USA Today recently published a list of the biggest tourist traps in the world, and the ranking left me with more questions than answers. The paper “analyzed 23.2 million Google reviews of the 500 most popular tourist attractions in the world, spanning 65 countries in six continents” and ranked attractions according to how frequently reviewers used the term “tourist trap.”
Strangely enough, the place I consider to be America’s greatest tourist trap — South of the Border in Dillon, South Carolina — didn’t crack the top 100. Now, don’t get me wrong — South of the Border is worth visiting once; the kitschy rest area breaks up the monotony of a long drive on Interstate 95, but it’s still a mega tourist trap.
According to the USA Today analysis, these are the world’s top 25 tourist traps — the full list of the top 100 is available in the paper’s original story:
- Four Corners Monument, Teec Nos Pos, Arizona
- Salem Witch Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
- Calico Ghost Town, Calico, California
- Crazy Horse Memorial, Crazy Horse, South Dakota
- International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell, New Mexico
- Blue Lagoon, Grindavik, Iceland
- Voodoo Doughnut, Portland, Oregon
- Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, Canada
- Penang Hill, Penang, Malaysia
- Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington
- Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, Germany
- Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Ubud, Indonesia
- Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
- Amana Colonies, Amana, Iowa
- Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, California
- Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
- Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
- House on the Rock, Wisconsin
- Skylon Tower, Niagara Falls, Canada
- Preservation Hall, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Blarney Castle, County Cork, Ireland
- Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, Waterbury, Vermont
- Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California
- Rovaniemi and Santa Claus Village, Lapland, Finland
- Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
Like South of the Border, many of the so-called tourist traps listed here are free to visit, unless you choose to purchase a meal, souvenirs or a bumper car ride. You can fall into the trap, but you don’t have to! The 10th ranked Pike Place Market is listed in my Seattle Accessible Travel Guide and 17th-ranked Navy Pier is in my Chicago Accessible Travel Guide. I’ve enjoyed visiting both of those places, and have done so often!
The 5th ranked tourist trap is featured in my Roswell, New Mexico Wheelchair Accessible Travel Guide — it’s the International UFO Museum and Research Center, but I didn’t dream of calling it a trap. The museum presents news clippings and recorded interviews with the people who were there during there 1947 incident. Add in the large collection of “aliens” on display, and the museum is more than worth the $5 bucks it costs to gain admission. Just because visitors aren’t convinced that extra terrestrials landed in Roswell (they didn’t), that’s no reason to slander this establishment with tourist trap claims!
Tourist trap or not, I have plans to visit the 2nd-ranked Salem Witch Museum later this month on Halloween — I just have to!
Farther down the list, other memorable attractions appear — at 38, the One World Observatory in New York City; at 43, Times Square (are you kidding me?); at 50, Mount Rushmore (give me a break!); at 81, the Kennedy Space Center; and at 99, Chicago’s Cloud Gate “bean” sculpture (which is completely free and in a public park!). Who would call any of these sites tourist traps? The bots and trolls must have taken over Google’s reviews platform.
How do you define a “tourist trap?” What’s the worst tourist trap you’ve ever fallen for? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured image courtesy South of the Border.