The Getaway
These Tourist Attractions in the USA Are Overrated

So many iconic American destinations and landmarks are familiar to us through pop culture. We see Times Square on the news on New Year's Eve and assume that the crowds are a testament to an exceptional experience. Meanwhile, it's cramped beyond belief, and New York has far better spots to ring in the new year. The glass bridge over the Grand Canyon and Plymouth Rock are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to overrated tourist attractions in the States. Cue the sad trombone sound effect.

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01 Mount Rushmore: faces in a rock

Mount Rushmore morning as the sun begins to light up the mountain range. Gunther Fraulob/ Getty Images

Mount Rushmore draws more than two million visitors annually, and many leave feeling underwhelmed. Up close, the granite sculpture is smaller than you'd think and takes all of five seconds to absorb. Then you realize there's not much else to do besides walk up a bunch of steps on a subpar nature trail, check out some state flags, and pop into an average museum.

Simply drive past for the best view or aim for a time that spans night and day so you can at least catch the lighting ceremony. This iconic homage to four great American presidents is called a "Shrine to Democracy," but if you really wanted to honor these statesmen, you'd do better to vote.

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02 Atlantic City was cool in the 80s

Buildings Boardwalk and Skyline of Atlantic City New Jersey ChrisBoswell/ Getty Images

Atlantic City, the Jersey Shore's most famous tourist attraction, is a major letdown. The casinos feel outdated, and the boardwalk area and surrounds are lackluster, dirty, and smelly. As you'd expect, the food prices are crazy.

Head to nearby Ocean City instead for saltwater taffy and a better ambiance, splurge on a trip to Las Vegas, or stay home to watch old episodes of Boardwalk Empire.

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03 Statue of Liberty: tempest-tost and kind of lost

Statue Of Liberty Against Sky Christopher Sweet / EyeEm/ Getty Images

Lady Liberty is legendary, right? With The New Colossus etched on her pedestal and a torch held aloft, she's served as a beacon to the huddled masses. Gustave Eiffel himself built her metal frame so France could present a gift to the United States.

The words at the Statue of Liberty's feet seem hollow in today's political climate, and the tourists crowding Liberty Island would make better use of their time just boarding the Staten Island ferry or taking pics from Battery Park or Brooklyn Bridge.

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04 Mall of America: the same stores are at your local mall

You've heard about this massive tribute to capitalism — a large indoor space warm enough to compensate for Minnesota's icy winter temperatures. But is the largest mall in the U.S. worth a visit? According to those who have been here, it's a hard no.

West Edmonton Mall in Canada is superior regarding spectacle, and Minneapolis's Nicollet Mall shopping district proves more satisfying for retail therapy. Mall of America sounds grand, but it's just a collection of shops you're familiar with from your hometown cobbled together with a few children's rides and an aquarium that's meh, to say the least.

05 The Space Needle: why?

Stormy Sky, Space Needle, Seattle, Washington, America joe daniel price/ Getty Images

Could you recognize Seattle without The Space Needle in the skyline? Probably not, which is exactly why you don't need to visit this landmark.

You can get fantastic city views, including of The Space Needle, from Kerry Park, Elliott Bay, or a building like Smith Tower. Plus, if news of Seattle's near-constant rain hasn't reached you yet, you should know that you won't be able to see much in bad weather.

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06 The French Quarter: not so pretty when the sun comes out

The wrought iron lace of a french Quarter Balcony Peter Unger/ Getty Images

Mardis Gras in New Orleans sounds fantastic, but The French Quarter doesn't look so great without her glam team in tow. Litter, strip clubs, and whiffs of urine or worse from drunken revelers on Bourbon Street don't make for a pleasant experience, and it's overcrowded.

But NOLA is beautiful, and the culture and music can be soul-stirring. Instead, go to Jackson Square, Royal Street, Frenchmen Street, or the Warehouse Arts District.

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07 The Alamo: the fort that should be forgotten

The Alamo in Texas SeanPavonePhoto/ Getty Images

We know, we know. The Alamo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But you can learn about the battle without having to trek to this nondescript stone building with nothing else going on around it.

The San Antonio Riverwalk is the number one attraction in the Lone Star State with gourmet food and a thrilling atmosphere—you'll probably find it's more your speed, too, especially if you're not working towards a Ph.D.

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08 Cloud Gate: where everyone gets the same photo

Cloud Gate, AKA The Bean because it resembles a legume, is a public artwork by Anish Kapoor that's often in Windy City montages on screen. But we promise you will still have visited stunning Chicago without seeking out this mirror-surfaced obstruction. You can also do without touching the smooth surface smudged with thousands of fingerprints.

Skip the crowd and take a selfie elsewhere in Millenium Park or the Loop.

09 Lombard Street: you can't afford to live there

Lombard Street in San Francisco photoquest7/ Getty Images

Another mandatory establishing shot in movies and TV shows, the tight curves of steep Lombard Street indicate San Francisco almost as often as the red Golden Gate Bridge does. Do you really want to wait in a queue of cars (there are two million visitors annually) to make a short and rather unimpressive journey down this stretch of road?

If it's just pictures you're after, visit early to capture the most crooked street in the world without hordes of other tourists cramping your style.

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10 Hollywood Walk of Fame: enjoy the glitz of impersonators

Unless you're a fangirl or boy on a celebrity pilgrimage, there's no reason to look for the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Yes, famous peeps like Kristin Bell walked on this specific section of pavement and formed handprints when their stars were unveiled that you can touch to feel an irrational connection. But it gets hot under the Los Angeles sun, the costumed impersonators can be annoying, there are pickpockets out and about waiting to steal your dollars, and the shady goings-on at night should give you pause.

11 Roswell, New Mexico: UFO coverup or a desert hoax?

A welcome sign to the city of Roswell, New Mexico. Matthew Micah Wright/ Getty Images

The extraterrestrials that allegedly crashed here in 1947 must have had a vehicle malfunction because this place is bleak. For most of the year, Roswell is a small town with an abundance of kitsch alien paraphernalia and a shortage of people. The UFO Museum leaves a lot to be desired, and there's little to see and do until the UFO Festival rolls around in summer.

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12 Waikiki Beach: paradise or tourist trap?

Waikiki Beach Honolulu Hawaii Skyline TriggerPhoto/ Getty Images

Fantasy and reality are frequently at odds on Waikiki Beach. If you're anticipating perfect sand and a surfing utopia, think again—it's more like a rocky pool. Between the often tacky hotels, compact, congested beach, and sky-high rental costs for chairs and umbrellas, you'd do well to seek a swimming haven elsewhere in Hawaii. If you go, prepare to lay your towel right next to a stranger.

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13 Washington Monument: is it still significant?

Washington DC, USA Sean Pavone/ Getty Images

There's a queue, it doesn't move quickly, and your destination at the top of the monument may be disappointing for all the effort. Few DC locals have taken the elevator up, so do as they do and make your way to the Hotel Washington rooftop lounge for commanding views of the Mall.

A half-hour trip to Mount Vernon in Virginia is informative if you're interested in politics and history. But if you're short on time, the Smithsonian awaits in all its glory.

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14 Liberty Bell: the dawn of a new era, or a cracked trinket?

Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in background dszc/ Getty Images

So you want to run-walk up the steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art while the Rocky theme song plays in the background? This is a plan we can get on board with. But two miles away, the cracked Liberty Bell isn't as large or stirring as your high school history teacher made it out to be.

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15 Disneyland: magical kingdom or consumerist nightmare?

Disneyland is Disney World's less engaging sister—everyone knows it. This fact doesn't bode well when Disney World is no longer as attractive a prospect as some of the newer theme parks around the globe, including in Dubai.

Disneyland is overpriced, with line after line eating up your time, and there's more fun to be had at other amusement parks.

16 The San Francisco cable cars: charming or overcrowded

Historic cable car on the street in San Francisco, California, USA Alexander Spatari/ Getty Images

San Francisco is famous for its quaint cable cars that travel up and down the city's hills, taking locals and tourists throughout the city. While these cars are charming when viewed from afar, the ride itself is generally long, hot, and overcrowded. Skip the cable cars on your next visit to San Francisco and book an Uber instead.

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17 Plymouth Rock: overrated or historically significant

Under this classical structure is Plymouth Rock, the legendary site where the Pilgrims landed. Kenneth C. Zirkel / Getty Images

Plymouth Rock is an iconic symbol of American history, and opinions on its significance vary. While some argue that it's overrated and that there are more important historical sites, others disagree. Plymouth Rock represents the landing of the Pilgrims and the birth of American democracy, making it an important symbol of the country's founding ideals. That said, the attraction is just a rock surrounded by a fence, and with little to see or do here, it's not worth the trip.

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18 Fisherman's Wharf: San Francisco's tourist trap

USA, California, San Francisco, sea lions lying on pier Tom Hoenig / Getty Images

Fisherman's Wharf is one of the most popular destinations in San Francisco. It's a bustling hub of seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, and street performers, giving it an intensely commercialized feel. While the landmark also offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and is a great place to sample fresh seafood, there are plenty of less crowded places to take in the views and grab a bite throughout the city.

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19 Las Vegas Strip: glitz, glamour, and disappointment

USA, Nevada, downtown Las Vegas, neon signs on Fremont Street B. Tanaka / Getty Images

If you love gambling, the Las Vegas Strip might just be the vacation of your dreams. However, if you prefer to participate in a more diverse range of activities while vacationing, the Strip will likely leave you disappointed. While the city's larger-than-life hotels are a sight to be seen, gambling and visiting crowded nightclubs are all this part of Las Vegas really has to offer.

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20 Graceland: Elvis Presley's Home and its underwhelming appeal

Graceland, the Memphis mansion of the late Elvis Presley, has a legendary reputation, but even so, some visitors may find the experience underwhelming. The mansion's interior is opulent, but it's not as grandiose as one might expect, and the tour itself is more focused on selling merchandise than the history of the famous home.

21 Niagara Falls: natural wonder or crowded tourist attraction?

Image of Stunning Niagara Falls view of Horseshoe Falls with ship for tourists approaching mist Nicholas Klein / Getty Images

Niagara Falls attracts millions of visitors every year. While the falls themselves are undoubtedly breathtaking, many find the surrounding area to be crowded and touristy. Visitors can expect to encounter long lines at every attraction and souvenir shops on every corner. Furthermore, everything from toiletries to gifts is overpriced, making Niagara Falls one of the largest tourist traps in the U.S.

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22 Times Square: is the crowded hype worth it?

Times Square New York City TommL / Getty Images

Times Square in New York City is known for its bright lights, towering billboards, and diverse crowds, and it leaves many visitors wondering if the hype is worth it after they visit. The area can be overwhelming, with thousands of people vying for space on the sidewalks, and the constant noise and sensory stimulation can be exhausting.

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23 The Four Corners Monument: worth the drive?

The Four Corners Monument at the border of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. A popular tourist site in the southwestern USA. A bronze plate marking the location.Photographed on location in horizontal format. YinYang / Getty Images

The Four Corners Monument, located at the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, is a unique destination. However, most who visit are left pondering whether the travel time to get there was actually worth it. The monument's significance is often overshadowed by dense crowds, and furthermore, the area lacks vital amenities such as gas stations, shops, and restaurants.

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24 Pikes Peak: is the summit experience overrated?

Colorful Colorado at Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak, a 14,115-foot mountain in Colorado, is a popular destination for hikers, drivers, and tourists. While the views from the top are undoubtedly stunning, the summit itself can be crowded and commercialized, with a gift shop and tourist center feeling like the main attractions. Additionally, the altitude and weather can make the hike or drive challenging for some visitors.

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25 Route 66: nostalgic road trip or outdated adventure?

A selective focus shot of a road sign of the Route 66 in Illinois, United States of America Wirestock / Getty Images

Route 66 is a historic highway that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. While it holds a nostalgic charm for many people, others often question whether it's worth taking the time to travel. The road is no longer the primary thoroughfare it once was, and many of the classic motels, diners, and attractions that adorn the roadside have fallen into disrepair.

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