America's historic attractions in their heyday



Slide 1 of 47: Whether you'd prefer to spend an afternoon dizzying yourself at a Disney park, or poring over one of America's most poignant landmarks, the USA has no shortage of top-notch attractions. And with travel a bit trickier than normal for us all, now is a good time delve into the past to discover both stories and stunning historic photos of your favorite US sights.
Slide 2 of 47: Atlantic City's beachside boardwalk has been a premier East Coast attraction since the 1870s, when the famous wooden pathway was first constructed. It's thought to be the first boardwalk of its kind in the United States, and has been lined with luxurious hotels, eclectic stores and restaurants since its earliest beginnings. Here vacationers wander the seaside boulevard on a sunny day in summer 1915.
Slide 3 of 47: Atlantic City's rolling chairs became a popular way to travel the boardwalk from the 1880s – a marker of privilege and luxury, they were neat and compact, sometimes with ornate details and frilled umbrellas. They're still a common sight along the boardwalk, although the modern iterations are a far cry from the elegant people-movers of the past. Pictured here, wealthy vacationers are whisked past a theater, restaurant and souvenir shop circa 1910.
Slide 4 of 47: The beach was – and is – as much of a draw as the boardwalk, especially during sticky summers. Here, in the Roaring Twenties, sun-seekers bask on the sand or cool off beneath striped shelters, as the famed boardwalk bustles in the background.

Slide 5 of 47: Yellowstone is the oldest site in the USA's National Park System. Established in 1872 it takes over a great swathe of northwestern Wyoming and seeps into the states of Montana and Idaho too. This photo actually predates the park's official founding – it shows a large party of men and their pack train during the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, which explored the land that would eventually become Yellowstone National Park.
Slide 6 of 47: This national park is one of the largest in the USA too, leaving plenty of room for its revered natural wonders. Among them is Tower Falls, a 132-foot (40m) cascade in the northeast of Yellowstone, which you can take in from a scenic overlook. In this nostalgic shot, a young family admire the spectacle in 1955.
Slide 7 of 47: Bear safety is a topic of much discussion in Yellowstone, given that the park is home to both black bears and grizzlies. Visitors are warned against encouraging bears towards their car, and are given strict guidelines for camping or hiking in bear country. Decades ago, though, these vital safety procedures were decidedly more relaxed. Here, in 1957, a tourist leans out of his car to get a snap of a mother with her two cubs.
Slide 8 of 47: Though the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon was carved out by the Colorado River over millennia, it's been a US National Park for a little over 100 years, celebrating its centenary in 2019. The enormous canyon plunges to around 6,000 feet (1,829m) at its deepest point, drawing visitors with its striking red formations and seemingly endless vistas. It's pictured here in all its glory circa 1940.
Slide 9 of 47: Today the canyon is peppered with scenic viewpoints, from the famous glass Skywalk at the West Rim to Mather Point in the south. Here a couple in the 1940s stand at a rugged observation point and drink in the otherworldly landscape.

Slide 10 of 47: Lady Liberty, a gift from France in the late 19th century, is one of the USA's most storied attractions. The giant green statue stands more than 300 feet (91m) high and has towered over New York's Liberty Island since 1886. Before she made it to the Big Apple, though, she was displayed at the Paris World's Fair in 1878 (pictured).
Slide 11 of 47: Fast-forward several decades and the Statue of Liberty has become New York City's best-loved landmark. She's pictured here in the distance as a busy tour boat sails towards her – several of the sightseers look on in awe on the approach. Our feature on how the world's most famous attractions have changed has more fascinating photos too. 
Slide 12 of 47: Though Florida's Disney parks have now dwarfed their Californian sisters in size, Disneyland in Anaheim will always be the oldest of these world-famous sites. It was, of course, dreamed up by animator extraordinaire Walt Disney himself, who was inspired by parks and attractions around the world. He's seen here with park sketches in the 1950s – you can spot the towers and turrets of Sleeping Beauty Castle and the buildings of Frontierland in the bottom left.
Slide 13 of 47: The park opened in 1955 to much applause, with the fairy-tale Sleeping Beauty Castle the star attraction. The opening day didn't go quite as planned, though, since hundreds more visitors than expected poured through the park gates. But luckily that didn't dim Disneyland's appeal – themed areas such as Fantasyland and futuristic Tomorrowland offered plenty for awe-struck early visitors to explore.
Slide 14 of 47: It wasn't unusual to spot Walt Disney himself in his beloved park in the early days, riding the attractions with his family, and chatting to visitors. Disney passed way in 1966, but he's pictured here in the 1950s, enjoying a whirl on the park's teacup ride with his wife Lillian and daughter Diane.

Slide 15 of 47: Yosemite had a somewhat messy beginning with parts established as a state park in 1864, and a national park eventually created around the edge in 1890. It wasn't until 1906, though, that the parks were finally merged to create Yosemite National Park as we know it today. Here President Theodore Roosevelt visits the natural area in 1903, accompanied by famed naturalist John Muir. They pause at Inspiration Point in the Yosemite Valley.
Slide 16 of 47: Beyond its mighty bluffs and glacial valley, Yosemite is known for another thing: its giant sequoia. A top place to see these towering trees is the Mariposa Grove in the park's south. Still home to many monstrous specimens – including the huge Grizzly Giant – the grove once contained the Wawona tree (pictured), a large sequoia known for the tunnel at its base. It fell in the 1960s, but is pictured here in the prime of its life in 1918.
Slide 17 of 47: Sprawling over a whopping 840 leafy acres, Central Park is known as the Big Apple's "Green Lung" for good reason. It officially opened back in 1876, and its wide grassy spaces, forested areas and lakes had instant appeal with New Yorkers. The park is pictured here in 1894, with its lakeside terrace abuzz with people and a gondolier whisking tourists through the water.
Slide 18 of 47: There's a long history of model yacht racing in Central Park too – in fact, the Central Park Model Yacht Club celebrated its 100th birthday back in 2016. The sport became particularly popular from the 1880s and remains so today – competitors are pictured here around 1910, getting ready to race their yachts on Conservatory Lake.
Slide 19 of 47: Nowhere in New York City are the seasons more prominent than in Central Park, and in winter it truly comes to life. While any sludge is quickly dredged from the Big Apple's busy boulevards, you can usually rely on a glorious carpet of snow in the city's Green Lung. In winter, ice-skating, cross-country skiing and sledding all remain popular with modern visitors – this photo, taken in 1896, shows a pair of young children enjoying the latter. Discover more of Central Park's secrets here
Slide 20 of 47: You can still take a carriage ride through Central Park, but back in the 19th century, the sight of tourists bundled into a horse-drawn coach was even more common. Here, in 1899, pedestrians watch on as gentle steeds clip-clop their way through the park. They're standing on the Mall, a pathway purposefully built to accommodate carriages.
Slide 21 of 47: Before Las Vegas became all about The Strip, Downtown's Fremont Street was the place to be, and this buzzy boulevard remains a top attraction in Sin City. Glitter Gulch, as it came to be known, built up during the 1920s, and thrived after gambling was decriminalized in 1931. It's shown here in the 1950s, clogged with cars driving past its winking neon signs.
Slide 22 of 47: An iconic venue of the day was Boulder Club (pictured), a glittering casino that was one of the earliest spots to get a gambling license in the 1930s. It sadly burned down in 1956. While Fremont Street is now overshadowed by The Strip, you can still find plenty of live music venues and restaurants Downtown, not to mention SlotZilla, an enormous slot-machine-themed zip line.
Slide 23 of 47: A colorful amusement complex and neighborhood in New York City's Brooklyn, Coney Island has long been known for its roller-coaster-filled theme parks, fast-food stands and broad sandy beach. This kitsch pleasure-seeker's paradise burgeoned at the beginning of the 1900s with Steeplechase Park, Luna Park (pictured) and Dreamland opening in 1897, 1903 and 1904 respectively.
Slide 24 of 47: The attraction-filled Luna Park (pictured) packed in visitors for a little over four decades, but was sadly gutted by a fire in 1944. Original Luna Park was known for its whimsical entryway, its Electric Tower, which lit up after dark, and wholesome attractions such as the Helter Skelter. It has now been reborn as a new Coney Island park, modeled on the original, which is pictured here in the early 1900s.
Slide 25 of 47: Alongside Luna Park, there was Dreamland, another sadly short-lived site. It too was dominated by a mammoth, illuminated tower, as well as attractions including Venetian-style canals, a ballroom and an animal arena. It was also destroyed by fire less than a decade after it opened. Dreamland is seen here in the early 1900s, with the area's large bathing pavilion in the background behind the beach.
Slide 26 of 47: This incredible slice of Washington state has been a national park since 1899, and is named for Mount Rainier, a glacier-topped volcano that peaks at well over 14,000 feet (4,267m). Paradise is one of the glaciers that covers titanic Mount Rainier – it's pictured here in 1915 being scaled by a group of climbers.
Slide 27 of 47: The Paradise area is still one of the most popular regions of the park today, known for its blossom-flecked meadows and its incredible opportunities for winter sports. Pictured here in mid-winter in the 1930s, skiers strike out from Paradise Inn, which is among the most well-loved lodges in the national park system. Dating to 1916, the inn makes for a dreamy winter retreat today, with its low beams, snug rooms and large fireplaces.
Slide 28 of 47: The rest of the park has long been a popular spot for those wanting to hit the slopes too, with historic ski resorts peppering the area. This keen skier can be seen in the powder right back in 1907.
Slide 29 of 47: A tribute to one of America's most formative presidents, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in 1922, more than five decades after his death. Standing at the far western edge of the National Mall, the famed memorial is characterized by grand marble columns and an enormous seated statue of Lincoln himself inside. That vast statue is seen here during its installation in 1920.
Slide 30 of 47: The memorial to "Honest Abe" is now one of the most iconic monuments in DC. Over the years, it has been the site of several pivotal moments in history, and it served as the spot where Martin Luther King Jr delivered his famed "I Have A Dream" speech. In this photo, taken on 12 February 1947, crowds gather to celebrate the late president's birthday.
Slide 31 of 47: Knott's Berry Farm, a wholesome, family-friendly theme park just over 20 miles (32km) from LA, began life as a berry farm. Walter and Cordelia Knott (pictured), who purchased the land in the 1920s, made their living from growing boysenberries and selling them at a humble roadside stand. Before long, their simple berry business was drawing in the crowds.
Slide 32 of 47: Further visitors flooded in when Cordelia Knott began selling her delicious fried chicken dinner in the 1930s, and by the 1940s the pair decided to add yet more attractions. The Ghost Town, an Old West-themed area packed with wooden buildings from a blacksmiths' shop to saloons, opened in this decade. It's pictured here crammed with visitors in its early days.
Slide 33 of 47: An enduring symbol of St Louis, Missouri, the Gateway Arch has watched over the waterfront here since the 1960s. It was realized as a monument to westward expansion – the movement of settlers towards the American west during the 19th century, and a concept pioneered by President Thomas Jefferson. It's seen here taking shape in 1965.
Slide 34 of 47: The keystone was the final part of the arch to be lifted into place, and this photo shows the final stages of the monument's construction in 1965. It's thought that the keystone contains a time capsule complete with the signatures of more than 760,000 residents, as well as some other unknown relics. Discover more images of tourist attractions under construction here. 
Slide 35 of 47: Seattle's Pike Place Market has been loved by locals and tourists alike since it opened back in 1907. It was originally built as the burgeoning city of Seattle demanded more fresh produce from local farmers – on the opening day, in August 1907, farmers brought wagons brimming with fruit and veg to the marketplace, and they quickly sold out. This photo shows wagons parked up outside the market around 1910.
Slide 36 of 47: The first permanent building was constructed later in 1907, housing 76 produce stalls, which heaved under the weight of the season's fresh offerings – here vendors pose before their fruit stall in the 1920s. Today the produce stands are joined by craft stalls, indie boutiques and hip foodie spots too.
Slide 37 of 47: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park combines a natural wonder with a family attraction full of heart. First and foremost, Weeki Wachee is a beautiful natural spring – one of the deepest in the US, in fact – but it's known for something else. Since the 1940s, the spring has hosted "mermaid shows" (pictured), which involve the real-life "mermaids" swimming up to 66 feet (20m) below the surface to perform impressive synchronized dances. Discover the most beautiful state parks in America.
Slide 38 of 47: To keep the magic alive, the mermaids rely on "breathing hoses" invented in the 1940s by Newton Perry, the brains behind the attraction and its former owner. A troupe is pictured here in 1949, smiling from a dock and diving tower at Weeki Wachee, ready for their next show. The site now also boasts a water park, riverboat rides and casual restaurants.
Slide 39 of 47: This theme park, one of the oldest in America, has always set great store by its thrill rides. The first roller coaster debuted here in 1892, a couple of decades after the park's inauguration, and this later shot shows the 1920s wooden Cyclone in the background. Cedar Point is known for its dizzying coasters today too. See more historic images of America's theme parks in full swing. 
Slide 40 of 47: It's not all about white-knuckle rides though – roller coasters in the 150-year-old park sit alongside kitsch carousels and other kid-friendly attractions. Back in the day, Hi De Ho In The Dark, the colorful fun house pictured here, was a popular family amusement.
Slide 41 of 47: The four stone presidents of Mount Rushmore – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – have been watching over South Dakota's Black Hills region since they were completed in 1941. Here we see lauded sculptor Gutzon Borglum in his studio, working on the design for what would become one of America's most iconic attractions.
Slide 42 of 47: The huge granite faces – each around 60-feet (18m) tall – would take more than a decade to realize. This photo is thought to have been captured circa 1940, a year before the great feat was finished. It shows the bold profile of Thomas Jefferson and the outline of George Washington in the farther distance, as seen from the top of Abraham Lincoln's head. Find more fascinating facts about America's tourist attractions here.
Slide 43 of 47: Arguably America's most famous bridge, the red-orange Golden Gate has spanned its namesake strait since 1937. When first completed, it was the longest and tallest suspension bridge on the planet, and its awesome size still wows modern visitors. The nascent bridge is pictured here in the mid-1930s, when its towers stood tall, but the main span was yet to be built.
Slide 44 of 47: The epic bridge was eventually completed in 1937, and opened to traffic in May of that same year. Journalists were among the first to take a drive across the mammoth expanse – a handful of press cars are pictured here on 24 May 1937, a few days before the structure's official opening date.
Slide 45 of 47: Today the bridge remains a defining feature of San Francisco, carrying more than 100,000 vehicles per day. It makes a great subject for photographers too, and it looks particularly enigmatic in this 1940s shot, with a fisherman silhouetted beneath the bridge's expanse.  Discover the world's tourist attractions that no longer exist
Slide 46 of 47: The huge Hollywood Sign, standing high in the Hollywood Hills, is a familiar sight to tourists and Angelinos. It didn't always look as it does today, though. Originally an advert for a new housing development, it was erected in 1923 and read "Hollywoodland". This photo shows a group of surveyors and builders for the new estate posing beneath the sign around 1925.
Slide 47 of 47: The Hollywoodland sign stood tall for several decades, but eventually fell into disrepair. When it was finally fixed up in the 1940s, the "land" section was ditched and the landmark we know today was born. It's pictured here around the mid-1920s, with white-washed Kanst Art Gallery rising up beneath it. Here's what to see in modern-day LA.

Into the past

Atlantic City Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Statue of Liberty, New York City, New York

Statue of Liberty, New York City, New York

Fast-forward several decades and the Statue of Liberty has become New York City’s best-loved landmark. She’s pictured here in the distance as a busy tour boat sails towards her – several of the sightseers look on in awe on the approach. Our feature on how the world’s most famous attractions have changed has more fascinating photos too. 

Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

Central Park, New York City, New York

Central Park, New York City, New York

Central Park, New York City, New York

Nowhere in New York City are the seasons more prominent than in Central Park, and in winter it truly comes to life. While any sludge is quickly dredged from the Big Apple’s busy boulevards, you can usually rely on a glorious carpet of snow in the city’s Green Lung. In winter, ice-skating, cross-country skiing and sledding all remain popular with modern visitors – this photo, taken in 1896, shows a pair of young children enjoying the latter.

Discover more of Central Park’s secrets here

Central Park, New York City, New York

Fremont Street, Las Vegas, Nevada

Fremont Street, Las Vegas, Nevada

Coney Island, New York City, New York

Coney Island, New York City, New York

Coney Island, New York City, New York

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, California

Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, California

Gateway Arch, St Louis, Missouri

Gateway Arch, St Louis, Missouri

The keystone was the final part of the arch to be lifted into place, and this photo shows the final stages of the monument’s construction in 1965. It’s thought that the keystone contains a time capsule complete with the signatures of more than 760,000 residents, as well as some other unknown relics. Discover more images of tourist attractions under construction here. 

Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Weeki Wachee, Florida

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park combines a natural wonder with a family attraction full of heart. First and foremost, Weeki Wachee is a beautiful natural spring – one of the deepest in the US, in fact – but it’s known for something else. Since the 1940s, the spring has hosted “mermaid shows” (pictured), which involve the real-life “mermaids” swimming up to 66 feet (20m) below the surface to perform impressive synchronized dances. Discover the most beautiful state parks in America.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Weeki Wachee, Florida

Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

This theme park, one of the oldest in America, has always set great store by its thrill rides. The first roller coaster debuted here in 1892, a couple of decades after the park’s inauguration, and this later shot shows the 1920s wooden Cyclone in the background. Cedar Point is known for its dizzying coasters today too. See more historic images of America’s theme parks in full swing. 

Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Mount Rushmore, Keystone, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore, Keystone, South Dakota

The huge granite faces – each around 60-feet (18m) tall – would take more than a decade to realize. This photo is thought to have been captured circa 1940, a year before the great feat was finished. It shows the bold profile of Thomas Jefferson and the outline of George Washington in the farther distance, as seen from the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head. Find more fascinating facts about America’s tourist attractions here.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

Today the bridge remains a defining feature of San Francisco, carrying more than 100,000 vehicles per day. It makes a great subject for photographers too, and it looks particularly enigmatic in this 1940s shot, with a fisherman silhouetted beneath the bridge’s expanse. 

Discover the world’s tourist attractions that no longer exist

Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles, California

Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles, California

The Hollywoodland sign stood tall for several decades, but eventually fell into disrepair. When it was finally fixed up in the 1940s, the “land” section was ditched and the landmark we know today was born. It’s pictured here around the mid-1920s, with white-washed Kanst Art Gallery rising up beneath it. Here’s what to see in modern-day LA.

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