U.S.'s Most Over-Rated Tourist Traps
We all know the feeling: Bound by a lemming-like sense of obligation, we drag ourselves to an important tourist attraction, stand in its presence for a few moments, then (if all goes well) leave as quickly as possible. Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised; we linger and learn something new. But lots of times, we don’t.
Some of the places on my list are well-known tourist traps, but not all tourist traps are a waste of time (the Empire State Building, Mount Rushmore and Niagara Falls are all well worth a look).
Regardless, the following spots have left me either underwhelmed or exhausted for no good reason. I’m sure you have a similar list.
It’s very easy to have an enjoyable, fulfilling stay in San Francisco without ever touching foot in this awful place, which has all the appeal of a rundown (and yet somehow very expensive) amusement park. If you are forced to visit, however, I recommend the Musee Mecanique, a wonderfully eerie collection of vintage penny arcade games located at Pier 45.
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is located off of Interstate 40 between Holbrook and Navajo. From the north entrance of the park off of Interstate 40, a roughly 25-mile driving route meanders south among a spare expanse of rocks and sand, until you find yourself on Highway 180. Then you drive back up to Interstate 40 and continue on your way, an hour closer to the grave.
New York City
Wall Street could easily be described as a dark, narrow alley full of traffic pylons, heavily armed police officers, harried office workers and lots of tourists taking pictures of a street sign. Federal Hall, where Washington gave his inaugural address, consists of a mostly empty rotunda with a few exhibits, and the New York Stock Exchange is strictly off-limits these days.
Plymouth Rock sits inside a Greek Temple-like structure along a pleasant promenade in Plymouth Harbor, Mass. The rock is gray and worn, and roughly the size of a car engine, with the year 1620 stamped across its side. It marks the precise spot where William Bradford and the Mayflower pilgrims set foot in the New World, except for the fact that this actually happened in Provincetown.
San Antonio, Texas
The Alamo, otherwise known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, sits on roughly four acres in downtown San Antonio, a short distance from the River Walk. Much of the original structure is no more, and what remains are a few small stone buildings and some neatly trimmed lawns. The audio tour concludes in an exceedingly well-provisioned gift shop.
Enjoy a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, watch the sunset from the Griffith Observatory, or take a stroll in Runyon Canyon Park. But don’t go looking for “Hollywood,” because you’re liable to wind up on the Walk of Fame being harassed by a Charlie Chaplin impersonator.
Everyone should make an effort to visit New Orleans, and the romance of the French Quarter is still alive and well in places such as Jackson Square and Decatur Street. But for the sake of your dignity, avoid Bourbon Street if you can. All the charming cast-iron balconies in the world can’t save this stretch of sadness.
RMS Queen Mary
Long Beach, Calif.
What do you get when you cross a Ramada Inn with a rusty old ship? The RMS Queen Mary, the once-proud jewel of the Cunard Line, which now lies permanently docked in Long Beach as a hotel, convention center and floating haunted house (paranormal tours are available). They should have given poor old Mary an honorable burial at sea.