Best Iconic & Historic Attractions

TripSavvy Editors' Choice Awards 2018

San Antonio Riverwalk canal

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Before you can see the world's most iconic cities like a local, there are a few things you need to get out of the way. In New York, it's the Empire State Building. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower. But some quintessential sights are less obvious — you'll need to look underground to find Houston's Buffalo Bayou Cistern, and climb over 300 stairs to find the most legendary temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Here are TripSavvy's favorite iconic and historic attractions for 2018.

Iconic Attractions

The Wrigley Field Marquee
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The Wrigley Field Marquee: Chicago, Ill. — featured in The Most Instagrammable Places in Chicago

Wrigley Field has changed a lot in the past year. It’s surrounded by new boutique hotels, multiple restaurants, even a craft beer bar outside its gates. In its backyard there are now yoga classes, movie screenings, and family sing alongs. But the one thing that has stayed the same in the neighborhood is the landmarked Wrigley Field Marquee. The famous sign has been hanging for 80 years through Cub wins and losses. Locals still smile when they see it on their way into a ball game. Tourists come from all over the world to take their photo with it rain or shine.

–Alyson Krueger

Top view of kuala lumper skyline at twilight
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The Petronas Twin Towers: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — featured in The Top Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur

No visit to Kuala Lumpur is complete without feeling very small before Malaysia’s most iconic structure, the Petronas Twin Towers. Soaring to 88 stories, the towers were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004. A futuristic design implements glass and stainless steel to lock eyeballs in place. Ascend to the Skybridge for views of Kuala Lumpur during the day then return later that night to bask in the eerie glow. Duck inside to grab a drink in the luxury mall before leaving. Argentine-American architect César Pelli, the mastermind behind the design of the Petronas Twin Towers, celebrates his 92nd birthday this month!

–Greg Rodgers

The Sagrada Familia
 Alan Lin/Getty Images

La Sagrada Familia: Barcelona, Spain — featured in The Top Things to Do in Barcelona

Walk around Barcelona and you’ll soon become familiar with the irreverent, curvaceous style of modernist architect Gaudi. Still, nothing can quite prepare you for his La Sagrada Familia, the city’s true must-visit attraction. Begun in 1882 — and still under construction to this day — the towering cathedral, with its ornamented spires, is unlike any other on the planet. But it’s the interior that stuns visitors into reverent silence. Columns that curve into naturally-inspired branches arch overhead, while a wall of rainbow stained glass bathes the entire space in vivid, dazzling color.

(Book a ticket online to avoid the considerable wait.) –Carey Jones

Statues, Monuments & Memorials

Arlington National Cemetery
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Arlington National Cemetery: Arlington, Va. — featured in Monuments & Memorials in Washington, D.C.

Honor those who served at Arlington National Cemetery, America's largest military cemetery. The cemetery is free to the public and open every day of the year, and it's a solemn yet beautiful site for the final resting place of more than 300,000 veterans. It's here you'll find the graves of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Another unforgettable sight is the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where unidentified fallen soldiers from World War I, World War II, the Korea War, and the Vietnam War are remembered.

Vulcan Park and Museum: Birmingham, Ala. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Birmingham

When Birmingham residents want to show off their city, this is frequently the first place they take out-of-towners. Start with the view: the 56-foot Vulcan statue sits atop a 125-foot observation tower on Red Mountain that reveals impressive views of the statue and downtown Birmingham. Vulcan itself, billed as the world’s largest cast-iron figure, has towered over the city in this location since 1936. This Roman god of fire and forge is an appropriate icon for a city that became one of the world’s leading steel producers.

A museum on the 10-acre grounds documents Birmingham’s geological bounty and industrial history. Mark Kahler

Vietnam Veterans Memorial
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Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Washington, D.C. — featured in Monuments & Memorials in Washington, D.C.

No other monument on the mall looks quite like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Maya Lin‘s simple yet striking design renders the names of 58,000 Americans in black granite: these are the names of those who gave their lives in the Vietnam War, inscribed in chronological order. It's a place for remembrance and contemplation, and many bring flowers and tokens to the wall in honor of loved ones. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund just called off a plan to bring an underground Vietnam education center to the mall, but the Wall itself is a moving remembrance of veterans' service.

Women in Service for America Memorial
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Women in Military Service for America Memorial: Washington, D.C. — featured in Monuments & Memorials in Washington, D.C.

While visiting Arlington National Cemetery, don't miss the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Located right at the cemetary's main entrance (otherwise known as the Memorial Gate), this memorial and education center dedicated in 1997 honors women veterans. After walking through an exhibition about the history of women's service and paying respects in the Hall of Honor recognizing those women who lost their lives in the line of duty, visitors can search an interactive database of nearly 245,000 servicewomen — past and present — to learn about their stories.

Historic Attractions

Getty Villa
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The Getty Villa: Malibu, Calif. — featured in Free Things to Do in LA

After amassing the finest private collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities, J. Paul Getty, once the world’s richest man, decided to build it a permanent home equal in wow factor. Set atop a Malibu mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Getty Villa is itself a nod to the art’s origins as it’s a near replica of a first-century Herculaneum luxury home buried by Vesuvius’ eruption replete with stone columns, tranquil gardens, sculptures, an amphitheater, frescos and reflecting pools.

It recently reopened after a three-year renovation with 3,000 extra square feet of gallery space, updated audio tours and a new display methodology. –Carrie Bell

The Buffalo Bayou Cistern
 Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Buffalo Bayou Cistern: Houston, Texas — featured in Houston's Quirkiest Attractions

Tucked below Houston’s popular Buffalo Bayou Park less than a mile from downtown, the Buffalo Bayou Cistern is easily one of the coolest — and perhaps most underrated — historical sites inside the city’s Inner Loop. The massive decommissioned reservoir could, at one time, hold 15 million gallons of drinking water. Now, it serves as a vibrant cultural attraction that frequently features installations from artists around the world. Visit the site before January 13, and you’ll see a custom light display designed by Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez that includes floating cubes and mesmerizing projections on the cistern’s 221 signature concrete columns.

  Robyn Correll

Greystone Mansion
City of Beverly Hills

Greystone Mansion: Beverly Hills, Calif. — featured in Things to Do in Beverly Hills

The black and white tiles are the best giveaway for anything you may have seen that was filmed in the Greystone Mansion. This Hollywood Hills estate is a very popular production venue for the industry, and has been the backdrop to dozens of famous scenes, from The Big Lebowski to The Gilmore Girls to X-Men. A-listers even get married here. But the real story behind this historic mansion is more thrilling and mysterious than any movie that has been filmed here. In 1929, the murder of oil tycoon and Greystone owner Ned Doheny, thought to be committed by his best friend (and maybe his wife’s lover!) has many theories, but is yet-to-be solved.

–Amber Turpin