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota. Hell, I’d put the Black Hills ahead of it for the Seven Wonders of South Dakota.
As for Arctic National Wildlife Preserve, if it weren’t for the oil drilling controversy, there is no way in hell this would be #2 on the 7 Wonders list. I won’t deny that there is a grandeur to the place, but that doesn’t mean it should rank as the second spot of wonders in America. Hell, even the National Park Service hasn’t given it National Park status. It lacks the geologic and historical significance of Yellowstone or Yosemite, neither of which made the Good Morning America list.
7 Wonders of the USA
As we’ve seen, the list of wonders is subjective. So here are seven of the most notable sites across America, as well as a runners-up list of sites that likely could or should be represented as well—but there are only seven spots!
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is probably the most significant natural feature in the USA. Why the show didn’t rank it #1 is a mystery, because this is hands-down one of the most incredible natural wonders in the world (it even made my list of Natural Wonders of the World). No trip to America is complete without visiting this site in Arizona, and it draws travelers from all over the world, during every season, and throughout every day to witness the grand beauty. No list of either must-sees or wonders in the U.S. is complete without the Grand Canyon on it.
Yellowstone National Park
Choosing between Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite is tough, but given the short nature of this list, there’s only space for one. Yellowstone was established March 1, 1872 in Wyoming as the first National Park in the world, meaning it’s not only a true natural wonder, but also of historical significance. The Old Faithful Geyser draws the most name recognition of attractions in the park, but with nearly 3,500 square miles, there’s a lot of nature to admire.
The National Mall in Washington D.C. is understandably on any list of wonders. You can easily spend several days exploring what amounts to less than one square mile in Washington. If you walk a bit farther, you can see even more. If you had to make a list of things people should see in the U.S., like the Grand Canyon, this would have to be on the list. Although some lists of the Seven Wonders call out a specific feature of the National Mall, such as the Washington Monument, the entire area has such incredible significance throughout America’s founding and history that it’s impossible to list just one monument.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park, located in Alaska, is home to the highest point in North America, Mount McKinley. Mt. McKinley is actually one of the largest mountains in the world when measured from base to peak, and it’s a wonder.
Historic Boston, Massachusetts
The list isn’t complete without something regarding the Revolution on the list. The American War for Independence is a significant event in world history. It was the first act of rebellion against a colonial power, and it set the stage for much of what happened later in history. Options for a single site include Independence Hall or Monticello, but Boston was ground zero for the Revolution. The 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail—a path through downtown Boston—passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States of America.
Redwood National Park
The redwood forests in California contain the most impressive forests in the world. Redwood National Park is the most popular place to see the redwoods, but Sequoia National Park and Muir Woods are also significant homes of redwoods.
The Interstate Highway System
The more I travel, the more I come to appreciate the U.S. Interstate Highway System as really the most impressive building accomplishment of the United States of America. Sure, this is an unconventional choice for this list, but if you’re driving across America visiting the rest of these wonders, you will use the extensive network of highways that connect every corner of the nation. Think about it. It’s impressive.
Seven Honorable Mentions
- Saturn V Rocket: Included on the Good Morning America list, I actually wish I had thought of it myself. Usually you think of places or buildings. The Saturn V is pretty damn cool, but the only Saturn V that currently exists is a shell sitting on the ground in Huntsville, Alabama. If you’re going to include vague non-place type things, I’d just include the entire Apollo program. If you wanted to make it a place, perhaps include the Kennedy Space Center or the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
- Gettysburg: This was probably the most significant battle in the Civil War. I suppose one can argue that an empty field isn’t really a wonder, however, so it doesn’t make the actual cut of Wonders of the USA. If you’re visiting America, however, you should be visiting historical sites and this is one of the most significant places to visit.
- Golden Gate Bridge: Although the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco isn’t the longest bridge in the world anymore, it was the first of its type. It’s a huge icon for the Bay Area and all of California.
- Las Vegas: If you are going to put an entire city on the list, put Las Vegas. There is no place in the world like Las Vegas. Not even close. Even Macau, which is probably the closest thing to Vegas, is nothing like Vegas. Vegas is uniquely American. Vegas could never have arisen anywhere but the US.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: I’ve visited the park twice now, and both times it was impressive. Now, they lava wasn’t flowing on the surface either time I visited, but it doesn’t detract from the sheer wonder of the place.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park: This will probably take most people by surprise, but it is one of my favorite spots in the world. I love the Great Plains and I love this park.
- Carlsbad Caverns: This is the biggest cave system in the world, so it’s at least a contender for the 7 Wonders of the USA.
In the big, global scheme of things, the United States is a very young country and we don’t have a lot of history compared to other places. Most of the things I’d put on the list are natural wonders, not historic, and that is likely as it should be.
What sites across America would make your short list of the seven wonders?
Planning a National Parks road trip? Join our Facebook Group for National Park Lovers to share your trip and receive advice from others who love U.S. National Parks!