Whether you have three days or three weeks on your schedule to travel the country, your vacation time is valuable. According to Statista the average US road trip lasts three to eight days, and we all want to make those days count towards a trip we’ll be happy we drove. Many places can be fun to stop at along the way, time and budget constraints mean that you’ll want to make sure you weed out locations that will take you miles and hours out of the way of your destination, and even have you spending your money on something you don’t feel is worthwhile.
While everyone has different tastes, and not every landmark spot is going to be everyone’s cup of tea, heavy promotion and tourism in hotspots often leave them overcrowded and overpriced. Seeing something because it’s the most famous location in a state doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. Sometimes it’s better to veer off the road most travelled and experience something a little different than our parents’ or grandparents’ road trips.
Here are 15 overhyped spots on many USA road trips you may want to avoid, and another 10 that are worth the wear and tear on your car.
25 Avoid The Statue of Liberty
Everyone wants to see Lady Liberty at least once in their life, I mean did you even go to The Big Apple without this snap? Here’s the thing, it’s probably better to see her from a distance, perhaps from Battery Park, or during a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge instead of making a dedicated trip to see her.
Tourists will spend around half a day on the ferry and in lines to see it up close and personal, which can make the torch-holding lady seem a little lackluster.
24 Avoid The Liberty Bell
This spot is more of a place to take a middle school history class than a destination for a road trip. The bell, albeit a famous US symbol of independence, is rather small, broken (as you probably already learned in grade seven history class), and crowded since it’s constantly crawling with tourists.
Skip the visit and read the inscription “Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof" from the comfort of your own home instead. While there is no cost to visit this attraction, you do need to get a timed ticket from across the street, and then stand in a long line.
23 Visit The Road To The Rockies
Boulder Colorado has the distinct honour of being named as the happiest city in the US by National Geographic, and with views like this who can blame them. There are three different routes you can take that will bring you to Leadville Colorado (the highest elevated incorporated town in all the US). The route features wildflowers, picturesque views of the Rockies themselves, as well as Twin Lakes.
Those who like horses will want to drive alongside the Arkansas River to see ranches, old mines, and wildlife the area is famous for (elk, moose, deer, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep to name a few).
22 Avoid The Mall of America
As wonderful as shopping is, this consumerist mecca is probably best skipped. Boasting 520 stores, it’s got an indoor theme park, a miniature golf course, and even an aquarium, but it’s not even the biggest mall in North America.
While The Mall of America is epic, with hundreds of tourists stopping by every day and hosting more visitors than any other US mall, The West Edmonton Mall in Canada, is owned by the same company and is much bigger. West Edmonton Mall has a water park, ice hockey rink, and a giant pirate ship, so if you want to shop till you drop, cross the border, eh?
21 Avoid The Four Corners
The concept of the Four Corners is much cooler than the execution. Standing in the four corners you’ll find yourself in the middle of a hot desert, likely with tumbleweeds blowing by, for a five-minute photo opp. This monument to the four states, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, is simply a small brass carving in the ground, and isn’t where the four states intersect, that’s technically 1,800 feet away from the famous marker.
Stop for a photo if you’re passing through, but don’t make it your final destination.
20 Visit The Ancients In New Mexico
See what the ancients saw by visiting the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. When you visit Pueblo ceremonial site Chaco Canyon, not only do you get to view the vast beauty of the canyon, you also can visit El Morro National Monument where for centuries around 2,000 travelers have carved their names into the sandstone. To see ancient traditions in practice, visit the Zuni Reservation to Zuni Pueblo.
Still don’t have enough history? Visit the Aztec Ruins National Monument and Salmon Ruins to travel back in time to the 1050s.
19 Avoid Epcot
Some people love Disney, returning each year to enjoy the ultimate family destination, but not all Disney parks are created equal. It seems a little strange to pay hundreds of dollars for entry into a Florida Park to ‘explore the world’.
Tourists are better off visiting the locations featured in Epcot instead of experiencing a mock (sometimes stereotyped) version of the real thing. While their wine events have gotten some traction among grape enthusiasts, it’s probably a better bet to visit one of the other parks instead.
18 Avoid Nebraska Carhenge
Can’t afford the trip across the pond to visit Stonehenge? It might be better to save your pennies instead of running to Nebraska’s own Carhenge. This is one of the most popular attractions in the state, with 39 cars stacked to imitate the real thing.
Constructed in 1987, visiting Carhenge is free to anyone who wants to visit during daylight hours. Visiting outside of summer hours and want a souvenir? You’re out of luck, the gift shop is only open in the summer.
Some car enthusiasts and art fans may appreciate the kitsch of this attraction, but the novelty will wear off pretty fast.
17 Visit The Black Hills & Badlands South Dakota
Want to feel like you’re on another planet without leaving the continent? Look no further than The Black Hills & Badlands in South Dakota. This is a great place to visit for anyone who wants to experience Mt. Rushmore from a distance and focus on the beauty of Badlands National Park.
Enjoy a drive through the rock-lined tunnels, and enter five million acres featuring forest, rock formations, and iconic views. Hikers will want to enjoy several days in this wildlife splendor. Don’t forget to visit Spearfish Canyon, to experience the vivid rose-coloured limestone, and glorious waterfalls.
16 Avoid The Vegas Vacation
While Vegas is the big gambling destination, there are plenty of other (cheaper), closer, locations you can road trip to that also have casinos. The entire city is a tourist trap, filled with pricey shows, and constant bright lights and 24-7 stimulation that’s enough to overload anyone’s senses. There are also ‘splurge’ items that may seem like a good idea while you’re there that most wouldn’t consider otherwise.
A common example is the Venetian gondola rides, which essentially happen in a mall, but cost well over a hundred bucks for 15 minutes of ‘entertainment’.
15 Avoid Atlantic City Board Walk
Once upon a time, Atlantic City was a cross-coastal little sister to Vegas. People would go to enjoy all the glitz and indulge on salt water taffy. In the time that has passed since the area enjoyed its heyday, the shine has worn off. What was once cute and novel, has become dated and worn out.
Prospect.org says a lot of this failure has to do with the business model of the Boardwalk Empire saying, “The casino industry’s business model—to drain dollars as quickly as possible from the pockets of people who, for the most part, can least afford to lose them—meant that residents had less to spend on local businesses and communities, which suffered in turn.”
14 Visit Letchwood State Park, New York
New York isn’t just about the Time Square, or the Catskill Mountains, as there are many other beautiful nature focused spots to visit in the state. Letchworth State Park is frequently called ‘The Grand Canyon of the East’ and is a 14,427-state park known for three giant waterfalls, and a gorge with sides that can rise to 600 feet.
Worth checking out any time of year, the park site boasts that, “hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails. Trails are also available for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.”
13 Avoid Roswell
TV shows aside, Roswell is just a rumoured site of an alien crash landing, which is filled with memorabilia, and not a whole lot more, over 70 years post the incident. When heading to Texas, a two-hour detour can take you to Roswell, but unless you’re prepared for over-the-top tacky, skip the stop.
Travel Blogger Never-ending Footsteps says of the UFO Museum, “It was ridiculous. People in tie-dyed shirts hid out in corners, comparing their favourite abduction story in hushed tones.” Although if you’re craving some cheese that you can’t take seriously, give it a whirl.
12 Avoid The Empire State Building
After a long day walking around New York, like a true New Yorker your feet are not going to want to stand in line for The Empire State Building. Crowded, with long lines, and not even the best view in the city, it’s best to 86 the trip to the top of the 86 floor building and 102nd-floor observation deck.
Sure, movies showcase this location to make it an important part of popular culture, but with the metal bars blocking your view and taking $52 dollars out of your vacation budget it’s not worth the honour of the view.
11 Visit St. Augustine
When people think about Florida, they most often picture Orlando, or even Miami Beach, and skip over the beautiful small town of St. Augustine, located in northern Florida. With a claim to fame as the oldest US city, with roots beginning in 1565, it’s worth a visit. Enjoy stunning Spanish architecture and visit the Castillo de San Marcos (a 17th Century built stone fortress).
Ghost hunters should enjoy tours of the Old St. Johns County Jail, built in 1891, and rumoured to be spooked by previous prisoners.
10 Avoid Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is one of the most visited attractions, that represents failure. The monument to Confederacy was created for the express purpose of drawing tourists to South Dakota. The giant stone carving, was the brainchild of sculptor Gutzon Borglum who selected people he felt reflected the spirit of America.
Borglum was fired from the job before it was completed and reportedly destroyed the sketches of how the carving was meant to look. While more work was done on the project, it ended in 1941, incomplete (Lincoln is missing an ear), and the entire carving was meant to showcase the men from the waist up.
Both at the time and presently, environmentalists were unimpressed with the way man had altered this beautiful mountain for the sake of some tourist dollars.
9 Visit Sedona
People talk about visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but there are other sites that have less crowds, are just as awe-inspiring, and offer nearby accommodations at a lesser price. Many people head to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, but instead of battling crowds and paying astronomical hotel prices, head to Sedona, Arizona.
Sedona is a spiritual centre known for its gorgeous view, yoga festival, and vegetarian and veganism festival. Take a hike on the Airport Meza trail or the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
8 Avoid The Hollywood Walk of Fame
As nice as it is to celebrate the life of celebrities, this is something we can do by attending their movies instead of visiting a street where they once placed their hands into wet cement. Designated in 1978, this area of Hollywood Boulevard sees more than 10 million visitors each year. Overcrowded, and there are better ways to spend your time.
Maybe head to a café or some other place where you can spot a celebrity in real life and not just imprints of their hands.
7 Visit The Great Highway
The Great Highway is a short and sweet roadway about three-and-a-half miles long located next to Ocean Beach. Bordering the Golden Gate Bridge this small stretch of road will give you one of the best views of San Francisco. Check out both the Dutch Windmill and Murphy Windmill which were originally used to pump water into Golden Gate Park.
Visit during the day, or at sunset to visit Ocean Beach for wonderful views of clifftop houses or enjoy a fire on the beach after dark.
6 Visit Death Valley National Park
Discover Death Valley National Park, one of the hottest places on planet Earth. The park boasts, “Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.”
Located in eastern California, this is the largest National Park in the United States outside of Alaska, with 1000 miles of paved and dirt roads for easy access. This park is worth visiting, whether it’s for an afternoon or for a ten-day great outdoors adventure.
5 Avoid The Magnificent Mile
In a world where more and more travelers are making their trips about the journey and experience, and not acquiring material goods, vacation destinations are not as based on shopping as they once were.
This stretch of retail and dining businesses exists to bring in tourists, and the prices of anything you do in this area are designed to bring in as much tourism money as possible.
Consider checking out one of the many eclectic neighbourhoods in Chicago instead and support a small business instead of a big corporation and save some money at the same time.
4 Visit The Best Chicago Architecture
Chicago has an amazing sports culture, it also has fantastic architecture and is known as the birthplace of the skyscraper. World-renowned for amazing buildings you can take an educational and interesting tour of the best buildings the city has to offer. The architecture scene is so famous in fact that there are over 85 tours to select from. People can tour by foot, boat, or bus.
Famous buildings include: The Willis Tower, Tribune Tower, Aon Center, Rookery Building, Chicago Board of Trade, theMART, and the Monadnock Building.
3 Avoid Elvis
Elvis was a musical genius who changed the face of rock and roll forever but spending over 30 dollars to tour his Tennessee home isn’t going to bring you any closer to the king. The singer, actor, and former military man is worth celebrating, but there are other ways you can do it.
If you are interested in music history there are so many other road trip destinations that will bring you more bang for your buck. Consider heading to Cleveland and visiting The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or the Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan instead.
2 Visit The Oregon Coast
Not many people think of a highway as a National Historic Landmark, but Oregon has the honour of being the first highway to be a landmark, it’s that beautiful. Enjoy a beautiful view as you look at the Columbia River Gorge, lush forests, and not one, but six waterfalls where you can trek, hike, and photograph.
After your 70-mile journey you can celebrate at the Sunshine Mill Winery where you can try their world-famous drink ‘Nirvana’ which has notes of honey and melon. The entire Oregon Coast is public land where you can explore.
1 Avoid The Alamo
Texans were annoyed last year when Thrillist featured The Alamo as one of the most overrated attractions in the US saying, “While the battle of the Alamo may have been worth remembering, the present-day landmark is more forgettable. It’s pretty much just some surprisingly unimposing stone buildings in a park across the street from a Jimmy John’s.”
With free admission to anyone, Texans think it’s worth the trip, however more and more lists are citing the Alamo as somewhere worth skipping.