Ranking The Country's Most Popular Destinations
America's top 10 tourist attractions
1. Times Square, New York City:
This Manhattan crossroads of commerce retains the top spot on our list, thanks to increased visitation to the Big Apple in 2008 despite the economic turndown. According to the Times Square Alliance, "80% of visitors to NYC make it a point to visit Times Square." Total NYC visit last year was 47 million, giving us an estimate of 37.6 million travelers through the "Crossroads of the World."
Sources: Forbes Traveler estimate based on figures from The Times Square Alliance and NYC & Company.
2. The Las Vegas Strip, Nev.:
The "Neon Trail" that comprises the heart of Sin City is also part of the federal government's National Scenic Byways Program, which designates roads based on "archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities." Hard to say which of these qualities best describes Vegas, but we can disqualify "natural." Last year, total visitors to Las Vegas numbered 37.5 million; a poll by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority found that an average of 80% of visitors had either stayed overnight or gambled on the Strip, giving us our visitor estimate of 30 million.
Source: Forbes Traveler estimate based on figures from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
3. National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.
Many of the nation's iconic public landmarks are found in the 1,000-plus acres of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, including the Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Memorials, and the Korean and Vietnam War Veterans Memorials. The Smithsonian Institution's 19 museums are also adjacent to The Mall; last year, the network of free museums drew more than 25 million visits.
Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, The Trust for the National Mall, Pressroom of the Smithsonian Institution
4. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston:
Built in 1742 by Peter Faneuil, a wealthy Boston merchant, Faneuil Hall served as a commercial center of the city for centuries and a site for famous orations, like Samuel Adams' independence-rallying speech to colonists. Faneuil also includes the restored 19th-century Quincy Market. Today, shoppers account for a large share of visitors, and while we've excluded shopping-only malls (like Minnesota's Mall of America) from this list, Faneuil's historic significance vaults it to the status of cultural attraction.
Source: Faneuil Hall Marketplace
5. Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.:
The Magic Kingdom is the most popular of Disney's Florida attractions, followed by Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, and we've used it as a watermark for traffic to Disney Florida's multiple theme-park complex. Magic Kingdom Park includes beloved rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Country Bear Jamboree.
Source: TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report 2007
6. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, Calif.:
With nearly 15 million visitors in 2007, the original Disney Park in Anaheim, California has been a stalwart American tourist attraction since its opening in 1955. Its well-known rides range from Space Mountain to the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Source: TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report 2007
7. Fisherman's Wharf/Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco:
The city by the Bay received approximately 16.1 million visitors in 2007 (the latest data available), and Fisherman's Wharf is its top visitor attraction (visitor estimates for Fisherman's Wharf range from 12 million to 15 million). The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes the famous gold bridge along with numerous other spaces throughout the Bay Area, drew 14.6 million visitors in 2008. It's hard to know the overlap between tourists at the wharf, nearby bridge and other areas in the National Recreation Area. We've averaged the figures to arrive at our 14 million estimate.
Sources: National Park Service 2008 Annual Recreation Visits Report, Fisherman's Wharf Merchants Association, City and County of San Francisco, San Francisco Chronicle.
8. Niagara Falls, N.Y.:
The Falls, which straddle the U.S.-Canada border, have been a tourist mecca since the mid-19th century. The thundering waters are visible from observation towers, by boat and from various hiking trails and, on the Canadian side, from the Whirlpool Aero Car, an antique cable car. With statistics from the Niagara Falls Tourism Bureau and Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, visitors are approximated at 12 million a year.
Source: Niagara Falls Tourism (Visitor and Convention Bureau) and Niagara Falls Bridge Commission
9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tenn./N.C.:
America's most visited national park is neither the Grand Canyon nor Yosemite. With more than 800 miles of protected trails, this natural wonder hosted approximately 9 million hikers, birders and drivers last year.
Source: National Park Service 2008 Annual Recreation Visits Report
10. Navy Pier, Chicago:
Opened in 1916, this Chicago landmark on the shore of Lake Michigan has served as a campus and military training facility. Today it hosts 50 acres of shops, restaurants and exposition facilities. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Chicago Children's Museum are here, along with a full calendar of nighttime fireworks shows.
Source: Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority