It’s geographically massive, it’s constantly in the spotlight, and it’s a nation spalling with multi-layered diversity, culture, and people. So it only makes sense that the US of A is one of the most revered international tourist destinations. Hollywood has helped put Los Angeles on the map, New York’s Broadway has drawn theatre lovers from near and far, and the expansive range of national parks is a nature-lover's paradise.
With so much time in the public eye, it’s only fitting that some of the attention falls too heavy on particular attractions. For every undiscovered gem, there’s a handful of places overrun by obnoxious tourists and riddled with scammers that simply can’t match their glorified reputations.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame might attract tourists from near and far thanks to its star-lined sidewalks, but the harsh reality is that the majority of visitors leave the area thoroughly disappointed. It’s dirty, there are scammers lining the streets waiting to take advantage of unbeknown tourists, the attractions are tacky, and the homeless population is a real issue. In was recently voted the worst tourist destination in the world - need we say more?
If celebrity sightings are your main aim, head over to The Grove and its farmers' market, a quaint pedestrian shopping, entertainment and restaurant strip that is known as an A-list hot spot.
The center of the universe is officially the number one most-visited tourist attraction across the entire country. For that reason and that reason alone, it is nothing more than an overhyped, chaotic mess of foot traffic, honking cars, scammers, and selfie-stick wielding visitors. New York locals do whatever it takes to avoid the severely crowded Times Square, which should say just enough about the area.
As the most visited city in the USA with over 13 million snap-happy tourists flocking to the Big Apple year after year, it’s no surprise that it features a few of the most overrated attractions, simply due to its time in the spotlight. While it might be an icon of New York City and one of the world’s most notorious skyscrapers, a trip to the Empire State Building’s observatory simply isn’t worth your time. The lines are usually long, the tickets aren’t cheap, and, since you’re standing on it, you can’t see the city’s most famous landmark.
For views from above with shorter lines and an actual view of the Empire State Building, head to Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center.
We’ll preface this one by saying that a stroll along this iconic bridge in the off-season is totally worth it. However, in the popular tourist times of year (summer, mostly), it becomes the epitome of hell on Earth. Selfie-obsessed tourists line the bridge, unaware of the hundreds of local bike riders trying to cross from Brooklyn over to Manhattan. This not only makes it overcrowded but unnervingly dangerous at times as well.
Plus, in a similar vein to the Empire State Building versus Top of the Rock debate, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge can’t be seen while you’re walking across it. Your best bet is to stroll across the adjacent Manhattan Bridge - not only are the crowds smaller, but you’ll also be able to see the Brooklyn Bridge alongside the skyline from afar.
Yep, we went there. It doesn’t even matter if it’s Disneyland over in Anaheim, California, or Disney World down in Orlando, Florida - Disney is overrated. As amazing as the parks are, they simply cannot live up to the international hype of ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’. Perhaps they’d come close, if it weren’t for the extraordinarily inflated ticket prices, multiple hour-long lines, and shrieking kids running around left, right, and center.
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For an alternative theme park, head to one of the many Six Flags locations across the states. The number of visitors is lower, the park is more adult-focused, and the roller coasters and bigger, faster, and more hair-raising.
Unless we can travel through time, it’s mighty difficult to be in two places at once, let alone four. Well, that what the Four Corners Monument is trying to promote itself as - the intersection between New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. It’s a nice idea in theory, but here’s the thing: aside from a lack of phone and internet service, it's smack-bang in the middle of nowhere and the monument is supposedly positioned some 1,800 feet from the actual intersection of those four states.
Visitors are much better off avoiding the monument altogether and checking out the Grand Canyon National Park just a few hours drive west.
South Dakota doesn’t have a whole lot to boast, so it’s pretty darn proud of its Mount Rushmore monument. While its display of important historical American figures is synonymous with greatness, to be honest, as a monument it’s pretty darn boring. Firstly, it’s smack-bang at the intersection of nothing and nowhere, so you have to trek further than you’d like to see it. The size is also much smaller than most expect, and the novelty is short-lived.
If you’re in the South Dakota (question why you’re there and) head to the Badlands National Park instead. It’s arguably the best thing in the state, with endless scenic views and plenty of epic hiking trails.
From its sports to its food scene, Philadelphia has so much to offer tourists. So, it’s bewildering that the majority of Pennsylvania visitors flock to a cracked church bell in Philly’s Independence National Historical Park. It might be a symbol of freedom but at the end of the day, it’s still just a disappointing, discolored, smaller-than-expected bell.
Instead, take a stroll through the vendors at Reading Terminal Market, one of America’s oldest farmers' markets and a true example of a foodie paradise. Here, you’ll be able to try the world-renowned dish synonymous with the city: the gooey, filling Philly Cheesesteak.
Over in Minneapolis, we’ll find the largest mall in the country. That might sound enticing at first, however, upon second thought you’ll quickly realize that it’s nothing more than the same local shopping center, offering the same local, often-overpriced department stores, just bigger. It tries to reel in extra visitors with a Nickelodeon play area and an aquarium, however, they’re both below par compared to their dedicated rivals.
Skip the Mall of America and head to the Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis or one of the city’s other great museums or parks. Doesn’t everyone do their shopping online these days anyway?
There’s just something about American liberty (the Bell, and now the Statue) that draws in hordes of tourists only to have them leave disappointed. While she might be an icon of New York City and appear on nine out of ten postcards, Lady Liberty is much smaller in real life than most people imagine. Plus, a visit to Liberty Island is expensive, and climbing the statue itself means you’ll be elbowing through bunches of tourists to catch a mediocre glimpse from the window.
Instead of sailing out to her island, catch the Staten Island Ferry from lower Manhattan. It’s free and will allow you to see the Statue from afar, but you’ll also get some kickass views of the Freedom Tower and Lower Manhattan skyline.