Top tourist spots from the 1900s to the 1990s
1900s: Coney Island, New York City, New York
1900s: Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California
1900s: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
1900s: Times Square, New York City, New York
Formerly known as Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters there. The junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue has since become one of the most famous commercial squares in the world with its theaters, cinemas and electronic billboards. It’s also the site of the city’s annual New Year’s Eve ball drop (pictured here in 1939), a tradition which began when the newspaper held a New Year’s Eve event to celebrate its move.
1900s: White City, Denver, Colorado
The 1900s was a decade that saw a surge in the popularity of amusement parks. Lakeside, a small town near Denver, has one of the country’s oldest. Originally called White City, the park opened next to Lake Rhoda in 1908 to a crowd of 50,000 people. It had a swimming beach, casino, theater, racetrack and public pool as well as traditional fairground rides. Lakeside Amusement Park is still in operation today. Discover US theme parks that didn’t go the distance and are now abandoned here.
1910s: Grand Central Terminal, New York City, New York
1910s: National Parks established
The National Park Service system was established in 1916, more than 40 years after the designation of America’s first national park, Yellowstone, whose explosive Old Faithful Geyser is depicted in this retro travel poster. The Californian park was a hugely popular travel attraction, drawing more than 35,000 people to explore it in 1916. Discover 29 things you didn’t know you could do in national parks.
1910s: the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
1910s: Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
1910s: San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California
One of the country’s first metropolitan zoos opened after founder Dr Harry Wegeforth was inspired by the idea at the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, which featured wild exotic animals. He founded the San Diego Zoological Society and convinced the city that it needed a zoo. San Diego Zoological Garden officially opened its doors in Balboa Park. One of its first animals was a Kodiak bear called Caesar. It was one of the first zoos to have open grotto enclosures and launched its first research faculty in 1927. Check out our city guide to San Diego.
1920s: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California
This world-renowned amphitheater opened in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood in 1922. The first stage was a simple wooden platform with a canvas top and the audience were seated on wooden benches. An arched stage was built in 1926 with its distinctive shell shape first added in 1929. The 55-ton shell (pictured here in the 1930s) became an architectural icon. The 1930s saw jazz performances here for the first time and it went on to host the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and The Beatles.
1920s: Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC
1920s: Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, California
1920s: Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles, California
1920s: The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, New York
1930s: Chrysler Building, New York City, New York
1930s: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
When the Golden Gate Bridge opened to pedestrians in 1937, the celebrations lasted for a week. The longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world received more than 200,000 foot passengers on its first day. The architecturally stunning bridge was an instant hit and became a symbol of San Francisco. It was one of America’s top-visited attractions, which it remains today. Here the bridge is pictured in the early 1950s. For more amazing constructions, check out the most impressive bridge in every state.
1930s: Hoover Dam, Nevada/Arizona
1930s: Radio City Music Hall, New York City, New York
Manhattan’s legendary venue, Radio City Music Hall, first opened on Sixth Avenue in 1932 as a cornerstone of John D. Rockefeller Jr’s subsequent Rockefeller Center. The Art Deco theater was conceived as a “palace for the people”, offering top entertainment at affordable prices. It became a popular spot for film premieres with 700 movies having opened here since 1933, including the original King Kong and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Its Great Stage has also welcomed legendary artists such as Frank Sinatra.
1930s: Cannon Mountain Tramway, New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain was the site of the very first aerial tramway in north America, which ushered in ski and summer tourism to the area. It was constructed in 1938 after champion downhill skier Alexander Bright returned from a trip to Europe’s ski resorts and rallied local investors, lawmakers and contractors to construct their own tramways. It quickly became a major tourist attraction, carrying 163,000 passengers in its first year. It ceased operation in 1980 and a new one was built.
1940s: The Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada
After gambling became legal once again in 1931, Las Vegas started its rise to become the country’s gaming capital. The desert metropolis’ population swelled as workers arrived to work on the Hoover Dam and small casinos and showgirl venues opened on Fremont Street. Pictured here in the mid-1950s, it was the first street in the city to be paved in 1925. The first hotel-casino, El Rancho Vegas, opened on Highway 91 in 1941, with others soon following and the section became known as “The Strip”. Learn more about Vegas’ history here.
1940s: Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
1940s: Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid show, Spring Hill, Florida
One of Florida’s most unique and long-running attractions, the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park opened in 1947. It was the brainchild of former Navy man, Newton Perry, who built an 18-seat theater into the limestone below the water’s surface, allowing viewers to look right into the deep. He trained performers to breathe underwater and execute synchronized dance routines. In the 1950s, it was one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops and received worldwide acclaim. The attraction still remains today.
1940s: Gatorland, Orlando, Florida
Another of Florida’s earliest and long-running tourist spots, Gatorland was founded by Owen Godwin in 1949. Originally called the Florida Wildlife Institute, Godwin changed the name to the snappier Snake Village and Alligator Farm in the 1950s. The fledgling gift shop and wildlife park became increasingly popular when Bone Crusher arrived. Godwin claimed the 15-foot croc was the world’s largest captive crocodile. The now 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve is still owned by the family. Check out Florida’s transformation from swampland to holiday paradise here.
1950s: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Walt Disney’s Disneyland (renamed Disneyland Park in the 1990s) opened on 17 July 1955. He originally wanted his theme park to be called Mickey Mouse Park. On the opening day, 28,000 people visited the theme park which featured its now-famous parades and 20 different attractions including Frontierland, a recreation of the Old West, pictured here in 1955. There was also the Sleeping Beauty Castle which soon became one of the USA’s most recognizable tourist attractions. See more historic pictures of Disney’s parks here.
1950s: Sun Valley ski resort, Idaho
1950s: The Guggenheim Museum, New York City, New York
1960s: Space Needle, Seattle, Washington
1960s: Gateway Arch, St Louis, Missouri
1960s: SeaWorld, San Diego, California
1960s: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida
1960s: The Studio Tour, Universal Studios Hollywood, California
1960s: Six Flags over Texas, Arlington, Texas
1960s: Route 66
While the year 1926 marked the birth of Route 66, the “Mother Road” really became synonymous with the great American road trip in the 1950s and 1960s. Post-war, American motorists flocked to Route 66 which was by now peppered with motels, auto camps, diners and gas stations. In 1960, Route 66, an American TV series that followed the escapades of a pair of young men traveling the route, aired on CBS. As the route continued to crop up in popular culture, America’s fascination with it grew. Discover more epic road trips across the US here.
1970s: Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida
1970s: Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington
Opening in 1907, Seattle’s marketplace is the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in the country and one of the city’s most popular sights. After prospering in the 1920s (pictured) and 1930s, it fell on hard times and was slated for demolition in the 1960s. However, a successful campaign saw it saved and a 17-acre historic district was created in 1971, the same year the very first Starbucks opened at Pike Place. The market was renovated in 1974 and today it usually welcomes around 10 million visitors.
1970s: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC
Construction of the flagship building of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum started on the Mall in Washington DC in the early 1970s and it was inaugurated in 1976. It has the world’s largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft. The five millionth visitor crossed its threshold just six months later. Today, the National Air and Space Museum is one of the most-visited museums in the world with more than 8.6 million guests annually. Discover more of the world’s best space museums here.
1970s: Art Deco Historic District, Miami, Florida
1970s: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California
1980s: Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, Atlanta, Georgia
The Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District in Atlanta was authorized as a national historic site in 1980. It contained a memorial tomb and several buildings key to the civil rights leader’s life, including his childhood home and Ebenezer Baptist Church (pictured) where he was baptized and where both he and his father were pastors. The site became a National Historical Park in 2018.
1980s: Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida
After Disney’s arrival in Florida proved to be a roaring success, Epcot (then Epcot Center) opened in 1982. The theme park, whose name stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, was initially intended to be a city where people would live and work. However, since Walt Disney died before his vision was realized, the site was turned into a glittering amusement park instead. It was the second of four theme parks to be built at Walt Disney World Resort. Discover America’s best theme parks beyond Disney here.
1980s: Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida
1980s: Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
1980s: Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
Elvis Presley’s home and final resting place opened to the public as a museum on 7 June 1982, five years after his death. Near Memphis, Graceland, which the superstar bought in 1957, is now the second most-visited private home in the United States after the White House, with typically more than 650,000 visitors a year.
1990s: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
In the 1990s, Walt Disney World continued its dizzying rise to success with a huge amount of openings including Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Splash Mountain, as well as 10 new resorts. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the largest of the parks at over 500 acres, opened in 1998 with a grand ceremony that was attended by a crowd of 2,000 people. It marked a departure for the conglomerate as it focused on real-life animals as well as Disney characters.
1990s: Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas, Nevada
What was to become one of Las Vegas’ most famous landmarks, the Bellagio Fountains were unveiled in 1998 when the $1.6 billion Bellagio Hotel opened to the public on 15 October in suitably lavish style. The famous Bellagio Fountain show, which takes place every 30 minutes when the jets dance to music and lights, lures huge crowds of visitors and is one of the entertainment hub’s rare free shows. See more of the world’s most incredible water displays.
1930s: Empire State Building, New York City, New York
New York’s iconic 103-story Art Deco skyscraper was completed in 1931 and was the world’s tallest building up until the 1970s. Today it is one of the city’s most-visited and recognized landmarks, starting its on-screen career in the 1933 movie King Kong. However, despite generating great publicity and fanfare at the time of its construction, the Empire State Building remained relatively empty and unvisited until the 1950s. By 1976, its observatory had welcomed its 50 millionth visitor.
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