Top 10 City Skylines in the United States

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There are hundreds of skylines in the United States that leave lasting impressions. This list names the top 10 most impressive based on the number of skyscrapers within the city limits, which reach a minimum height for maximum visual impact of 300 feet. These skylines are in a league of their own and contain a variety of skyscrapers that would draw the attention of any casual onlooker. There is a certain wow factor one experiences when entering a city with a skyline such as this. Seeing the sheer scale of man’s innovation while maneuvering toward and through the steel and concrete canyons makes us realize just how small we are and ultimately takes our breath away.

10. Las Vegas, NV

Sin City topped other behemoths like Boston and Seattle, not by height, but by sheer quantity. With 63 structures that meet the standard height of 300+ feet, the Las Vegas skyline shines bright above 91 others in the nation. The Palazzo at 642 feet, the Encore at 631 feet, the Trump International Hotel and Tower at 622 feet, Wynn Las Vegas at 614 feet, and New York, New York at 529 feet are some of its more notable skyscrapers. These massive casino/hotel towers don’t resemble traditional skyscrapers but the skyline they create cannot be denied. The Las Vegas skyline may not fit the mold, but it is still a magnificent site to see. Other structures that add to its prominence are the Stratosphere Observation Tower at 1,149 feet and the Fontainebleau Resort Hotel, which although incomplete, has been topped out at 735 feet.

9. Philadelphia, PA

The City of Brotherly Love boasts an awesome spectacle for a skyline, wowing any onlooker who turns that corner on I-76 and gets their first glimpse. Coming in at #9, it has 78 structures that meet the standard. Its most notable skyscrapers are the Comcast Center at 974 feet, One and Two Liberty Place at 945 feet and 848 feet, Mellon Bank Center at 792 feet, and Bell Atlantic Tower at 739 feet. The twin towers, One and Two Commerce Square at 565 feet each, also add a nice touch. Philly had a gem in the works with the planned 1,500 foot tower American Commerce Center, but what would have been the 2nd tallest building in the nation was cancelled. Several new skyscrapers are under construction though with one, the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, having a planned height of 1,121 feet. Philadelphia is definitely on the rise.

8. Dallas, TX

The 2nd largest skyline in Texas one-ups Philadelphia by height alone and currently sits comfortably at #8. With 69 structures that meet the standard (9 less than Philly) it has 19 skyscrapers that stand 500+ feet, compared with 11 for Philadelphia. It’s most impressive are the Bank of America Plaza, standing 921 feet and brilliantly lit with green argon lights at night, Renaissance Tower at 886 feet, Comerica Bank Tower at 787 feet, JP Morgan Chase Tower at 738 feet, and Fountain Place at 720 feet. Other skyscrapers worthy of a second glance are the Trammell Crow Center at 686 feet, 1700 Pacific at 655 feet, and Thanksgiving Tower at 645 feet. Regardless of its position on this list, Dallas has one of the more dazzling skylines in the nation.

7. Atlanta, GA

Although its skyline is spread out along the I-75 corridor, making it difficult to view all at once, Atlanta handily tops Dallas. It mimics New York City (albeit on a significantly smaller scale) by having multiple skylines in both downtown and midtown settings. It currently has 85 structures that meet the standard, with 17 of those standing 500+ feet, and boasts the tallest building in the South with its impressive Bank of America Plaza at 1,023 feet. SunTrust Plaza and midtown’s One Atlantic Center are its other two most impressive, standing 871 and 820 feet respectively. Other notable skyscrapers are 191 Peachtree Tower at 770 feet, the cylindrical Westin Peachtree Plaza, once the tallest hotel in the world at 723 feet, and the Georgia Pacific Tower at 697 feet. Atlanta truly is the New York City of the South.

6. Los Angeles, CA

The City of Angels has a massive dense cluster of skyscrapers in downtown that make up the one of the most elegant skylines in the nation. However, it still only registers at #6. It tops its predecessors though through a combination of both quantity and height. It only has 79 structures that meet the standard (5 less than Atlanta) but 22 of those stand 500+ feet and more impressively, 8 of these stand 700+ feet. It also boasts the tallest building west of the Mississippi River in the 1,018 foot US Bank Tower. It’s second tallest, Aon Center, stands 858 feet and its 700 footers include Two California Plaza (750), Gas Company Tower (749), Bank of America Plaza (735),  777 Tower (725), Wells Fargo Tower (723), and Figueroa at Wilshire. This equates to a truly amazing west coast skyline that will leave any onlooker in awe.

Side note:  Los Angeles does has a so-called ace in the hole, which could move it up to the #5 spot. The Wilshire Grand Tower is currently under construction and due for completion in 2017 with a planned height of 1,250 feet. This would make it the tallest building in the nation outside of New York and Chicago.

5. San Francisco, CA

The largest city in the bay area of Northern California doesn’t have skyscrapers as tall as those in its four predecessors, but it does have 109 structures that meet the standard, 18 of those being 500+ feet in height. Those that stand out on its skyline are the Transamerica Pyramid at 853 feet, 555 California Street at 779 feet, and 345 California Street at 724 feet. Two recent editions to the skyline’s prominence are Millennium Tower at 645 feet and One Rincon Hill South Tower at 605 feet. Two other skyscrapers under construction, Salesforce Tower and 181 Fremont, scheduled for completion in 2018 and 2016 with planned heights of 1,070 feet and 802 feet respectively, could keep San Fran in its spot on this list. Will San Francisco maintain its claim to the greatest skyline in the West or will its big sister to the south bump it out?

4. Miami, FL

The Magic City has a true skyline. Where other cities seem more like sky clusters, Miami boasts a string of jaw-dropping skyscrapers, 105 in total that meet the standard, 28 of which stand 500+ feet, which run along the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean in South Florida. It defeats the previous 6 skylines in this manner, since the city’s tallest, Four Seasons Hotel and Tower, stands only 789 feet in height. Other impressive skyscrapers include the Wachovia Financial Center at 764 feet, 900 Biscayne Bay at 712 feet, and the Marquis at 679 feet. Miami is also continuing to grow, with ten more 500+ foot skyscrapers under construction, including the soon-to-be tallest in the city, Panorama Tower, with a scheduled completion date in 2017 and a planned height of 822 feet. The 990 foot observation tower, SkyRise Miami, is also under construction and due for completion in 2016. Although it won’t add points to the score, it will nevertheless be another beautiful addition to the Miami skyline.

3. Houston, TX

Some calculations place Miami ahead of Houston but that is a long stretch considering Houston registers 127 structures that meet the standard. An amazing 32 of these are 500+ feet and an even more astonishing 10 are 700+ feet. Houston’s skyline is both dense and sparse, with numerous skyscrapers spread out over the city. Although it has multiple skylines, the vast majority of its skyscrapers stand in downtown. Its two giants, 600 Travis Street (aka JP Morgan Chase Tower) at 1,002 feet and Wells Fargo Plaza at 992 feet, stand prominently over the Central Business District, staring at each other over the tops of their fellow towers. These include the 700 footers Bank of America Center (780), Heritage Plaza (762), Enterprise Plaza (756), and Centerpoint Energy Plaza (741). The wow factor doesn’t stop in downtown though. As we venture toward the Galleria District, another giant quickly comes into view. Williams Tower, at 901 feet, is the tallest building in the nation outside of a central business district. Houston is definitely where it belongs on this list. Its magnificent skyline makes it the second city in the Lone Star State to crack the top 10, proving that everything really is bigger in Texas.

2. Chicago, IL

The Windy City has one of the most amazing skylines in the world and sits at #2 in the nation. It practically triples Houston with an astounding 377 structures that meet the standard. As awesome as it is, it still falls well short of the #1 spot. Despite this, anyone visiting Chicago will be awestruck by the sheer size of its skyline. 5 of its skyscrapers top the 1,000 foot mark (only one other city in the nation has more than one) with its tallest, Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) reaching 1,451 feet. Upon completion in 1974, it became and remained the tallest building in the world for almost a quarter century. Another 107 of its structures are 500+ feet with 18 of these topping 700+ feet. Chicago’s most famous skyscrapers are the John Hancock Center, standing 1,128 feet with 100 floors, the Aon Center at 1,136 feet, and the spectacular Trump International Hotel & Tower at 1,388 feet. It may never reach the top spot, but will continue to be a breathtaking spectacle nevertheless.

1. New York City, NY

When we’re talking about the greatest skylines in the nation, everyone knows who takes the top spot. If Chicago stands head and shoulders above every other city on this list then New York City does the same to Chicago. Not only is it #1 in the nation, it arguably has the most impressive skyline in the world. It more than doubles Chicago in the number of qualifying structures, with 864, 222 of which stand 500+ feet. Of these, 43 stand 700+ feet and 7 top the 1,000 foot mark. It’s most recent thousand footer, 432 Park Avenue, is not yet complete but topped out at 1,398 feet. The skyline took a huge blow on 9/11/01 when it lost its two tallest, but has since bounced back with five more additions that significantly add to its prominence. These are New York Times Tower (2007/1,046 feet), Bank of America Tower (2009/1,200 feet), One 57 (2014/1,005 feet), Four World Trade Center (2014/975 feet), and One World Trade Center (2014/1,776 feet). The latter restored the downtown skyline, becoming the tallest skyscraper in the nation and 4th tallest in the world.  If you haven’t seen these skylines, put them, and especially this one, on your bucket list.


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7 Comments

  1. No question Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston should be on this list somewhere. New York probably deserves to be number 1.

    • Alex The Chicagoan on

      Are you kidding?! Chicago easily beats NYC and is #1 on every single list except this one, which makes sense seeing as it is the most architecturally diverse city in the US and it’s skyline isn’t as overcrowded as NYC’s ugly skyline.

  2. Goodness gracious. Are you equating “great” with the number of skyscrapers? Beware of the single criteria of value. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and not everyone finds the maximum number of the tallest skyscrapers squeezed into the minimum of space beautiful! That’s like saying slums are beautfiul because they crowd the maximum number of people into the least space. Comparisons are odious – but no city beats San Francisco for natural as well as man-made beauty.

  3. What about Charlotte, North Carolina? This has got to be in the top ten at least, what with the Bank of America tower and the iconic Duke Energy building? I’m telling you, the Queen City deserves to be on this list! See for yourself:

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