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Groups Gather At Architectural Icons

Lean out the side of a skyscraper 1,000 feet above Chicago, dine in a revolving restaurant at the top of the Seattle Skyline or marvel at the gold leaf in a 19th-century New England mansion: Visiting America’s architectural landmarks makes for great travel memories.

Some of the most popular group attractions around the country are based on architectural achievements. Thrills await at the tops of towering buildings, and travelers find fascination at many unique and historic structures that dot the American landscape.

Next time your travels take you to one of these cities, make sure to plan a stop at their architectural icons.


— Space Needle —


When it was built in 1962, the Space Needle was a symbol of the possibilities of the Space Age. Today, it stands as an icon on the Seattle skyline, beckoning visitors to explore both the past and the future.

“It was all about the future and the possibilities, and that’s a theme that we still play on today,” said public relations manager Sean Marshall. “We like to give our guests an experience that is backward looking, inside looking and forward looking.”

Much of that perspective comes at the observation deck, perched 520 feet above the ground. Visitors get great views of downtown Seattle as well as the nearby Elliott Bay, Mount Rainier and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges.

The observation deck has a wide range of interpretive exhibits, too. Some use interactive touch screens and high-tech mobile apps. Others are more traditional, displaying tactile examples of the bolts, cables and other hardware used to construct the Space Needle.

Groups that visit the landmark can arrange to have a quick snack at the cafe on the observation level or a full meal in the rotating restaurant directly below. Both have seasonal menus that feature fresh, sustainable ingredients produced in the area.


— Newport Mansions —

Newport, Rhode Island

During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, super-wealthy residents of New York built “summer cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island, that rivaled the most opulent residences anywhere else in the country. Today the seaside community preserves 11 of those historic mansions, each with its own distinctive architectural elements to wow visitors.

“These houses were used eight weeks out of the year, and they were modeled after European palaces,” said Barbara Shea, tourism coordinator for the Preservation Society of Newport County, which oversees the houses. “They hired the best architects and spared no expense in building these mansions.”

The Breakers is the largest and most popular of the mansions. It features a two-and-a-half-story great hall with a fresco of the sky painted on the ceiling and is adorned with marble, alabaster and gilded wood throughout. Another home, the Marble House, has more than 500,000 cubic feet of marble from all over the world and features a ballroom covered in gold leaf.

The preservation society offers tours of the homes that give visitors an insider’s perspective on the lives of the families that vacationed there and the staff members who worked there.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.