It’s easy to be excited about a place you have never visited before. But it’s also very easy to be misled about how cool or worthy of your time and money it is. A quick Google search usually suggests the most popular sites. Unfortunately, they can actually be the ones you want to avoid. The reality is that many locations simply don’t live up to the hype.
1. ALABAMA: Ave Maria Grotto
Built out of cement and trash by a Benedictine monk, Brother Joseph, the Ave Maria Grotto is four acres of tiny holy places, religious statues and grottos. A miniature city that attracts religious devotees but might underwhelm the rest of the family.
After taking some photos, there’s nothing else to do unless your group is into this and won’t mind staying and praying. Not the regular tourist.
2. ALASKA: The North Pole
If you go to Alaska, there are better experiences and much better places to see in this wild, still-untamed last frontier than a fake Christmas village.
The North Pole is one of those places that you easily identify as a blatant tourist trap. There’s not much to recommend it. It’s freezing in the winter and buzzing with mosquitoes in summer.
3. ARIZONA: The Four Corners
The four corners belong to New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona, and it’s cool to stand in four states at the same time, but that’s really all of it.
It’s still a desert and you’d be in the middle of nowhere, far away from any air conditioning aside from the one struggling against the Arizona heat in your car. The disc itself is also said to be 1800 feet away from the actual intersection of the four states!
4. ARKANSAS: Crater of Diamonds State Park
The only source of natural diamonds in the US that’s open to the public– nice! Who wouldn’t want to take a spade and take your chances? Well, you wouldn’t.
It’s been open since 1906, so if you don’t have mining equipment to go down there, your chances are really, really tiny. It could be a fun activity for friends, but this plain field of dirt needs way more for real fun to be had.
5. CALIFORNIA: Hollywood Walk of Fame
Say you’re going to California and people will say, “Hollywood Walk of Fame.” But California isn’t just Hollywood, and the Walk of Fame is something locals avoid.
It’s full of tacky street performers, clueless tourists, and it’s got nothing else there to be worth jostling with the crowd in that dirty street.
6. COLORADO: Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum
If you like cowboys, this might be a requisite pitstop for you. Buffalo Bill is one of the most famous cowboys ever, but his grave is still a grave. It’s pretty much akin to going to Graceland for Elvis’s house. It’s a house.
This one’s a memorial, and while they have a museum, that institution was built in 1921 and nothing has been added since.
7. CONNECTICUT: Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Store
Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Store is little more than an overhyped flea market. Wild Bill is the giant jack in the box said to be terrifying to kids (and some adults). Today’s kids might not be impressed at all.
Still want to join the hordes from all over the country who stop here? You’re in for a cabinet of curiosities… and not much else. It might be thrilling for collectors and enthusiasts. Might.
8. DELAWARE: Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
The overrating is going down in this case. In fact, the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk has a lot of complaints about the inflated prices of the tourist souvenirs sold there.
It’s still overcrowded, and spotting a mermaid sunning itself on the Rehoboth Beach is more possible than spotting a parking space. A lot more trouble for a boardwalk rated extremely average.
9. FLORIDA: Epcot
The most underwhelming of the Disney parks in Buena Vista. Even the rides disappoint kids! The exhibits of each country are little more than stereotypes of each culture instead of something that will truly make you feel like you’ve gone around the world.
They sell drinks so adults can have a merry trip around the world, at inflated prices per glass, of course.
10. GEORGIA: World of Coca-Cola
Millions of people come from all over the world to visit this huge tourist attraction in the middle of historical Atlanta to take pictures with that famous and funny Coca-Cola bear. Wouldn’t say no that.
You also get to see the company’s history and taste its other drinks. Unlike other tourist traps with ridiculous prices, tickets here aren’t bad at $17 and $13 for adults and children. Still, it’s like Disneyland with all the crowds and long lines. Not for kids who won’t have Disneyland’s magic to soothe their boredom.
11. HAWAII: Waikiki Beach
Waikiki is an overcrowded beach where the tourist guests from the luxury hotels spill out. It’s surrounded by expensive stores and chain restaurants that just made this beach look like the rest of the US.
Because it’s too urbanized, it’s definitely overrated and overpriced, and if you go down the less beaten path, you have plenty of choices in less crowded beaches that represent Hawaii’s beauty better.
12. IDAHO: Craters of the Moon
It’s really just a barren landscape of volcanic rock. Maybe you can do a unique photoshoot with the family, or a prenuptial! Other than that, it’s interesting for about ten minutes.
You may need an RV to soak in this landscape if you’re into that sort of thing. A book, a TV or a game would help pass the time. If you expect a surreal, alien landscape, you might be disappointed.
13. ILLINOIS: Chicago’s Magnificent Mile
You really won’t detect what’s so magnificent about the Magnificent Mile. It’s a mile-long street. It’s got trees. It’s got stores. A few restaurants. Hotels. But nothing much beyond that.
If you go there with a dog, the dog might enjoy it. But it’s really no different from any other mile in other cities. Nice lesson for tourism marketing, however.
14. INDIANA: NCAA Hall of Champions
At present, the NCAA Hall of Champions is in serious need of a revamp, and perhaps an injection of more memorabilia while they’re at it. Let’s hope they get funding for that to better represent the history of NCAA.
As it is, even for NCAA fans, it’s completely underwhelming, and you can go around all the exhibits in less than half an hour.
15. IOWA: Captain James T. Kirk’s Future Birthplace
That’s really it. A gravemarker-like monument saying it’s Captain James Kirk’s future birthplace in the year 2228. Trekkies all over the world make the trek to Riverside just for this photo. But while it might be iconic, it’s really not.
True-blood fans of the series know that the Riverside mayor made this up. He read a “making of” feature, learned that Captain Kirk is born in a small town in Iowa, and decided it’s Riverside.
16. KANSAS: The World’s Largest Ball of Twine
It’s large, sure. But it’s a ball of twine. This kitschy tourist attraction is a huge ball of sisal twine, measuring 41 feet in circumference, over 10 feet high, and weighing over 19,000 pounds.
It’s still growing. If this is your thing, the ball of twine Weird Al Yankovic sang about is in Minnesota, as in “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.”
17. KENTUCKY: Ark Encounter
A Biblical theme park isn’t that bad, but the ticket prices make this a tourist trap. It opened in 2016, and the centerpiece is a representation of the most famous Old Testament story: Noah’s Ark.
The ark is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. The park also has a zip-line. It’s $50, separate from the tickets, which are priced steeply at $40 and $28 for adults and kids.
18. LOUISIANA: Bourbon Street
New Orleans has a lot more to offer than what’s in Bourbon Street. It’s what you see in movies and shows, but it’s really been ruined by touristy gimmicks of neon signs to tacky barks and crowds of people, many of them drunk and disorderly.
Do you want culture? Go to a jazz club where you can have a lovely drink while soaking in the real New Orleans.
19. MAINE: The Desert of Maine
30,000 tourists every year — that’s impressive for a spot dotted with plaster camels and selling sand-related souvenirs. Not really a desert, but a clearing of glacial silt surrounded by Maine’s ubiquitous pine trees.
It’s a nice natural phenomenon, if not for the tacky decorations. It’s a case of the touristy touches ruining an otherwise good spot. They need someone with better sense to revamp the place.
20. MARYLAND: Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! “museums” can be really entertaining– but they’re already in several cities in the US. In Baltimore, it’s a waste to go there when you have history and culture all around you.
It’s an odd choice to go to Ripley’s and their replicas and gimmicks instead of seeing the art and history of Baltimore. If you have more time, sure. Otherwise, it’s overrated.
21. MASSACHUSETTS: Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market
Faneuil Hall opened in 1743 and nearby Quincy Market is a historic market complex, dating back to 1824. But you won’t feel the history much as you jostle with hordes of tourists being taken in by the tacky souvenirs.
It’s little more than a glorified food court now, with sadly mediocre food. Locals avoid it. If you want history, there’s plenty in Boston. Elsewhere.
22. MICHIGAN: Mystery Spot
Not so much a mystery spot as a tacky tourist spot full of gimmicks and advertised by a ton of billboards. There’s a zipline, a maze, and mini-golf, and the “mystery” of the spot of course: crooked shocks that trick tourists (mostly kids) to think the spot is supposed to be gravity-defying. Too touristy, and too tacky.
23. MINNESOTA: Mall of America
The Mall of America is HUGE. It all seems unnecessary acreage though. To give you perspective, it can fit nine Yankee Stadiums inside it. It’s got a theme park, a mini-golf course, a zipline, and 520 stores.
You’ll get your 10,000 steps in there, no problem, and you might enjoy it if you don’t mind the crowd. It might be the largest mall in America, but it’s still a mall.
24. MISSISSIPPI: Birthplace of Elvis
Perhaps it’s a pitstop on a tour of Elvis? It IS listed in the Mississippi Blues Trail. Located in Tupelo, it’s a museum site comprised of the two-room cottage where Elvis Presley was born, a chapel, and the Assembly of God Church building where Elvis and his family worshipped.
They soon left that house due to lack of payment. Certainly skippable.
25. MISSOURI: Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail and Museum
Why would you go visit a pile of nuclear waste? It’s a huge mound of rocks covering up TNT, asbestos, mercury, radium, and radioactive uranium. The spot used to be where the countries largest explosives factory used to stand, and it turned into a uranium-ore processing plant, operational until 1966.
After being abandoned for two decades, The US Department of Energy covered it with rocks and added a museum. That’s all this is.
26. MONTANA: 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar
50,000 silver dollars on the wall– that’s what this Montana attraction has to pull in curious tourists and coin collectors. It’s more of a huge gift shop than a bar. It does have a bar in the back, and it does have one of the largest coin collections in America.
To cater to the tourists, it’s also an inn with plenty of RV parking, corrals for horses and a casino to boot.
27. NEBRASKA: Carhenge
39 cars stacked to resemble Stonehenge. It seems almost too silly to be true, but this quirky roadside attraction continues to attract tourists. The cars are vintage, painted gray.
They include an ambulance, a Cadillac, a pick-up truck. It was built in 1987 by Jim Reinders in memory of his father. He intentionally mimicked the current dilapidated state of Stonehenge.
28. NEVADA: The Venetian Gondolas
Las Vegas is by itself a huge tourist city, with all the casinos, hotels, and restaurants vying for your attention with a blinding array of engineered lighting. You go to Las Vegas to have fun, and you go get it however you want it!
Our advice, if you’ll take it? Avoid the gondolas. It’s $116 for a ride through a mall, in artificial water reeking of chlorine. It’s not romantic.
29. NEW HAMPSHIRE: Clark’s Trading Post
Here’s a case of locals loving the place more than tourists do, and where you definitely should do as the locals do. Locals love the Trading Post, and they’ve been coming to it for years for the nostalgia.
The attractions, which include trained bears, a steam train, bumper boats, and Segways, are lackluster for tourists. Aside from that, people no longer like to patronize shows of trained animals.
30. NEW JERSEY: Atlantic City Boardwalk
Atlantic City’s golden days are just memories now. People who go there are usually older people who remember it fondly in its heyday and has a sense of loyalty to it the way we all hold certain places of our youth.
Now Atlantic City is just that other Vegas, but not Vegas. Casinos are gaudy, souvenirs are tacky, the Boardwalk can get filthy.
31. NEW MEXICO: Roswell
That Riverside mayor who invented Kirk’s birthplace had nothing on Roswell. The entire town decided to hone in on its reputation as the alleged site of alien crash landing in 1947 and built an entire tourism industry around it.
It’s like visiting a town-wide theme party. Everything’s a UFO or an alien, but everything’s low-budget. Alien toys everywhere. A little creepy. Definitely not worth it.
32. NEW YORK: Times Square
There’s really nothing to Times Square except the iconic and recognizable street lined with those giant screens. New York locals avoid it. It’s overcrowded with tourists, and predictably, it’s full of expensive tourist souvenirs and recognizable chain restaurants you can also find anywhere else less crowded and deafening!
New York City has so much more to offer and you can do just perfectly skipping Times Square.
33. NORTH CAROLINA: The Blowing Rock
The Blowing Rock is in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The views are breathtaking. It’s a scenic drive and absolutely gorgeous hikes you’ll love to do again and again.
The Blowing Rock is also beautiful with its rock formation and stunning vista, but it charges $10 per person, a blatant tourist trap, and something you can skip paying since you can see the same views in the nearby parks for free!
34. NORTH DAKOTA: The Enchanted Highway
It’s 32 miles in the southern North Dakota highway lined with giant scrap metal sculptures. You’ll see giant birds, giant grasshoppers, schools of fish, towering humans, and a giant eye made scrap metal (weird, we know).
It would be nice if more major highways also had things like this to make the road interesting. Nice use of scrap metal, too. But it’s nothing to drive out of the way for.
35. OHIO: “A Christmas Story” House
This is the restored Victorian house where the movie, A Christmas Story, was set. Unless you’re a huge fan of the movie, waiting in line and paying to see this house and the exhibits of the movie are thinks you can miss without regret, especially during the holidays when you can do something so much better.
There’s a gift shop if you left it until late, with mostly Christmas Story items and some other choices.
36. OKLAHOMA: J. M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum
It’s a glorified gun museum. Guns. You like guns, you might like what you see here. It’s got 50,000 artifacts, a majority of it firearms from a private collection that dates back to the 14th century. J.M Davis liked guns.
But it’s underwhelming if you’re not into firearms, especially when history in the West is so much more than guns.
37. OREGON: Undersea Gardens
This one’s a really bad tourist trap where you pay to submerge yourself under murky water to watch divers swim around. It’s dirty and you might see fish if you’re lucky.
Not worth the cost and the 30 minutes you lost for that gimmicky non-show. Quite a bad deal especially when you discover you can see lions around there, above the surface, without having to pay anything!
38. PENNSYLVANIA: The Liberty Bell
The historical Liberty Bell is one of the iconic symbols of American independence. American children learn about it at school, and now people all over the world know about it, thanks to the National Treasure movie starring Nicholas Cage.
Predictably, this increased the tourist crowd you’d have to wade through to see the Liberty Bell, which makes it a miss on your tour.
39. RHODE ISLAND: Mysterious Viking Tower
What’s the mystery? No one knows who built this tower in the middle of Newport. Legend says it’s the Vikings, which would make the Mysterious Viking Tower one of the oldest buildings in America.
Of course, speculations include contradictions to that theory. But all that wonder gets old pretty fast, and it’s just really a little tower not worth visiting.
40. SOUTH CAROLINA: South of the Border
South of the Border, unlike the Four Corners, is just a play of words on the border between North and South Carolina. Nothing like four states intersecting. The place sits right below the border, so it’s South of the Border!
Unlike the Four Corners, it’s quite accurate in its location. But it’s still really just a restaurant and large gift shop, and it’s intentionally tacky and touristy.
41. SOUTH DAKOTA: Wall Drug
South Dakota is teeming with advertisements trying to reel in road trippers and tourists to Wall Drug. The billboards are everywhere in the state. The marketing works because the attraction rakes in a cool $10 million every year. Wall Drug is a drugstore turned into a mall that became famous for giving away free ice water back in 1931.
They don’t charge for their attractions like the snake pit and the giant roadside sculptures. They earn enough from the tourists who spend money on the goods.
42. TENNESSEE: Graceland
The King is still King and still beloved by many, so Graceland, his mansion, is a tourist destination when people find themselves in Tennessee. But while the grounds are beautiful, it’s nothing spectacular, and the prices charged for the entrance and tour is something only die-hard Elvis fans would be happy to pay without regret afterward.
Quite dull for regular tourists, and if mansions are your thing, there are definitely better.
43. TEXAS: The Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo
Texans go big, and they certainly pull all the stops in the Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo. This place can catch your attention down the street and it’s absolutely spilling with Texan decor. Taxidermy all over the walls, everything that was supposed to be in the Wild West is here, in the restaurant and in the gift shop.
The food is mediocre. The steaks are tough and dry. “The Republic is invited” but you don’t have to come.
44. UTAH: Moqui Cave
First of all, it’s not a cave. The “cave” was caused by erosion. Second of all, it’s not the ancient landmark it’s touted to be. It wasn’t built or used by Native Americans.
Even if you don’t mind that outright ruse, going there is a waste of time. Visitors have said it’s just a glorified gift shop, and certainly not one you’d be happy to spend your money on.
45. VERMONT: Rock of Ages
“Rock of Ages” sounds awesome. Either something like the Grand Canyon or Ayers Rock in Australia, or maybe a concert with all the big names of rock. You get goosebumps just thinking about it. But the actual Rock of Ages in Vermont is an old granite quarry.
It’s now filled with natural pools and it’s interesting for 10 minutes. It’s no Grand Canyon, and the overpriced granite items in the gift shop aren’t worth all that.
46. VIRGINIA: Foamhenge
Everyone except the British are strongly fascinated about the mysterious Stonehenge, resulting in so many replicas around the world. Two are in this list alone. And this one is full-scale, made of foam.
It opened in April Fool’s Day in 2004, conceived and built by artist Mark Cline. It was already dismantled in 2016– but only for relocation. It’s still standing in Centreville, Virginia.
47. WASHINGTON: Gum Wall
In 2000, people started the tradition of sticking their chewed gum on the Market Theater wall an alleyway in Post Alley under Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It became a local landmark and the gum additions continued for 15 years.
In 2015, the city removed all that gunk to preserve the brick, but the gum came back shortly after, and only four years on, it’s regaining its glut of chewed gum.
48. WEST VIRGINIA: The Congressional Bunker
Skip paying the $34 ticket price and just get the tour from online photos. The Congressional Bunker in the Greenbrier, a luxury resort. No one was supposed to know about the bunkers, and it was codenamed Project Greek Island. But someone spilled the beans.
The Bunker is just that: white cinderblock walls, wooden bunk beds, canned food. Not worth the money and the 90 minutes you’d lose walking through the tour.
49. WISCONSIN: Mars Cheese Castle
Wisconsin cheese is awesome cheese. Anything cheese is wonderful. But the Mars Cheese Castle isn’t. It’s huge and eye-catching along the I-94. It makes you want to steer the car towards it. After all, it used to be a gas station, which burned down in 1957.
Since then, the Mars Cheese Castle transformed into the most visible cheese store in the state. Locals and tourists both love it.
50. WYOMING: Frontier Prison
They let you take a seat in the gas chamber. The walk along the halls is creepy. The Old Wyoming State Penitentiary was in use for eighty years, from 1901 to 1981, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s got a dark history of torture, and everyone in the family can enjoy the interactive tour, until your kids torture you at home with nightmares.