For the 50+ Traveler

The Modern Wonders testify to the ability of humans to shape the world around us for the better. They were selected by the American Society of Civil Engineers for this exact reason.

You might recognize the names, but few people have heard these astounding facts about the greatest structures ever constructed.

1. The Channel Tunnel Makes An Average Train Ride Substantially More Awesome

First opened in 1994, the Channel Tunnel is no ordinary train: it's an underwater train. Let the awesomeness of that "sink" in for a second.

While the railway isn't entirely underwater, it does have the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world, measuring a lengthy 23.5 miles.

As one would expect, it was no easy feat to bore a tunnel in the seabed large enough to accommodate a passenger train. The entire project cost nearly €5 billion and took about six years to complete in its entirety. The inherent danger ended up costing 10 construction workers their lives.

The Tunnel sees heavy use, with upwards of 50,000 passengers passing through it every single day, making the journey from Folkestone in the United Kingdom to Coquelles in France (or vice versa).

If you're tempted to take the ride, but squeamish about the concept of being in an undersea tunnel, it might help to know that the underwater leg of the journey only takes 35 minutes to complete.

Trains in station.
Eurostar Channel Tunnel trains, London. Loco Steve/Flickr.

2. Canada's Tallest Tower Has Some Rare Features

There are lots of reasons to visit Canada; you'll run into some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet, enjoy beautiful scenery, and of course, who can say they really lived without trying Tim Hortons? Add one more item to that list: the CN Tower, one of the Modern Wonders of the World and Toronto's crown jewel.

At one point, it was the world's tallest building, but now it'll have to settle for world's tallest tower. The 40-month construction project cost about $63 million and was completed in 1975. Millions of people marvel at the CN Tower every day, but not many people know some of the intricacies of its design.

For example, the restaurant on the observation deck at the top of the tower was designed with an amazing rotation feature. This means that every 72 minutes, the deck rotates a full 360 degrees. If you're dining there and stay for just over an hour, you'll get to see the entire city of Toronto from the best vantage point in town --- a 100-mile panoramic view, to be exact!

Visitors are often captivated by the glass floor feature, and while some are fearful to set foot on it, it's totally safe: the floor is actually capable of bearing the weight of five hippos at once. This was brand new technology and the first of its kind when it was constructed.

CN Tower, Toronto.
CN Tower seen from underneath - Toronto.

3. The Golden Gate Bridge Was Almost Never Built

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the most breathtaking juxtapositions between the natural and the manmade, but interestingly enough, the project was almost stopped in its tracks.

There were many opponents of the bridge with upwards of 2,300 lawsuits filed against its construction at one point. One opponent was a ferry company which, at the time, was the only method of transporting people (and their automobiles) from Marin County to San Francisco.

Others opposed the construction because they felt it would mar the beauty of the strait, which is ironic since the Golden Gate Bridge is now a huge attraction (not to mention an extremely functional bridge that supports over 41 million crossings every year).

The Golden Gate Bridge was once the longest suspension bridge in the world, and although it's been unseated by Japan's Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, it's still one of the most-photographed bridges in the world.

The Golden Gate Bridge.
The Golden Gate Bridge.

4. An Iconic Structure For An Iconic City

Standing as a symbol of mankind's ingenuity and ability to achieve the impossible, the Empire State Building it one of the most famous structures on earth for very good reasons.

When the Empire State opened on May 1, 1931, it was the tallest building in the world, standing at 1,250 feet. It quickly became an icon of New York City as well as a symbol of human ingenuity, and willpower.

The design and construction of the Empire State Building were very much spurred on by competition. John Jakob Raskob felt professionally taunted by icons like the Paris' Eiffel Tower and the Metropolitan Life Tower, so he and his partners set about constructing the tallest building the world had ever seen.

Amazingly, the project only took one year to complete, although that year was seven million man-hours long for the men working on Raskob's magnum opus.

The Empire State is also something of a lover's landmark (thank you, Sleepless in Seattle). To honor this fact, they do something incredible every year on Valentine's Day. Any couple that marries on the 80th floor become exclusive members of the Empire State Building Wedding Club. Thereafter, they receive free admission to the observatory each year on their anniversary.

The Empire State Building.
The Empire State Building.

5. One Of The Most Dangerous Wonders To Complete

The Panama Canal is 48 miles long. When it was finished in 1914, the canal revolutionized the seafaring world. By splitting Panama in two, it could save upwards of 8,000 nautical miles for ships seeking to pass between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Although the canal is a spectacular accomplishment, it was enormously difficult to complete. Over 25,000 people died during construction, primarily due to disease and exposure to the heat.

Their sacrifice has made an enormous difference in the world we live in today, given our reliance on international trade; nearly 14,000 ships pass through the Panama Canal every year.

The Panama Canal at sunrise.
The Panama Canal at sunrise.