10 U.S. Iconic Photo Ops for Your Bucket List

From sea to shining sea, the USA is teeming with iconic and creative photo ops.  Arguably, each state has its own unique sights, some of which may appeal to one set of photographers while snubbed by others.

The list below, in no particular order, is not comprehensive, but rather just a selection of ten eye-catching locations that should make your list.

McWay Falls

McWay Falls at Big Sur, California

McWay Falls, Big Sur, CA

Getting there is part of the experience – a dramatic, twisting drive on Highway One along craggy cliffs that plunge into almost neon aquamarine Pacific waters.   Stop at Julia Pfeifer State Park and take the short walk to the scenic overlook of McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that crashes onto the protected beach cove below.

Cloud Gate reflecting the Chicago skyline

Cloud Gate reflecting the Chicago skyline

Cloud Gate, Chicago, IL

A.k.a. “The Bean,” this polished stainless steel sculpture by Anish Kapoor, is the highlight of Chicago’s Millennium Park.  The gleaming surface of the sculpture reflects (and distorts) both the skyline in the distance and visitors who can walk around and under the form.

The red rock buttes in Sedona's landscape

The red rock buttes in Sedona’s landscape

Red Rocks, Sedona, AZ

Wherever you look in Sedona, you’ll likely find yourself immersed in panoramic views of the red rock buttes and formations in any direction.  Hiking and jeep tours are available, or you can simply take in the vibrant vista from most of the hotels and many of the restaurants.

Times Square, always a frenetic and fun part of New York City

Times Square, always a frenetic and fun part of New York City

Times Square, New York City, NY

Dubbed by Travel + Leisure magazine as the most visited tourist attraction in the world, be prepared for excitement and sensory overload, particularly at night. This neon hub is home to the city’s theater district, myriad restaurants and herds of pedestrian foot traffic.

Humans are dwarfed by the redwoods on Avenue of the Giants in Northern California

Humans are dwarfed by the redwoods on Avenue of the Giants in Northern California

Avenue of the Giants,  Humboldt Redwoods State Park, C

This 31-mile drive on old Highway 101 runs through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  Beyond impressive, these towering giants are said to be the oldest trees in the world and here’s where you can see the largest remnant.  Don’t miss the 950-year old Immortal Tree and the Drive-Through Tree.  To get proper scale of the monolithic growths, be sure to place a human in some of the photos.

The enticing turquoise water at Kailua Beach

The enticing turquoise water at Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach, Oahu, HI

Arguably the most beautiful beach in the U.S.A. Kailua is 2.5 miles long on Oahu’s windward coast.  It boasts shimmering turquoise water, sugary beach sand and light breezes.  Unlike its sister Lanikai Beach to the east, Kailua provides parking, facilities, and easy access.

Mt. Rushmore, a stunning sculptural marvel

Mt. Rushmore, a stunning sculptural marvel

Mt. Rushmore, Keystone, SD

What American hasn’t longed to see these 60-foot high presidential faces carved into a granite mountain? Sculpted by Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum, Mount Rushmore stands 5,725 feet above sea level.  Along with the iconic photos, try a fun alternative by positioning your own head next to Lincoln’s, shooting in black and white.

Gondola boats curise the Riverwalk in San Antonio_TX

Gondola boats curise the Riverwalk in San Antonio_TX

Riverwalk, San Antonio, TX

One story beneath downtown San Antonio, the Riverwalk is a network of walkways hosting restaurants, bars and shops along the banks of the San Antonio River. The popular pedestrian walkway winds under bridges where it connects some of the city’s major tourist attractions and also provides stops for water taxis and dinner boat excursions.

Reflection of the Lincoln Memorial at the Mall in D.C

Reflection of the Lincoln Memorial at the Mall in D.C

Reflecting Pool, Washington DC

Located on the National Mall, the rectangular Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool is the largest in DC.  Lined by trees on both sides and more than 2000 feet long, it dramatically reflects either the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial, depending on which end you’re standing.

Brilliant folliage every autumn in New Hampshire

Brilliant folliage every autumn in New Hampshire

Kancamagus Highway, White Mountains, NH

This 34.5 mile scenic drive along NH’s  north country is considered one of the best viewing areas for fall foliage in the country and attracts thousands of visitors each year to leaf peep at the brilliant spectrum of colors while driving through the 3,000 ft. vistas of the White Mountains.


  1. It sounds as though I’m overdue for a trip to the US as I’ve only visited one ( Mount Rushmore) of the photo-ops on this list! If I had to pick one to see next, it would be “The Bean” — it looks as though its a highlight of Chicago, not only Millennium Park.
    Michele Peterson recently posted…Win a pair of CityPASS ticket bookletsMy Profile

  2. Your photos are beautiful! My score? I’ve visited seven. :-)

  3. You made me think a road trip this summer might be high on the bucket list! Fun photos.
    Jackie Smith recently posted…Greece: A honey of a destinationMy Profile

  4. I love all of the photos too! My score is 5… much more to do. Thank you for the inspiration!

  5. These are beautiful photos. I’ve been to three of these photo op places. Clearly, I have more travelling to do in the USA.

  6. You have some beautiful photos here, Patti, and it’s true what they say about a picture’s worth a thousand words – great travel inspiration for sure :)
    Viv recently posted…Snowshoeing Blueprint for Beginners in Bend, OregonMy Profile

  7. Big Sur gets our vote as the most picturesque!
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted…Which way to the Juarez Theater in Guanajuato?My Profile

  8. These are all fabulous photos. I’ve never wanted to visit San Antonio, but the Riverwalk looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing :)

  9. You are SO right. The US is filled wit some amazing sights! I’ve not yet been to DC, so that is high on my list right now. Thx for sharing the great images.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…exploring OahuMy Profile

  10. I especially like the Washington Monument view complete with seagull in front. Great shot!
    Thanks for the very pretty tour around our great land.
    Josie recently posted…Home Exchange vs. House Sitting: Which is Right for You?My Profile

  11. Beautiful shots! I’ve visited 2. Maybe I should plan a road trip for the next time I’m in North America. Last summer I did spend some time in Washington State, which is beautiful.
    Nancie recently posted…Lennon and Love Locks on Prague’s Kampa IslandMy Profile

  12. I’ve checked off a couple of these. But, I admit, I had no idea San Antonio Texas was so cool!
    Syd recently posted…How to Drive in New Zealand: Perils and Pitfalls of Driving on the LeftMy Profile

  13. What great photos. The one of the sculpture in Chicago is dazzling!

  14. The “Bean” is a lot of fun to photograph — you can get some really great reflective shot from 360 degrees.
    Patti Morrow recently posted…10 U.S. Iconic Photo Ops for Your Bucket ListMy Profile

  15. Great pics of some wonderful destinations! Although in some cases it’s been MANY years I’ve been to all of these with the exception of Austin. I read so much about it I may have to challenge my negative stereotypes of Texas and get down there one of these days!

  16. Great iconic photos from the USA .. my fav are the redwoods and red-rocks

  17. I’ve been to most of them….but I need to get to Big Sur and Mt Rushmore!

  18. I will definitely put these places to my bucket list. I want to surprise my girlfriend on here birthday. We will visit all these place. A whole week celebration! 😀
    ben recently posted…Havasu Falls – An Uplifting ExperienceMy Profile

  19. As a photographer, I thought this was a great idea for an article!

  20. Wow, some great choices. Those trees are gigantic, would love to see them myself!
    Catherine recently posted…The Best Ice Cream Parlor In The WorldMy Profile

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