When you’re cruising down the interstate and see a billboard for an attraction that’s hundreds of miles away, there’s a 97% chance it’s a tourist trap. We may be exaggerating that number, but not by much. Some of the most popular tourist traps are incredibly over-hyped and disappointing.
Today, we’ll look at 10 of the most overhyped tourist traps in the U.S. and why you should rethink giving them a visit. Let’s get started!
What Does the Term Tourist Trap Mean?
A tourist trap is an attraction that typically caters to travelers and those visiting from out of town. They are often unique activities or experiences with an expensive price tag. They can be services, entertainment, food, or souvenirs but typically have a less than favorable reputation. Many see them as tacky, deceitful, and a waste of time and money.
Tourist Traps Are Everywhere
You can find tourist traps all across the country. Some cities are known for being major tourist traps. Cities like Orlando, Fla., Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Wisconsin Dells, Wis., are tourist trap cities.
Tourist traps often sit near interstates and other major highways. They need to be easy to access to increase the odds of tourists stopping and spending their money. If you spend any time on America’s highways and byways, there’s a good chance you’ll see multiple tourist traps.
10 of the Most Overhyped Tourist Traps in the U.S.
There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of tourist traps in the U.S. Today, we’ll look at 10 of the most popular locations you might want to avoid. Let’s take a look!
1. Las Vegas Venetian Gondolas, Nevada
Address: 3355 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Why You Should Skip It: Riding a gondola in Italy is a dream for many people, but not everyone can travel to Italy. The Las Vegas Venetian gondolas fall very short of the dreamy experience you’re likely expecting.
You’ll stand in line to buy tickets longer than you’ll spend riding a gondola. One guest even stated, “For the $40 per person fee to ride the gondola, you’d think it would come with a picture included, but no, they have to fleece you for more money.” Taking home a picture to remember your gondola ride will set you back an additional $20.
Despite the price tag, you could wind up with strangers on your gondola as well. If you want a private gondola ride, expect to pay a premium price.
Redeeming Factors: While riding the gondola can be expensive, it’s not as expensive as traveling to Italy for the real thing. It can be a romantic time for you and a loved one. The gondoliers do their best to make your ride an experience you’ll never forget.
2. The Statue of Liberty (Up Close), N.Y.
Address: Liberty Island New York, NY 10004
Why You Should Skip It: Seeing Lady Liberty up close requires taking a ferry to Liberty Island. It can be costly and require waiting in line and battling massive crowds. The process of getting your tickets for the ferry and riding it over to the island can be chaotic and stressful. Hopping a ride on the Staten Island Ferry is free and also provides a fantastic view of the Statue of Liberty and the city.
Redeeming Factors: The Statue of Liberty is an iconic symbol that has provided hope and inspiration since 1886. You can learn about the generations of emigrants who passed through Ellis Island to seek a better life for their families. Some places are worth battling crowds or dealing with waiting in line, and this is one of them. You can gain a deeper appreciation for what many went through in their pursuit of freedom and a brighter future.
3. Mount Rushmore, S.D.
Address: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751
Why You Should Skip It: Mount Rushmore pays tribute to four leads of our country but has a rather controversial history. The controversy involves the government stealing land. The story ends with the government carving four faces into a sacred mountain. Doing even a minimal amount of research on the creation of this iconic monument can ruin your ability to enjoy it.
The monument gets more than two million visitors in a typical year. It can be incredibly crowded, especially during peak travel seasons for the area. Everyone wants to get a picture standing in front of the mountain, and it can be a struggle to escape the crowds.
Redeeming Factors: There’s a tremendous amount of history that guests can discover when visiting Mount Rushmore. It provides an opportunity for guests to learn about the construction of the monument, the history of the area, and specific information about the four presidents carved into the mountain.
You can get a great view without even visiting the park. Taking a drive on Iron Mountain Road allows guests to get an outstanding view of the mountain from their vehicles. There are even pull-offs to snap a quick picture as you continue on your journey.
Pro Tip: Whether or not Mount Rushmore makes your must-see list, here’s how to plan your RV tip to South Dakota.
4. The Hollywood Walk of Fame, California
Address: Hollywood Boulevard, Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Why You Should Skip It: The crowded streets, heavy traffic, and less than family-friendly conditions will have you questioning your decision to walk this street. In-person, experiencing the Hollywood Walk of Fame is nowhere near as glitzy and glamorous as it appears on TV.
With so many people flocking to this tourist trap, you end up feeling like you’re playing bumper cars with other guests. Everyone is looking at the ground and trying to snap pictures. It can be a bit chaotic and overwhelming.
One traveler said, “This is not how you want to remember LA […] The romanticized portrayal found in movies presents a stark contrast to the dirty streets, the many buskers, and the obvious issue of LA’s homeless [population].”
Redeeming Factors: As the Hollywood Walk of Fame pays tribute to many of the people we’ve watched on the big screen for years, it can be a fun experience. It can help us feel a closer connection to some of the people we’ve looked up to since our younger years. You can catch a glimpse of the famous Hollywood sign and possibly check this item off your bucket list.
5. Lombard Street, California
Address: Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Why You Should Skip It: While many are drawn to the area to check out the road, the landscaping is often disappointing, and the view is less than exciting. The road may zig and zag for a short distance, but the views aren’t any better than other spots around the city. One guest described Lombard Street as “the biggest tourist trap I have ever been to. There is really nothing special.”
Redeeming Factors: Millions of tourists flock to experience the “crookedest” street in the world. You can pass by mansions and snag a few pictures. You can choose to walk it or drive it, but it’s typically an easy stop if you’re visiting San Francisco.
6. The Gum Wall, Seattle
Address: 1428 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101
Why You Should Skip It: If the sight of hundreds of thousands of pieces of chewed-up gum isn’t enough to gross you out, the smell will do the job. The city of Seattle offers some outstanding places to see and things to do, but this isn’t one of them. You’re likely going to want to get out of here as fast as you can and find the biggest bottle of hand sanitizer available.
Redeeming Factors: One of the only redeeming factors of this tourist trap is that the pictures you take can make for great conversation starters. Everyone is sure to have an opinion about a wall covered in chewed gum.
7. Rockefeller Ice Rink, N.Y.
Address: 600 5th Ave, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY 10020
Why You Should Skip It: Visiting Rockefeller Center often requires battling large crowds, especially during the Christmas season. Skating is often very crowded, and renting skating equipment can be confusing and chaotic. With so many people hoping to experience the Rockefeller ice rink and the surrounding attractions, it’s easy to get pushed around and have a miserable time.
Redeeming Factors: When you visit the Rockefeller Ice Rink, you’ll get to experience idyllic New York City Christmas. If you can look past the crowds, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into a movie as you glide around the track and look up at massive skyscrapers.
8. O.K. Corral, Arizona
Address: 326 E Allen St, Tombstone, AZ 85638
Why You Should Skip It: The O.K. Corral has sub-par acting for its wild west shootout experience. The show is geared more toward kid-friendly entertainment than a historical reenactment. One guest summed up their trip by saying, “We didn’t hate our experience, but we could have skipped it all the same.”
Redeeming Factors: Those who love westerns and can look past the overly dramatic wild west reenactment love the O.K. Corral. The location was the actual site of an 1882 gunfight that’s been the subject of numerous movies. You can even stand in the exact location where the famous gunfight took place.
Pro Tip: Often wrongfully overlooked, we recommend visiting these 10 Southwestern National Monuments at least once if your life →
9. Four Corners Monument, US Hwy 160, Arizona
Address: 597 NM-597, Teec Nos Pos, AZ 86514
Why You Should Skip It: Visiting the Four Corners Monument is a quick trip and costs $5 per person. There’s not much to see or do except take a picture. You’ll likely stand in a long line of others looking to do the same thing. One disappointed guest even describes the Four Corners Monument as “100% avoidable.”
Redeeming Factors: If you have “standing in four states at one time” on your bucket list, then this is a stop for you. It’s a great stop for those who just so happen to be traveling in the area. You can pull off for a quick stop to stretch your legs and take a picture.
10. Wall Drug, S.D.
Address: 510 Main St, Wall, SD 57790
Why You Should Skip It: Wall Drug is like someone walked into a Cracker Barrel and said, “I wonder what this place would look like if it were the size of an entire city block.” It’s a massive tourist trap with practically every item you can imagine and many you can’t imagine. With hundreds of billboards advertising Wall Drug, it piques your interest and practically forces you to stop. However, turning onto the main street to Wall Drug is enough for you to see that the store is nothing more than a tourist trap.
Redeeming Factors: The store is near Badlands National park. So a quick stop here for ice cream or other refreshments after visiting the park can be a great way to end your day. While it may not be a spot to spend an entire day or even a couple of hours, it can be a fantastic option for snacks and other treats.
Are Tourist Traps Always a Bad Idea?
Tourist traps can be a fun way to make some memories while on vacation or passing through town. If you go into one of these experiences with lower expectations, you can enjoy yourself. So while we aren’t suggesting that you never visit any of these activities, it’s wise to keep your expectations in check.
What’s your favorite tourist trap you’ve visited?