Sometimes a vacation can be a good getaway, but sometimes it can be something that leaves the entire family wanting to get away, and fast. From the most underwhelming views to the most overwhelming crowds, we have listed some of America’s most popular tourist attractions that are not so attractive in real life, and are really just overrated travel destinations. Read through this list to find out what sights to skip on the next family vacation.
1. Niagara Falls
To be fair, the actual waterfalls at Niagara Falls have enough natural beauty to blow any tourist out of the water. But the problem with Niagara Falls comes with anything that is not natural at the tourist attraction. And by that we’re referring to all of the gaudy attractions that surround the otherwise breathtaking natural wonder.
As one review on TripAdvisor said, “There are tacky casinos, observation towers, and crummy chain-store restaurants WITHIN SIGHT while staring at the beauty of the falls.” Another wrote, “The falls are impressive but THAT’S IT. Do not waste your money visiting the trashy, tacky, rundown amusement area.” That’s enough to put cold water only anyone’s planned trip to the falls.
2. The Hollywood Sign
Oh, the lengths someone will go to get a good selfie. And for visitors coming to Los Angeles, many are willing to go to truly great lengths to get the perfect shot in front of the world famous Hollywood sign. When we say “lengths,” we are not kidding.
A trip to the Hollywood sign involves waiting in two to four hours of traffic, followed by a hot, unremarkable hike. Once a hiker reaches the end of the road, they are still a solid half-mile away from the sign (that’s as close as anyone can get to it). By the time they get there, these selfie enthusiasts are usually dripping with sweat and have a pretty bad sunburn. Pass.
3. Times Square
Ask any out-of-towner going to visit New York City and they will tell anyone that they just have to see Times Square while they are in the Big Apple. Ask any actual New Yorker and they will tell you that they absolutely have to avoid the area at all costs.
Not only is Times Square completely packed with tourists walking at a snail’s pace, but anyone who attempts to walk around them will likely end up walking right into a creepy costumed cartoon character. Want to take a picture with them? That will cost a surprisingly high amount of money. Want to get a bite to eat nearby after? That will cost even more.
4. Statue of Liberty
The iconic Statue of Liberty is definitely a beautiful sight to see during a visit to New York City. We are not going to diss Lady Liberty herself, but we will say that experiencing the statue is best done from afar.
The entire process of actually reaching Lady Liberty’s island can take at least half a day, between waiting in crowded lines and boarding an overstuffed ferry boat that stops at both the statue and nearby Ellis Island. And with plenty to do in NYC, spending that much time viewing a statue that is just as beautiful from a distance might be a waste of precious vacation time.
5. Disneyland Park
Sometimes a fairy tale can turn into a real life scary story. When it comes to Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, a trip to what is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth can sometimes turn out to be a nightmare.
Disneyland not only features rides and random people dressed up as Disney characters, but it also features sky high prices fit for a princess and long, never-never-ending lines for each ride. On TripAdvisor, many visitors either complained about spending most of their day waiting in line, or said that the park paled in comparison to it’s Florida-based sister park, Walt Disney World.
6. Four Corners
When on vacation, it can sometimes feel like we need to pack so many travel destinations into such a small amount of time. So how about getting to be in four places at once? At the Four Corners Monument, a visitor can be in four states at one time, standing at the meeting point of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona. But there’s one tiny problem.
Not only is the Four Corners monument practically in the middle of nowhere with no other sights in the area, it is also actually nowhere. It’s not even in the real spot where the four states meet. The actual location is 1,800 feet away. Oops.
7. Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas is commonly referred to as the City of Sin, but in reality it’s a sin for anyone to get stuck having to spend time on the Las Vegas Strip. Sure, it is fun to walk around and see the grown up amusement park that we call a city. But that fun only lasts for a few minutes before running into an obnoxiously loud bachelor party.
The strip is basically synonymous with high prices for just about everything and the high volumes just about everywhere. For anyone who is looking to surround themselves with rowdy, loud people in a kitschy, gaudy environment, then Las Vegas is perfect.
8. Mount Rushmore
Randomly driving through the middle of nowhere in South Dakota? Then sure, stop by Mount Rushmore and some of America’s most iconic presidents carved into the side of a mountain. Otherwise, some would not suggest making the trek to see this overrated travel destination.
Online, tourists have complained that the observation platform is not nearly close enough to the mountain to properly see the carvings. Some said that the site was less impressive in person. On TripAdvisor, one tourist wrote, “It’s a long trek to get to and you don’t even get very close. I say skip it if you can.”
9. Hollywood Walk-of-Fame
For decades, movie-buff tourists who are making a visit to Los Angeles have flocked to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Everyone has seen the pictures of the biggest Hollywood stars’ hand prints, or the literal Hollywood stars lining the sidewalks. But there are some details that pictures do not show.
The Walk of Fame is not in the greatest area, described by some reviewers as a “rough part of town.” There is not much to do in the neighborhood, and a person can only look down at stars on the sidewalk for so long. The not so impressive sight is made even less impressive once a tourist realizes that stars actually pay to get their own star. $40,000 to be exact.
10. Plymouth Rock
We probably could not think of anything less fun than gathering around an elevated fence and looking down at a rock surrounded by sand. Somehow, Plymouth Rock still manages to attract one million visitors every year. But beyond being boring, Plymouth Rock might not even be a real landmark.
The story behind that rock is that it was supposedly the arrival point by the Colonists in the 1600s. But considering that this rock was not actually deemed Plymouth Rock until the 1700s, it probably is just a rock chosen at random and not the first stepping stone into the United States.
11. The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building might be one of the most iconic buildings in New York City. But when it comes to experiencing the Empire State Building in all of its glory, it is probably best to just look at it from the street.
If time really is money, then it costs a whole lot to get to the top of the Empire State Building. Reaching the 86th floor means spending hours in line and paying almost $40 for one ticket. And anyone who wants to go all the way to the 102nd floor has to purchase a standard pass for $58. There are better views of New York City that include the Empire State Building close by anyway.
12. The Liberty Bell
Sure, the Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American independence. Sitting atop the steeple at Independence Hall, the cracked bell is now a representation of one of the most exciting times in American history. The problem now is that in real life, the Liberty Bell just is not that exciting.
Tourists line up around the block for a look at a broken bell with velvet ropes around it. Thrilling! The most redeeming thing about the Liberty Bell Center, where the bell is held, is that admission is free. So once a person probably spends less than one full minute looking at the bell, they can rest easy knowing that they have seen it and did not have to spend money on the experience.
13. The Cloud Gate
Referred to by many as the Chicago Bean, the public art sculpture in Millennium Park was probably very cool to visit around the time that it was first erected in 2006. But in the age of Instagram and Facebook, the mirrored sculpture has become a hot bed for selfie sticks.
As one person on TripAdvisor described their journey to “#thebean,” “Just to reach it, one must schlep over to and then into Millennium Park, through droves of loud tourists along the way only to arrive at a blob-shaped structure.” Once a tourist reaches the sculpture, there’s not much to do in the area other than take a picture and head out.
14. Mall of America
What does one get when they put together 555 retail stores, over 50 restaurants, a Nickelodeon amusement park, a mini golf course, and an aquarium all in one place? They get a nightmare. Just kidding, they get the Mall of America.
Since it opened in 1992, the Mall of America has been dragging tourists all the way out to Bloomington, Minnesota, which we would say is actually an impressive accomplishment. But once tourists get there, many find that the mall is overwhelming and overcrowded. Stores are far apart from each other, and at the end of the day, it is just a mall.
15. Lombard Street
San Francisco is known for its crazy roads, with some stretching up such a steep hill it seems that they rise at a 90 degree angle. For some street enthusiasts, if that is a real thing, driving the famous zigzag road known as Lombard Street can be an appealing travel destination.
In reality, anyone who wants to drive down the winding road has to wait in a huge line of tourists waiting to take their turn. The speed limit to go down Lombard Street is only 5 mph, so the line does not move very fast either. Instead, if anyone simply must experience the street, it is better to experience it on foot.
16. The Grand Canyon Skywalk
Want to visit the Grand Canyon and see a beautiful view? Well, that can be found pretty much anywhere in the area. But for any tourist who really wants to shell out unnecessary money for an overrated experience, maybe the Grand Canyon can interest them in a trip to the Skywalk.
For the shockingly high price of $79, visitors to the National Park can get a tour that includes a walk on the horseshoe-shaped glass platform that stands between 500 and 800 feet above the canyon. This seems like a pretty steep price tag when there are equally incredible views from any free lookout at the Grand Canyon.
17. The National Mall
Perhaps one of the most controversial on this list, the National Mall in Washington D.C. is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. Each year, over 25 million people go visit The Mall — more visitors than the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone combined. But that might be the problem.
At almost every time of year the National Mall is packed with a frustrating amount of people meandering through the monuments. And that is on a good day. Some days the crowded spot can be even more of a nightmare with protests and other demonstrations. Even escaping by going inside of the Washington Monument can be iffy, since the elevator is down for repairs seemingly year round.
18. The Space Needle
The Space Needle is probably one of the most recognizable buildings in Seattle, Washington. It seems to fit the definition of the word “sky scraper,” with its tip almost piercing the clouds. But in reality, the Space Needle is not all that high. In total, it stretches 184 meters high. To compare, the Empire State Building could fit 2 and a half Space Needles.
For those who choose to go to the top of the Space Needle, they are forced to shell out $44 for the view and wait in lines that take up over an hour of their day, and there’s a pretty good chance there will be rain once someone reaches the top.
19. The Alamo
For years, students across the United States have been told to “remember the Alamo.” But maybe the actual Alamo might be best kept as a memory and a history lesson, and not as a travel destination. Once people enter the historic sight, the Alamo is said to be a bit of a disappointment.
As one reviewer on TripAdvisor wrote, “The most exciting part was the exterior of the building…Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. The information on the placards was minimal and there were very few artifacts.” Another called The Alamo a “historic let-down” and a “waste of time.”
20. Quincy Market
Right after it’s construction in 1826, Quincy Market was a pretty big deal. It was one of the largest market complexes to be built in the early 19th century, and even today it is known for being a historic Boston landmark. But any Boston tourists can skip it, or at least just give it a glance as they pass by.
Today, Quincy Market is basically just a glorified food court. Maybe some people come to Boston to get a taste of New York style bagels and Philadelphia style cheesesteaks, but we are willing to bet that everyone else would be disappointed by this tourist trap.
21. Catalina Island
Catalina Island is not so bad, but any tourist who visits should definitely know what they are getting themselves into. Anyone traveling to an island in search of a tropical paradise might want to look elsewhere when planning their vacation.
Catalina Island does not really have any beaches that are worth spending a day relaxing on. Instead, a quick search of what to do on Catalina Island suggests to “hit the golf course” or “rent a golf cart.” Maybe that is how some people want to spend their time on a island, but we’d rather trade that in for a day in the sand.
22. The Rocky Statue
Any art lover would be pained to know that the 72 steps right in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are commonly referred to as the “Rocky Steps” after the Rocky films. For years, art lovers were also pained to see people run up the “Rocky Steps” only to reach the statue atop, turn around, and not actually enter the otherwise beautiful museum.
After so many people scaled the steps to take pictures with the statue at the top, the Rocky Statue was finally moved to the bottom of the art museum stairs. Today, the overrated statue now sits in a lackluster location. Our advice: climb the stairs and then do something crazy and actually go into the art museum.
23. Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street has a lot to experience, neon lights, reveling party goers, the occasional tossing of beads. But one thing that someone will not see on Bourbon Street? Anyone who actually lives in New Orleans. In a city so rich with culture, Bourbon Street does not accurately represent such an incredible place.
New Orleans is known for its food, its music, and its culture. But on Bourbon Street, the food is not great, the music is lackluster, and the culture is basically just sloppy people. With so much to see and do in New Orleans, do not waste precious time visiting this tourist trap disguised as a travel destination.
24. Santa Monica Pier
Many travelers who go to the Santa Monica Pier expecting some fun in the sun next to a beautiful beach are disappointed when they face the reality of the Santa Monica Pier. What could be a beautiful beach is basically ruined by the huge crowds and otherwise overrated atmosphere.
Online, reviewers have described the Santa Monica Pier as “worn out,” “grubby,” “overpriced and overcrowded,” and a “waste of time.” The boardwalk itself is said to be pretty rundown and features overpriced, mediocre food. In a state that has plenty of beautiful beaches, do not waste time peering over this lackluster pier.
25. South of the Border
Anyone driving through South Carolina on some of its largest highways will know when they are about to reach the South of the Border roadside attraction. That’s because there are large, obnoxious signs almost every mile leading up to it. But what seems like an exciting attraction is really just a dirty roadside stop.
The South of the Border pit stop, located halfway between Florida and New York, was created to be a kitschy tourist trap. And it really delivered. The rest stop features an arcade, some less than pleasant bathrooms, a motel, and a restaurant that we would probably not recommend trying.
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