Must-Snaps: America's Most Photographed Landmarks

by Libby Zay Subscribe to Libby Zay's posts Posted Aug 27th 2009 03:21 PM


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Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

In the age of digital cameras, a vacation just isn't a vacation without a little photographic evidence. Have you ever stopped to wonder how many times the Lincoln Memorial or the Golden Gate Bridge has served as the backdrop for tourist photos? Scientists at Cornell University did.

Using a supercomputer, Cornell scholars analyzed nearly 35 million geotagged Flickr uploads collected by more than 300,000 photographers. David Crandall, one of the scientists who worked on the study, said that the findings are "based on number of photographers, not the number of photographs," a method that's designed to keep the results from being skewed. According to that method, a traveler who photographs Times Square would only be counted once in Crandall's list, even if he took a picture of every advertisement and blinking light.

Here, we highlight the most photographed landmarks in ten of America's most popular cities. Curious about which attractions were the most popular in all of the U.S.? Keep clicking to the end of the slideshow for the list-believe it or not, four of the top five are in the same city.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 781 Flickr photographers, 3599 photos, #76 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: A photo might be worth a thousand words, but a snapshot of America's favorite dinger can scarcely convey its symbolic importance. Still, sightseers clamor to catch a glimpse of the bronze bell that first let freedom ring on July 8, 1776 to beckon the City of Brotherly Love to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. In 1837, the abolitionists adopted the cracked bell as an emblem for freedom, and the rest is history.

Best view: The prime time to the bell is during the off season in January and February, when no toll is required to enter. The most picturesque photos are those taken from the south with a scenic view of Independence Hall in the background. If you're feeling patriotic but can't make it to Philly, replicas of the Liberty Bell are on view in every state in the Union (

Photo fun facts: Although the Liberty Bell is the only Philly landmark to make it in the top 100 list, it still beat out the Alamo, Yankee Stadium, and the White House.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 856 Flickr photographers, 6345 photos, #67 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: When it comes to subjects to get snap-happy over, the Gateway to the West stands tall as the most high-reaching national monument in the United States. The Arch's shape, an inverted catenary curve, is modeled after the symmetry a hanging chain assumes when its ends are acted on only by its own weight. During Cornell's most recent data collection, scientists found that nearly 900 photographers had uploaded 6,345 pictures of the parabola-like structure.

Best view: Since the arch sits right on the bank of the Mississippi, the most impressive photographs are taken from the other opposite side of the river. From here, you can capture the rest of the St. Louis skyline in the background. If you're lucky, a historic riverboat might dock below the arch, making for a charming snapshot.

Photo fun facts: Although the Gateway Arch is the only St. Louis landmark on the list, it still outranked Giants Stadium, the Smithsonian, and John Lennon's Strawberry Fields Memorial.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 988 Flickr photographers, 16,825 photos, #53 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: With stats like that, it's almost hard to decide what is more legendary: the baseball greats who have played within Fenway Park's walls or the stadium itself. Who wouldn't want to take out their camera and capture a little piece of the oldest Major League Baseball stadium? Photographers love to point-and-shoot the manually operated scoreboard, dog-hawking vendors, BoSox super fans, and (of course) the players themselves. Need I even mention the notorious Green Monster?

Best view: Opinions vary amongst sports enthusiasts, but one of the most sought-after-spots is the seating section right on top of the Green Monster. If you're looking to experience a piece of slugger history, try the lone red seat in right field where Ted Williams hit the longest home run inside the park. No matter where you sit, you can check to make sure your view isn't obstructed online at a virtual Fenway Park mock-up (

Photo fun facts: Fenway Park might be the most photographed landmark in Boston, but flashbulbs also go off at these other places in the top 100: Quincy Market, Trinity Church, and the Statehouse.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 1,344 Flickr photographers, 24,084 photos, #29 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: Every Disney theme park is picture-perfect. A search for a "Disneyland" tag on Flickr yields well over one million results, but the most photographed Disney landmark of all is the enchanted Cinderella's Castle at Disney World in Orlando. Considering over 47 million people visit the park every year, can you imagine how many photos of the fairy-tale castle exist in scrapbooks worldwide?

Best view: It's hard to figure out where to focus your lens at a park as expansive as Disney World. In fact, picking out the best spot for a photograph might be just as hard as choosing your favorite Disney character. On the other hand, taking the best shot of Cinderella's Castle is simple: just park yourself in front of the castle, preferably with Mickey Mouse by your side, and snap away!

Photo fun facts: Disneyland also made the list of Most Photographed Landmarks, coming in at #37. The park boasts 14 million visitors annually.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 1,685 Flickr photographers, 8,782 photos, #17 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: When most people think of San Francisco, they immediately conjure up images of bright red cable cars, townhouses perched on steep hills, the mysterious Alcatraz Island, and The Golden Gate Bridge. You can see all of those iconic features from Coit Tower, an Art Deco structure that sits atop Telegraph Hill. Built in Pioneer Park in 1933, the tower may be a lesser-known tourist attraction, but photographers are aware of its notoriously stunning view of The City by the Bay.

Best view: When you lay eyes on Coit Tower from the bottom of Telegraph Hill, you can see why Jack Kerouac chose it as a symbol of The City in his novel On The Road. Visitors tend to focus their attention on taking stills of picturesque San Francisco from the tower's stunning vantage point; be that as it may, the Depression-era murals that circle the spiral staircase are also worth a shot.

Photo fun facts: San Francisco has no shortage of photogenic landmarks-Pier 39, Alcatraz, The Embarcadero, and Lombard Street are just a few honorable mentions that made Cornell's list.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 2,065 Flickr photographers, 9690 photos, #13 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: There's no need to travel halfway across the world to get an eyeful of the Eiffel Tower-the City of Light's most famous landmark is just as picturesque in the city off neon lights, Las Vegas. The half-scale exact reproduction of the Paris version has had people "ooh-la-la"-ing since 1999. Be sure to have your light-meter handy, as the spire is even more lustrous when illuminated at night.

Best view: A panoramic view of the valley awaits you from the top of the 460 foot tower, but the most impressive piece of the Las Vegas skyline is best photographed from below. Walk across Las Vegas Boulevard to get a great shot with the Bellagio Fountain in the foreground, or go snap-crazy from various distances as you casino-hop down the strip.

Photo fun facts: Paris might be the most photographed landmark in Las Vegas, but New York New York, the Venetian, Bellagio, and the Hoover Dam all made it in the top 50 most photographed landmarks.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 2,168 Flickr photographers, 12,102 photos, #10 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: The focal point of Seattle's skyline is not only a revolving restaurant, but also a space-aged piece of modern architecture. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle opened the same year John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. Today it is the number one tourist attraction in the west with 1 million annual visitors, most of them armed with a camera.

Best view: From Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill, you can catch a spectacular view of the Space Needle with downtown Seattle, Elliot Bay, and Mount Rainier in the background. Although the Space Needle is striking any day, it is most dazzling during the New Year's Eve celebration when an estimated 50,000 people gather at the foot of the tower to witness the most fabulous pyrotechnic display on the West Coast.

Photo fun facts: The Pike Place Market is almost tied with the Space Needle for number of photographers who chose it as a subject-around 2,200-but no other Seattle landmark falls within the top 100 in the United States.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 2,497 Flickr photographers, 9,902 photos, #6 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: Once you hit the National Mall, you can't miss the Greek Doric temple build to honor Honest Abe. According to the Cornell study, nearly 2,500 photographers have snapped almost 10,000 photos of the 30ft-tall seated giant (Mr. President himself was around 6'4"). Although more of a drawing than a photo, the cherished monument's pillared-façade also appears on the penny and five dollar bill.

Best view: The monument is approachable year-round, but most visitors plan their schedules around the impressive Independence Day fireworks display or during the springtime Cherry Blossom Festival, when Japan's gift of 3,000 cherry trees are in bloom. Photographers love to catch the monument's mirror image in the Reflecting Pool or play with the shadows created by the temple's columns.

Photo fun facts: The World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, Capital Building, Jefferson Memorial, and the White House are all on Cornell's list, making Washington DC a landmark-packed vacation spot.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

Snap Stats: 3,266 Flickr photographers, 17,601 photos, #4 on the list of U.S. top 100 most photographed landmarks.

The attraction: Tourists who are in love with their mug take satisfaction in getting up-close-and-personal with this mirror-like sculpture in Chicago's Millenium Park. "It's not just a work of art; it's a destination" wrote Time magazine, describing Anish Kapoor's shiny, bean-shaped sculpture. The mag also declared it "an essential photo op," and the proof in its ranking amongst the most-photographed U.S. Landmarks, beating out all of America's national heritage icons such as the Liberty Bell and Washington Monument.

Best view: What could be a better tourist photo than your contorted reflection with the Chicago skyline in the background? If you're trying to go artsy instead of cheesy, venture beneath the bean to get a portrait of yourself reflected multiple times in the sculpture's shapely underbelly.

Photo fun facts: Chicago Architecture, The Hancock Building, the Sears Tower, and the Art Institute of Chicago also made the rankings of the most photographed American landmarks.

Must-Snaps: Americas Most Photographed Landmarks

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