America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Grand Central Terminal

    Photo: Alex Segre / Alamy

    1 of 22

    From colonial landmarks to theme parks, we reveal which U.S. tourist attractions are the most popular.

    From December 2012 By

    Every day, 10,000 people enter New York’s Grand Central Terminal—with no intention of catching a train. They come to slurp bivalves at the Oyster Bar or cocktails at the Campbell Apartment. They gawk at the ceiling embellished with gold constellations, browse shops, and take tours. It’s enough to make the landmark one of America’s top five most-visited attractions.

    Location, of course, plays a role, and many of the most popular attractions are found in major cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Size, too, matters. While the National September 11 Memorial had an impressive 4.5 million visitors during its first year (it opened on Sept. 12, 2011), it was dwarfed by Central Park with 100 times the area.

    Yet for every traveler drawn to the big city, there are others who embrace the great outdoors. With its accessibility and size, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural choice for millions—more than 9 million to be precise, making it the No. 16 most-visited attraction in the nation.

    Like it or not, the white-tailed deer, black bears, and brilliant foliage of the Great Smokies can’t quite compete with the popularity of Disney among Americans and international visitors; five theme parks made it into the top 20. To determine these rankings, we gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets.

    Read on to find out which tourist attraction claimed the No. 1 spot with more than 41.9 million visitors in 2011. Were you one of them?

    The Methodology: Our definition of tourist attractions included natural, cultural, and historic sites as well as recognized areas of limited geographic scope like the Las Vegas Strip. (We eliminated national parkways as they spread over extensive distances). Accurate numbers weren't available for some popular attractions such as Waikiki Beach in Honolulu and the Atlantic City Boardwalk in New Jersey. In the case of transportation hubs like Grand Central Terminal or San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge that bring in both travelers and locals, we focused as much as possible on visitor data that excluded the strictly commuting set.

  • America's Most-Visited Attractions: Times Square

    Photo: Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy

    2 of 22

    No. 1 Times Square, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 41,900,000

    Neon signs, megastores, street performers, and historic theaters lure tourists to this five-block intersection that has become increasingly family-friendly. The addition of pedestrian-only areas with café tables, for instance, has made it more appealing to hang out here. At the small museum within the visitors’ center, the 2007 New Year’s Eve Centennial Ball drops four times an hour. Write a wish on a piece of confetti, and it—and two tons of other pieces of confetti—will flutter down on Times Square at midnight New Year’s Eve.

    Source: Times Square

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Central Park

    Photo: Darcy Strobel

    3 of 22

    No. 2 Central Park, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 40,000,000

    Locals and visitors alike find respite among these 843 acres of paths, lawns, lakes, and gardens in the center of Manhattan. Walk, skip, skate, ride a bike, row a boat or ride in a horse-drawn carriage. You can admire the views from 19th-century Belvedere Castle; check out the modest-size zoo; or join the fans who gather to pay quiet tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields.

    Source: Central Park Conservancy

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Union Station

    Photo: Alex Segre / Alamy

    4 of 22

    No. 3 Union Station, Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 36,500,000

    Designed during the age of railroads and opened in 1907, this grand train station was built to be a monumental gateway—symbolized by its many arches—to America’s capital. The Beaux-Arts gem is also a gateway to commerce, with more than 120 shops and eateries. The 36 statues of Roman legionnaires lining the balcony were originally nude, but concerns that the public would be shocked led to the addition of strategically placed shields.

    Source: CJF Marketing International

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Las Vegas Strip

    Photo: John Elk III / Alamy

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    No. 4 Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas

    Annual Visitors: 29,500,000

    Take a faux round-the-world tour along this five-mile strip that counts a pyramid, a sphinx, an Eiffel Tower, an Arc de Triomphe, a Venetian canal, a New York skyline, and a colorful medieval fairy-tale castle. This is also where the Bellagio fountains put on the famous nightly light-and-music show. The Strip has evolved beyond bargain-priced buffets to become a fine-dining destination, with Michelin-rated restaurants like three-star Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand and two-star Picasso at Bellagio and Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace.

    lasvegascvb.com

    Source: Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Grand Central Terminal

    Photo: Alex Segre / Alamy

    6 of 22

    No. 5 Grand Central Terminal, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 21,600,000

    Every day 10,000 people come to Grand Central not to catch a train but to have lunch. And why not? The stunning Beaux-Arts building’s teal ceiling is embellished with gold constellations and twinkling lights, its regal staircases mimic those at the Paris Opera House, while the historic Oyster Bar and Campbell Apartment afford discreet people-watching views of visitors bustling across the terminal floor.

    Source: Goodman Media International

  • World's Most-Visited Theme Attractions: Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

    Photo: Copyright: The Walt Disney Company

    7 of 22

    No. 6 Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 17,142,000

    The core of the WDW Resort, Magic Kingdom has just opened the first of the attractions in its new Fantasyland, which more than doubles the size of the “land” that caters to the youngest guests. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid is designed to make you feel like you’re part of the Little Mermaid film. Use the FastPass service to minimize waits in the world’s most popular theme park. And don’t miss classic experiences like the Disney character parade down Main Street, USA, each afternoon and the fireworks that light up the sky many nights.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • World's Most-Visited Theme Attractions: Disneyland

    Photo: Copyright: The Walt Disney Company

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    No. 7 Disneyland, Anaheim, CA

    Annual Visitors: 16,140,000

    The original Disneyland, which Walt Disney called “a source of joy and inspiration to all the world,” was the model for Florida’s Magic Kingdom, and some of the California rides are even better. Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance, is nearly twice as long, and you exit into a dreamy, “nighttime” bayou with fireflies (instead of into a gift shop). The Jungle Cruise promises a real punster-captain and a boatload of silliness.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • America's Most-Visited Theme Attractions: Golden Gate Bridge

    Photo: James Clear

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    No. 8 (tie) Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 15,000,000

    Gaze toward this luminous orange suspension bridge from the hills to the north just after sunset when bay and sky turn indigo and the skyline beyond glows like alabaster—then you’ll understand its popularity with bikers, joyriders, pedestrians, and, yes, drivers. The span celebrated its 75th anniversary in May 2012 and launched guided tours and an expanded visitors’ center with a green-screen photo op that makes it look as if you’re climbing the bridge’s lofty cables.

    Source: Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Faneuil Hall Marketplace

    Photo: Julian Russell / Alamy

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    No. 8 (tie) Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

    Annual Visitors: 15,000,000

    George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Susan B. Anthony are among the honored orators who spoke at Faneuil Hall, the “Cradle of Liberty” built in 1742. The hall plus three markets—North, South and Greek Revival-style Quincy—linked by a cobblestoned square now form the Marketplace, which has an abundance of buskers and more than 100 shops and “specialty pushcarts” selling goods ranging from sunglasses to shoes.

    faneuilhallmarketplace.com

    Source: Faneuil Hall Marketplace

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Golden Gate Park

    Photo: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

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    No. 10 (tie) Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 13,000,000

    For the traditionalist or historian, there’s a bison herd that’s lived in the park since 1892. For the technophile or science-fan, there’s the California Academy of Sciences with an indoor rainforest, aquarium, planetarium and 197,000-square-foot “living roof” sustaining native plants. For the rest of us there are 1,017 acres of gardens, lawns, forests, playgrounds and playing fields as well as the De Young fine-art museum, a Japanese tea garden, two Dutch windmills and the Victorian-style Conservatory of Flowers.

    Source: San Francisco Recreation & Parks Dept.

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Balboa Park

    Photo: Ambient Images Inc. / Alamy

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    No. 10 (tie) Balboa Park, San Diego

    Annual Visitors: 13,000,000

    Balboa Park’s 1,200 acres form a mini-city with 15 accredited museums, nine performing arts groups, 16 gardens, a miniature railroad, golf course, tennis courts, lawn bowling, a gymnasium, a carousel, and a Super Sonic Samba School. Not to mention the world-famous San Diego Zoo–with four giant pandas–and the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ, the Spreckels Organ, with 4,518 pipes that range from the size of a pencil to 32 feet tall.

    Source: Balboa Park

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Epcot at Walt Disney World

    Photo: Copyright: The Walt Disney Company

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    No. 12 Epcot at Walt Disney World, Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 10,825,000

    The name stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, but the pavilions of the World Showcase represent the culture, goods, and cuisine of 11 countries today. For an interesting Disney meal, swing by Restaurant Marrakesh, part of the Morocco pavilion, for which the king sent skilled artisans to create the numerous geometrical mosaics. At the opposite side of the 300-acre park is another worthy experience: Soarin’, an exhilarating hang-gliding simulator ride.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Pike Place Market

    Photo: D. Hurst / Alamy

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    No. 13 Pike Place Market, Seattle

    Annual Visitors: 10,000,000

    Farm-fresh produce lured the first shoppers here in 1907, and fresh seafood and direct-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables continue to entice customers, both locals and visitors who want to see those famous flying fish. This nine-acre farmers' market strives to be an incubator for small one-of-a-kind businesses selling local products and handmade crafts, such as Johnson Berry Farm’s organic jams, Hardwood Specialties' elaborate cribbage boards, and flowers in the main arcade.

    Source: Pike Place Market

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Disney's Animal Kingdom Park

    Photo: Copyright: The Walt Disney Company

    15 of 22

    No. 14 Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 9,783,000

    Not only is the 500-acre park the largest at Walt Disney World—with more than 1,700 animals from 250 species—it’s also the largest animal-themed park on the planet. Normally Disney Imagineers are so good at creating animals that they look real—here they mostly are real. Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition takes visitors through the “savannah” on a truck, but you walk on the Maharajah Jungle Trek and will likely see tigers up close and personal (behind glass).

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World

    Photo: Copyright: The Walt Disney Company

    16 of 22

    No. 15 Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 9,699,000

    The intention here is to make you feel like you’re wandering the back lots of a big studio during Hollywood’s glamorous 1930s and 1940s (even if that period’s satin cocktail dresses and elbow-length gloves have been replaced by T-shirts and baggy shorts). The Studio Backlot Tour, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and American Idol Experience are among the kid-oriented attractions. The nightly Fantasmic! pyrotechnics show is spectacular; nab seats at least an hour before showtime.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Photo: Kip Evans / Alamy

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    No. 16 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN and NC

    Annual Visitors: 9,008,830

    Dreamy mists in the valleys inspired the name of this national park, one of the most accessible in the U.S. It’s crawling with white-tailed deer, elk, black bears, and more than 17,000 other species. Ninety-five percent of the 800-square-mile park is forested with 100 species of native trees that burst with vibrant fall foliage. For some of the best views, seek out open areas like Cades Cove and Cataloochee and backcountry paths that include a slice of the Appalachian Trail.

    Source: National Park Service

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: South Street Seaport

    Photo: Burton Zaro / Alamy

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    No. 17 (tie) South Street Seaport, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 9,000,000

    Commerce has thrived along the cobblestoned streets of this East River site in lower Manhattan for nearly four centuries. The Seaport was badly hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, but the owner, the Howard Hughes Corporation, says it will not only clean up and reopen, but it will also go ahead with plans to redevelop the barge-turned-mall that is Pier 17.

    southstreetseaport.com

    Source: Global Strategy Group

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Mackinac Bridge

    Photo: Cynthia Lindow / Alamy

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    No. 17 (tie) Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, MI

    Annual Visitors: 9,000,000

    If you want to drive between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, you’ll need to cross this five-mile-long suspension bridge, which marks the turbulent divide between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. (High winds make this one of the world’s scariest bridges.) You can pull over at the eight-acre Bridge View Park, on the north side of the bridge, and go hiking and camping. And once a year, the two eastern lanes are closed for the popular pedestrian Bridge Walk.

    mackinacbridge.org

    Source: Mackinac Bridge Authority

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Navy Pier

    Photo: Axiom Photographic / Design Pics /Corbis

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    No. 19 Navy Pier, Chicago

    Annual Visitors: 8,700,000

    This Lake Michigan pier-turned-promenade is in perpetual motion thanks to the 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, the old-fashioned Wave Swinger ride, and the merry-go-round with historically accurate carousel animals. Some visitors choose to rent skates, bikes, or four-seater quadcycles to tour the Pier’s 50 acres. For the less energetic, there are Segway tours and the Transporter FX for simulated “high-speed” forays to Africa, Antarctica, or the moon.

    navypier.com

    Source: Navy Pier, Inc.

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Pier 39

    Photo: JLImages / Alamy

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    No. 20 Pier 39, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 8,133,700

    Just east of Fisherman’s Wharf, tidy two-story buildings line this wooden pier that leads to spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and sometimes dozens of sea lions napping on wooden docks. Outdoor seating at some of the 30 cafés, seafood restaurants, donut shops, candy stores, pizzerias and wine bars makes it easy to linger over those views. And for guaranteed sea life viewing, head to the Aquarium of the Bay by the pier’s entrance. 

    pier39.com

    Source: Pier 39

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  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Grand Central Terminal

    Every day, 10,000 people enter New York’s Grand Central Terminal—with no intention of catching a train. They come to slurp bivalves at the Oyster Bar or cocktails at the Campbell Apartment. They gawk at the ceiling embellished with gold constellations, browse shops, and take tours. It’s enough to make the landmark one of America’s top five most-visited attractions.

    Location, of course, plays a role, and many of the most popular attractions are found in major cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Size, too, matters. While the National September 11 Memorial had an impressive 4.5 million visitors during its first year (it opened on Sept. 12, 2011), it was dwarfed by Central Park with 100 times the area.

    Yet for every traveler drawn to the big city, there are others who embrace the great outdoors. With its accessibility and size, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural choice for millions—more than 9 million to be precise, making it the No. 16 most-visited attraction in the nation.

    Like it or not, the white-tailed deer, black bears, and brilliant foliage of the Great Smokies can’t quite compete with the popularity of Disney among Americans and international visitors; five theme parks made it into the top 20. To determine these rankings, we gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets.

    Read on to find out which tourist attraction claimed the No. 1 spot with more than 41.9 million visitors in 2011. Were you one of them?

    The Methodology: Our definition of tourist attractions included natural, cultural, and historic sites as well as recognized areas of limited geographic scope like the Las Vegas Strip. (We eliminated national parkways as they spread over extensive distances). Accurate numbers weren't available for some popular attractions such as Waikiki Beach in Honolulu and the Atlantic City Boardwalk in New Jersey. In the case of transportation hubs like Grand Central Terminal or San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge that bring in both travelers and locals, we focused as much as possible on visitor data that excluded the strictly commuting set.

  • America's Most-Visited Attractions: Times Square

    No. 1 Times Square, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 41,900,000

    Neon signs, megastores, street performers, and historic theaters lure tourists to this five-block intersection that has become increasingly family-friendly. The addition of pedestrian-only areas with café tables, for instance, has made it more appealing to hang out here. At the small museum within the visitors’ center, the 2007 New Year’s Eve Centennial Ball drops four times an hour. Write a wish on a piece of confetti, and it—and two tons of other pieces of confetti—will flutter down on Times Square at midnight New Year’s Eve.

    Source: Times Square

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Central Park

    No. 2 Central Park, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 40,000,000

    Locals and visitors alike find respite among these 843 acres of paths, lawns, lakes, and gardens in the center of Manhattan. Walk, skip, skate, ride a bike, row a boat or ride in a horse-drawn carriage. You can admire the views from 19th-century Belvedere Castle; check out the modest-size zoo; or join the fans who gather to pay quiet tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields.

    Source: Central Park Conservancy

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Union Station

    No. 3 Union Station, Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 36,500,000

    Designed during the age of railroads and opened in 1907, this grand train station was built to be a monumental gateway—symbolized by its many arches—to America’s capital. The Beaux-Arts gem is also a gateway to commerce, with more than 120 shops and eateries. The 36 statues of Roman legionnaires lining the balcony were originally nude, but concerns that the public would be shocked led to the addition of strategically placed shields.

    Source: CJF Marketing International

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Las Vegas Strip

    No. 4 Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas

    Annual Visitors: 29,500,000

    Take a faux round-the-world tour along this five-mile strip that counts a pyramid, a sphinx, an Eiffel Tower, an Arc de Triomphe, a Venetian canal, a New York skyline, and a colorful medieval fairy-tale castle. This is also where the Bellagio fountains put on the famous nightly light-and-music show. The Strip has evolved beyond bargain-priced buffets to become a fine-dining destination, with Michelin-rated restaurants like three-star Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand and two-star Picasso at Bellagio and Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace.

    lasvegascvb.com

    Source: Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Grand Central Terminal

    No. 5 Grand Central Terminal, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 21,600,000

    Every day 10,000 people come to Grand Central not to catch a train but to have lunch. And why not? The stunning Beaux-Arts building’s teal ceiling is embellished with gold constellations and twinkling lights, its regal staircases mimic those at the Paris Opera House, while the historic Oyster Bar and Campbell Apartment afford discreet people-watching views of visitors bustling across the terminal floor.

    Source: Goodman Media International

  • World's Most-Visited Theme Attractions: Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

    No. 6 Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 17,142,000

    The core of the WDW Resort, Magic Kingdom has just opened the first of the attractions in its new Fantasyland, which more than doubles the size of the “land” that caters to the youngest guests. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid is designed to make you feel like you’re part of the Little Mermaid film. Use the FastPass service to minimize waits in the world’s most popular theme park. And don’t miss classic experiences like the Disney character parade down Main Street, USA, each afternoon and the fireworks that light up the sky many nights.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • World's Most-Visited Theme Attractions: Disneyland

    No. 7 Disneyland, Anaheim, CA

    Annual Visitors: 16,140,000

    The original Disneyland, which Walt Disney called “a source of joy and inspiration to all the world,” was the model for Florida’s Magic Kingdom, and some of the California rides are even better. Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance, is nearly twice as long, and you exit into a dreamy, “nighttime” bayou with fireflies (instead of into a gift shop). The Jungle Cruise promises a real punster-captain and a boatload of silliness.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • America's Most-Visited Theme Attractions: Golden Gate Bridge

    No. 8 (tie) Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 15,000,000

    Gaze toward this luminous orange suspension bridge from the hills to the north just after sunset when bay and sky turn indigo and the skyline beyond glows like alabaster—then you’ll understand its popularity with bikers, joyriders, pedestrians, and, yes, drivers. The span celebrated its 75th anniversary in May 2012 and launched guided tours and an expanded visitors’ center with a green-screen photo op that makes it look as if you’re climbing the bridge’s lofty cables.

    Source: Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Faneuil Hall Marketplace

    No. 8 (tie) Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

    Annual Visitors: 15,000,000

    George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Susan B. Anthony are among the honored orators who spoke at Faneuil Hall, the “Cradle of Liberty” built in 1742. The hall plus three markets—North, South and Greek Revival-style Quincy—linked by a cobblestoned square now form the Marketplace, which has an abundance of buskers and more than 100 shops and “specialty pushcarts” selling goods ranging from sunglasses to shoes.

    faneuilhallmarketplace.com

    Source: Faneuil Hall Marketplace

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Golden Gate Park

    No. 10 (tie) Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 13,000,000

    For the traditionalist or historian, there’s a bison herd that’s lived in the park since 1892. For the technophile or science-fan, there’s the California Academy of Sciences with an indoor rainforest, aquarium, planetarium and 197,000-square-foot “living roof” sustaining native plants. For the rest of us there are 1,017 acres of gardens, lawns, forests, playgrounds and playing fields as well as the De Young fine-art museum, a Japanese tea garden, two Dutch windmills and the Victorian-style Conservatory of Flowers.

    Source: San Francisco Recreation & Parks Dept.

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Balboa Park

    No. 10 (tie) Balboa Park, San Diego

    Annual Visitors: 13,000,000

    Balboa Park’s 1,200 acres form a mini-city with 15 accredited museums, nine performing arts groups, 16 gardens, a miniature railroad, golf course, tennis courts, lawn bowling, a gymnasium, a carousel, and a Super Sonic Samba School. Not to mention the world-famous San Diego Zoo–with four giant pandas–and the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ, the Spreckels Organ, with 4,518 pipes that range from the size of a pencil to 32 feet tall.

    Source: Balboa Park

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Epcot at Walt Disney World

    No. 12 Epcot at Walt Disney World, Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 10,825,000

    The name stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, but the pavilions of the World Showcase represent the culture, goods, and cuisine of 11 countries today. For an interesting Disney meal, swing by Restaurant Marrakesh, part of the Morocco pavilion, for which the king sent skilled artisans to create the numerous geometrical mosaics. At the opposite side of the 300-acre park is another worthy experience: Soarin’, an exhilarating hang-gliding simulator ride.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Pike Place Market

    No. 13 Pike Place Market, Seattle

    Annual Visitors: 10,000,000

    Farm-fresh produce lured the first shoppers here in 1907, and fresh seafood and direct-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables continue to entice customers, both locals and visitors who want to see those famous flying fish. This nine-acre farmers' market strives to be an incubator for small one-of-a-kind businesses selling local products and handmade crafts, such as Johnson Berry Farm’s organic jams, Hardwood Specialties' elaborate cribbage boards, and flowers in the main arcade.

    Source: Pike Place Market

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Disney's Animal Kingdom Park

    No. 14 Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 9,783,000

    Not only is the 500-acre park the largest at Walt Disney World—with more than 1,700 animals from 250 species—it’s also the largest animal-themed park on the planet. Normally Disney Imagineers are so good at creating animals that they look real—here they mostly are real. Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition takes visitors through the “savannah” on a truck, but you walk on the Maharajah Jungle Trek and will likely see tigers up close and personal (behind glass).

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World

    No. 15 Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 9,699,000

    The intention here is to make you feel like you’re wandering the back lots of a big studio during Hollywood’s glamorous 1930s and 1940s (even if that period’s satin cocktail dresses and elbow-length gloves have been replaced by T-shirts and baggy shorts). The Studio Backlot Tour, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and American Idol Experience are among the kid-oriented attractions. The nightly Fantasmic! pyrotechnics show is spectacular; nab seats at least an hour before showtime.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    No. 16 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN and NC

    Annual Visitors: 9,008,830

    Dreamy mists in the valleys inspired the name of this national park, one of the most accessible in the U.S. It’s crawling with white-tailed deer, elk, black bears, and more than 17,000 other species. Ninety-five percent of the 800-square-mile park is forested with 100 species of native trees that burst with vibrant fall foliage. For some of the best views, seek out open areas like Cades Cove and Cataloochee and backcountry paths that include a slice of the Appalachian Trail.

    Source: National Park Service

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: South Street Seaport

    No. 17 (tie) South Street Seaport, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 9,000,000

    Commerce has thrived along the cobblestoned streets of this East River site in lower Manhattan for nearly four centuries. The Seaport was badly hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, but the owner, the Howard Hughes Corporation, says it will not only clean up and reopen, but it will also go ahead with plans to redevelop the barge-turned-mall that is Pier 17.

    southstreetseaport.com

    Source: Global Strategy Group

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Mackinac Bridge

    No. 17 (tie) Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, MI

    Annual Visitors: 9,000,000

    If you want to drive between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, you’ll need to cross this five-mile-long suspension bridge, which marks the turbulent divide between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. (High winds make this one of the world’s scariest bridges.) You can pull over at the eight-acre Bridge View Park, on the north side of the bridge, and go hiking and camping. And once a year, the two eastern lanes are closed for the popular pedestrian Bridge Walk.

    mackinacbridge.org

    Source: Mackinac Bridge Authority

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Navy Pier

    No. 19 Navy Pier, Chicago

    Annual Visitors: 8,700,000

    This Lake Michigan pier-turned-promenade is in perpetual motion thanks to the 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, the old-fashioned Wave Swinger ride, and the merry-go-round with historically accurate carousel animals. Some visitors choose to rent skates, bikes, or four-seater quadcycles to tour the Pier’s 50 acres. For the less energetic, there are Segway tours and the Transporter FX for simulated “high-speed” forays to Africa, Antarctica, or the moon.

    navypier.com

    Source: Navy Pier, Inc.

  • America's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions: Pier 39

    No. 20 Pier 39, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 8,133,700

    Just east of Fisherman’s Wharf, tidy two-story buildings line this wooden pier that leads to spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and sometimes dozens of sea lions napping on wooden docks. Outdoor seating at some of the 30 cafés, seafood restaurants, donut shops, candy stores, pizzerias and wine bars makes it easy to linger over those views. And for guaranteed sea life viewing, head to the Aquarium of the Bay by the pier’s entrance. 

    pier39.com

    Source: Pier 39

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