Opened 2008. Aquarium, planetarium, rain forest, undulating green roofscape… (Ken Hively / Los Angeles…)
They're a disparate lot — museums, hotels, an observation deck, a sculpture park and a sundial-shaped bridge — but these recent structures, none more than 10 years old, are redefining the West. Before we bow to them, though, let's admit that it's been a good decade too for landmark renewal, including San Francisco's Ferry Building (www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com), a transit hub reborn in 2003 as a foodie mall; Sausalito's Cavallo Point, an Army post born again in 2008 as a luxury lodge (www.cavallopoint.com); San Diego's USS Midway (www.midway.org), an aircraft carrier born again in 2004 as a floating museum; and the Getty Villa (www.getty.edu) in Pacific Palisades, reopened in 2006 after nine years of reshaping. Let's also tip our caps to Seattle's Experience Music Project museum (www.empsfm.org), which missed this list by reaching its 10th birthday in June.
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco: Opened 2008. Aquarium, planetarium, rain forest, undulating green roofscape — this building in Golden Gate Park has them all. Adult admission, $29.95. As a bonus for lovers of art and panoramic views, there's the De Young Museum (opened 2005) across the road. Yes, it looks like a rusting hunk of scrap metal, but head for the free observation tower and you won't be disappointed. Info: (415) 379-8000; http://www.calacademy.org; http://deyoung.famsf.org.
City Center, Las Vegas: Four hotels (with a fifth to come), thousands of hotel rooms (more than 4,000 at the Aria alone), scores of restaurants and bars, assorted pools, casinos, showrooms and spas, two titled glass towers and a dedicated tram, all on 67 acres between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo hotels, just off the Strip. The openings began in late 2009. Info: http://www.citycenter.com.
Denver Art Museum: The crazy angles of the museum's signature Frederic C. Hamilton building, completed in 2006, can make it tricky to hang paintings. But this shiny, pointy vision with its titanium façade adds a provocative energy to the city skyline. Info: (720) 865-5000, http://www.denverartmuseum.org/home.
Disney California Adventure, Anaheim: Our favorite state, distilled to a kid-friendly, 55-acre essence (and placed next door to Disneyland). Opened in 2001 and evolving ever since. One-day adult admission: $76; kids ages 3 to 9, $68. Info: disneyland.disney.go.com/disneys-california-adventure/.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles: Opened 2003. It's metal, it's wavy and it's the greatest step forward so far in the campaign to give downtown Los Angeles a new sense of place. Even if you can't score a ticket for one of the 2,265 seats inside (which is as woodsy as the outside is metallic), it's easy to prowl the shiny perimeter, and tours are offered regularly. Info: (323) 850-2000, http://www.laphil.com/philpedia/wdch-overview.cfm.
Grand Canyon Skywalk, Ariz.: Opened 2007. At the far western end of the canyon, outside the national park, leaders of the Hualapai Tribe joined with an outside entrepreneur to build a steel-framed, glass-floored, horse-shaped structure that extends about 70 feet over the chasm. It's not easy to reach: a 120-mile drive from Las Vegas, a 240-mile drive from the canyon's popular South Rim, and both routes include 14 miles of dirt road. But if your vertigo needs a workout, here it is. Prices to walk it begin at about $75. Info: (888) 868-9378, http://www.grandcanyonwest.com/skywalktour.php.
L.A. Live, Los Angeles: This 27-acre complex, next to the L.A. Convention Center, includes Staples Center (opened in 1999), but its two hotels, several restaurants, concert venues, clubs, movie theaters and the Grammy Museum have all opened since 2007. It's not warm and fuzzy, but a lot of after-dark action happens here. Info: http://www.lalive.com.
Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Wash. Opened 2002. Glass, in countless shapes and colors — and some of it (in the museum's glass-working studio) still hot. Adult admission: $12. Adjacent is artist Dale Chihuly's Bridge of Glass, and within two blocks you have the Tacoma Art Museum (whose new building opened in 2003) and the Washington State History Museum. Info: (866) 468-7386, http://www.museumofglass.org.
Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle: Opened 2007. This 9-acre art haven was the last undeveloped stretch of Seattle waterfront. In stepped the nearby Seattle Art Museum and the Trust for Public Land. Now, the Belltown site houses 21 artworks, including the bright orange "Eagle" by Alexander Calder and rusty metal slabs by Richard Serra. Info: (206) 654-3100, http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/osp/.
Sundial Bridge, Redding, Calif. Opened 2004. Designed by Santiago Calatrava. This 700-foot-long pedestrian and bicycle bridge spans the Sacramento River, linking the northern and southern campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Its cables radiate from a 217-foot mast that leans toward the north, making it one of the world's largest sundials. Info: (800) 887-8532, http://www.turtlebay.org/sundialbridge.