Christopher Columbus is widely credited as the first European explorer to discover the Americas when he landed in late 1492. It was Columbus' discovery of the American continents and subsequent communication with Spain that led to ultimate travels to the Americas and colonization by European settlers.
The first land Columbus discovered was the present-day Bahamas. On the voyage of discovery, Columbus was actually headed for Japan. The story of his voyage with the Santa Maria, Pinta and the Niña is taught to elementary school children. Columbus Day is celebrated every year in the United States and other countries in the Americas on the anniversary of Columbus' arrival date, which was Oct. 12, 1492.