Maybe you're exploring the US as a citizen, or you’re holidaying in the country hoping to capture a glimpse of the American Dream up close - either way, there’s no denying that the USA is one of the most exciting and diverse countries on the planet. But with so many stunningly beautiful, thrilling, and often overlooked places to visit, why do so many people keep going back to the same overrated tourist destinations year after year?
While some tourist spots have become legendary landmarks deserving of their must-see reputation, others are just disappointing tourist traps that have been hyped up on TV to look more impressive than they really are. Worse still, an exploitative tourism industry might have spoiled these natural wonders with an over-saturation of facilities to encourage naive visitors to cough up the cash.
Luckily for you, we’re here to tell you that the Empire State Building doesn't have the best views in Manhattan, and the Mall Of America is just a bunch of stores you probably already have in your hometown. So read our rundown of the most overrated US tourist attractions, and save your time, money, and sanity by skipping them altogether. No need to thanks us.
20 20. Getting Up Close To The Statue Of Liberty? Don’t Bother
Make no mistake, we’re not down on this iconic New York landmark because Lady Liberty is truly a sight to behold. But that’s just it - her beauty really is best admired from a distance.
Why waste a whole afternoon in NYC taking the ferry to see the statue up close? It’ll cost you more time and money than it’s worth, and thanks to long queues to get inside and a lacklustre view, you may find yourself disappointed.
There are perfectly good views of the statue from Battery Park. Even better, witness it for free on the Staten Island Ferry, which also takes in gorgeous views of lower Manhattan, Governor’s Island, and Brooklyn Heights.
19 19. Avoid Being Underwhelmed By Mount Rushmore
This South Dakota monument has become synonymous with greatness but do you know what? It’s really not all that.
The problem is that you have to travel out of your way to the middle of nowhere to see it, the novelty wears off in mere minutes, and it looks much smaller than you might expect. Plus, it is seriously debatable whether or not it made the already stunning Black Hills more attractive.
If you’re in the area and really want to view it, catch a glimpse from the car from Iron Mountain Rd, a spectacular stretch of highway that starts at Mt. Rushmore and ends 17 miles later at Custer State Park.
18 18. Liberty Bell: Disappointing Schoolchildren For More Than 200 Years
This world-renowned symbol of freedom is shrouded in mystery and myth and draws hoarded of visitors to Pennsylvania every year. But forget the larger-than-life ideals of what it represents for a second, and all you’re left with is a smaller-than-you-thought craggly hunk of discoloured metal with a crack in it, surrounded by disappointed tourists.
Yes, its story is fascinating, especially if you’re interested in colonial America, but the act of seeing the bell itself is incredibly underwhelming.
17 17. The Hollywood Sign Lacks The Magic Of The Movies
For many visitors to Los Angeles, there is no more coveted photo than a shot of the world-famous Hollywood sign. Many are surprised to learn, however, that it's illegal to get close to it.
The closest you can get is a half-mile away, and that’s after battling two to four hours of traffic, a chaotic mess of tour buses and a rather unspectacular hike through Beachwood Canyon.
If you really want an Gram-worthy pic of this landmark, you’ll get better views by visiting The Griffith Observatory.
16 16. Quincy Market Isn’t That Great
Constructed in 1824–26 and named in honor of Mayor Josiah Quincy, this market is a designated National Historic Landmark and Boston Landmark, and is significant as one of the largest market complexes built in the United States in the first half of the 19th century.
These days, however, this grand old historic building is now a glorified, really crowded food court, teeming with tourists, mediocre food and tacky souvenirs. Locals steer clear of this hot mess and you'd be wise to copy them. Boston has better places to eat.
15 15. Times Square: What Is the Fuss About?
It might be the first stop on the list of tourists visiting New York for the first time, but once there, you might find yourself asking what all the fuss is about.
Apart from the throng of tourists standing in the middle of the road, and gridlock traffic, all Times Square offers are giant billboards, flashing lights and chain restaurants with two-hour waiting times. And let’s not forget the people who hang around in superhero costumes who have a reputation of being aggressive when they are not tipped.
If you absolutely have to see it, go at night after all the Broadway crowds have hit the theatres to watch their shows - at least then you might reclaim some elbow space.
14 14. The Seattle Tourist Trap: The Space Needle
You buy a ticket, wait in line for what feels like a lifetime, and listen to some factual spiel from an elevator operator during the 41-second trip to the top - all so you can get views of the city you could've had from a nearby park for free.
While its design makes for an interesting far-away glance, once there, you are in the middle of a tourist trap, encouraged to buy trinkets and spend your hard-earned money.
If it's views of the city you're after then head to Kerry Park, or if you really want to experience this Seattle landmark, then have dinner or lunch there, which includes admission, and at least savour the view at your own pace.
13 13. The Mall Of America Is Still Just A Mall
It's the largest shopping mall in the United States, and attracts more shoppers than any other mall in the country, but this Minnesota monument to consumerism is just a mall, at the end of the day, with the same shops you’ll find across the country.
Yes, it has plenty of touristy attractions, including rides and a slightly depressing miniature aquarium to set it apart, but it’s nearly impossible to enjoy any of this when there are so, so many other people.
12 12. Hollywood’s Walk Of Lame
There's a reason Hollywood's Chamber of Commerce decided to put stars bearing the names of stars on either side of this particular stretch of Hollywood Blvd: because there is literally no other reason for you to go there.
Once you've seen those immortalized names on the sidewalk, there’s not much more than suspect superheroes, claustrophobia-inducing crowds, star tour salesmen and a never-ending line of gift shops, tattoo parlors and lingerie stores.
With more than 2,500 handprints, this famous attraction gets old fast, and it isn’t what it used to be either, with many of the plaques, even those belonging to the most beloved stars, in a state of disrepair. Depressing.
11 11. It Sounds Cooler Than It Is: The Four Corners
Of course it sounds cool to technically be in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, all at the same time, which is why the Four Corners Monument is a popular attraction. It is, after all, the only place in the entire country where four separate states share a border.
Unfortunately, the reality is that you’ll find yourself in the middle of nowhere, far away from anywhere you'd ever want to be, and all you'll have to show for it is a cheesy photo next to a concrete slab that’s that's allegedly 1,800 feet from the actual intersection of those four states.
There are no other attractions nearby, a lack of facilities at the location, and almost no cell phone or internet service. Waste. Of. Time.
10 10. Your Trip To New Orleans Deserves Better Than Bourbon Street
New Orleans is a beautiful, historic town filled with amazing food and drink, world-class jazz. It oozes charm and culture - apart from Bourbon Street, that is.
Perhaps the most famous street in the iconic French Quarter, where the famous Mardi Gras festival takes place in February, this area does not do the city justice. Neon signs advertising cheap, tacky bars, overpriced drinks and inebriated revellers throwing plastic beads at your head - it’s got a Cancun, Spring Break vibe, and not in a good way.
Cut Bourbon Street out completely in favour of Jackson Square, which is home to fortune tellers, St. Louis Cathedral, the Louisiana State Museum and the famous City Hall.
9 9. The Washington Monument Is Boring
There, we said it - this iconic landmark in Washington DC is really not very fun. After waiting in a long, slow-moving line, you take a 70-second elevator ride to the top where you compete for a view out of one of eight windows.
If learning more about America’s first president is your thing, head to nearby Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia. Or if you’re in it for stellar views of the Mall, including the Washington Monument, try the rooftop bar at the W Washington D.C. Hotel, where you can admire the view in comfort.
Just in case you don't heed our advice, be warned that the monument is closed until spring 2019 while the elevator is being upgraded.
8 8. Lombard Sreet Is Great If You Love Gridlock Traffic
This famously crooked 600-yard-long brick street in San Francisco is a great idea, if you love being stuck in traffic. There is an endless line of cars waiting to go down the hill - one every 10 seconds or so, up to 350 an hour - and there’s only a 5mph speed limit.
What to do instead? Walk it. It is a beautiful street with great views of North Beach and Coit Tower, or take your car instead down the Great Highway, which runs along the western edge of the city, offering stunning views of the Pacific, and access to a lovely expanse of sandy beach.
7 7. Rund-Down And Dirty: The Santa Monica Pier, California
Though the beaches on the Westside are certainly fun to visit, the Santa Monica Pier, especially in the summertime, is nothing short of a tourist trap. It’s overcrowded, run-down, over-priced, and the food is mediocre at best. Plus, the water around the pier is some of the most contaminated in the state.
If you really want to soak up the atmosphere, grab a beach chair and relax on the beach instead, and watch the world go by. But maybe avoid having a dip.
6 6. Waikiki Beach Is Not The Real Hawaii
So many visitors come to Hawaii, spend a week in Waikiki and rarely leave their hotel or resort except to go out to eat or to shop. What a mistake to make.
Waikiki was basically designed with tourists in mind, and is a strip of luxury hotels, expensive stores, and chain restaurants flanked by an overcrowded beach. It looks like most of the rest of America, and is not representative of the stunning, tropical island paradise Hawaii really is.
Even if your vacation brings you only to the island of Oahu, get away from Waikiki and see the rest of this beautiful island, which offers so many things to see and do, many of which are free.
5 5. Over-Commercialised And Over-Priced: Beale St, Memphis
Beale Street is the most popular tourist attraction in the state of Tennessee and while this 1.8-mile stretch of road may once have offered an authentic Memphis experience, these days it offers little more than a corporate array of bars hoping to cash in on what little it has left of blues culture.
Beale Street has become a place for tourists to get sloshed and part with their cash. If you want an authentic Memphis experience, do like the locals do and head to Overton Square and the Cooper Young areas instead.
4 4. It’s Rubbish For Selfies: Empire State Building, New York
King Kong's favourite building has a lot of things going for it: the marble lobby is beautiful and its views can’t be denied, but you do have to peer through the safety fencing to really appreciate them. Plus, it's crowded and touristy, ticket prices are high, and once you're outside, peering through metal bars, it feels both cramped and utilitarian.
Instead, consider going to Top of the Rock in the Rockefeller Center, which is taller, offers sprawling views, is more spacious and attractively designed.
3 3. Big Whoop, It’s The White House
You’ve seen it on television and in the movies. You know the ‘the most powerful man in the world’ lives there. And you’ve probably been led to believe that no visit to DC complete without taking a photo in front of it. But the White House is not particularly remarkable to look it.
You can take a tour inside, which is a little more exciting, but if you think it’s worth a visit to gawp at it from the outside, you’ll probably leave disappointed. Head instead to the National Air and Space Museum or to the National Gallery of Art, both of which are a much more fun use of your time.
2 2. Plymouth Rock - It’s Just A Rock
Located in Pilgrim Memorial State Park on the shore of Plymouth Harbor, Plymouth Rock is a national icon and a tangible monument to freedom. Nearly four centuries after the arrival of the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock is viewed by more than one million visitors each year.
The problem is, no historical evidence exists to confirm Plymouth Rock as the Pilgrims’ actual steppingstone to the New World, and when you see it up close, it’s just a rock in the sand that people stand around and look at. Don't bother.
1 1. The Venetian Gondolas In Vegas Are Not As Romantic As They Sound
In a city that could arguably be considered as one giant tourist trap, it’s tough to single out just one attraction that should be avoided. That said, the Venetian gondolas really do take the biscuit and are a total waste of time.
It might sound quaint, but Venice this is not. You float through chlorinated, blue pool water through what is essentially a shopping mall for less than 15 minutes, as gamblers and intoxicated party-goers stumble by. Even worse, a private gondola for two will set you back around $116. Avoid.
References: theactivetimes.com, thisisinsider.com