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The 12 Most Overlooked Landmarks in America

You've probably never heard of these before, but they're worth a visit.

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Overlooked landmarks

From Mt. Rushmore to the Statue of Liberty, the United States is chocked full of significant sites, though not all are household names. Scroll on for the lesser-known spots that warrant your attention. You’ll also want to discover the most historic landmark in every state.

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White Sands National Monument New Mexico.

White Sands National Monument

Located in the northern Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico, the dramatic setting of White Sands National Monument has to be seen to be believed, though far fewer folks journey here than you’d imagine. On the plus side, that means the powdery gypsum dunes remain in pristine condition. If you’re into photography, we highly recommend adding this snow-like Arcadia to your bucket list. Don’t miss these breathtaking places you need to visit before they disappear.

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Bear Butte with Buffalo
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Bear Butte

Just an hour north of Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota resides Bear Butte. No disrespect to the carved granite faces of our forefathers, but this laccolith (a type of igneous intrusion with a mushroom-like shape) is au naturale. It’s also sacred to many Plains Indian tribes, including the Lakota and Cheyenne, who go on spiritual pilgrimages to the geological phenom. You can take virtual tours of 15 of America’s greatest landmarks.

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New Orleans causeway
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Lake Pontchartrain Causeway

The Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco and Marin County, spans 1.7 miles. No doubt, it’s an impressive feat of engineering and arguably the most iconic overpass in the nation… though far from the longest. The 24-mile Lake Pontchartrain Causeway connecting New Orleans with Mandeville may not tout soaring towers or suspension cables, but its length alone makes this Guinness World Records holder worth the drive.

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Striped purple sandstone formations of Blue Mesa badlands in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, USA

Petrified Forest National Park

When you think of Arizona, images of the Grand Canyon likely come to mind. And while there’s no denying the majesty of this natural wonder, Petrified Forest National Park in Holbrook is pretty epic in its own right. It comprises 218-million-year-old fossilized wood, colorful rock formations, petroglyphs, and the abandoned village of Puerco Pueblo. Take a gander at these pictures of national parks in full bloom.

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Fort Ticonderoga, New York
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Fort Ticonderoga

Revolutionary War buffs head to the Freedom Trail in Boston and Mount Vernon in Virginia, though all-too-often overlook Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. Honestly, we’re not really sure why. Let us remind you of the siege that took place on May 10, 1775—only three weeks after Lexington and Concord—when the Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen and notorious traitor Benedict Arnold, captured the site from the British.

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View of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge that connects Verona Island to Prospect, Maine over the Penobscot River.
BW Folsom/Shutterstock

Penobscot Narrows Bridge

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Prospect, Maine may not have the notoriety of other famous overpasses, which could be explained by two factors: Its off-the-beaten-path location in Maine and the fact that it’s only a few years old. What it lacks in crowds, it more than makes up for in engineering savvy and views from, what is, the first bridge observation tower in the United States. P.S. These are the most underrated destinations in the world.

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HONOLULU, HAWAII - JANUARY 20: Exterior of the Iolani Palace on King Street on January 20, 2017 in Honolulu, Hawaii
Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Iolani Palace

Travelers go to the Aloha State in search of fun in the sun and adventure, whether that’s snorkeling or exploring active volcanoes. But you might be surprised to learn that in the heart of downtown Honolulu is the only official royal residence in the country. Vacationers can marvel at the opulence and grandeur of Iolani Palace, where Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs lived.

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Misty Fjords

Misty Fjords National Monument

Tour groups may skip this Alaskan treasure in Ketchikan, but that doesn’t mean you should follow suit. On the contrary, you’d be wise to do the opposite—particularly if you have a penchant for outdoor pursuits. Designated as a national monument by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, this massive wilderness area flaunts more than two million acres of glacial valleys, saltwater canals, crystalline lakes, and steep slopes. Here’s what famous landmarks look like zoomed out.

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NEW YORK - May 28, 2015: The National Museum of the American Indian is located within the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House.

Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

It’s no secret that New York City has an overwhelming amount of things to see and do. And we get it, you can’t get to it all. But what we don’t understand is how so many folks fail to prioritize the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. Built in 1907, this landmark is a beautiful example of Beaux Arts architecture. Today, it’s home to National Museum of the American Indian, which offers free admission. While you’re there, hit up these hidden gems many New Yorkers don’t even know about.

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Impressive and scenic landscape in New Mexico
Martina Roth/Shutterstock

Ghost Ranch

Ghost Ranch doesn’t need publicity. This 21,000-acre retreat, set near Abiquiú in north-central New Mexico, served as a long-time refuge for reclusive artist Georgia O’Keeffe. In fact, the “Mother of American modernism” derived much inspiration for her paintings from the landscape—notably Kitchen Mesa and Pedernal, the flat-topped summit, which she oft referred to as her “private mountain.”

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Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Perhaps that’s because The Bean and Wrigley Field steal the show when it comes to the Windy City. And lest we forget the Chicago Architecture River Cruise, one of the top cultural attractions in the world. That said, before you leave Chi-town, we highly recommend venturing to the massive and magnificent crown jewel of Grant Park with its 150-foot water streams, pink marble, and seahorse sculptures.

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Kasha Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument
Martina Birnbaum/Shutterstock

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, which sits on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, boasts some of the most fascinating geology in the state, nay the country, yet it continues to stay super low key. Visitors can trek Slot Canyon Trail to witness the striated rocks and hoodoos formed by volcanic eruptions that occurred up to seven million years ago. Next, read on to discover the best hidden gem in every state.

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay Cohn is an avid traveler who has visited 46 countries across six continents. At Reader’s Digest, she covers both domestic and international travel. When she's not writing, you can find her hanging out with her son, doing yoga and adding to her ever-growing list of future adventures.