Everyone has a different idea of what makes a great vacation. Would you prefer to browse wineries or take a city trolley tour? Visit theme parks or museums? At the end of the vacation day, anyone on a trip is a tourist, but it is the places that go out of their way to become a tourist trap at the expense of the town itself that are the opposite of enjoyable for the discerning traveler. There are also those small or oddball places that, try as they might to attract visitors, simply are not all that interesting.
And there are a lot of these destinations all across the United States that are incredibly popular, maybe even too popular. Lines, high prices and simply too many people can ruin the most exciting of destinations. Tourist traps have their bad reputation for a reason. There are so many incredible places to visit across the United States that no one should spend their time on a bad trip. We’ve compiled a list of the bad, the ugly, the weird (not in a good way), and the just plain boring so that you don’t have to find out the hard way. And then, a couple of destinations that we found out the easy way are incredible places to spend your time.
25 Locals avoid: Atlantic City, New Jersey
The once-great Atlantic City has seen better days. According to the New York Post, between 2012 and 2014, five out of the city’s twelve beachside casinos closed, turning the city into “a slum with high crime and high unemployment — plus a beach and boardwalk grafted on”. It’s definitely no longer the glittering boardwalk empire of yesteryear and hardly worth the trip.
24 Locals avoid: Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
Hampton Beach is one of New Hampshire's few ocean beaches. A long-time tourist spot, Hampton is home to a casino and ballroom and a tchotchke-shop lined boardwalk. The concentration of all of these things, along with hotels on hotels means that no one can park or move much at the beach or around town, as the town’s population swells with all the people who spend their summer in The Hamptons. New Hampshire Magazine described Hampton Beach as “Skee-ball, saltwater taffy, henna tattoos, bawdy T-shirts, raucous music, skimpy clothes.” There are great beaches nearby in Rye and Salisbury and Gloucester, Massachusetts where you can go to the beach without all the nonsense.
23 Locals avoid: Bentonville, Arkansas and the Walmart Museum
Bentonville, Arkansas, is the headquarters and founding location of Walmart. You can go into the Walton family's original 5&10 store and the Walmart museum next door, which, according to the Daily Meal, includes the original store tiles and the Spark Cafe Soda Fountain. Travel bloggers Tommy and Kali (of their blog of the same name) found a wall of broken items that were accepted as returns and made their own Walmart name tags. If that doesn't excite any particular visions of R&R, then this museum is one you can forget.
22 Locals avoid: Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas
The Comal River is a popular floating spot that My San Antonio bemoaned as being overcrowded and rampant with rowdy tourists. My San Antonio also included this spot on their list of the 11 worst tourist traps in Texas. If you need a Texas tubing experience do not fear, there are plenty of places to cool off, like the nearby Guadalupe River, suggested by My San Antonio, so avoid the loud and packed Comal and opt for the quieter Guadalupe.
21 Would Visit: Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is a true success story for downtown revitalization. According to the Atlantic, Depression-era Asheville was hit hard, and by the 1960s until the 1980s, downtown was a veritable ghost town. Now Asheville has become a vibrant city known especially for a world-class food scene, according to Food & Wine magazine, and fun spots like the Asheville Pinball Museum. Some of the top and must-visit restaurants are the tapas restaurant Curate, Southern comfort joint Tupelo Honey, and the French Eatery Bouchon. A taste of opulence and history can be found at the Biltmore Estate.
20 Locals avoid: Niagara Falls, New York
Flocks of poncho-bedecked tourists descend upon Niagara Falls and board boats to go get wet in the falls – 30 million per year, to be exact. Since the 1800s, Niagara Falls has become the “honeymoon capital of the world". According to Niagara Cruises, the first couple to honeymoon there was former VP Aaron Burr and his wife, Theodosia. By the 1950s, according to Niagara Cruises, the popularity of the Falls had increased, especially following the release of the Marilyn Monroe film, about a couple honeymooning at the falls. Honeymooners certainly have their own things to get up to, but there just doesn’t seem to be much else aside from expensive cruise tours of the falls. For example, note the contrast of TripAdvisor’s 43 things to do in Niagara, New York to their 165 things to do in Montreal, Quebec. Unless those ubiquitous bright plastic ponchos strike you as romantic, you can skip Niagara.
19 Locals avoid: Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, Boston, Massachusetts
There are so many reasons to go to Boston. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, because of the busy shops and the historic setting, seem like must-see locations. But the more interesting and important historical sites, unique shopping, and incredible food are within a couple walking blocks in every direction, according to Best Life, who list Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market on their list of tourist traps that locals very much dislike.
18 Would visit: Burlington, Vermont
Burlington, Vermont is a dynamic and beautiful city with a small-town feel. Right on Lake Champlain and within an easy distance of the hiking in the Green Mountains, Burlington, Vermont is a college town alive with artistic endeavors, breweries, and farm-to-table restaurants. The New York Times suggests spending an evening dancing at Red Square or Nectar's, an afternoon at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, or having a bite at American Flatbread.
17 Locals avoid: Salem, Massachusetts in October
Salem, Massachusetts is a great place to visit – this well-preserved colonial New England town has a world-class art museum, lots of historical landmarks, and a vibrant local art and occult scene, according to the Travel Channel online. Just don’t go in October. Because of the Witch Trials of 1692 to 1693, the town has become a mecca for all things Halloween with its annual Haunted Happenings, and tourists eat it up, according to the Salem News. The Salem News noted that most of their tourist is "witch-related" – the estimate of visitors on Halloween alone was up to 100,000, by 2014. With the glut of tourists in October, go any other time of year. The Huffington Post suggests winter.
16 Locals avoid: Roswell, New Mexico
The relatively small, desert town of Roswell, New Mexico is famous because in 1947, rancher W. W. Brazel found the remains of what he thought to be a flying saucer on his nearby ranch, wrote TIME in 2015. The official explanation TIME reported was that the debris belonged to a fallen weather balloon, but the hubbub around the over-the-top reporting of the event lead to conspiracies that the government covered up actual alien contact. And so, Roswell became the center of UFO enthusiasm in the United States. And while there is a UFO Museum and an art museum in Roswell, it’s mostly a town in the desert where, according to officials records, a UFO never landed.
15 Locals avoid: Alliance, Nebraska and Carhenge
If you can't make it to the UK to see the prehistoric and mysterious ritual site of Stonehenge, why not go see one in rural Nebraska made out of cars? Because it's in Nebraska and is made out of cars. In fact, the 1987 monument called Carhenge was built by artist Jim Reinders to commemorate his father's life, according to the monument's website. And while there was heart behind the making of the monument, it's still just a bunch of cars stuck in the ground. The Street, who listed Carhenge among the worst tourist attractions in the US had this to say about the site, "Really? Really?"
14 Locals avoid: Orlando, Florida
Orlando is known the world over as the home of Disney World, Universal, and other theme parks. Overcrowded theme parks that require waiting in lines for hours in the sweltering Florida heat. And all of these are very expensive, according to Creative Travel Guide. While some people love Orlando and its parks, the heat and the waiting would make others (like myself) run in the opposite direction. Other Internet lists of things to do in Orlando that aren't park-related, like those made by Visit Orlando or other bloggers, include things that are also parks – like the mini golf or Fun Spot America. Unless you have kids to entertain, don't bother with all the heat and hassle of Orlando.
13 Locals avoid: Ardmore, Oklahoma
Ardmore bills itself as an Oklahoma tourist spot, according to the city's tourism website, but it really seems to be a small town with big aspirations. It is home to the Eliza Cruce Hall Doll Museum, a display of rare dolls in the Ardmore Public Library. There is the Lake Murray State Park, the Southwest Historical Museum, the Military Memorial Museum, and the small Gold Mountain Casino. Unless you have intersecting interests in rare dolls, military history, and gambling, you should find another small town to spend your weekend vacation in.
12 Locals avoid: Los Alamos, New Mexico
Historical site and location of the Manhattan Project? Yes. Radioactive? Also yes. Greg Mello, a member of the nuclear watchdog Los Alamos Study Group who was interviewed by the Santa Fe New Mexican in 2015 noted that "Los Alamos will never be clean." As recently as this year, according to U.S. News, a lab worker injured on the job was found to have been infected with radiation. So read about the fascinating science that happened and continued to happen at Los Alamos, but skip the visit.
11 Locals avoid: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
When you go to a new place and there are multiple airbrush t-shirt shops and open-air “7D” movie theaters, you may have stumbled into a tourist trap, (what even are these other 4 dimensions that these movie theaters offer?). Gatlinburg is nestled in the Smoky Mountains and on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, so there is plenty to attract nature lovers. But in downtown Gatlinburg, it is the hokey souvenir shops and Ripley's Believe It or Not-type spectacle that bring tourists in in droves. Best Life noted that the four thousand full-time residents of Gatlinburg have to grapple with the twelve million visitors to Sevier County every year.
10 Locals avoid: Cleveland, Ohio
Sure, it's home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the fact that there isn't much else to do or see in the metropolis landed it on Flocka's list of the "8 Worst Cities to Visit in the US". Forbes has also listed it as one of the most miserable cities in the United States multiple times – there's a reason the city is known as "the mistake by the lake". Don't make the mistake and visit.
9 Locals avoid: Nashville, Tennessee
There is a lot going on in Nashville, Tennessee, from the abundant tourist traps (Broadway) to places genuinely worth the visit (the Ryman Auditorium), according to Thrillist. Nashville is on this list, however, because of how inaccessible the city can be. With the exception of the very small downtown area, Nashville is a collection of suburban neighborhoods and strip malls, according to Nashville Guru. And while there are some interesting things in those strip malls, as an outsider those spots can be tough to navigate. If you don't know a local, or can't stand country music, skip Music City.
8 Locals avoid: McLean, Texas and the Devil's Wire Museum
Did you know that there's a museum in Texas dedicated to the history of barbed wire? Are you going to forget that fact almost immediately? Us, too. The Street also included this museum among its worst tourist attractions in America. While the small museum in tiny McLean, Texas (population 707, according to the Census Bureau) no doubt has an exhaustive history of barbed wire, it is one historical topic that doesn't seem worth the gas money. Roadtrippers also called the town "nearly-abandoned ghost town frozen in time", so there isn't much else to do there, either.
7 Locals avoid: Mitchell, South Dakota and the Corn Palace
Now, if the Corn Palace were made out of corn, it might qualify as impressive. It isn't. It is an homage to the golden crop complete with murals made of corn that is advertised as "the world's only corn palace." Some 500,000 people visit each year, according the Corn Palace website. The palace was so popular after its founding in 1892 that the building had to be expanded to accommodate more visitors. According to the Corn Palace, the current building is the third corn palace. But there is an online live feed of the Corn Palace, so just stay home and eat some popcorn and cheesy corn and have a similar experience.
6 Locals avoid: Rehoboth, Delaware
Rehoboth, Delaware has gone the way of many a boardwalk beach, according to Best Life. The once-quiet coastal town now attracts tourists galore. Best Life noted that this town of only 1400 attracts thousands of tourists a year. So the overpriced eateries and gimmicky shops catering to tourists moved into the boardwalk, along with theme parks like Funland and Jungle Jim's, pushing out the locals. Don't be one of those tourists.
5 Locals avoid: Bloomington, Minnesota and the Mall of America
Malls are consistently some of the most miserable places to spend the day. This expansive mall with some rides and a small aquarium that Thrillist called "slightly depressing." Also, according to Thrillist, the Mall of America is neither the largest or most luxurious mall in the Americas (that's Canada's West Edmonton Mall), though it is the largest in the US, and it has a lot of chain stores that could be found at any old mall. So is it really worth the visit?
4 Locals avoid: Murfreesboro, Arkansas and the Crater of Diamonds
At the Crater of Diamonds State Park, anyone can go digging for diamonds. But, as MSN noted, this site, which has been open for more than a century, is in reality not a glittering field of diamonds but a 37 1/2 acre field of dirt. According to the state park's website, the first diamond was found on the land in 1906, and was the site of several unsuccessful mining company ventures before it became a state park. Since people, both amateurs and professionals, have been trawling for stones in that dirt since 1906, the chances of striking rich don't seem worth the effort.
3 Would Visit: Richmond, Virginia
From the hip Carytown neighborhood to the impressive range of art museums to cobbled streets and good eats, Richmond, Virginia, is a surprisingly cool city with a young soul. According to Trip Advisor, top attractions are the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Hollywood Cemetery, and the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, and eateries in Carytown and by the channel.
2 Would Visit: Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine is a compact and picturesque city on Casco Bay. Portland has earned a reputation in recent years for its varied and quality food scene, according to Trip Savvy. State Street is home to a number of music venues, including the State Theater, and diverting shops because of the The quaint Portland Head Lighthouse and nearby Fort Williams State Park are good fresh-air jaunts out of the city. Portland is a great weekend away.
1 Would Visit: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee might not have a reputation as a destination city, but it is a great place to spend the weekend – as long as it's not too cold. Milwaukee is first and foremost a bar city, according to Culture Trip. There is German food and beer gardens galore, hip local music venues like the Jazz Estate, and quaint neighborhoods like the Third Ward. If it's warm enough, you can even go for a swim in Lake Michigan.
References: nhmagazine; marriotonthefalls; niagaracruises; time; neverendingfootsteps; carhenge; Travel Channel; Trip Savvy; New York Times; Culture Trip