Main menu Open search menu

Lesser-Known National Monuments You've Never Heard Of (And Should Visit)

BY: Tyler Clark | Apr 4, 2017

National Parks Hero

America's National Park Service oversees more than 400 national monuments, parks, and historical sites, ranging from the Statue of Liberty to Mt. Rushmore. While you're undoubtedly familiar with Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Great Smoky Mountains, the NPS's stable of attractions include a number of national monuments and other sites you might not have heard of. Many of them make for great family vacation ideas as you plan your 2017.

Cabrillo National Monument| San Diego, California

San Diego is great when considering cheap vacation ideas. But while you're visiting, you can find admire one the West Coast's best scenic vistas atop Cabrillo National Monument, located on the Point Loma Peninsula just across from downtown San Diego. Named for Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who landed here in 1542, the peninsula rises 422 feet above sea level at its peak, where there's a statue of the explorer donated by the Portugese government.

Must-Do Activity: After you take in the vista, hike up to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which dates back to 1855, then down to the tidepools along the Pacific coast.

Where to stay: Esancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site | Wall, South Dakota

The most striking monument to the Cold War takes your road trip just a few miles from Mt. Rushmore. Disarmed in 1991, the nuclear missile in this silo is one of hundreds that stood at the ready for more than 30 years of US/Russian tensions. You can even explore the nearby launch control center's underground bunker during a guided tour.

Must-Do Activity: Snap a pic next to the bunker's eight-ton blast door, which was meant to withstand the brunt of a nuclear attack

Where to stay: Grand Gateway Hotel

Liberty Memorial | Kansas City, MO

The towering 265-foot Egyptian Revival monolith is America's only national World War I memorial, boasting intricate frieze work commemorating soldier sacrifices in the Great War. Since 2004, it's also served as the centerpiece of the nearby National WWI Museum.

Must-Do Activity: Learn about America's involvement in the Great War at the museum's Centennial Commemoration exhibitions, which run during the war's 100th anniversary years (2014–2019).

Where to stay: Holiday Inn Kansas City Downtown - Aladdin

Pullman National Monument | Chicago, IL

National Parks Pullman

This South Side historic district was designed as a 19th-century company town for Pullman Company employees, eventually becoming the site of one of history's most influential labor strikes. Today, landmarks such as the towering Administration and Factory Complex commemorate this important era in labor history.

Must-Do Activity: Take one of the monument's guided walking tours to get an up-close glimpse of historic buildings spread throughout the nearby neighborhood.

Where to stay: Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown

The Roosevelt Memorials | Washington, D.C.

National Parks FDR Memorial

In a town dominated by monuments, two of the coolest belong to Presidential cousins Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. Taking you off the Mall's main drag, Teddy's memorial sits on a scenic island in the Potomac that's only accessible by footbridge, and FDR's shares the Tidal Basin with the Jefferson Memorial.

Must-Do Activity: Pet FDR's dog, Fala; the faithful pooch is memorialized in bronze alongside his presidential master.

Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Washington D.C. Downtown

Women's Rights National Historical Park | Seneca, New York

True to the spirit of Independence Day, the home of the Seneca Falls Convention is now a monument to women's suffrage. Guests at this park can explore the Wesleyan Methodist Church where the historic women's rights convention took place, and also visit the homes of influential suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann M'Clintock.

Must-Do Activity: See how Elizabeth Cady Stanton lived on daily ranger-led tours of her home, which has been restored to its original 1848 appearance.

Where to stay: Holiday Inn Waterloo-Seneca Falls