There are always going to be some beautiful, unique, unmissable places to visit no matter where you are heading. Many of these will no doubt be recommended by fellow travelers and experts alike – maybe even us. But sometimes, no matter where you go, you’ll be faced with just as many overrated tourist attractions that you may want to avoid.
Don’t get caught wasting your vacation on a destination less exciting than what’s already in your hometown or on something that just can’t live up to the hype. We’ve put together a list of the ten most overrated tourist traps and disappointing destinations from California to The United Arab Emirates, so you can spend your time and hard-earned cash on something better.
1. The ENTIRE City of Las Vegas
We’re starting with what might be the most overrated destination in the United States: The entire City of Las Vegas. With its twinkling marquee lights, the allure of gambling, headliners that scream nostalgia, and all the fab food, it’s hard to ignore Vegas. Even the stingiest traveler would have a hard time saying no to visiting the Vegas Strip at least once.
Nevada is a beautiful state with plenty to explore even without pootling around Vegas. Those cheap flights are a set-up to get you caught in a casino. There are frequently tons of cheap flights to Vegas so heed this warning and don’t take that as a sign that you have to go.
No matter how much time, effort, and money the city has spent telling us “no, no, no – Las Vegas is a family vacation destination! Bring the kids! There’s so much wholesome fun!” Vegas is all about casinos. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find places to stay, eat, and find entertainment that doesn’t revolve around the gambling industry.
It’s possible but difficult by design. The hotel rooms may be cheap or free, though nothing comes without a cost in Vegas. Casinos are definitely the biggest game in town and they make their presence known. Even when you find attractions that seem too good to be true, like a helicopter tour over the Vegas Strip, you’ll be inundated with information about casino after casino.
That’s why The Vegas Strip is easily the most overrated place in Las Vegas. This is the main drag full of formerly iconic casinos that seem to be fading and losing the glamor that came from their glory days — the pandemic hit Vegas hard.
New travelers are shocked when they see the huge price gap when it comes to quality on The Strip. Other travel destinations, even some on this list of overrated destinations, still have great attractions even when you’re on a tight budget. When you come to Vegas, expect to lose a lot of money even if you don’t visit a casino.
You probably know that Vegas has the nickname “Sin City.” It’s for good reason. If rowdy parties, streets full of people, vomiting tourists who have had a few too many drinks, and indulging in vices aren’t your thing, you should take your next trip elsewhere.
Let’s be honest, Vegas will always be there if you change your mind.
See Related: Best Hotels in Las Vegas
2. Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has to be one of the most overrated destinations on the entire planet. That’s a bold statement, but we can back it up.
When you come down to it, the tower is just a selfie spot. You’ll find crowds of people looking to take the exact same photo that you have seen hundreds of times on the internet. Don’t even get us started on the hokey “pretend to hold up the tower” shots.
The famous tower is also much smaller than you might expect. Those huge crowds also mean long lines to wait for your turn to take your selfie trying to hold up the tower.
It’s a bit like trying to see “The Mona Lisa” at The Louvre. You wait with a mob of people for a brief moment at the iconic spot.
It’s also a lot harder than you might expect to get a good photo here, too. There are going to be throngs of other tourists in the background that spoil the effect. Those amazing shots you see of this landmark were likely done by professional photographers who also edited the images.
Plus, the tower just isn’t leaning like it used to. Since 2000, architects have done restoration projects to make it safer which has included straightening it out a little bit.
For the record, that’s a good thing. Architecture sometimes needs a little boost to stop it from deteriorating — not that I’d shed many tears if this historic letdown keeled over.
It’s not just the tower that’ll let you down though. The whole neighborhood is full of lines for buses, tourist traps, and price gouging. Anytime tourists clamor for something like The Leaning Tower or the Pyramids of Giza, someone will always be trying to make some money from it.
It’s also worth noting that The Leaning Tower of Pisa isn’t the only leaning tower in Italy. There are better ones.
The Chiesa di San Michele Degli Scalzi is a more underrated destination, located near Pisa as well as several others in the city of Bologna. There are actually ten total leaning towers throughout Italy. So the next time you’re in Italy, skip the overrated Tower of Pisa and give some of these other towers a try.
See Related: Things to Do in Italy & Best Places to Visit
3. The London Eye
Some overrated places are tourist traps in otherwise amazing cities. If you’re in London, make sure to avoid the city’s most overrated destination — the massive Ferris wheel near the Palace of Westminster and Elizabeth Tower (the clocktower that houses Big Ben).
The London Eye might look amazing in photographs and on promotional material, but the first thing you’re going to notice when you visit are the lines. You’re going to be waiting in line longer than you’ll even be riding the Ferris wheel. If you really want to ride it any way you might be able to buy a skip-the-line ticket for an extra fee, of course.
There are actually two lines while you’re waiting for The Eye. The first line is just to buy your ticket and the second line is to ride The Eye itself.
At the end of the first line, you’re going to find a shockingly high ticket price. It costs an eye-watering 40 American dollars to ride The Eye.
If you’re disappointed in the speed of the lines, you’re all going to be even more disappointed in the speed of the wheel. Travelers either see this as going too fast or too slow. The entire trip around The Eye only takes about 30 minutes.
You get just a few moments paused at the top to enjoy the view and take some pictures. That’s only if it isn’t raining, in which case you’ll see a lot of fog in the lookout window and not a lot of the city at all. Generally, it’s quite a hectic experience and you don’t get enough time to snap some selfies or enjoy the view.
One of the most important things to look for when it comes to overrated travel destinations is what the locals think of the experience. It’s a bit like asking a New Yorker how they feel about visiting the Statue of Liberty whenever their out-of-town guests show up.
While most New Yorkers will shrug at Lady Liberty, there is certainly more pride associated with it. On the flip side, Londoners tend to either totally discount or despise The Eye (for example, one London-born VT employee loathes it).
Perhaps the Eye’s most cardinal sin is that it is kind of pointless. Similar giant Ferris wheels (such as the High Roller in Las Vegas) are less pointless because at the apex, you’ll be among other tall, brightly lit buildings on the Strip and Fremont. Being built on marshy ground, London can’t support many tall structures, so most of what you’ll see at the top of the Eye is the roofs of a lot of old buildings, which are far more impressive at street level.
If your travels have taken you to the capital city of London, we promise you that with the time and money you could spend on The London Eye, you could open up an entire world of excitement instead. There are so many museums, tours, events, and performances to see that will actually make your trip memorable in a way The Eye will not.
See Related: Interesting, Fun Facts About London
4. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls might be a surprising inclusion on a list of overrated tourist destinations. It may even shock you to see it included here. But let’s be honest, the tourism around the Falls has gotten out of hand like many other tourist destinations around the world.
The resort town of Niagara Falls is the definition of a tourist trap in itself. It’s full of gift shops and is purpose-built for people just passing through. It seems like a lot of the charming character from its early tourist days has been swept away by businesses selling The Falls t-shirts.
Getting to the Falls is also a bit of a pain. Even if you drive, you’re going to have to spend a good portion of your trip just looking for parking or shuttles. You’ll want to arrive very early or very late to have a better chance of finding parking.
There’s also not a lot to do in the area. There’s not enough in Niagara Falls to sustain a long day trip like there is with other natural attractions like the Grand Canyon.
The area is essentially built around The Falls with the sole purpose of showing you The Falls. So once you see The Falls you’ve basically done everything.
The price of everything in the area is much too expensive. You’ll be paying an arm and a leg just to take a short tour of The Falls, or paying even more to take a boat ride close to the water like Maid of the Mist. Though if you want to have your Jim Carey in Bruce Almighty Maid of the Mist moment, go for it.
When you’re at The Falls itself you’re going to be shoulder to shoulder with other tourists trying to take a cheesy photo next to this natural wonder. That means that your pics of The Falls are going to be crowded out by other people on vacation. Good luck trying to get a shot of the natural beauty without five people in ponchos standing in the way, all looking damp and miserable.
You really need to have a purpose-built trip to visit Niagara Falls. it’s a hard destination to just see while you’re passing through.
While the natural wonder of the powerful cascade is sure to impress, The Falls experience is kind of overrated. This is one waterfall you shouldn’t go chasing.
See Related: Best Things to do at Niagara Falls
The glitz and glamor of Hollywood might draw a lot of tourism, but it’s also going to draw a lot of criticism from people who expect Hollywood hype. Or the folks who wander Hollywood Boulevard and are overwhelmed by the creepy costumed characters lingering around to ask you for money to take photos with them.
Getting to Hollywood and getting around while you’re there is a huge pain. You can expect traffic jams that can last for hours with few viable public transit options.
Remember the scene in LaLa Land where everyone was stuck on the 101? Yeah, that’s not an exaggeration, LA traffic sucks and will always suck. You may get stuck in a jam for hours.
After a weekend in Hollywood, you’ll be eager to get back home to even the most basic public transit options in your home city. This is a little ironic because a lot of what people look for in Hollywood has moved elsewhere.
The days when Hollywood was the global center for film and celebrity are fading away. More and more movie studios have moved to more affordable cities like New Orleans, Atlanta, and Toronto to set up their movie-making operations. Most of what’s left in Hollywood is a unique blend of high-end shopping meets tacky gift shops interspersed among tourist traps.
One of the worst tourist traps is the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in fact, the Walk of Fame has even been voted as one of the worst tourist traps of all time. While walking down the Hollywood Walk of Fame is free, you can expect to spend a lot of money while you’re there. Artists and retailers selling souvenirs all charge extremely high prices for tourists on the Walk.
It’s also incredibly crowded because it’s a literal sidewalk. Think Times Square (don’t worry – The Square’s time will come…) with a lot more heat and sun. You’ll be bumping into people while you struggle to look for whichever celebrity star you wanted to find.
The Hollywood Sign is another iconic location that many tourists find incredibly disappointing when they actually got there. It takes 2-3 hours round-trip hike up a mountain to get a good view of the Hollywood Sign. Not to mention that the views of the Hollywood Sign from the city are often obstructed by smog or difficult to take pictures of in the first place.
Although much better than it was ten, even five, years ago, smog is still a huge problem in Los Angeles and Hollywood is definitely not spared. Sweeping views of the city are often spoiled by hazy skies, contrary to what movies would have us believe.
Hollywood is just one neighborhood in Los Angeles. If you’re looking to experience the best of what this city has to offer, you’ll be better off exploring other neighborhoods in one of America’s most popular cities. Why not spend some time in Santa Monica, the Arts District, Silver Lake, or Echo Park instead?
See Related: Do You Need a Car in Los Angeles? Things to Know
6. The ENTIRE City of Dubai
Dubai might seem like an odd overrated destination inclusion, but ask anyone who’s spent time in this city and they’ll be the first to tell you just how overrated it is. The city of Dubai looks stunning from the outside, but once you get there it feels a little empty and lacking any real soul.
Dubai is not a very walkable city so you’ll be spending most of your time (and money) in a taxi or a rented vehicle. The city is full of hotels, shopping malls, and construction projects that make it feel more like a development project than a high-end tourist destination.
Dubai lacks a historic neighborhood or any real sense of culture. Everything here feels newly built and a little vacant.
On top of all that, Dubai is also one of the most expensive cities you can visit and it costs this much on purpose. In this playground for rich oil tycoons, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything affordable including places to stay and eat.
The city of Dubai is also under international scrutiny for the human rights abuses that have been documented during the construction of this tourist destination. If we’re honest, the UAE is just one of those places where human rights go to die, so yeah, food for thought there.
If all of this wasn’t bad enough, your fun in the sun might be spoiled by poisonous beaches. Dubai has a serious pollution problem (beyond oil) and the toxic waterfront has even gotten tourists sick.
If you’re looking for fun in the sun or even exploring new cultures in the desert, there are better places to go than Dubai. If you want to see vibrant, unique cities, without toxins, crimes against humanity and a bunch of wealthy oil execs chortling as the world burns, check out nearby Abu Dhabi — or go further afield to literally anywhere else. Bordeaux, Amsterdam, Florence, Frankfurt, seriously, go nuts.
See Related: Best Things to Do at Dubai Marina
7. Times Square, NYC
We can’t talk about overrated tourist destinations in major cities without mentioning Times Square. It is easily the most overrated tourist destination in New York City and it could even be one of the most overrated vacation spots in the world.
The Square in real life is not like what you see on social media. Night or day, Times Square is jam-packed with crowds. There are dozens of tourists trying to take selfies and scores of working people going about their day, who wish there weren’t so many tourists.
Forget your dreams of a solo selfie in the middle of Times Square. You will be shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of other people who are either trying to do the same thing as you or just hate you for being there.
And don’t get me started on the creepy, off-brand costume characters looking for cash in exchange for photo ops. Sorry Naked Cowboy, we’re not a fan.
Those massive crowds also mean that The Square is incredibly noisy. This is a major intersection in one of America’s busiest cities, so you’ll be shouting just so the person next to you can hear you.
Do you think you can trudge through The Square quickly when you’re running late to a show on Broadway? Forget about it. The fun experience of visiting Times Square is also short-lived.
It can be cool for a moment when you see it for the first time, though that astonishment factor quickly dissipates once you realize there’s nothing you want to do in Times Square. Pop into one of the last Disney Stores? Sure. Grab some ice cream at a chain place?
Okay. Now that you’ve used up 25 minutes what do you do now?
At the end of the day, Times Square is really just an intersection on top of being the city’s most overrated destination. Why take time out of your day to visit a crowded crossroads when you can visit other New York City destinations like Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art?
See Related: Where is the Best Place to Stay in New York?
8. Champs Élysées
Paris is one of the most romantic tourist destinations in the world, that’s for sure. However, Champs Élysées can be a tourist trap that should be avoided. It is certainly one of the most beautiful street scenes you’ll see in Paris or elsewhere, though it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
You might have heard romantic tales of Champs Élysées being a high-end walk full of luxury shopping and dining, but this isn’t necessarily true. Champs Élysées is full of stores selling over-priced brands of clothes that you’ll recognize from home with prices that will shock you.
Did you think you’d score some couture in Paris for less than back home in The States? Probably not, unless it’s a genuine French brand – and even then some well-known French brands are more expensive in France than outside it!
The restaurants on Champs Élysées also don’t hold a candle to other options found in chain restaurants all throughout the city of Paris. They’re centered on the tourist experience, not an authentic one. Try your food scene luck in the Latin Quarter, Canal Saint-Martin, or Bastille neighborhoods instead.
If you’re looking for a real luxury shopping experience, head over to Avenue Montaigne where the real haute couture brands have moved. And if you buy something designer from a street vendor, no, you didn’t actually buy something designer. We can appreciate a quality knock-off, just be honest about it.
If you do the sensible thing and treat the Champs Élysées as a road (like the locals do), you can even visit the Arc de Triomphe without having to spend much time on Champs Élysées.
See Related: How Much Is A Trip to Paris? Average Cost Guide
9. Disney World
This one cuts me to the core, but this list of tourist attractions wouldn’t be complete without the most magical, and overrated, place on Earth! I say this as someone who is an Annual Passholder and visits the resort at least once a year. While I personally disagree that Disney World is a tourist trap, it can certainly be an overrated destination — certainly right now.
Disney World has gotten significantly more expensive in recent years. Even value resort options now cost hundreds of dollars. Unlike Costco, the price of hot dogs has not stayed the same.
The amusement park has also monetized just about every aspect of being there. Don’t expect to get anything for free when you visit Disney World. Celebration buttons saying it’s your birthday, anniversary, girl’s trip, or first time at Disney World might get you a treat from a cast member to help you celebrate, but so many people have abused the celebration buttons that tradition has largely gone by the wayside.
Disney World has also gotten more crowded, and some guests have gotten kinda crazy since the pandemic. I’ve seen more adults throw tantrums here than kids.
The worst part about the crowds is that there are long lines for just about anything you want to do whether it’s riding a roller coaster or dining at one of the table service restaurants. There are points in the year when the parks are slightly less busy, though those brief times are becoming smaller and smaller each year. Plus price-gauging resellers have made getting merchandise very difficult, despite what the parks have done to try and limit how many of one item you can buy.
If visiting all of Disney World isn’t your speed, the Animal Kingdom (one of the resort’s four theme parks) is one of Disney’s most underrated destinations. Not only is it less busy than all of the other parks, but its focus is on conservation and teaching folks about caring for the Earth.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Disney Springs
10. Mount Rushmore
We’re rounding out our list with Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. For many, myself included, this is easily the most overrated destination in America, for a number of reasons.
First of all, Mount Rushmore looks so much smaller in person. It really doesn’t have the impressive grandeur that you’d expect from all the images you see online or in books.
There’s also very little to do at Mount Rushmore. Once you’ve taken a look, it’s time to spend hours driving back to something a bit more exciting.
Like Niagra Falls, Mount Rushmore exists as a tourist destination and not much else. Everyone goes there for that one photo and before being left with nothing to do but go home.
Mount Rushmore is also a controversial carving in a controversial destination. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota Sioux people and Mount Rushmore was once a natural wonder known as Tunkasila Sakpe Paha or “The Six Grandfathers Mountain.” Not to mention the destruction the monument did to the area’s natural beauty, the addition of four old white guys (who all spent decent chunks of their lives making life miserable for Native Americans and two of which owned human beings as property), really is a bit of an insult.
Want to see a monument that isn’t as controversial, disappointing, and dripping with shame? Go see the carving of the Crazy Horse Memorial instead. It’s been in process for decades and will be bigger than Mount Rushmore when it’s completed. Even in its current state, it’s far more striking and impressive.
Honestly, if you’ve seen a picture of Mount Rushmore, you’ve gotten all the experience you can get out of this destination.
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