10 Iconic US Photos for Your Instagram Bucket List

March 24, 2014

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.

10 iconic us photos

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.

10 iconic us photos

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.

10 iconic us photos

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.

10 iconic us photos

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.

10 iconic us photos

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 a proper scale of the monolithic growths, be sure to place a human in some of the photos.

10 iconic US photos

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.

10 iconic US photos

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.

10 iconic US photos

Gondola boats cruise 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.

10 iconic US photos

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.

10 iconic US photos

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.

About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”  Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.

Patti has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe. You can follow Patti on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Read more about Patti Morrow.


  1. Comment by Alyssa Heberlig

    Alyssa Heberlig Reply March 12, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    You know I took a business trip to Chicago and I didn’t even get to see The Bean. What a shame. Next time. I did fall in love with the city though. It is so much cleaner and prettier than you would think it is.

  2. Comment by Catherine

    Catherine Reply March 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Wow, some great choices. Those trees are gigantic, would love to see them myself!

  3. Comment by Elizabeth

    Elizabeth Reply March 26, 2014 at 3:13 pm

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

  4. Comment by ben

    ben Reply March 26, 2014 at 4:35 am

    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! 😀

  5. Comment by Travels with Tam

    Travels with Tam Reply March 25, 2014 at 8:52 pm

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

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Big Sur and Mt. Rushmore are two great ones… definitely worth seeing!

  6. Comment by Kay Dougherty

    Kay Dougherty Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    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!

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      I did like San Antonio more than I thought I would. The Riverwalk was the highlight — I spent as much time there as possible.

  7. Comment by Patti Morrow

    Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    The “Bean” is a lot of fun to photograph — you can get some really great reflective shot from 360 degrees.

  8. Comment by Patti Morrow

    Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Definitely, Nancy! The USA is a great place for road trips — even I can’t get lost, which is amazing in itself! The drive along the California coast is stunning.

  9. Comment by Irene S Levine

    Irene S Levine Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm

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

  10. Comment by Syd

    Syd Reply March 25, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I’ve checked off a couple of these. But, I admit, I had no idea San Antonio Texas was so cool!

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      Neither did I. I had to be there for another business, so I researched what else I could do and came up with some great things to do and visit. The Riverwalk was the highlight!

  11. Comment by Josie

    Josie Reply March 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I especially like the Washington Monument view complete with seagull in front. Great shot!
    Thanks for the very pretty tour around our great land.

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      So many great spots in the U.S. FYI, I’m back in DC, but it’s snowing now — end of March, what’s up with that? I wanted cherry blossoms!

  12. Comment by Doreen Pendgracs

    Doreen Pendgracs Reply March 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    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.

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      Well, I’m back in DC right now and it’s snowing…. so you might want to wait for nicer weather! Great city for walking!

  13. Comment by Michelle

    Michelle Reply March 25, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    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 🙂

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      The Riverwalk is the highlight of San Antonio. I spent as much time on it as possible.

  14. Comment by Sand In My Suitcase

    Sand In My Suitcase Reply March 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Big Sur gets our vote as the most picturesque!

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Big Sur is stunning and definitely one of my favorites!

  15. Comment by Viv

    Viv Reply March 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    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 🙂

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      Thanks, Viv! Still more on my US bucket list, like Yosemite, for example.

  16. Comment by Donna Janke

    Donna Janke Reply March 25, 2014 at 11:57 am

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

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      We can never do enough traveling, can we Donna? 🙂

  17. Comment by Suzanne Stavert

    Suzanne Stavert Reply March 25, 2014 at 11:11 am

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

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 11:20 am

      There’s so much to see right here in the USA. I’ve spent so much more time traveling abroad, and only really made an effort to see more of my own country a few years ago. I’ve not been disappointed!

  18. Comment by Jackie Smith

    Jackie Smith Reply March 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

    You made me think a road trip this summer might be high on the bucket list! Fun photos.

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 11:18 am

      I love traveling internationally, but I also love road trips, especially in the summer. Can’t wait to hear about yours, Jackie!

  19. Comment by Marilyn Jones

    Marilyn Jones Reply March 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Your photos are beautiful! My score? I’ve visited seven. 🙂

    • Comment by Patti Morrow

      Patti Morrow Reply March 25, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Seven is great! Hopefully you’ll get to the last three…..

  20. Comment by Michele Peterson

    Michele Peterson Reply March 25, 2014 at 10:21 am

    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.

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