Although North America may be a young continent, it’s filled with World Heritage sites such as international icons like the Statue of Liberty, historic archaeological sites dating back to pre-European settlement, and immense wilderness parks untouched by human habitation.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, US: This southwestern Colorado national park was the ancestral home of the native Pueblo tribe for over 700 years. Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House are just three of this park’s cliff dwellings and archeological sites and are among the best preserved in the US.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho, US: Yellowstone was the first national park established in the world in 1872, and remains one of the most famous parks over 100 years later. Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful are just two among hundreds of geysers and hot springs in this area. Other popular spots in this park include the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and beautiful Yellowstone Lake.
Everglades National Park, Florida, US: Designated an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance for its preservation of endangered wildlife, this southern Florida park is America’s largest subtropical wilderness. Most of the Everglades’ 47 designated wilderness camps are only accessible by boat, and careful preparation is highly recommended before exploring its boating and hiking trails.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, US: Other canyons may be longer, wider, and deeper, but none are more famous or awe-inspiring as northern Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Only slightly smaller than the state of Delaware and carved out by the Colorado river during two billion years of geologic history, the canyon magnificence must be experienced in person.
Independence Hall, Pennsylvania, US: Site of the current Pennsylvania State House, Independence Hall is one of America’s most historically significant buildings. This is the room where George Washington was first appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1775, the Declaration of Independence was first adopted, the design of the American flag was agreed upon, and the US Constitution was drafted in 1787.
Kluane/Wrangell-St Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek - British Columbia, Yukon, Alaska, Canada and US: Six times larger than Yellowstone National Park and spanning two countries, this remote northern wilderness of mountains and glaciers is North America’s largest national park. This largely uninhabited park also contains the world’s largest non-polar ice field, Canada’s highest mountain (Mount Logan), and the second-highest mountain in the US (Mount St Elias).
Redwood national and state parks - California, US: Forty-five percent of the world’s redwood forests tower over visitors to these northern California parks. The world’s tallest tree species are surrounded by grassland prairie and a 37-mile long coastline. Redwood has also been a popular filming location for movies such as Star Wars, Outbreak, ET, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site - Illinois, US: Site of an ancient city of 120 manmade earthen buildings not far from St Louis, Missouri, Cahokia Mounds is the largest native settlement north of Mexico. Described by the Travel Channel as ‘the world’s largest pyramid,’ archaeologists estimate Cahokia’s population once grew to 40,000, larger than any European-settled American city prior to 1800.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Tennessee, US: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which receives twice as many visitors as any other American national park, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2009. The Appalachian Train runs through the middle of the park, and almost 80 pioneer log buildings have been preserved in the valley of Cades Cove, the park’s most visited location.
Statue of Liberty - New York City, US: Welcoming visitors and immigrants to the US from Liberty Island since 1886, the Statue of Liberty is one of the country’s most recognizable symbols. The statue was originally presented to America as a friendship gesture from France, and has represented freedom and new beginnings ever since. Ellis Island, the first stop for millions of American immigrants, is also part of Statue of Liberty National Monument.
Yosemite National Park - California, US: This eastern California park was one of America’s first wilderness parks, and still one of the world’s most famous. Ninety-five percent of Yosemite is designated wilderness and most visitors only spend time in the much smaller Yosemite Valley area. Visitors are strongly encouraged to use Yosemite’s free shuttle bus system, especially during the summer when parking is almost impossible to find.
Pueblo de Taos - New Mexico, US: This ancient pueblo is perhaps North America’s oldest and best-preserved community. Pueblo de Taos’ 150 residents still live much as their ancestors did when this settlement of reddish brown adobe buildings was first built 1,000 years ago, without electricity, indoor plumbing, or running water.
Waterton Glacier International Peace Park - Montana, US and Alberta, Canada: Symbolizing peace and friendship between Canada and the US, this park became the world’s first international peace park in 1932. This is also the only park in the world designated as an International Peace Park, UNESCO World Heritage site, and a Biosphere Reserve.
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site - Newfoundland, Canada: A few wood-framed buildings are the only remaining evidence of North America’s first European settled community. These remains, reminiscent of those found in Greenland and Iceland, were first discovered in 1960. This archaeological site remains the only definite evidence of European contact with the New World prior to Christopher Columbus.
Dinosaur Provincial Park - Alberta, Canada: This park located in the heart of Alberta’s badlands was once home to 39 different dinosaur species. The area contains many of the world’s most significant dinosaur fossil beds. Visitors may choose between the two-hour guided Badlands bus tour, the Centrosaurus Bone Bed hike into a restricted area filled with skeletons, the Camel’s End Coulee hike, and a daily tour of the field station laboratory.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump - Alberta, Canada: For centuries, native people used this historic jump at the Rocky Mountain foothills to drive buffalo off a high cliff to their death. The site’s unusual name comes from a Blackfoot legend in which a young boy who tried to watch the buffalo fall from the cliff from below ‘got his head smashed in’ underneath the pile of carcasses..
Canadian Rocky Mountain parks - Alberta and British Columbia, Canada: This World Heritage site combines the Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks, along with three nearby provincial parks. This is also the site of the unique and well-preserved Burgess Shale fossil remains of marine animals and the unforgettable Rocky mountains.
Historic district of old Québec, Canada: The cobblestoned streets, walled ramparts, and French architecture of Quebec City’s historic district have remained relatively unchanged since Samuel de Champlain first landed here 400 years ago. Other historic sites worth a visit in the area are the Plains of Abraham, Valcartier village, and Montmorency falls.
Old town Lunenburg - Nova Scotia, Canada: First established in 1753, this Nova Scotia town is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement. The town’s original rectangular layout and colorful wooden buildings have remained relatively unchanged since.
Rideau canal - Ottawa, Canada: This canal was originally built as a military route in 1832. Today, the Rideau is used only for pleasure as a summer boating spot, and transforms into the world’s largest skating rink in winter. The Rideau is the size of 90 Olympic skating rinks and remains North America’s oldest operating canal system.
Historic town of St George and related fortifications, Bermuda: Founded in 1612, St George is the New World’s oldest settled English town. One of this northern Bermuda community’s most unusual attractions is the re-enactment of a dunking stool punishment used to dump gossiping women into the nearby harbor.
Ilulissat icefjord, Greenland: Greenland’s third-largest settlement is best known as the site of one of the world’s fastest and most active glaciers, and one of the few where Greenland’s ice cap reaches the sea. Sermeq Kujalleq has been studied for over 250 years.