With aims of showing visitors the ingenuity and honored customs of those who came before us, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated sites across the globe that are culturally, historically or scientifically significant. Check out these World Heritage cultural sites that dot the United States.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois
Just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis lies the site of a former Native American community that flourished long before the arrival of European explorers. From 1050 to 1350 CE, Cahokia was the largest urban center north of Mexico. Today, the 2,200-acre park offers guided tours along extensive trails and around a recreated village.
Independence Hall, Philadelphia
This Philadelphia brick landmark is the site where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were fiercely debated and then signed by the Founding Fathers. On July 8, 1776, it became the backdrop for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, an act now recreated for visitors by National Park Service rangers. Admission is by tour only.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
This park was created a century ago with aims of preserving and honoring the archaeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people, who made homes along the sandstone cliffs overlooking southwest Colorado’s Montezuma Valley. The park boasts nearly 5,000 archaeological sites along more than 40 miles of road.
Monticello and the University of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, also found time to design his home at Monticello and the nearby Academical Village, which still forms the heart of the University of Virginia. With the porticos, cornices and friezes of Monticello and the Academic Village’s rotunda, modeled on the Pantheon, Jefferson brought the classical architecture of ancient Rome to the U.S.
The Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point, Louisiana
From about 1700 to 1100 BCE, this series of ridges and mounds of earth served as the homes and ceremonial grounds for a society of hunter-gatherers living along the Mississippi River flood plains of northeastern Louisiana. Less than 1% of the 400 acres making up this UNESCO cultural site have been altered in the last 3,000 years.
The Statue of Liberty, New York
This gift of camaraderie from the French to the United States served as an emblem of welcome to the nearly 14 million immigrants who entered the nation through Ellis Island between 1886 and 1924. Walk from the ground floor to the Statue of Liberty’s crown (equal to walking up 20 stories) for a view of the city few New Yorkers have experienced.
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
The multi-story adobe pueblo at Taos in New Mexico has been inhabited for more than 1,000 years. Today, nearly 1,900 Taos Indians live on these lands, speaking Tiwa and governing through a tribal council. Visitors are welcome to take guided tours to learn about the rich history and culture of the Taos people.