The 15 Biggest Tourist Traps in Texas if You Love a Good Letdown

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Texas is a really big state, which means it has a lot of room for tourist traps, and they’re out there for sure. Some of them are still worth visiting for their historical or cultural significance or because they’re just plain fun.

We chose these spots because they’re popular destinations that often spark mixed reviews. Some folks love them for their unique charm and significance, while others feel they’re overrated, overcrowded, or overpriced. Whether you’re looking to visit for the novelty or hoping to steer clear, here’s the scoop on these well-known Texas attractions. Still, if tourist traps are things you try your best to avoid, you might find this list of the biggest tourist traps in Texas quite useful!

1. The San Antonio River Walk

The San Antonio River Walk
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When USA Today ran a feature on the world’s biggest and most overrated tourist trap, the famed River Walk came in at #46. It’s a pretty place, but it’s crowded and expensive. Strolling with a margarita to-go is nice, but there aren’t any public restrooms, so when you have to go to the bathroom after a bit, you have to hold it or pay for service in another restaurant.

2. The Alamo– San Antonio

The Alamo
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The Alamo took #48 in that same feature. When the Mexican army won the battle there and killed all but one of the Texans there, they also destroyed most of the original mission. They did make repairs, and later, there was a restoration, but not being able to see the original is a letdown. So are all the crowds and the tacky souvenirs.

3. SeaWorld– San Antonio

Seaworld in San Antonio
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In addition to its live animals, which include stingrays that you can pet, SeaWorld has become an amusement park with roller coasters, water slides, and more. They’re fun, but they also draw hordes of people, which has made it a tourist trap.

4. Johnson Space Center– Houston

Johnson Space Center In Houston, Texas, USA
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This was the third and final Texas entry on the USA Today list, and it was #88. Actually, this NASA site is a fascinating, historical place. Unfortunately, it’s become really crowded and has gift shops with all kinds of overpriced junk marketed as souvenirs.

5. State Fair of Texas– Dallas

State Fair of Texas– Dallas
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For a lot of people, this place is just too much with too much going on. Not only is this the largest fair in the state, it’s the largest state fair in the country. A better way to experience authentic Texas culture is to attend a small-town rodeo.

6. Marfa Lights

Marfa Lights
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The famous and mysterious Marfa lights have spawned all kinds of theories as to their origins, with the most common being UFOs and ghosts. It can be a neat experience, but it’s not really worth the long drive unless you’re visiting the area for other reasons, too.

7. Buc-ees– All Over

Buc-ee's gas station
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Some Texans bristle at people calling this franchise a tourist trap, but let’s be real. Eash Buc-ees is a gigantic gas station with a gigantic store with a huge selection of beef jerky, candy, and other goods. They have freshly cooked barbecue, and it’s actually pretty good, but still. Parking is a nightmare; each unit is completely commercialized, and you see highway billboards counting down the distance to the nearest one. It’s a tourist trap, even if it’s fun.

8. The Big Texas Steak Ranch– Amarillo

Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo
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This is the place where you can get a 72-ounce steak for free. There’s a catch, though: you have to finish it in an hour, along with all the sides. Many have tried, few have succeeded, and many from both groups have vomited their meal back up. It’s really a pretty gross thing when you think about it.

9. The Houston Aquarium

Downtown Aquarium in Houston
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Locals say that about all there is to this aquarium is a big fish tank, some sad-looking captive big cats, and a big fish tank. They’ll tell you to go to the Galveston or Corpus Christi aquarium instead.

10. Franklin Barbecue– Austin

franklin barbecue in austin texas
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The barbecue here is fantastic; in fact, this joint regularly tops lists of the best barbecue in Texas. Its fame has made it a tourist trap, though. People will line up for hours before it opens, and some have waited as long as 4 ½ hours. Can any barbecue be that good?

11. Galveston Island

Galveston beach in Houston
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For whatever reason, Galveston Beach accumulates big piles of stinky seaweed rotting in the sun, making the beach ugly and gross. It’s also very crowded. Try Padre Island instead; there’s a lot of pristine beach there, and you can drive for miles and miles to get away from crowds.

12. Comal River– New Braunfels

Comal River at Landa Park
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Central Texans love their rivers; they’re a wonderful respite from summers that sometimes seem endless and Inferno-esque. The Comal gets incredibly jammed with waders and tubers, though, many of whom are drunk and obnoxious. You’ll find a better experience on the nearby Guadalupe River.

13. Congress Avenue Bridge– Austin

Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas
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In the summer, millions of bats that nest beneath the bridge swarm out at dusk in search of food. It’s free to attend, which is nice, but that also attracts the hordes. Visiting Bracken Cave on the outskirts of San Antonio involves more red tape, but the setting is wild and intimate, and you’ll behold raw nature as the bats emerge while hawks dive for them and snakes lie in wait to catch those that get too close to the ground.

14. Cadillac Ranch– Amarillo

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo
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This work of “art” consists of several vintage Cadillacs buried nose-first into the ground. Visitors can pick up cans of spray paint and add their own designs. It’s free, so you’re not out any money, but it’s pretty underwhelming, especially if you’re a fan of Bruce Springsteen’s site-glorifying song “Cadillac Ranch.” If you want a real art scene, try Marfa, which also gives you an excuse to see the Marfa lights.

15. “I Love You So Much” Mural– Austin

“I Love You So Much” Mural in Austin
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Talk about underwhelming– this famous spot is really just a scribble on a wall. The “Greetings from Austin” is much more colorful and has great graphics.

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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.