10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA
Have you ever had a desire to visit all seven of our world’s continents just so you could say you did? What about the seven world wonders? How about every state in the USA? Do you make it a point to always visit the observation towers in every city you visit?
If so, you are a collector. A collector of travel experiences. And a pretty complete collector if you manage to visit them all. (And a little bit OCD most likely.)
Regardless, if that sounds like you, then you are going to have to start checking these 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA off your bucket list… just to say you did.
First appearing in Germany at the end of the 18th century, observation towers are structures that allow you to view events from a long distance, many of them providing you with a 360-degree range of vision. Smaller observation towers are usually made of stone, iron, or wood, and are generally a minimum of 65 feet tall. Many modern observation towers include restaurants (some of them even rotate!) and, similar to observation wheels, they have become major tourist attractions in the cities in which they reside.
Just for the record, observation towers that are used as guard posts, or as an observation post over an extended period of time to overlook an area, are commonly called watchtowers.
10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA
Here are the 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA, ranked from “shortest to tallest”. I will update this list as more are built… and as the bar to entry into the top 10 becomes higher (literally).
But first… an honorable mention…
At just 5 stories high and only 80 feet tall, the Enger Tower in Duluth, MN, doesn’t come anywhere close to making our list… unless you consider its impressive vantage point at an elevation of 531 feet above Lake Superior! The Enger Tower provides panoramic views of Duluth and the surrounding area and definitely deserves an Honorable Mention in my book!
Furthermore, Enger Tower is located in a 130-acre park with beautiful gardens and many trails that lead to Enger Park Golf Course and Twin Ponds. The park features a Japanese Peace Bell from Duluth’s Sister City Isumi-Ohara, Japan, and a Japanese Garden.
As you meander along the winding trails under a canopy of white birch and poplar trees lined with shade-loving perennials leading up to the tower … and then experience this stunning panoramic view … you will understand why Enger Park is one of Duluth’s most popular wedding spots.
I did a little “crowdsourcing” to ask if anyone in my audience had been to Enger Tower andsaid: “Many times. It is always gorgeous with panoramic views of Duluth and the Harbor. A friend of mine just had a gorgeous wedding there as well. We have watched the fireworks from there once, and that was just amazing!”
Fairview, KY – 351 feet tall
Coming in at 351 feet tall, making it #10 on our 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA is the Jefferson Davis Monument in Fairview, KY.
Located at the Jefferson Davis Monument State Historic Site in Kentucky, this 351-foot tall concrete obelisk is the second tallest obelisk in the world (next to the Washington Monument) and the tallest concrete obelisk in the world.
An elevator takes visitors to an observation room at the top that has a window in each of the four walls.
Oh, I know you are wondering what an obelisk is (I did), so I looked it up: “A stone pillar, typically having a square or rectangular cross-section and a pyramidal top, set up as a monument or landmark.”
And now you know. 😀
Gatlinburg, TN – 407 feet tall
Coming in at #9 on our list of the 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA at 407 feet tall is the Gatlinburg Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN.
Wait… you thought that the Space Needle was in Seattle? Well, think again!
No, we are kidding. While this does share the same name, it is newer, not as tall, and architecturally different than the Space Needle in Seattle.
What this Space Needle does have that the Seattle one does not is a 360-degree view of the Great Smoky Mountains and the City of Gatlinburg.
The Space Needle is the tallest tower in Gatlinburg and it hosts an arcade with videos games, escape games and a magic show theater.
8. Eiffel Tower
Las Vegas, NV – 541 feet tall
For #8 on our list of 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA, we must travel to France… Just kidding! The Eiffel Tower is in Las Vegas, NV, of course!
Standing proudly at 541 feet tall it is a half-scale replica Eiffel Tower that is stunningly detailed, recreating the iconic iron lattice design of the original and extending both onto The Strip as well as into the Paris Las Vegas resort itself.
Towering up into the sky, the Eiffel Tower has quickly become a signature of the Las Vegas skyline and boasts impressive 360-degree views at the top, which has become a popular spot for proposals and Las Vegas weddings. If you time your visit right, you can enjoy the dancing water across the street at The Bellagio Fountain Show.
And, of course, if you are in Vegas and you like things that are tall, you MUST take a spin on the tallest Observation wheel in the United States!
Washington, D.C. – 555 feet tall
Our list of the 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA continues with #7, the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
Located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., almost due east of the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial, this 554 feet marble, granite and bluestone gneiss obelisk is both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk.
The Washington Monument was built to commemorate George Washington, once commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first American president.Pictured above is an aerial view of the Lincoln Memorial and National World War II Memorial and the Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., as viewed from the Washington Monument.
Unfortunately, as of September 2016, the monument has been closed indefinitely due to reliability issues with the current elevator system. I’m not sure what indefinitely means, but hopefully, it will be accessible again one day soon. Call first 😀
Dallas, TX – 561 feet tall
The 561 feet tall Reunion Tower in Dallas, TX, comes in at #6 on our list of the 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA.
The Reunion Tower consists of three floors with circular floor plans on top of four shafts of poured-in-place concrete. Three rectangular shafts, containing elevators, rise parallel to the central shaft. Each shaft’s outfacing wall is made up of glass panels, affording views of the city during the 68-second elevator ride to the top. The top three floors are encased in an open-air sphere, a geodesic dome formed with aluminum struts. Each of the struts’ 260 intersections is covered by aluminum circles with lights in the center.
At night, the globe at the top of the building is illuminated with 259 custom LED fixtures that are controlled by various computer-generated patterns and colors that are often used to celebrate holidays and special events, such as green for St.Patrick’s Day. The globe was lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, to celebrate the supreme court ruling which legalized same-sex marriage.
La Porte, TX – 567 feet tall
Our 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA list continues with the San Jacinto Monument in La Porte, TX, standing at a proud 567 feet tall and making #5 on our list.
The San Jacinto Monument is an octagonal column (that’s 8, but it looks like 4 to me…) and is the world’s tallest monumental column. Located at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, the monument is topped with a 220-ton star that commemorates the site of the Battle of San Jacinto. It is primarily constructed of reinforced concrete with an exterior that is faced with Texas limestone.
Pictured above is a photo of the San Jacinto Monument taken from the Battleship Texas in Fall 2006. The Fred Hartman Bridge is visible in the background. [Public domain]
4. Space Needle
Seattle, WA – 605 feet tall
The Space Needle (in Seattle, WA) comes in at #4 on our list of 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA and needs at least two posts to show the unique beauty of this tower.
Standing 605 foot tall, the Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, which drew 2.3+ million visitors. It has become a well-known icon of Seattle and a landmark of the Pacific Northwest.
It has an observation deck at 520 ft and the rotating SkyCity restaurant at 500 ft. The downtown Seattle skyline, as well as the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay and surrounding islands, can be viewed from the top of the Needle.
Photographs of the Seattle skyline often show the Space Needle prominently, above skyscrapers and Mount Rainier.
A view of the Seattle skyline at night with the impressive Space Needle towering in the foreground. This towering tower comes it at #4 on our list of 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA.
3. Gateway Arch
St. Louis, MO – 630 feet tall
At 630 foot tall, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO, is the world’s tallest arch and Missouri’s tallest accessible building…. and #3 on our list of the 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the USA.
I actually had no idea you could go in this thing until I began this research.
Clad in stainless steel and built in the form of an inverted, weighted catenary arch, the arch is hollow to accommodate a unique tram system that takes visitors to an observation deck at the top.
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis was built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States. It is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the west bank of the Mississippi River, and has become an internationally famous symbol of St. Louis.
San Antonio, TX – 750 feet tall
#2 on our 10 Tallest Towers in the United States list is the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, TX… at a whopping 750 feet tall.
Designed by San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford, it was built as the theme structure for the 1968 World’s Fair, the HemisFair ’68. The tower is located in the middle of HemisFair Park in Downtown San Antonio.
Accessible by elevator, there is an observation deck which provides a spectacular view of Alamo City as well as a lounge and revolving restaurant at the top of the tower that provides panoramic views of the city.
Guest can also experience the 4D Theater Ride, “The Skies Over Texas”, a sophisticated ride that takes visitors on a high-flying trip across the Lone Star State.
Las Vegas, NV – 1149 feet tall
And FINALLY … #1 on our list of the 10 Tallest Towers in the United States just shy of 3x as tall as the 10th tallest… at an unbelievably incredible 1149 feet tall (WOW) is the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas, NV!
The top of the tower features two observation decks, a revolving restaurant known as “Top of the World”, and four thrill rides, including:
- The Big Shot at 1,081 feet is the highest thrill ride in the world.
- Insanity at 900 feet is the second highest thrill ride in the world; it dangles riders over the edge of the tower and then spins in a circular pattern at approximately 40 mph.
- X-Scream at 866 ft is the third highest thrill ride in the world.
- SkyJump Las Vegas is a controlled-descent Bungee-jumping-like ride that will allow riders to plummet 855 ft attached to a high-speed descent wire.
(No thanks!!! But if that is your thing and if you want to be able to say you rode the 3 highest thrill rides in the world, you can do it all in one place!)
While the traditional definition of the Strip excludes the Stratosphere, it is often included in travel guides as a Strip attraction. Using this alternate definition, the Stratosphere is the northernmost of the major Strip resorts, and is the only Strip hotel actually located within the City of Las Vegas.
Pictured: Insanity … and it is! At 900 feet up in the air, it’s the second highest thrill ride in the world; it dangles riders over the edge of the tower and then spins in a circular pattern at approximately 40mph.
The magnificent 360-degree view of the shimmering Las Vegas Strip and valley was voted Best Place to View the City 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 by Las Vegas Review-Journal readers. (And probably ever year after forever … how can you top this?)
The 1149 feet tall Stratosphere in Las Vegas: #1 on our list of the 10 Tallest Observation Towers in the United States… but how long until a taller tower is built?
It appears that the sky’s the limit!