Prepare to uncover the curtain behind some of America’s most celebrated tourist attractions in our exploration of the “Save Your Money” list. We’ll expose the 30 most overhyped destinations that might leave you feeling underwhelmed.
While many landmarks and sites across the United States draw millions of eager visitors yearly, not all live up to the hype.
From iconic landmarks with exorbitant admission fees to attractions oversaturated with crowds and commercialization, this list sheds light on the less glamorous side of popular tourism, offering a revealing glimpse into what awaits travelers beyond the glossy brochures and Instagram filters.
Keep reading to discover which overhyped spots might not be worth your valuable time and hard-earned money.
Plymouth Rock – Plymouth, Massachusetts
Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts is a classic example of a tourist trap, steeped in American history yet often underwhelming in reality.
This famed site, purportedly the landing place of the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620, draws visitors with its symbolic significance in American lore.
However, many are surprised to find that the rock itself is rather small and unimposing, enclosed in a portico that seems disproportionate to its size.
While it holds a place in history, the actual experience of visiting Plymouth Rock can be anticlimactic, offering more in historical symbolism than in visual or educational impact, making it a magnet for those drawn to iconic yet simplistic historical landmarks.
International UFO Museum and Research Center – Roswell, New Mexico
The International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico, is a magnet for UFO enthusiasts and curiosity-seekers alike, but it often exhibits traits of a tourist trap.
The museum is centered around the infamous 1947 Roswell UFO incident, offering exhibits, documents, and eyewitness accounts related to UFO sightings and extraterrestrial encounters. However, some visitors find it to be more of an entertainment venue than a serious research center.
The museum’s focus on sensationalism and the commercialization of UFO-related merchandise can overshadow its potential for in-depth scientific exploration.
Despite this, the museum remains an entertaining and quirky stop for those interested in UFO lore and conspiracy theories, offering a blend of fact and speculation that keeps visitors intrigued.
Salem Witch Museum – Salem, Massachusetts
The Salem Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is a quintessential tourist trap, steeped in the macabre allure of the 1692 witch trials. It capitalizes on the town’s notorious history, offering dramatized experiences that often prioritize sensationalism over historical accuracy.
Visitors are drawn to its eerie reenactments and exhibits, which simplify the complex socio-political factors of the trials into a spectacle.
While it provides an engaging overview, the museum tends to overshadow the deeper, more educational aspects of Salem’s history, making it a magnet for those seeking a superficial brush with the town’s dark past.
Times Square – Manhattan, New York
Times Square in Manhattan, New York, epitomizes the concept of a tourist trap with its dazzling array of neon lights and towering billboards.
This iconic crossroads is a whirlwind of sensory overload, drawing visitors with its promise of quintessential New York energy.
However, beneath its glittering surface, Times Square is often criticized for its commercialization, crowded streets, overpriced stores, and array of gimmicky attractions.
While it offers the excitement of big-city life and is a must-see for first-time visitors, it largely misses the authentic cultural and historical essence of New York, catering more to fleeting thrills than to meaningful urban experiences.
The Original Starbucks – Seattle, Washington
The Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, stands as a classic tourist trap, drawing crowds with its title as the birthplace of the now-global coffee empire.
Nestled in the historic Pike Place Market, this store lures visitors with the allure of sipping coffee from the very first Starbucks.
However, the experience is often more about the novelty than the coffee itself. The shop, while maintaining some historical charm, is typically packed with tourists, leading to long lines and a bustling, less-than-relaxing atmosphere.
It’s a pilgrimage site for Starbucks enthusiasts, but for those seeking a unique or superior coffee experience, it may fall short of expectations, leaning heavily on its symbolic status rather than offering something truly distinct.
The Alamo – San Antonio, Texas
The Alamo in Texas is an iconic historical site, often regarded as a tourist trap due to its fame and the expectations it sets. Known for the pivotal 1836 battle during the Texas Revolution, it attracts millions with its legendary status.
However, visitors sometimes find the reality falls short of their imagination. The Alamo’s actual structure is smaller than many expect, and its urban setting in downtown San Antonio can be jarring, surrounded by modern buildings and bustling city life.
While rich in historical significance, the site often leans more towards commercial tourism, with numerous souvenir shops and tourist-centric attractions nearby, potentially overshadowing its profound historical essence.
Hollywood Walk of Fame – Los Angeles, California
The Hollywood Walk of Fame in California is a renowned tourist magnet, famed for its star-studded sidewalks that celebrate the luminaries of the entertainment industry.
However, it epitomizes the essence of a tourist trap. Visitors flock to this iconic boulevard, often with high expectations of glamour and celebrity.
In reality, they encounter a crowded, urban stretch lined with souvenir shops and street performers, where the glitz of Hollywood feels overshadowed by commercialism and the hustle of everyday city life.
While it offers the thrill of seeing famous names underfoot, the Walk of Fame can be underwhelming, lacking the expected Hollywood magic and offering a more commercialized, less authentic experience.
Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco, California
Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California, is often labeled a tourist trap, attracting visitors with its picturesque waterfront and promise of a quintessential San Francisco experience.
Known for its bustling seafood markets, souvenir shops, and scenic views of the bay, including Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, the area is a magnet for those seeking the postcard-perfect side of the city.
However, it’s criticized for its commercialization and inflated prices, often offering a less authentic experience of San Francisco’s rich cultural and culinary diversity.
While it provides entertainment and iconic sights, Fisherman’s Wharf tends to cater more to transient tourist tastes rather than offering a genuine local experience.
Four Corners Monument – Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico
The Four Corners Monument, where Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico converge, is a unique tourist trap, celebrated as the only point in the United States where four states intersect.
This singular geographical quirk draws visitors keen on the novelty of being in four states simultaneously.
However, the actual site, managed by the Navajo Nation, often disappoints tourists expecting more than a simple, remote monument in a desert landscape. With minimal attractions beyond the marker itself and surrounded by modest vendor stalls, the experience can feel underwhelming, especially considering the long distances many travel to reach it.
While it holds a certain charm for those seeking quirky geographical landmarks, Four Corners Monument is more about checking a box than providing a rich, engaging experience.
Navy Pier – Chicago, Illinois
Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, is often regarded as a tourist trap, attracting visitors with its festive atmosphere and picturesque location on Lake Michigan.
Known for its iconic Ferris wheel, amusement rides, and array of restaurants and shops, the pier is a hub of entertainment and leisure activities.
However, it’s frequently criticized for its commercialization and high prices, which can detract from the authentic Chicago experience.
While it offers stunning views of the city skyline and lake, and can be a delightful excursion for families and tourists, Navy Pier tends to cater more to mainstream tastes with its chain restaurants and souvenir shops, rather than showcasing the unique cultural and culinary richness of Chicago.
San Antonio Riverwalk – San Antonio, Texas
The San Antonio Riverwalk in Texas is a popular tourist destination, known for its charming canals, vibrant restaurants, and picturesque pathways. However, it also fits the mold of a tourist trap.
This bustling waterfront promenade, while scenic and lively, is often crowded and commercialized, with many establishments catering primarily to tourists. Prices at restaurants and shops along the Riverwalk can be inflated, and the experience might lack the authenticity of less tourist-centric areas of San Antonio.
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory – Waterbury, Vermont
The Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Vermont is a popular tourist destination, celebrated for its fun and flavorful tours showcasing the making of the famous ice cream. While it offers an enjoyable experience, especially for fans of the brand, it also bears characteristics of a tourist trap.
The factory draws visitors with its playful and colorful atmosphere, but some find the experience to be quite commercialized, with a strong focus on merchandise and product promotion.
The tours, though informative and entertaining, are often brief and can feel rushed due to the high volume of visitors.
Dole Plantation – Wahiawa, Hawaii
The Dole Plantation in Hawaii is a well-known tourist destination, famous for its sprawling pineapple fields and lush tropical setting. However, it also fits the description of a tourist trap.
Originally a fruit stand in the 1950s, it has evolved into a commercial attraction, complete with guided tours, a pineapple-themed garden maze, and a variety of pineapple-related products.
While it offers an enjoyable and family-friendly experience, some visitors find it overly commercialized, with a focus on souvenirs and merchandise rather than an authentic agricultural or cultural experience.
Winchester Mystery House – San Jose, California
The Winchester Mystery House in California is an intriguing tourist destination, famous for its bizarre architecture and the legends surrounding its creation.
Built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the firearm magnate, the house is a labyrinth of oddities with staircases leading nowhere, doors opening into walls, and windows overlooking other rooms.
While it offers a unique and mysterious exploration, it also has elements of a tourist trap. The allure of the house is based more on sensationalized tales of ghosts and curses than historical fact.
The tours, though entertaining, can sometimes emphasize these myths over the true story of Sarah Winchester and her architectural choices.
Crazy Horse Memorial – Crazy Horse, South Dakota
The Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, while a monument of great cultural significance, is often perceived as a tourist trap.
This colossal mountain carving, dedicated to the Lakota leader Crazy Horse, is intended to honor the heritage and traditions of North American Indigenous peoples. However, its construction has been ongoing since 1948, and visitors sometimes find that the incomplete and slow-progressing nature of the monument doesn’t match their expectations.
The site includes a visitor center, museums, and gift shops, which some criticize for commercializing Native American culture.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland – Memphis, Tennessee
Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Tennessee is a pilgrimage site for fans of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, yet it also embodies elements of a tourist trap.
This iconic mansion, the former home of Elvis Presley, draws visitors with its promise of an intimate glimpse into the private life of the music legend.
However, some guests find the experience to be highly commercialized. The tour, while rich in memorabilia and personal artifacts, is often crowded and can feel rushed.
The surrounding complex, with its multitude of souvenir shops, themed exhibits, and eateries, sometimes overshadows the more authentic and historical aspects of Elvis’s life and career.
National Aquarium – Baltimore, Maryland
The National Aquarium in Maryland is a renowned attraction, celebrated for its extensive and diverse marine life exhibits. However, like many popular destinations, it can exhibit traits of a tourist trap.
Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the aquarium attracts large crowds, leading to a busy and sometimes congested experience.
While it offers an impressive array of aquatic habitats and educational programs, visitors may find the ticket prices relatively high, which can be a common characteristic of tourist-centric attractions.
Space Needle – Seattle, Washington
The Space Needle in Washington is an iconic landmark of Seattle’s skyline, drawing visitors with its futuristic architecture and panoramic views. However, it also shares characteristics of a tourist trap.
The main allure is the observation deck, offering stunning vistas of the city, Puget Sound, and Mount Rainier. Yet, some visitors find the experience pricey, especially considering the cost for a relatively short visit.
The area around the Space Needle can be crowded and filled with souvenir shops and tourist-oriented eateries, which detracts from a more authentic Seattle experience.
The Bean (Cloud Gate)- Chicago, Illinois
The Bean, officially known as Cloud Gate, in Illinois is a famous sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park and a major tourist draw. Its reflective, bean-shaped design has become a symbol of the city, attracting visitors for photo opportunities and its unique interactive experience.
However, it also exhibits traits of a tourist trap. The area around The Bean is often crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons, which can detract from the enjoyment of the sculpture. Additionally, the surrounding area is filled with other tourist-oriented attractions and vendors.
Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Dollywood in Tennessee, the famed amusement park owned by country music legend Dolly Parton, is a blend of thrilling entertainment and cultural homage to the Smoky Mountains.
While it offers a unique mix of roller coasters, musical performances, and traditional crafts, it also has elements of a tourist trap. The park is often crowded, especially during peak seasons, and the prices for admission, food, and souvenirs can be high, typical of many popular tourist destinations.
Empire State Building – Manhattan, New York
The Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York, is an iconic skyscraper that beckons tourists from around the world with its promise of breathtaking city views and historic significance.
However, it often exhibits characteristics of a tourist trap. The observation decks, while offering stunning vistas, come with steep admission fees and long lines, especially during peak tourist seasons.
The building’s lobby and surrounding areas feature numerous souvenir shops and tourist-centric attractions, which can overshadow its architectural and historical significance.
Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota
The Corn Palace in South Dakota is a unique and quirky tourist attraction, known for its exterior adorned with intricate murals made entirely of corn and other grains.
While it offers a one-of-a-kind experience, it also embodies characteristics of a tourist trap. The murals, though impressive in their creativity, are redone annually, and some visitors may find the interior of the building rather plain in comparison to the colorful exterior.
The surrounding area includes souvenir shops and snack stands that cater to tourists, sometimes overshadowing the agricultural and cultural significance of the Corn Palace.
Hersheypark – Hershey, Pennsylvania
Hersheypark in Pennsylvania is a beloved amusement park that’s also known for some tourist trap elements.
While it provides a wide range of thrilling rides and attractions, it can get extremely crowded during peak seasons, resulting in long lines and wait times.
The park’s admission and food prices are relatively high, common among popular theme parks.
Additionally, Hersheypark is surrounded by Hershey’s Chocolate World, a massive chocolate-themed visitor center with various attractions and shops that heavily promote Hershey products. This commercial aspect can overshadow the park’s original charm and theme.
Southernmost Point – Key West, Florida
The Southernmost Point in Key West, Florida, is a popular tourist attraction celebrated for its claim as the southernmost point in the continental United States. However, it often embodies characteristics of a tourist trap.
The large painted buoy marking the spot is frequently crowded with tourists waiting for photos, leading to long lines and congestion. Nearby vendors sell various souvenirs and knick-knacks catering to tourists, which can overshadow the true geographical significance of the location.
Mount Rushmore – Keystone, South Dakota
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota is an iconic American monument, known for its massive carved faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. However, it also exhibits some characteristics of a tourist trap.
The site attracts large crowds of visitors, especially during the summer months, resulting in congestion and long waits for parking and viewing.
While the monument itself is impressive, the surrounding area has numerous tourist-oriented attractions, including shops and museums, which can sometimes overshadow the historical and cultural significance of the sculptures.
Preservation Hall – New Orleans, Louisiana
Preservation Hall in New Orleans, Louisiana, is a renowned venue celebrated for its traditional jazz performances. However, it also carries some characteristics of a tourist trap.
The hall’s popularity among visitors can lead to long lines and crowded shows, sometimes detracting from the intimate and authentic jazz experience it promises. Admission fees can also be relatively high for a relatively short performance.
Additionally, the surrounding French Quarter is filled with souvenir shops and tourist-centric attractions, which can overshadow the original intent of Preservation Hall as a space dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich heritage of New Orleans jazz.
South of the Border – Hamer, South Carolina
South of the Border in South Carolina is a kitschy and eccentric roadside attraction with a clear tourist trap vibe.
This quirky complex, featuring colorful signs and numerous billboards along the highway, draws travelers with promises of a unique experience, including restaurants, shops, and accommodations.
However, many visitors find it to be a commercialized and somewhat run-down stop, where the emphasis is on souvenir sales and eye-catching gimmicks rather than on providing an authentic cultural or educational experience.
Calico Ghost Town – Calico, California
Calico Ghost Town in California is a well-known tourist attraction with a historical theme, but it also embodies certain elements of a tourist trap.
This preserved mining town from the late 1800s has been transformed into a tourist destination with guided tours, gift shops, and staged Wild West performances.
While it offers a glimpse into California’s mining history and frontier life, some visitors may find the experience commercialized, with admission fees and a focus on selling souvenirs and entertainment.
Niagara Falls – Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls, straddling the border of New York and Canada, is a world-famous natural wonder and a major tourist destination. Yet it also has characteristics of a tourist trap.
The falls’ breathtaking beauty draws millions of visitors each year, but the area is often crowded and filled with tourist-oriented attractions, restaurants, and shops.
The Maid of the Mist boat tour, for example, offers a close-up experience of the falls but comes with a relatively high price tag.
While the natural wonder itself is awe-inspiring, the commercial aspects of the surrounding area can sometimes overshadow the pristine beauty of the falls.
Disneyland, Anaheim – California
Disneyland in California, often dubbed “The Happiest Place on Earth,” is a world-renowned theme park, but it also embodies certain traits of a tourist trap.
The park’s enchanting rides, immersive attractions, and beloved characters make it a top destination for families and Disney enthusiasts.
However, admission prices are relatively high, and the park can become extremely crowded, leading to long lines and wait times, especially during peak seasons.
Disneyland also offers a plethora of merchandise and dining options, which can be pricey and may detract from the overall experience.
Amana Colonies – Amana, Iowa
The Amana Colonies in Iowa are a cluster of historic communal villages with a strong emphasis on German religious heritage and craftsmanship, but they can also exhibit characteristics of a tourist trap.
While the colonies provide insight into a unique way of life and offer charming boutiques and restaurants, they have become commercialized over the years.
Visitors may find some of the attractions and shops geared towards tourism, selling antiques, crafts, and collectibles, which can overshadow the authentic history and culture of the Amana Colonies.
House on the Rock – Spring Green, Wisconsin
The House on the Rock in Wisconsin is a bizarre and captivating tourist attraction, but it is often considered a tourist trap.
This unique complex features a maze of rooms filled with eclectic collections, curiosities, and artistic displays. However, the experience can be overwhelming and disorienting, with uneven quality and some exhibits that feel gimmicky.
The attraction is known for its high admission prices, especially considering the non-traditional nature of the exhibits.
Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta, Georgia
The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is a renowned aquatic attraction and a must-visit for marine life enthusiasts, but it can also exhibit certain tourist trap characteristics.
The aquarium boasts a diverse range of aquatic species and engaging exhibits, making it a popular destination. However, visitors often encounter crowded conditions, especially during peak seasons, which can lead to long lines and limited personal space.
Additionally, the aquarium’s admission fees can be relatively high. While it offers an educational and immersive experience, the surrounding area includes numerous gift shops and dining options, which can sometimes overshadow the primary focus on marine conservation and education.
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland Oregon
Voodoo Doughnut in Oregon has become a notorious tourist trap, captivating visitors with its quirky, unconventional charm and an eclectic array of doughnuts that defy traditional pastry norms.
This iconic doughnut shop, known for its offbeat atmosphere and wildly inventive flavors, has transformed from a local novelty into a must-see destination.
However, its fame often overshadows the actual experience: long lines, overhyped expectations, and prices that don’t always match the quality of the treats.
While the allure of doughnuts topped with cereal, bacon, or even tangy sauces is undeniable, many argue that the shop’s appeal lies more in its novelty and Instagram-worthy appeal rather than culinary excellence.
This combination of hype, eccentricity, and social media buzz has firmly established Voodoo Doughnut as a classic example of a tourist trap, drawing crowds more for the experience and less for the indulgence in a gourmet delicacy.