20 Popular U.S. Attractions That Travelers Say Disappoint & Underwhelm

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You hear the term “tourist trap” a lot, but what exactly does it mean? Typically, people think of tourist traps as establishments that have the sole purpose of attracting tourists and getting them to spend their money. Goods and services are usually overpriced, the quality of the experience is usually underwhelming, and crowds are common.

Many of these sites have become so synonymous with tourism that they’ve lost much of their original charm and authenticity, becoming mere shells of their historical or cultural significance. Travelers have noted that these places, while iconic, often fail to deliver experiences that justify the excessive costs and hassle. This list aims to highlight these tourist traps so you can make more informed decisions about where to invest your time and money when visiting America’s popular destinations. Let’s look at 20 of America’s most notorious tourist traps in the U.S.

Wall Drug, South Dakota

Wall Drug Store, South Dakota
Image Credit: Frank Romeo/Shutterstock

In the Midwest and the West, you’re likely to see billboards advertising Wall Drug and the free water you can get there. During the Depression Era, the original owners here offered free water to travelers as a way to get them to visit and spend money. Today, there’s still free water, but you’ll also find a ton of shops in an Old West setting.

Four Corners

Four Corners Monument tourist site
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At this spot on the Navajo Nation, you find the only place in the country where the borders of four states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) coincide. For $8, you can take a turn contorting your body to get part of it in each state for a photo-op. It’s probably more fun watching people do this than actually doing it. Oh, and the place is infamous for really long lines. There’s also no shade, so in the summer time, those lines seem even longer!

The Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles

Hollywood Walk of Fame
Image Credit: Heather Schor/Shutterstock

This Los Angeles site gets more than 10,000,000 visitors a year, so it’s almost always crowded. It isn’t even in a nice part of the city unless you’re into car dealerships and abandoned buildings. At least it doesn’t cost you anything to visit the site.

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco
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You can still have a great time here, but it long ago stopped being a place to find an authentic San Francisco experience. It’s often really crowded, overly expensive, and heavily touristy. The sea lions at Pier 39 are cool to watch, though.

Lombard Street, San Francisco

Lombard Street– San Francisco, California
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This doesn’t have the prices and the tacky souvenir shops of Fisherman’s Wharf, but it does have crowds, and the place isn’t designed to handle crowds. The hype is about a one-block section of the street that’s so steep that it has eight hairpin turns. Congestion has gotten so bad that locals want to impose fees to reduce visitation.

South of the Border, South Carolina

South of the Border, South Carolina
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This is another place where you’ll see billboard signs from afar. It’s basically a gigantic Mexico-themed rest stop where you can waste a lot of money. There’s not even any authentic connection to Mexico; the name doubles as a nod to being just south of the North Carolina border.

The Original Starbucks, Seattle

The Original Starbucks, Seattle
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Are the ridiculously long lines because there’s something extra special about the coffee here? No, it’s just because it’s the original Starbucks, and a lot of people are willing to wait in line for a really long time to get the same products they’d get at any other Starbucks.

Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts

The famous Plymouth Rock
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The good news is that all it will cost you to see the place the Pilgrims landed is the gas you’ll use to get to and from the site. It’s one of the most underwhelming famous sites ever, though. All it is is a boulder, and not a very interesting one at that.

Southernmost Point, Key West

Southernmost Point, Key West
Image Credit: Michael Gordon/Shutterstock

Put this down as another underwhelming destination. It’s just a concrete buoy at an ocean overlook. It won’t cost you anything but time to get your photo-op here, but you can spend way too much in town.

The Alamo, San Antonio

The Alamo
Image Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

For starters, it’s not even the original Spanish mission, most of which was destroyed during the famous siege. It’s also much smaller than people expect it to be, and it seems even smaller thanks to the tall buildings around it. There’s little sense of real history left here, but there are plenty of tacky souvenirs for sale that can help you pretend.

Times Square, New York

Famous Times Square landmark in New York
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At times, it can be so crowded that you can barely move or even breathe. Everything’s outrageously expensive. Most of the locals hate the place and try to avoid it, which tells you plenty.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Bourbon Street– New Orleans, Louisiana
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Okay, no one’s going to say Bourbon Street isn’t fun, and you can hear very good local bands here. But it’s still a tourist trap with the crowds and all the overpriced food, drinks, and shops.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
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It’s just a massive sculpture that you pay to get close to so you can take a picture. Some think it’s one of the greatest acts of vandalism ever. Tip: There are places nearby with views of it, so you can check it off your list while skipping the crowds and the fees.

Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue, Nashville

nathan bedford forrest statue
Image Credit: Brent Moore, CC BY 2.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The subject of Confederate monuments that have been around a long time gets heated, and we’re not touching that here. But this monument was unveiled in 1998 for some unfathomable region. Many locals see it as a racist reminder of the Confederacy erected for no good reason other than to offend, especially since its creator is a white supremacist. And the statue isn’t even good; Forrest has a comical expression on his face!

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, Delaware

The boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Image Credit: Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Once upon a time, this was a quiet place where locals could take a peaceful stroll. Now it’s packed with tourists and overpriced shops, restaurants, and attractions. Most locals detest the place now.

International UFO Museum & Research Center, Roswell

International UFO Museum & Research Center, Roswell
Image Credit: Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

True believers and conspiracy theorists might like this place in New Mexico, but it’s hard for anyone else to take it seriously. If you go there expecting entertainment rather than education, maybe it won’t be so bad.

The Space Needle, Seattle

The Space Needle
Image Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Sure, it looks neat, and you get 360-degree views of the city from 600’ up, but there’s little to help you know what you’re looking at or what’s special about where you are. Plus, the wait can be long, taking the elevator up and down, and the tickets are steep.

Niagara Falls, New York

Niagara falls
Image Credit: Jam Norasett/Shutterstock

This one’s such a shame since the falls really are incredible to behold. The problem is everything else: super-crowded, expensive, touristy, and commercialized.

Salem Witchcraft Museum

Salem Witchcraft Museum
Image Credit: CiEll/Shutterstock

Unless you’re really into the occult, this place isn’t likely to cast much of a spell on you. Many visitors find it short on meaningful history and education and long on gimmicky things about magic and witchcraft.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu
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This iconic beach is amazing when it’s empty. But that’s the problem: it’s almost never empty, and instead, it’s usually massively crowded. Have fun finding a spot to set up without being right next to other people. You can find a lot of better beach experiences in Hawaii.

15 Fascinating Facts About Famous Landmarks Hardly Anyone Knows

man at great wall of china -
Image Credit: Denise Andersen/Shutterstock

There are countless iconic landmarks that dot the globe, each with its own unique story and significance. However, even the most famous of these landmarks harbor secrets and fascinating facts that are often overlooked. These 15 fascinating facts remind us that there’s always more to discover about the world’s most famous landmarks, no matter how well-known they may seem.

No Passport, No Problem: You Don’t Need One to Vacation in These Countries

woman backpacker tourist
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

If you’re an American citizen traveling out of the country, you have to have a passport to be allowed into somewhere else, right? While that’s mostly true, there are some exceptions. Some are independent countries, while others are U.S. territories that largely operate independently.

Note: Before you visit any of these places, make sure you look into what the entry requirements are. For example, you may need an enhanced ID or proof of certain vaccinations.

No Passport, No Problem: You Don’t Need One to Vacation in These Countries

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Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.