Architectural Wonders of the United States

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At 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide the Gateway Arch is the tallest man-made monument in the country.

The WOW Factor:

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Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is a cultural symbol for the city of Los Angeles. Outside the building, great views of the city await, representing Gehry's dedication to the concert hall's neighbors. Rather than towering over Downtown LA, the building sits modestly within the city. From the stainless steel curves of its striking exterior to the state-of-the-art acoustics of the hardwood-paneled main auditorium, the 3.6-acre complex embodies the unique energy and creative spirit of the city of Los Angeles and its orchestra.

The WOW Factor:
The concert hall's organ has more than 6,000 pipes, ranging in size from 32 feet to just a few inches.

Cost:
Tours of the Walt Disney Concert Hall are free. Tours do not include the auditorium due to a near constant rehearsal, performance, and special event schedule.

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Designed by Ralph Modjeski and finished in 1896, the iron bridge has remained in service largely unchanged for over 100 years. The biggest change was the construction of Lock and Dam #15 in 1934, which was built around and under the swing span. The bridge is a twin deck structure that carries both rail (top level) and road traffic (bottom level). It is one of two bridges in the world that can turn 360 degrees in both directions in order to allow river traffic through.

The WOW Factor:
The first bridge built here in 1856 was the first railroad bridge to cross the Mississippi River. After the other 3 bridges had to be replaced, the Government Bridge is the fourth one.

Cost:
There is no cost to cross the bridge.

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Built in 1902-03 by the Starke Family, this structure is the world's largest true round barn. It is 400 feet in circumference, 130 in diameter and the center brick silo is 28 feet in diameter and 60 feet high. The barn has three levels, the basement for the dairy and draft animals, the second for machinery and grain storage, and the third for hay. Many original fixtures are still in place.

The WOW Factor:
The massive 12 by 12 timbers of the barn's frame are held together by stress and tension rather than nails or pegs.

Cost:
Guided tours are available by appointment. Admission is charged. Self guided tours request a donation.

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The Coronado Performing Arts Center is an ornate movie palace and vaudeville hall built in 1927 for $1.5 million and restored and renovated in 2000 for $18.5 million. The Coronado is a delightful example of an "atmospheric-style" theater with gilded Spanish castles, Italian villas and Chinese dragons in relief on the sides of a starry false sky. While worth seeing for just its opulent interior, the Coronado is also host to high quality shows throughout the year, including broadway shows, symphony orchestra performances, and a wide variety of entertainment, from comedians like Frank Caliendo to entertainers like famous illusionist David Copperfield. Tours of the theatre are available by appointment.

The WOW Factor:
Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, Sammy Davis Jr., Liberace and Louis Armstrong are among the legendary entertainers to grace the stage of the Coronado Performing Arts Center.

Cost:
Tickets to performances vary. Average ticket price is $20-$70.

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Taliesin West was built by Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices in the 1930s and was constantly expanded and modified by the architect until his death in 1959. Wright and his apprentices literally created Taliesin West out of the desert by gathering rocks from the desert floor and sand from the washes to keep the design in balance with the surrounding environment. The site, considered one of the Wright's greatest masterpieces, was designed to serve as Wright's personal home, studio and architectural laboratory. Highlights of the tour include Taliesin West's Living Room, called the "Garden Room" by Wright, and the renovated Wright living quarters.

The WOW Factor:
Wright incorporated Japanese art throughout Taliesin, including a fire breathing dragon sculpture that guests can see at night.

Cost:
The cost of the 90-minute Insights Tour is $32 for adults, Thursday thru Mondays. Students, military and seniors pay $28 and youth tickets are $17. Tuesday and Wednesdays all adult tickets are $26 and youth tickets cost $14.

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The Wildwoods Doo Wop District is home to the largest concentration of preserved mid-century Doo Wop architecture in the country. Originating from a time when the "American Vacation"; Rock 'n Roll; automobiles with fins and futuristic features; the Space Age; and plastics were born, the Wildwoods Doo Wop District allows visitors to take a step back in time to a period of newfound optimism and architectural zealous in the United States. The many original, preserved Doo Wop style hotels found in the Wildwoods Doo Wop District, along with newly constructed properties designed to replicate the architectural designs of the 1950s, feature plastic palm trees towering over kidney shaped pools, angular roof lines and bold neon signs touting whimsical names and flamboyant themes – giving each building its own individual character. The Wildwoods are also home to a number of classic Doo-Wop style eateries, typical of the 1950s and 1960s including: Cool Scoops, the Doo Wop Diner, the Star Diner and Marvis Diner – all offering classic diner food, like tasty burgers and milkshakes; retro jukeboxes; waitresses in poodle skirts; and black and white checkered floors. Visitors to the Wildwoods are invited to celebrate the "Fabulous Fifties" with a visit to the Wildwoods' Doo Wop Experience Museum and a Doo Wop "Back to the '50s" trolley tour every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer months. "What Art Deco is to Miami's South Beach, Doo Wop is to the Wildwoods."

The WOW Factor:
Local business owners in the Wildwoods gazed at their dated surroundings in a whole new light when Disney "imagineers" visited the Wildwoods for ideas to complete their beach-and-Boardwalk themed hotel in the '90s.

Cost:
The cost to explore the Wildwoods Doo Wop District and Doo Wop Experience Museum on your own is FREE. The cost to take a ride on the Doo Wop "Back to the '50s" trolley tour is $12 for adults and $6 for children.

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The Basilica of Saint Lawrence boasts North America's largest, freestanding elliptical dome, unsupported by wood or steel. Constructed out of tile and mortar, it was assembled using an ancient Moorish technique. There are only 35 Basilicas nationwide. Architect Rafael Guastavino constructed the structure from 1905 to 1909.

The WOW Factor:
Architect Rafael Guastavino is buried in the Basilica of Saint Lawrence's crypt. A display case at the Basilica honors his life and work.

Cost:
Free

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Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore is a National Historic Landmark and America's largest home. Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, Biltmore is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, exhibiting the Vanderbilt family's original collection of furnishings, art and antiques. Biltmore estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres including renowned gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Today, Biltmore has grown to include the new Antler Hill Village, which features the award-winning Winery and Antler Hill Farm; the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate; Equestrian Center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues and Biltmore For Your Home, the company's licensed products division.

The WOW Factor:
Biltmore's gardens were landscaped by the designer of New York's Central Park America's foremost landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. From the formal beauty of the Italian Garden to the breathtaking presence of ancient trees in America's first managed forests, Biltmore's lush landscape is a living tribute to Olmsted's genius. Horticultural experts continually work to preserve the original vision for the gardens and grounds, including the "All America Rose Garden," featuring more than 250 varieties.

Cost:
Admission prices vary by season. Children nine and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Current price for an adult flex ticket, good for one-day admission, is $60. Estate admission includes a reserved time to visit Biltmore House, plus all-day access to the gardens, the new Antler Hill Village-featuring the Winery, The Biltmore Legacy, Village Green, and Farm, plus shopping and dining, and free parking.

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Bixby Creek Bridge introduced automobile travel to Big Sur and kicked off a tourism boom for travelers plying the 90-mile stretch of jaw-dropping seascapes and craggy coastline of Monterey County, California. One of the most photographed features on the West Coast, this architectural marvel linked the world to Big Sur in 1932 at a cost of $10 million. The 714-ft. long bridge is one of the top ten highest single-span bridges in the world has debuted in Play Misty for Me, as well as a number of television programs and car advertisements. It also is center stage for the annual Big Sur Marathon every April.

The WOW Factor:
Prisoners eager to earn "good time" off their prison sentences helped to build the Bixby Bridge near Big Sur.

Cost:
Free

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Travel Poll

Vote For Your Favorite Architectural Wonder
Gateway Arch2711 (11.9%)
Walt Disney Concert Hall521 (2.3%)
Government Bridge3894 (17.2%)
Starke Round Barn Historic Site848 (3.7%)
Coronado Performing Arts Center7261 (32.0%)
Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West1182 (5.2%)
The Wildwoods Doo Wop District709 (3.1%)
Biltmore2807 (12.4%)
Bixby Creek Bridge1506 (6.6%)
US Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel1259 (5.5%)

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