The Icon Bucket List

by Dawn Woolcott

What is an icon? What is it about an image that immediately ties an image with a place? When you see the Beatles, you automatically think of Britain. When you see the Eiffel Tower, you think of France. Which image is the quintessential American image? If you were in Europe wearing a t-shirt with an image, what image would have people immediately say “You must be American?”  There are many to choose from. And most you can visit in person while cruising on your own personal Icon Bucket List.

  1. George Washington. 
  2. Abraham Lincoln
  3. NASA
  4. Space Needle
  5. Mark Twain
  6. The Wright Brothers
  7. Henry Ford’s Model T cars
  8. Field of Dreams
  9. Civil War
  10. Boston Tea Party and Bunker Hill
  11. The Hollywood sign
  12. The Golden Gate Bridge
  13. Bison, cowboys, and the wild west
  14. The Statue of Liberty
  15. Marilyn Monroe

Which of these can you visit on a cruise? Actually, we offer vacations that could take you to all of the areas associated with these American icons. Washington, D.C. is an obvious choice for Americana where you can see the big monuments to icons including Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  The American Revolution cruise takes you to historic sites from that period including Washington, D.C., Annapolis, Baltimore, Yorktown where the final battle of the Revolution was held, and Mt. Vernon,  the beloved home of George Washington himself. Head north into New England to see Paul Revere’s house, Liberty Hall, and Bunker Hill, all within sight of the famous tea party at Boston Harbor. There are several cruises that visit or depart from Boston including cruises that head towards Canada, to Cape Cod, or down the eastern seaboard.

George Washington

New York City is another big city loaded with American icons. What could be more iconic than the Statue of Liberty? Although designed, built, and gifted by the French, it is one of the ultimate American images. Sailing past the welcoming statue as you cruise on one of the many itineraries that depart New York City, it is not hard to put yourself in the place of the many immigrants who wept with joy at seeing her, as they made the ultimate journey to improve their lives. New York City is the starting point where you might head up the Hudson River or explore the New England seaports

As you head south along the Atlantic coastline, you might want to walk the sandy beaches chosen by The Wright Brothers as the optimal testing ground for their new airplane design, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. There is an impressive monument in their honor on those sandy beaches where the history of the world was forever changed. Wouldn’t Orville and Wilbur Wright be thrilled to visit the future of travel as experienced at the NASA visitor’s center at Cape Canaveral, Florida? That first walk on the moon is an iconic moment, to be sure.

But before the airplane and space ships, there was the humble four wheel car. And one man put it all together for American consumption, forever changing the way the world traveled. Henry Ford’s face is less of an icon, than the first cars he produced. Samples of his earliest automobiles can be found at many different museums, but the Henry Ford Museum just outside of Detroit is a must-see destination museum. Much more than an automobile museum, it encompasses much of American History. Henry Ford was great friends with fellow inventors including Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison and was also a collector of historic buildings.

As you travel the Mississippi River, especially when traveling on a paddlewheel boat, you can’t miss the iconic image of Mark Twain, America’s first really big star. A visit to his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri on the Upper Mississippi is filled with images and places that influenced his writings.  On the Lower Mississippi, the Civil War is front and center in this heavily fought after region. The Mississippi River was the main navigation route of its day and a major prize for whichever side won its shores. The city of Vicksburg in particular took a heavy toll, eventually falling to the Union Army. There is plenty of history to be found in the city and images of soldiers in their blue or gray uniforms, posing with their guns before heading off to war, is a sad iconic image in American history. This region is home of the blues – a truly American invention, where you can visit the National Blues Museum, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, and many other great music museums.

A happier image of America is seen in its long-standing love of baseball. There are ballparks all across the USA you could visit for a game, or visit the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory and museum in Louisville, Kentucky. A dream for many baseball fans would be a visit to the actual Field of Dreams where the movie was filmed. It still stands in its original condition where visitors can sit and imagine themselves having a good ol’ catch with dad in the backyard. A visit to the field is usually offered as an excursion on the St. Louis to Minneapolis cruise

louisville slugger factory in Kentucky with giant baseball bat
bison at Jackson hole Wyoming

The  era of the wild, wild west cannot be encapsulated in one image. Bison, Native Americans of the great plains, and a cowboy on his horse are all images associated with the USA. Although once called buffalo, the correct term is bison for the majestic beast that once freely roamed the wide, open prairies from southern Alaska all the way to northern Mexico. Once an estimated 50-100 million of them roamed the American continent, yet by the 1980s, there were less than 1,000.  Now relegated to national parks and carefully being brought back from the edge of extinction, bison can be seen on an excursion vacation to Yellowstone National Park where they are seen in a natural habitat.  

On the west coast, is the home to iconic American images – think the Hollywood sign, Marilyn Monroe, and Mickey Mouse. Cruises depart out of Los Angeles and explore the islands that are just off shore including the Wild California cruise, or head south to the Baja Peninsula or sail off across the Pacific towards the Hawaiian Islands. Heading north from Los Angeles, you could see the impressive Golden Gate Bridge on a cruise that sails you right underneath this iconic sight and inland towards Napa Valley and the Sacramento museums telling tales of the Gold Rush on a San Francisco Bay cruise.

seattle in blue

That iconic image of the future – the Space Needle – was built for the Seattle Exposition/World’s Fair in 1962 held in Seattle at a time Americans were thinking to the future, with space travel and flying cars on people’s minds and in their dreams. The Space Needle itself is not that far from the port where cruises depart Seattle to explore the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands, and also for cruises to Alaska.

Yes, the USA is overflowing with iconic images – and we’ve just touched a few of them. There is Times Square in New York City, The American Bald Eagle, the Mayflower and Pilgrims associated with the earliest immigrants at Plymouth Rock in Cape Cod or Jamestown in Virginia, and so many more. 

If there is one thing the Americans have always done well, it is icons. We have always been pretty good at imaging and marketing. The USA has evolved so rapidly with people from all over the world coming together with their own architectural styles, cuisines, and cultures, there is no one “quintessentially American” neighborhood or village square. Our icons are the people and places that embody “American” – inventiveness, creativity, and constantly looking towards the future.