Tourist Traps To Avoid On Your Next Vacation

The United States offers tons of things to see and do while traveling. However, many places that get tons of visitors every year are actually massive tourist traps that waste travelers time and money. 

While some tourist traps are just a waste of time or don’t meet the expectations of travels who have been tricked into visiting them. Some are even worst costing absurd amounts of money in addition to being pointless. 

It is better to skip tourist traps if you know they are one in advance. Read through this list to learn the biggest tourist traps to avoid across the United States

Magnificent Mile: Chicago, Illinois

Chicago graces the shores of Lake Michigan and boasts a thriving arts scene, captivating architecture, and a plethora of shopping options. One of its major tourist hubs is The Magnificent Mile, reminiscent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or New York City’s Fifth Avenue. However many of The Magnificent Mile’s attractions can be found in numerous cities across America. To truly enhance their Chicago experience, visitors would be better served exploring landmarks like Millennium Park or Willis Tower. 

Waikiki Beach: Oahu, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach is primarily designed to cater to tourists, despite lacking significant drawbacks. Comprised of a stretch of hotels, high-priced shops, chain restaurants, and a crowded beach, it closely resembles other popular travel destinations rather than representing the essence of Hawaii. For those seeking a genuine Hawaiian experience, it is advisable to explore places that showcase the island’s natural marvels, like Maui’s Pipiwai Trail or Lanai Lookout, conveniently situated in Oahu, not far from Waikiki Beach.

A Christmas Story House: Cleveland, Ohio

The A Christmas Story house in Cleveland, Ohio capitalizes on people’s affinity for holiday-themed attractions. This house served as the filming location for the popular 1983 comedy, A Christmas Story. While devoted fans of the movie may find it appealing, in truth, it is simply an ordinary home in Ohio. Therefore, one might question the value of waiting in line and paying to see it, suggesting that there are more worthwhile sights to explore instead.

Captain Kirk’s Future Birthplace: Riverside, Iowa

Riverside, Iowa,is the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. Fans from around the world embark on a pilgrimage to this small town to witness a private yard behind a modest house, adorned with a monument-like plaque. The plaque  proclaims Riverside as the “Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk”. This attraction stands as a tourist trap, originating from the decision of Riverside’s mayor and Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, to designate this humble Iowa town as Kirk’s birthplace.

The World’s Largest Ball of Twine: Cawker City, Kansas

Located in Kansas, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine is a rather straightforward attraction. Beginning in the 1950s, a resident initiated its creation, and the community gradually joined in to build this massive twine ball. However, as time passed, the novelty wore off, and adding to the ball lost its humor. Even if you happen to be in the vicinity, this experience takes only a few minutes and fails to live up to the exaggerated expectations surrounding it.

Times Square: New York, New York

While travel guides often suggest that visitors to New York City should explore Times Square, seasoned New Yorkers know better than to venture into this Manhattan hotspot. Times Square is notorious for its overwhelming crowds, overpriced souvenirs, and generic chain restaurants that offer nothing unique to the region. The area is dominated by massive stores and individuals dressed in flamboyant costumes, beckoning tourists for photo opportunities.

The Desert of Maine: Freeport, Maine

The Desert of Maine in Freeport, Maine, may seem like a natural desert, but it is nothing more than a glacial silt surrounded by pine trees. In an attempt to create a semblance of authenticity and attract tourists, plastic camels are scattered throughout the faux desert. However, the truth is out, and it’s widely known that this area is far from being an actual desert.

NCAA Hall of Champions: Indianapolis, Indiana

While museums can offer valuable insights into various subjects, the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis, Indiana, falls short of expectations, especially for college sports enthusiasts. The museum proves to be underwhelming and desperately in need of an update.The displayed memorabilia is surprisingly limited. Visitors can explore the entire museum within a half-hour or even less.

Viking Tower: Newport, Rhode Island

The enigmatic Mysterious Viking Tower, nestled in the heart of Newport, Rhode Island, captivates attention with its peculiar presence. However, the lack of concrete information surrounding its origins has shrouded the landmark in mystery for centuries. According to legend, the structure was constructed by Vikings, potentially making it one of the oldest buildings in the country. While this story serves as an intriguing narrative for believers, the continuous speculation can grow tiresome.

South of the Border: Hamer, South Carolina

Situated on the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, South of the Border stands as a highly celebrated tourist attraction. This gas station, equipped with a restaurant and an adjacent gift shop, serves as a prominent landmark for travelers entering or exiting South Carolina. The intentionally kitschy tourist restaurant and oversized gift shop hold little of special interest. Unless one needs to refuel their vehicle, there isn’t a compelling reason to halt and spend time at this location.

Moqui Cave: Kanab, Utah

The Moqui Cave, a sandstone erosion formation in Kanab, Utah, may be misleadingly labeled as a “cave.” Contrary to expectations, it was not built or utilized by Native Americans but rather formed through natural erosion. Although touted as an ancient landmark and museum, the reality of this place is that it primarily functions as an elaborate gift shop. 

Rock of Ages: Graniteville, Vermont

The Rock of Ages in Graniteville, Vermont, often mistaken for the musical comedy of the same name, is a notable tourist attraction. However, while the giant granite quarry may be visually appealing for a brief moment, it tends to lose its charm quickly.

Mars Cheese Castle: Kenosha, Wisconsin

Wisconsin, renowned for its delectable cheeses, is home to various cheese-themed attractions, including the notable Mars Cheese Castle. This imposing castle, situated along the I-94 highway, effectively lures in passing tourists. Functioning as a prominent tourist trap, the Mars Cheese Castle offers a wide array of pricey cheeses, sausages, condiments, crackers, and other culinary delights. While the food options are undoubtedly tempting, the inflated prices make it a clear example of opportunistic profiteering.

Cannon Beach: Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, undeniably picturesque like many other tourist attractions, resembles any typical beach destination. The entirety of the town, including the beach itself, can be explored in a single day. While the relaxed atmosphere of Cannon Beach is appealing to vacationers, it comes with drawbacks that render the location somewhat overrated. The area tends to attract large crowds, particularly during the summer, which detracts from the overall experience. 

Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market: Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts, is a highly popular tourist destination with numerous attractions and activities to enjoy. However, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market could potentially be skipped. While these locations, situated in downtown Boston, are considered iconic, locals recognize them primarily as tourist hubs. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market feature a long building hosting a food hall for hearty meals and shops for extensive shopping experiences. 

Venetian Gondolas: Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada, thrives on its array of tourist attractions, and among them, the Venetian gondolas lure in many visitors. Inspired by the gondola rides of Italy, these gondolas take passengers on a journey through the area, showcasing hotels, shops, and other attractions. While it may sound enticing in theory, the experience falls short of providing the authentic gondola experience people seek. Passengers have expressed that it feels more like floating through a chlorinated pool for a brief period.

Hollywood Sign: Los Angeles, California

The Hollywood sign in California is a highly sought-after sight for movie enthusiasts and tourists, who often yearn to touch it, though it is currently prohibited. Despite the restrictions, this heavily hyped tourist trap remains an appealing sight to admire from a distance, particularly for capturing memorable photos. 

Alien Sanctuary Town: Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico, holds great appeal for avid believers in extraterrestrial life and UFO enthusiasts. However, if you have no interest in such topics, this town may not hold much allure for you. Renowned as the alleged site of a “flying disc” crash resembling a UFO in 1947, Roswell has developed a thriving tourist industry centered around aliens and UFO-related memorabilia, catering to a specific group of space enthusiasts.

Walt Disney World’s Epcot: Orlando, Florida

Disney World consists of multiple parks divided into two main sections: Future World and World Showcase. The World Showcase features country-themed pavilions where visitors can indulge in various international cuisines and beverages. While Epcot does offer rides, it may not have as many as other sections of Walt Disney World. Some park-goers argue that Disney World’s other parks, namely Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, provide a more enjoyable and worthwhile experience, overshadowing the World Showcase.

Mall of America: Bloomington, Minnesota

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, stands as the largest shopping mall in the United States, boasting an impressive 555 stores, a full-fledged theme park, and an aquarium. For those uninterested in shopping or overwhelmed by large crowds, this mammoth mall may not hold the same appeal. The Mall of America’s bustling atmosphere can easily become sensory overload, so it’s important to be prepared for the potential overwhelming experience that accompanies it.

Beale Street: Memphis, Tennessee

Beale Street in Memphis was once a vibrant hub for blues clubs, restaurants, and outdoor concerts, where young and famous blues musicians performed. However, over time, Beale Street has become increasingly commercialized, losing some of its original blues culture and charm. Today, tourists often find themselves in an overcrowded and overpriced part of town that no longer exudes the authentic essence of Memphis.

The Alamo: San Antonio, Texas

The Alamo Mission stands as one of the state’s most renowned tourist attractions. Recognized as the site where Texas fought for independence from Mexico, the mission holds historical significance and serves as a monument for visitors to explore and capture photographs while learning about Texas’s past. Although it may be intriguing to witness this famous structure firsthand, it ultimately remains a stone building within a park.

World of Coca-Cola: Atlanta, Georgia

The World of Coca-Cola is a major tourist magnet, attracting millions of visitors annually. This attraction offers insights into the bottling process of soda, allows patrons to sample a variety of Coca-Cola beverages, and provides numerous opportunities for memorable photographs. However, despite the appeal of discovering more about this iconic soda, some people find the overwhelming crowds and the overt commercial nature of the place somewhat disappointing. 

Atlantic City Boardwalk: Atlantic City, New Jersey

The Jersey Shore stands as a prominent tourist destination in New Jersey, with Atlantic City being a notable but often overrated location. The city’s main attraction is its boardwalk, but it has lost much of its former allure, transforming into a faded beach town characterized by dilapidation and the prevalence of tacky souvenir shops, large casinos, and excessive tourist traffic.

Carhenge: Alliance, Nebraska

While England’s Stonehenge is widely recognized, Alliance, Nebraska’s Carhenge may not be as familiar. Nevertheless, Carhenge draws tourists, particularly Americans who prefer not to travel abroad, seeking a similar experience. Created in 1987 by Jim Reinders as a tribute to his father, Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge constructed using vintage automobiles spray-painted in gray. 

Santa Claus House: North Pole, Alaska

For enthusiasts of Christmas and the holiday season, the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska is a dream come true. Since its establishment in 1952, this house has captivated visitors with its impressive 50-foot Santa Claus statue and its dedication to spreading holiday cheer. Beyond the iconic statue, the Santa Claus House offers reindeer encounters, photo opportunities with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a gift shop filled with Christmas merchandise to satisfy year-round festive desires.

Craters of the Moon: Central Idaho

Despite its intriguing name, Craters of the Moon National Park fails to deliver the otherworldly, extraterrestrial experience one might expect. Located in Idaho, this national monument showcases a landscape composed of volcanic rock, rather than something truly out of this world. While undeniably visually appealing, serving as a scenic byway with vast mountains and lava flows, the park’s charm tends to fade after a brief ten-minute exploration.

Ave Maria Grotto: Cullman, Alabama

The Ave Maria Grotto, a four-acre park located in Cullman, Alabama, showcases 125 intricate miniature reproductions constructed from cement and various discarded materials. Created by Brother Joseph, a Benedictine monk, this site is often referred to as “Little Jerusalem.” The holy shrine captivates with its scaled-down replicas of renowned religious structures from around the world. However, it’s worth noting that aside from photography and prayer, there is not much else to engage in at the site.

Crater of Diamonds State Park: Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Crater of Diamonds State Park presents a unique opportunity for visitors to intimately interact with diamonds. As the only public diamond site in the United States, it has enticed guests since its establishment in 1906. The notion of digging for diamonds holds undeniable allure. However, the reality is that the park is essentially a vast empty field where individuals wander about. While the chances of finding diamonds are slim but not impossible, one must rely on luck. 

Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum: Lookout Mountain, Colorado

In honor of the legendary cowboy Buffalo Bill, a tourist attraction was established to commemorate his legacy. Buffalo Bill, renowned as a hunter and showman, passed away in 1917, leaving behind the most prominent funeral in Colorado’s history. In 1921, the Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum opened its doors, and since then, little has changed at the site. It features Buffalo Bill’s gravesite and a museum that showcases photographs, artifacts, and insights into the history of the Old West.

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk: Rehoboth, Delaware

Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, located in eastern Sussex County, holds the appeal of a quaint, family-friendly beach town. It boasts delicious food, but the souvenirs tend to be overpriced, and its boardwalk attracts an overwhelming number of tourists, potentially surpassing other popular destinations. Complaints about overcrowding and limited parking options have been voiced about this area. While visiting Rehoboth Beach may be enjoyable once, it ultimately falls into the category of a tourist trap. 

Ark Encounter and Creation Museum: Williamstown, Kentucky

Visiting Noah’s Ark in person might seem like a must-do for anyone, regardless of their religious beliefs. However, the exorbitant cost associated with this experience can be a deterrent. Moreover, the accompanying biblical theme park, which includes a zip line, adds to the already expensive visit. Perhaps if there were an all-inclusive package encompassing entry to the Ark, the Creation Museum, and the theme park, the cost would be more justifiable. 

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Ocean City, Maryland

Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums offer an entertaining experience for families with their astonishing exhibits, mirror mazes, and Laserace attractions. Spending a few hours exploring these museums can be a fun bonding experience. However, the ubiquity of Ripley’s Believe It or Not franchises across the country raises the question of why tourists would choose to visit them when traveling to new places. 

The Four Corners: Teec Nos Pos, Arizona

The Four Corners Monument holds the unique distinction of connecting Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, where these four states converge. However, the reality is that the Four Corners monument is situated in a remote location, devoid of much else to do except stand around and take photographs. Adding to the disappointment, there have been reports suggesting inaccuracies in the monument’s lines.

Mystic Seaport: Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic Seaport, a tourist attraction that replicates a historical seaport village, features wooden whaling ships and steam vessels, creating a fascinating environment. However, visitors often express disappointment with its high cost and underwhelming experience. Notably, after paying for admission, additional fees are required for extra activities such as boat rides, children’s crafts, shows, and wagon rides. This arrangement can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction, as one might expect more included in the initial entry fee. 

Bourbon Street: New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is renowned for its captivating culture and rich traditions. However, while Bourbon Street attracts large crowds and offers a range of entertainment options, it falls short of truly capturing the essence of the city. Resembling a typical tropical Spring Break destination, it is filled with tacky bars, restaurants, and bustling crowds. 

Mystery Spot: Saint Ignace, Michigan

Mystery Spot, situated in Saint Ignace, Michigan, offers a truly extraordinary experience with guided tours showcasing optical contradictions and intriguing physical sensations. Additionally, visitors can enjoy activities like walking through a maze, playing mini-golf, or taking a zip line ride. Despite the mind-bending nature of this attraction, it ultimately falls into the category of a budget roadside tourist spot. 

The Birthplace of Elvis: Tupelo, Mississippi

The Birthplace of Elvis, situated in Tupelo, Mississippi, holds significance as the place where the King of Rock and Roll was born. However, unlike his opulent mansion, the birthplace is a modest two-room shack constructed by his father. Elvis Presley’s childhood was humble, but he later achieved great fame as he matured. While Presley remains a legendary figure in the music world, there is nothing particularly exceptional about the house where the iconic entertainer spent his early years.

Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail and Museum: Weldon Spring, Missouri

The Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail and Museum, situated in Weldon Spring, Missouri, revolves around a  accumulation of rocks, which serves as a mound for nuclear waste. The site encompasses a staggering 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous waste. This location was previously home to the largest explosives factory in the United States, but in 1966, it was converted into a uranium ore processing plant. Following its abandonment, the US Department of Energy opted to cover the area with rocks.

50000 Silver Dollar Bar: Haugan, Montana

The 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar, situated in Haugan, Montana, within the scenic Lolo National Forest, may initially give the impression that it is not a child-friendly attraction based on its name. However, it actually offers various family-oriented features, including a spacious gift shop and a family-style restaurant. The bar itself is the main highlight of the establishment, housing an impressive collection of over 50,000 silver dollars, which are among the largest coins in America. 

Market Theater Gum Wall: Seattle, Washington

Renowned for its coffee culture, Seattle has become a popular tourist destination, with one notable feature being the Market Theater Gum Wall. However, for individuals who are germaphobic or easily bothered by such things, the Gum Wall may not be an ideal stop. Located beneath Pike Place Market, the wall is completely covered in chewed-up gum, with the tradition dating back to 1993 when visitors began sticking coins to the wall using chewed gum. 

Corn Palace: Mitchell, South Dakota

South Dakota is renowned for its stunning national parks and natural wonders, including Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, and the iconic Mount Rushmore. These attractions garner well-deserved popularity. However, one tourist destination, the Corn Palace, is often considered overrated. The Corn Palace is a building adorned with murals made from corn and grains, serving as a venue for concerts, sporting events, and various occasions. 

Shell Service Station: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston-Salem, North Carolina is home to a historic Shell Station that has stood since the 1930s, constructed as part of an initiative in the 1920s to promote the Shell gas station brand. Out of the eight originally built structures in the area, the bright yellow and red-shaped shell building is the only one that remains. It holds the distinction of being a recognized historic landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Clark’s Trading Post: Lincoln, New Hampshire

Clark’s Trading Post offers a unique experience for visitors seeking entertainment involving trained black bears showcasing various tricks and performances. This family-friendly entertainment center in New Hampshire also presents a circus, segway rides, a climbing tower, and water-themed attractions. While the place attracts local visitors, it hasn’t quite captured the interest of tourists, possibly due to the perceived lackluster attractions or concerns about the ethics of training bears.

The Enchanted Highway: Regent, North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway in North Dakota showcases a captivating assortment of scrap metal sculptures in the shapes of various animals and humans along the roadside. The collection includes bird sculptures, fish families, geese, giant grasshoppers, and more, with each sculpture designed to be distinctive. While encountering these animal sculptures on a road trip adds an element of entertainment, they may not be worth going out of your way specifically to see. 

J. M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum: Claremore, Oklahoma

The J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum is an intriguing destination for those interested in the fascinating story behind its founding. With a collection of over 20,000 firearms and related items, the museum effectively portrays the mission of J.M. Davis to preserve a piece of history. While the museum offers much to see and an engaging narrative, the reality is that spending hours looking at firearms, statues, and other relics can become monotonous.

Foamhenge: Natural Bridge, Virginia

Foamhenge, an imitation of the iconic Stonehenge in England, was constructed by artist Mark Cline as a roadside attraction and April Fool’s Day prank to draw tourists to Natural Bridge, Virginia. Despite its humorous origins, Foamhenge gained unexpected popularity and became a prominent feature of Natural Bridge. While it successfully brought tourists to the area and was considered a successful endeavor, it remains a sculpture made entirely of styrofoam and offers limited visual interest beyond that aspect.

New River Gorge Bridge: Fayetteville, West Virginia

The New River Gorge Bridge, located in Fayetteville, West Virginia, held the title of the longest steel arch bridge in the world when it was constructed in the 1970s. However, it now retains that distinction only within the United States, as China’s Shanghai Lupo Bridge surpassed it in length. While the bridge offers occasional scenic views, it may not be worth going out of one’s way solely for the purpose of driving over it.

The Wyoming Frontier Prison, Rawlins, Wyoming

The Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins is a destination that attracts people’s curiosity for historical prisons. Functioning as a prison from 1901 to 1981, it now serves as a museum open to the public. The museum offers tours that can be enjoyed by the whole family, providing insights into the daily life of prisoners. Visitors can even sit on old gas chambers and observe the “Punishment Pole structure.”=