Macchu Picchu is essentially a pile of rubble
December 16, 2017 6:52 AM   Subscribe

With the story of a disappointing zoo in China (it helps to have real animals not inflatables) the Guardian asked its readers for their overrated tourist locations.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (180 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
In my home state of Nebraska, USA there are definitely a couple of candidates for overrated tourist attractions. Since it's a big state, you can also waste a fair bit of time getting to and from these wastes of time. The so-called Pioneer Village might be the top of my personal list (but to be fair, 42-year-old me and 15-year-old me might see it differently; I haven't been there since my teens). The Agate Fossil Beds National Monument doesn't have much in the way of in-situ fossils to see (unlike Ashfall Fossil Beds), but is redeemed by being a beautiful site in its own right. Of course, if you go to Carhenge you should understand what you're getting into. One last disappointment, Chimney Rock is hard or impossible to get up close to, the visitor's center seems unreasonably distant from it. (Scott's Bluff isn't far from there and you get to walk right up on it .. as long as the footpath hasn't collapsed due to erosion)
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 7:22 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


The so-called Pioneer Village might be the top of my personal list (but to be fair, 42-year-old me and 15-year-old me might see it differently; I haven't been there since my teens).

(I grew up in Nebraska, am the same age as you, and haaaated that fucking lameass tourist trap at what sounds like about the same time)
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:24 AM on December 16, 2017


I've been to a more disappointing zoo. The kind of zoo that made you think "I gave money to people who keep animals in bare concrete pits?!". Inflatable versions would've been preferable.
posted by pompomtom at 7:26 AM on December 16, 2017 [15 favorites]


(also: I've not been to Mount Rushmore, but what did they expect, exactly?)
posted by pompomtom at 7:30 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


In Vancouver - it is baffling to me to see all the tourists crowd around the Steam Clock in Gastown. It looks like a cheesy rendition of a grandfather clock that spouts a tune every 15 minutes. But here's the thing, it's not even steam powered! So not only is it an awful tourist trap - it's a FRAUD!
posted by helmutdog at 7:33 AM on December 16, 2017 [31 favorites]


We once went through Holbrook, AZ to see the Petrified Forest and for a lark went to check out the International Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. The badly modeled and painted concrete dinosaurs were a hilarious wheeze, and we laughed ourselves sick all the way through the "safari." Sadly (or not so sadly, considering all the confused German tourists who were likely duped by the name), it has been closed for over a decade.

I found myself kind of underwhelmed by Mount Rushmore, to be honest. But what's really breathtaking, although unfinished, is the Crazy Horse monument nearby. What an astounding undertaking. I don't suppose it will be finished in my lifetime.
posted by filthy_prescriptivist at 7:45 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


As this thread seems to be illustrating, I think it'd be even better for people to talk about stuff in their own home towns, since everyone spots the patterns of tourist disappointment.

My pick: Ben's Chili Bowl in DC. The reason is not that it's bad, but because people build it up too much in their minds before going there. It's historic and famous. It's played a major positive role in the local community, and presidents and movie stars have eaten there. But it is still essentially a small chili dog joint, so you shouldn't expect some kind of life changing culinary experience if you go there.
posted by unreason at 7:46 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yeah, Ben's is good, but its importance is to the community. And Hard Times is the better DC-area chili anyway.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


The so-called landing place of the pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, is a broken rock, badly glued together with now-crumbling concrete. It is largely indistinguishable from other rocks on that shoreline.
The national metaphors are getting a bit heavy here.
posted by informavore at 7:50 AM on December 16, 2017 [61 favorites]


I might enjoy a zoo full of inflatable animals. And maybe some cardboard cutouts for the more dangerous ones. I wonder if I can find any investors to start an inflatable zoo of my own around here?

I mean there would probably be real cats everywhere, too, they just show up.
posted by dilettante at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


"The idea is far more amazing than the remnants."

That's the fact for any ruin one visits. The point of visiting ruins isn't to see what is there, but to see what remains and to imagine what was once there. If you don't understand this, don't visit any ruins.

My vote for this list would be The Thing, which is a tourist trap on I-10 in Texas Canyon in Arizona. I went, I paid, I saw The Thing... the only good to come out of it is that I got another squished penny for my collection.
posted by hippybear at 8:04 AM on December 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


I heard all of the comments in that article in Karl Pilkington's voice.
posted by briank at 8:04 AM on December 16, 2017 [19 favorites]


Fitting I woke up to this, having just read Slawomir Mrożek's short story The Elephant...
posted by fritillary at 8:07 AM on December 16, 2017


The Old Man of the Mountain, famous emblem of my home state of New Hampshire, no longer exists. It was a cliffside rock formation that sort of looked like a profile of a man, but was honestly pretty disappointing even when it did exist. Natural erosion made it collapse in 2003. If you go to the highway turnouts where you used to be able to view it, you can see an informational plaque which shows you what it would have looked like when it was there.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:11 AM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


Liberty Bell. Stand in line for two and a half hours to see the broken side of a bell! Or simply walk down Chestnut St and see the thing anytime you want with no wait.

It's not even the coolest bell on that block (that would be the Bicentennial Bell).

You had ONE JOB, Liberty Bell.
posted by Diskeater at 8:14 AM on December 16, 2017 [14 favorites]


I've always regarded the Liberty Bell to be a symbolic commentary on the US as a whole, and its veneration has never made sense to me. "We made a bell, and it cracked and cannot ring, and we still love it."
posted by hippybear at 8:16 AM on December 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


You get out of a site what you bring to it, is my experience with travel.

There's definitely some over-done and over commercialized things out there (don't just go to the Louvre for the Mona Lisa, for example), but if you're not open to the experience, you're almost certainly going to be disappointed. My mom just came back from Macchu Picchu and can't stop talking about how amazing it was.
posted by bonehead at 8:17 AM on December 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


The Sears/Willis Tower. This is probably a case of familiarity breeding contempt because every time family comes to visit, they want to go to the top of the tallest building in the world. After the fourth trip in two years I started resenting having to stand in line to go look out a window to see a view which hadn't really changed since the last time I saw it. Plus, I'm afraid of heights.

That said, the people I was with seemed to enjoy the visit.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 8:19 AM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm so glad Waikiki Beach made the list. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the "overrated tourist locations" topic, but it's also one of those things where I couldn't be sure whether it authentically sucks or if it just sucks because I'm a local and got spoiled by easy access to a bunch of different beaches on the island. But, seriously, it's not even the nicest beach near downtown Honolulu, and all the sand is imported from Australia anyway because of erosion.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:23 AM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


Plymouth Rock: It's a rock.

What were you expecting?
posted by mikeand1 at 8:23 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, familiarity is not a fair way to judge these things. When I lived less than a mile from the Ben and Jerry’s plant I was not too impressed with their factory tour. But, I know too many people who have been delighted to visit to think it’s actually bad.
posted by meinvt at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2017


Plymouth Rock is almost certainly an invented landmark anyway, it wasn't even mentioned in writing for more than a hundred years after the landing.
posted by octothorpe at 8:28 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Here in Frederick MD we have the Barbara Fritchie House. Barbara Fritchie used to be an important tourist attraction for our town; you could go visit her grave, eat at the Barbara Fritchie Diner, or go to her former house, where a volunteer docent would, unless you ran quickly, recite the John Greenleaf Whittier poem with the lines "Shoot if you must, this old gray head, But spare your country’s flag, she said." Of course she never said that, and it's not even her house, which was destroyed. But come to Frederick anyway-- we have the Monocacy Battlefield with a great visitor center.
posted by acrasis at 8:37 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yeah. We called it the Plymouth Pebble.

As for Minnesota stuff: I find Jucy Lucys to be sloppy, annoying, and totally not worth it; Pipestone National Monument was kind of dull, and Devil's Kettle hike is steep and you don't get close enough to the waterfall anyway to see it well.

If you go to Darwin to see the Biggest Ball of Twine, however, your expectations will undoubtedly be met. Its a big ball of twine. What more could you expect?
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:38 AM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


> The Sears/Willis Tower. This is probably a case of familiarity breeding contempt because every time family comes to visit, they want to go to the top of the tallest building in the world.

^16th tallest building in the world. It's not even the tallest building in the United States. (Just trying to pile on the disappointment, ok?)
posted by ardgedee at 8:46 AM on December 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


Seattle's Space Needle! I've said it before, and I'll no doubt repeat it again. You spend a ton of money to ride an elevator up a tall tower, from which you can no longer see the single most interesting bit of architecture in the city. Waste of time.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 8:48 AM on December 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


I've always regarded the Liberty Bell to be a symbolic commentary on the US as a whole, and its veneration has never made sense to me.

Deeply flawed yet still cherished is how I see it, much like the country.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 8:53 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


A few states have Pioneer Villages, either running under exactly that name or merely its premise. As fascinating as I think America's history is (and it really is, especially once you get past the White Guy's Manifest Destiny that drives the mainstream narrative), there's a sameness to how our ancestors lived off of dirt and rocks in different parts of the central-north and northeastern US before the Industrial Revolution reached them, and the distinctions rarely justify additional roadtrips to visit more of them. It's worth witnessing once -- if nothing else, even a watered-down first-hand demonstration of how miserable life was, can give you a lasting appreciation for modernity -- I just dunno if it's worth rerunning.
posted by ardgedee at 8:54 AM on December 16, 2017


When I was en route there, a family member said the Grand Canyon was just a big hole in the desert and worth a look but not a big deal. I always knew he was a dick, but once I got to the Grand Canyon, there was no doubt remaining.
posted by theora55 at 9:08 AM on December 16, 2017 [37 favorites]


The Stockyards in Fort Worth. Here are some cattle pens. Here is a herd of tame longhorns we will make walk a few blocks twice a day. Here is...a maze? Sure why not. Also some brick roads which historic cattle historically shitted on. And here is lots and lots of overpriced Western stuff you will never use/wear unless you are into Dolly Parton cosplay. And several restaurants, you can get burgers, they're fine, but nothing special. And some bars where tourists like to get shitfaced and dance to bad modern country cover bands.

Anyway, go check out our museums instead. Or come for the Stock Show in January, it's a giant rodeo + state fair setup, and the people watching is good and the animals gorgeous.
posted by emjaybee at 9:09 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Let's be fair to Plymouth Rock. It used to be bigger, and not cracked. Then the humans got the idea that they should take pieces of it home, and it shrank and broke. That's why what's left of it is in a cage. I have no idea whether any of the Pilgrims even stubbed their toe on it, but there's other stuff nearby that's worth seeing. I doubt that any of those pieces of The Rock can be identified or even found by the descendants of the collectors.

Waikiki Beach by the hotels is a letdown. It's so narrow there, because they built the hotels just about at the high-water line. If you walk a ways in either direction, you'll reach nicer places. In one direction is a large park (the green area at the bottom of the photo in the article) with, as I recall, a nice enough beach. In the other direction is a really nice beach (IIRC) with park, at Fort DeRussy,

My list of big disappointments:

* Cave of the Winds, at Niagara Falls. No cave, no winds. A linked bunch of wood decks that sort of approach the base of the falls, where you can get damp from the spray if the breeze is right. Actually the entire New York side of Niagara Falls was a disappointment.

* Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. Pretty enough, but not more than a lot of other places up there that don't have a giant parking lot full of tourist buses, or the hordes of people in them.

* The Church of the Red Rocks, Sedona, AZ. I liked the place, but thought it would be better without that church.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:12 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


To be fair, most of Sedona would be better without Sedona being there. I lived there for a while, and I had an amazing shroom trip on a hillside just out of town overlooking an amazing valley while faces on the opposing cliff face talked to me about ancient wisdom. That valley is, today, filled with houses and the trail has been made a non-trail.
posted by hippybear at 9:16 AM on December 16, 2017 [20 favorites]


The Wieners Circle in Chicago. Just a bunch of drunk DePaul kids and put-upon staff hurling abuse at each other, and the hot dogs aren't very good. Don't go.


As an alternative to the (Wesley) Willis Tower, I like the Hancock Building. It's still pretty high, and you can go to the lounge one floor below the observation deck and get a nice cocktail, along with what is essentially the same view.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:23 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


Also, Chicago deep dish is terrible.

There. I said it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:25 AM on December 16, 2017 [28 favorites]


Real big disappointments are getting scarcer, the internet has outed them. But I found the Pyramids in Giza disappointing. Not the actual monuments, but the suburbs growing up almost to the foot of them, and the tired unregulated trade there. I guess that's what happens to national monuments in a corrupt, authoritarian state.
posted by mumimor at 9:27 AM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


Then, when you get to the top, the realisation dawns on you that the iconic view of New York has the Empire State Building in it, the one building you can’t see because you’re on top of it. You get a lovely view of the Chrysler Building though.

After visiting the observation deck at the Empire State building, we were with a few people waiting for the elevator back down when this lady pokes my arm and says (loudly), "Is this the elevator down?"

I said, "Well, it's not going anywhere else."

The guy beside me chuckled and she got all pissy.

To me, the Chrysler Building looks cooler than than the Empire State Building, so I was not disappointed with the view from top of the latter.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:29 AM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


One tourist attraction that absolutely does live up to the hype is Carlsbad Caverns. Just be sure to have comfortable walking shoes.

One tourist attraction that disappointed me was Pike's Peak. Once reaching the top, the thick fog reduced my vision to a dozen feet. Must have been just bad luck on my part as no one would bother if the view was always that bad.
posted by Beholder at 9:34 AM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


Also, Chicago deep dish is terrible.

Pistols at dawn.

(that said, I agree with you about the Hancock Building.)
posted by Daily Alice at 9:34 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


For me, the thing about Mount Rushmore is that if you approach it from a certain side, you can see the heads long before you get to the gate where you have to pay to go in and park so you can see the heads.
posted by scratch at 9:35 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The rock formations, on their own, are relatively cool, and all the promo pics you see of the place makes it look like they're out in the countryside somewhere semi-wild. The reality is that the place is pretty much in Colorado Springs and is a maze of paved roadway weaving closely in and around the rock formations, and you're either dodging other cars or seeking a parking spot somewhere too much to actually look at the rock formations. Skip it. The promo pics are much more impressive than the reality.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:36 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also, the Eiffel Tower is neat to look at, but the view from the top is hardly worth the aggressive tourists. Better to stand underneath and sing Alec Eiffel.

The view of Paris from the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is excellent, however, and people used to kill themselves there.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:36 AM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


the view from top of the latter

I'm confused now, because your anecdote was about an elevator.
posted by scratch at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


Portland Underground tour. It’s been about 10 years since we did it, but as I remember it was 3 connected basements in Portland’s Old Town.
posted by herda05 at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


Travel really depends on your mood. If you're in a bad mood, you're just not going to have a good time. Since you usually have limited time, you can't just sit in your hotel and mope. You can see it in Paul Theroux's books, when he is in a foul mood, he hates everything. I think it's also true of things like shopping, if you're in a good mood a bookstore is ten times more fun.
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:38 AM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


One tourist attraction that absolutely does live up to the hype is Carlsbad Caverns.

OMG yes. Do the walking tour, not the elevator. And pay extra for the side tours. The shit that is happening inside the earth's crust is amazing. It's worth the drive to the middle of nowhere and paying money (and extra money) for this. Plan getting there on an evening and devoting the entire next day to exploring the caverns. If Carlsbad Caverns were closer to anywhere I'd take people there all the time when I'm there in late October for the big reunion party I go to every year. It's just so... remote.

We need an anti-list to to with this list. I'd put Carlsbad Caverns close to the top.
posted by hippybear at 9:39 AM on December 16, 2017 [19 favorites]


I agree that Waikiki is disappointing. There are way better beaches on Oahu and the other islands. It’s good to visit one time but after that, go somewhere better.

My first thought though with this list is that generally tourists never go to the best spots, because doing so means getting off the beaten path a bit. For example, most of the national parks I’ve visited have been mobbed but then you go to do a short hike and all of a sudden no one is around. People aren’t willing to work a tiny bit harder to see better stuff in my experience.
posted by FireFountain at 9:39 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


People think the Alamo is out in the desert, surrounded by tall saguaro cactus, when it's really in slightly scruffy downtown San Antonio. The museum displays have got a lot better, it used to be mostly bare empty buildings.
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:42 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


OMG yes. Do the walking tour, not the elevator.

Interesting. When I visited Carlsbad Caverns, as a kid, you had to walk down to the bottom, where they sold horrible cheese sandwiches, and take an elevator back to the top.
posted by Beholder at 9:43 AM on December 16, 2017


That's the fact for any ruin one visits. The point of visiting ruins isn't to see what is there, but to see what remains and to imagine what was once there.

Very true. The person in the article who griped that Macchu Picchu is a pile of rubble--what did he think it would look like, a suburban office park?
posted by scratch at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


People think the Alamo is out in the desert, surrounded by tall saguaro cactus, when it's really in slightly scruffy downtown San Antonio. The museum displays have got a lot better, it used to be mostly bare empty buildings.

Went as a kid and was horribly disappointed, because they didn't have the only thing that really interested me. Sad! It's probably just as well, though, as I doubt The Knife was as impressive as the legends make it out to be.
posted by Beholder at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


In Seattle we've got the "original" Starbucks in Pike Place Market. There's always a long line outside, and many tourists with selfie sticks. I guess it has some historical significance (even if the actual first location was down the street) but still, you're just queuing for a mediocre cup of Starbucks. (My recommendation would be to get an espresso at Le Pichet instead, or even the coffee at the Daily Dozen Donut Co., but what do I know?)
posted by plasticpalacealice at 9:47 AM on December 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


As an alternative to the (Wesley) Willis Tower, I like the Hancock Building.

I have for years had an ongoing argument with my old college roommate about whether we went up the Sears Tower or the Hancock Building. Presumably our memories would be clearer if we'd seen the other building, but the thing is, it was so foggy we couldn't see ANYTHING. (It was free because of the weather, we mostly just did it to see how long the elevator ride was; we were from Mississippi, and there just aren't any skyscrapers there.)

We also saw Wesley Willis play live in Memphis, but that's not a story appropriate to a thread about let-downs. It was all we could have wanted it to be.
posted by solotoro at 9:50 AM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


Cave of the Winds is awesome and I don't care what anyone else says. It's a perspective of a huge waterfall you don't get too often, and unless they've changed it since when I was a kid, the wind and spray on the "hurricane deck" was quite a force of nature. I suppose if there's a drought or something and the water levels are low, it might be disappointing? I always liked it better than the Maid of the Mist for sure.

Painted Desert/Petrified Forest disappointed me as a kid too, but we saw it on the same trip as the Grand Canyon so I always wondered if that was sort of unfair. It's a beautiful desert-scape, there just isn't the sense of grandeur. And petrified wood in situ looks boring; it's only the polished pieces in the gift shop that you could see up close that were cool looking.

"Chicago deep dish sucks lol" has been done here and everywhere on the internet a million times. No one cares. Can we please just note it and move on?
posted by misskaz at 9:50 AM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is pretty pathetic, less than 1:1 scale. No idea why it's considered a tourist attraction.

(The citadel next to it is a lovely place to go for a walk, though).
posted by Dysk at 9:50 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Pissing boy in Brussels. Same.

But I like this idea of an anti-list

1. Taj Mahal
2. Santorini
3. Zion National Park

that's it. everything else I'd rather see on youtube.
posted by tirutiru at 9:56 AM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


London is not as bad as it used to be but Madame Tussauds is still an insanely overpriced rip-off. I was recently informed there's not even a Chamber of Horrors any more.

And the golden rule is still never ever eat in an Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse (now Angus Steakhouse)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:57 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I worked in Zion National Park for a summer when I was in college. It's amazing. Go there. Well, don't go there (too many people go there these days). But back in the 80s it wasn't well known and it was amazing.
posted by hippybear at 9:59 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Pissing boy in Brussels. Same.

Oh man, YES. Especially if you manage to show up on one of the few days they haven't dressed him in anything.

Instead of the Manneken Pis, the next time you're there check out the more recent Jeanneke Pis. No lines or crowds, and now instead of being in tourist shopping central, you are right next to the Delirium Café, a much more enjoyable experience all around.
posted by solotoro at 10:03 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Then, when you get to the top, the realisation dawns on you that the iconic view of New York has the Empire State Building in it, the one building you can’t see because you’re on top of it.
This reminds me of how Guy de Maupassant famously ate lunch at the base of the Eiffel Tower every day, because that was the one place in the city where he couldn't see the thing he hated.
posted by cardioid at 10:03 AM on December 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


Here in Spain I'd say that the average archaeological site that you can visit in situ -- be it Itálica, or Empúries, or Celsa-- is incredibly underwhelming because it's usually walls up to your knees and little more. All the interesting stuff is safely kept in museums, after all.

(If you go to these places or Medina Azahara or sites like that, wear a hat and sunscreen. There is no shade.)

In my hometown we have a Roman museum underground in front of the cathedral and apart from the usual exhibition of objects, you can see the main sewer and if you use your imagination, trace the contour of the forum for a bit. They have a similar setup in Paris, with a jigsaw of medieval basements and wells in the Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame.

For my part, the city where I got really pissed off was Vienna, because I went to the Leopoldmuseum to see Egon Schiele drawings, and the drawings on display were only reproductions. Then I went to the Albertina to see the Albrecht Dürer drawings, and while they have a good collection of modern art, all the Dürer you see are again reproductions. If I hadn't paid 10-12€ to each museum to basically see posters I wouldn't be so pissed off. The Musée d'Orsay does have their drawings on display in careful conditions of low light, after all.
posted by sukeban at 10:07 AM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


But that ought to be the point of an anti-list. Too many people, but they're there for the right reason?
posted by tirutiru at 10:08 AM on December 16, 2017


Madame Tussauds is still an insanely overpriced rip-off.

This. We've got a small one in DC now and it's really not worth the ticket price. Conversely, I've seen a couple of Ripley's Believe it or Not museums in other cities when I've been traveling, and they're good cheesy fun.
posted by unreason at 10:14 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


List: Stone Mountain Georgia (unless you are a geology nut I suppose) and the entire towns of Panama City, FL and Orlando, FL.

Anti-list: Yellowstone National Park, the old fort in San Juan, PR, Mammoth Caves NPS Wild Cave tour, Makers Mark Distillery tour, New Belgium Brewery Tour, Library of Congress (thanks you know who you are).
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:17 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Forks, WA

It's a dismal, dark, wet, end of the road logging town. No fictional sparkling vampires to be found.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


I love overrated tourist traps. Even if they're disappointing in person there's something satisfying about checking off a list of things that everyone insists you should see, or things you've seen in thousands of photographs, movies, etc. If someone tells me a spot is overrated and not worth checking out, that pretty much seals the deal that I'll be stopping there.

One such spot that I was told by several people to skip on a recent road trip through the American South was Rock City on Lookout Mountain, right near Chattanooga. Every goddamn barn south of Toledo has SEE ROCK CITY painted on it and eventually you're just like FINE I'LL SEE IT. But it's really quite something.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is SEE ROCK CITY.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2017 [25 favorites]


There are probably as many as one hundred better places to visit on Oahu than Waikiki beach. Or Waikiki in general. If you're ever visiting, drop me a note and I'll make some recommendations. Hawaii is gorgeous but Waikiki is just marketed well.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:20 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Once foolishly visited the Grand Canyon without any camping reservations (we were young) and bailed out to Zion which had plenty of spaces. It is my favorite Nation Park. Really special.

Celebration, Florida was a pleasant surprise for the anti list. Cool little town built by Disney.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:24 AM on December 16, 2017


Oh, and Giethoorn.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:25 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


the entire towns of Panama City, FL and Orlando, FL

Whoa there! I'll spot you the Theme Park Industrial Complex but Orlando has some interesting non-Disney places to see. I'll get back to you as soon as I think of some.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:26 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


So, this Chinese zoo is the answer to the question 'What's a Shih Tzu' then? I'll see myself out, thanks.
posted by punilux at 10:28 AM on December 16, 2017 [18 favorites]


If you like being disappointed and hassled by tourist travel, you may also like: Richard Ayoade's "Travel Man" series. Search for it on youtube or elsewhere online.
posted by thefool at 10:36 AM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


For the anti-list: the museum for Paris's sewers. Highlight are the little displays about rats!

I think I may have enjoyed it more than my companions, though...
posted by meese at 10:37 AM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


Forks, WA

What? No! Personal tastes differ of course, but when I was there several years ago it was utterly charming the way 80% of the businesses in town were trying to cash in on Twilight tourism. Twilight tours! Twilight firewood! Twilight Lock and Key! Plus there’s the giant rain gauge right on Main St.
posted by plastic_animals at 10:39 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Whoa there! I'll spot you the Theme Park Industrial Complex but Orlando has some interesting non-Disney places to see.

Hah! I lived there for ten years, and I'm straining to recall a single thing of real interest in Orlando itself. It is one of the ugliest towns I've had the displeasure to know, all sprawl and low development. It has about as much charm as LA. I purposefully spent as much of my life as possible living and working in either downtown or College Park just to minimize how much of that ugly I had to expose myself too. It's a real shame too, an otherwise lovely city was absolutely destroyed by the unanticipated, massive sprawl spurred by Disney's opening in the early 70s. They never had a plan to handle the growth, and boy does it ever show.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:41 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Despite all the tourist schlock clinging to its train station and cafe, Macchu Picchu is absolutely amazing. I find it hard to believe anyone who's been there would add it to the list.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit the BBC is so much more hip than me that I can't figure out what the hell the first story is about, or even which bits are ads. Somehow making fun of failing carnies on other continents strikes me as needlessly mean.

But, Macchu Picchu is top of the list of "incredibly famous and therefore slightly embarrassing tourist things that are actually more than worth the effort to visit 'cause they're fantastic." (I'm down with trashing Mt. Rushmore, which was an aesthetically embarrassing pile of nationalist garbage when it was built. The rest I've never seen.)
posted by eotvos at 10:50 AM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


My childhood family vacations consisted of 3 1/2 weeks pulling a pop-up camper around the American west, spending hours every day driving from one spot to another to see whatever national park or monument or scenery there was. It was a misery for me, and my happiest memories of those vacations are the rare times when we stayed in one place for a few days, such as a dude ranch in Wyoming.

As a grownup, I tend to travel more for experiences than specific places. I like conferences, and for years I worked on the crew at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and I love going to visit friends in the places they live. But I have also, on these trips, learned that I do like scenery, and one of my favorite places is the Kinzua Bridge in Western Pennslyvania. (Wikipedia link) A long and high railroad bridge originally built in the 19th century, it was destroyed by a tornado in 2003. You can walk out on the remains of the bridge, and there is a glass-floored observation deck at the end. The fallen remnants have been left where they are, and the observation deck affords a beautiful long view of a deep forested gorge snaking away in both directions. It's a gorgeous coming together of technology and nature. Perhaps I like it especially because i like both railroads and natural disasters, as well as the forests and mountains.
posted by Orlop at 10:51 AM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]



Seattle's Space Needle! I've said it before, and I'll no doubt repeat it again. You spend a ton of money to ride an elevator up a tall tower, from which you can no longer see the single most interesting bit of architecture in the city. Waste of time.
posted by los pantalones del muerte


A friend of mine and his girlfriend decided to walk up the stairs of the Space Needle to the restaurant at the top to work up an appetite, but when they got there restaurant staff refused to unlock the door to the stairs and let them in, and when they got back to the bottom, they were arrested.
posted by jamjam at 11:07 AM on December 16, 2017 [60 favorites]


It has about as much charm as LA.

LA has plenty wrong with it, as does any megalopolis, but it is the western, northern, and eastern nexus point for continents’ and oceans’ worth of culture and history, and if one of its dozens of distinct neighborhoods doesn’t hold any charm for you, there’s another just down the boulevard.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:07 AM on December 16, 2017 [18 favorites]


If you visit Portland, please don’t go to Voodoo Donuts. Many years ago, it was a weird donut shop that was only open late at night, so you could drop in after a concert on your way home. Long ago, it transformed from local colour to a nakedly cash grabbing tourist trap. They’re just donuts.
posted by chrchr at 11:08 AM on December 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


The Danish Village of Solvang, California. It's the same "quaint" shops and pseudo-quaint architecture that you can find in any "old town" tourist trap in the US.
posted by SPrintF at 11:10 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Can't agree with Mount Rushmore or Djemaa el Fna. The faces at Mount Rushmore were meh but the people-watching was spectactular, it was an unexpectedly entertaining stop. Yeah, Djemaa el Fna has some tourist bait with the water sellers and snake charmers but when it's plonked right in the middle of Marrakech's souks and the Koutoubia it really isn't that manufactured.

I've kind of blocked out the disappointing tourist attractions as there is so much spectacular stuff to see in the world. Maybe Southern California beaches, they were pretty crap. I wouldn't call the Space Needle a disappointing attraction as it didn't attract me in the first place.
posted by N-stoff at 11:10 AM on December 16, 2017


People's expectations are interesting. I can't quite put my finger on it, but some people really are drawn to "the thing you must see". Checking off the list. Same with the album you must hear, the movie you must see. That's a red flag for me. The thing must be convenient, inoffensive and unchallenging to most everyone, and simple to explain or it wouldn't be the thing.

I am sure that if a thing is on that list of things to see it will be underwhelming 90% of the time and I adjust my expectations. Especially if it has a line, and I hate lines. So usually I'm not disappointed, just often annoyed if I've had to endure it like the freakin ferris wheel in London.

I did not want to pay a bunch of money and wait half the day in line to ride a really slow ferris wheel, but once I got up there I discovered it was still not as interesting as even my low expectations predicted. There is much to see in London, and that is not a good use of time.
posted by bongo_x at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Tourists are surprised to learn that travel brochures engage in hyperbole. Imagine that.

I know what you mean about Waikiki, though. Some forty or so years ago I lived in the leeward side in Maile. The beach was small but untrammeled, and you could swim there as long as you stayed near shore and out of the rip. I was young then, and unhampered by perspective. The astronomy of the day kept me in awe: I got to sit on a beach at sunset and watch "The Grand Alignment" in 1974--five planets lined up with a waxing moon. Mrs. mule and I went to Hawaii as tourists not long ago, and found a tent city had been established there, exactly where I used to sit and watch show. It was different from the beach camps I knew back in the day. I felt dirty, and complicit in degrading paradise. This is one of those deals where you have to look under it to see it. I won't go back. Haoles are like cock-a-roaches, the saying goes, They come over on the boat and get into everything.

Someone I met at a Veterans' reunion, a Lakota / Comanche elder, told me he thought Rushmore was depressing, and he was glad he didn't live anywhere near it, literally under the noses of the conquerors. I've never seen Rushmore, but after a moment of reflection I guess I take his point--they stare down at you from your own mountain.

If you visit Macchu Picchu and see only a pile of rubble you probably left your soul in the hotel room. Okay, maybe it's just me.
posted by mule98J at 11:12 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


The thing must be convenient, inoffensive and unchallenging to most everyone, and simple to explain or it wouldn't be the thing.

Oddly, I tell everyone all the time they should see Blade Runner, and it is entirely not any one of those things.
posted by hippybear at 11:14 AM on December 16, 2017


For the anti-list:

In Tokyo, the very tiny Ōta Memorial Museum of Art is right next to Harajuku/ Jingumae stations and rotates woodblocks from their extensive ukiyo-e collections, so apart from the programmed exhibitions you never know what you're going to see. Under the museum there is a Kamawanu shop for tenugui and related textile products like folding fans (in season).

I don't know how much Uji is marketed, but between Byōdō-in (lots of tourists) and Ujigami Shrine (nobody there when I visited) and that it's a major producer of green tea, you should definitely spend at least half a day there if you're staying in Kyoto.
posted by sukeban at 11:14 AM on December 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


Can we somehow compile the anti-list into a real list that is anti this thing? Because these recommendations make me want to plan exorbitant travel costs into my budget.
posted by hippybear at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


DC Anti-list: A lot of tourists go to Georgetown Cupcake since they have a reality show. They're good, but the line is really long, especially if the weather is bad. For an alternative that's just as nice, go to the Pie Sisters down the street. They've even got cupcake sized pies that are functionally similar to a cupcake.
posted by unreason at 11:27 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


In Salzburg the castle is alright, but if you're visiting in nice weather, instead of buying Mozartkügeln go to the Sacher Hotel by the river and have coffee and Sachertorte in the beergarden enjoying the view. The Stiftskeller St. Peter is allegedly the oldest restaurant in Europe and it's also relatively affordable. The dining hall with the vaults is nice to eat in.
posted by sukeban at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I suppose if there's a drought or something and the water levels are low, it might be disappointing?

Doesn't take a drought. A minimum of 50% of the Niagara River flow never makes it to the Falls, because it's diverted to the hydroelectric power plants. In times of high electric demand, like Summer, the amount diverted to the plants can be much larger, and the Falls are consequently smaller.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


They have even completely dried up the Falls to try and stop the natural erosion that created them.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:32 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking Branson, MO needs to be on this list. I know people who absolutely love the place, but when they describe everything there, the only image I get is that it's where entertainment careers go to be put on life support.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:33 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


Anti-list in London: British Museum, Victoria & Albert, National Portrait Gallery, Sir John Soane's Museum, Linley Sambourne House, Kew Gardens, HMS Belfast.

Over rated: Tower, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's , Imperial War Museum when it is crawling with school children.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:37 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Wait, Waikiki is just like Blackpool? Show of hands: Where would you rather be right now, the beach of Waikiki or the beach of Blackpool? Yeah, I thought so.

I wasn't disappointed about Waikiki Beach. It was exactly as I expected. A place where large hotels butt up against the sand. I suspect that Honolulu overall is probably a big disappointment for a lot of people.

Sure, The Thing is a must see tourist destination, if you believe the faded billboards extending for miles along I-10. By that measure, Jackrabbit, Knife City and all those old Stucky's were famous destinations in the American Southwest.

I'll agree that Mt Rushmore is overrated. I drove up, saw the faces on the rock, and decided, "Naw, I don't need to pay to see them more."

I wasn't all that impressed with Yellowstone. Lots of trees and steam and stuff. Some animals you probably don't want to get too close to. Some fairly posh camp sites. I'd much rather drive through Monument Valley or Yosemite Valley.

I thought Roswell NM was more fun than one might expect, on the way to or from Carlsbad Caverns. Stop for a bite, visit the UFO museum, buy a plastic alien. The town really cashed in on the UFO craze over the last 20 years. First time I visited in the mid 90s, there was a single private museum, an old small storefront, run by an old guy, on the outskirts of town. Aliens seem to have pumped some new life into the area.

When I was in D.C. I was impressed by one museum more than the others: The International Spy Museum. Lots of fairly modern history, memorabilia, artifacts, interesting stuff about spies and their craft.

I think the Arch in St. Louis is a good destination. Far more impressive in person than I thought it would be, plus a nice museum underneath.

Branson is as ridiculous and American as can be. Saw the Shoji Tabuchi show. About as ridiculous/awesome as it gets, got to piss in the crushed ice urinals, overload of red white and blue. If you like cheesy tourist spots, Branson is a place to go. If you don't like cheesy tourist spots, avoid at all costs.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:42 AM on December 16, 2017


I'm surprised no one has mentioned Four Corners. Y'know, the intersection of the borders of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona! The only place in the US where you can stand in four states at once!!

When my family went to Maui, my parents really wanted to see this scenic sunrise from the top of a volcano. This involves waking up at 3 AM and getting on a bus for two hours, and the day we went, it was cloudy and we didn't see a damn thing. It was awful. Maybe this is just me being grumpy about my beauty sleep, though.

I also don't remember the name of this one, but there's a place out in the west Texas desert where there's a couple of cars and you can buy spray paint and paint them however you like. I'm pretty sure it's the only thing out there and that's the only reason why we stopped.

There's a popular restaurant in Cabo called The Office that's horrible tourist garbage, people running around pouring tequila into their mouths, that sort of thing.

There's a cabin in the woods in Northern California called the Mystery Spot that purports to have some strange phenomena like people lifting themselves up easier and heights looking similar but it's actually because the cabin is on this crazy incline on a hill and it's just an optical illusion.

And for the anti-list: Yellowstone is spectacular. Scuba diving with stingrays in the Cayman Islands. Ladakh, in India. It's in the Himalayas near the Chinese border, above the tree line so it's a desert at 12,000 feet.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 11:43 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


I once did a camping-site trip to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone with my partner and a very old friend and his wife who was severely sight-limited. On one day in Yellowstone we got a sack lunch from the local vender (which was a lot of food for not much money) and we hiked to Steamboat Geyser which required us traversing a lengthy part of the trail that was dead trees on the ground across a marshy area and I spent much of the hike there and back with my boots in the mud while I assisted Allison finding safe passage on the trail and at the far point of our journey we sat in the steam plume of Steamboat Geyser which was erupting and when we got back we learned that it only erupted every [very long time] and that we got to see it happen was Officially Recorded and that was thrilling.

Yellowstone is amazing and is worth getting off the beaten paths to explore.
posted by hippybear at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


I spent a chunk of my childhood in Stratford-upon-Avon. Don't bother. Unless you're going to the theatre. And even then there's plenty of interesting regional theatre in the UK to see. It's not even the best medieval town in Warwickshire. If you find yourself there, go to Warwick instead (the castle is part of the Tussauds group and a bit of a rip off and the 'interpretation' is terrible, but it is a most castlely of castles), and stop by Charlecote Park on the way (which has a tenuous Shakespeare connection). Or go to Alcester, Evesham, Tewkesbury, Litchfield, Worcester, or Chipping Camden, Morton in the Marsh, or Stow on the Wold or any of the other Cotswold towns.

If you're in search of the origins of the Bard you're as likely to find them in the hipster bars of Shoreditch as you are in a two-bit regional market town (which doesn't even have a livestock market anymore FFS).
posted by Helga-woo at 11:56 AM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


It was 30 years ago but four corners was like a row of vendor tents at a flea market with parking fees. I'll nominate Mesa Verde as a must see though. Young me was awestruck.
posted by cmfletcher at 11:57 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Both list and anti-list: The French Quarter of New Orleans.
posted by ardgedee at 11:57 AM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


It depends on what you like, but I'd put White Sands National Monument on the anti-list. It's in the middle of nowhere, but it's also 200+ square miles of pure white gypsum sand dunes. Surrounded by mountains. It's like being on another planet. It's either totally boring or entirely fascinating. You Be The Judge.
posted by hippybear at 12:00 PM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


The Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. It's the world's only diamond mine open to the public! It's a big, plowed field of dirt with no shade. I spent one of the hottest, boringest, most miserable days of my childhood there.
posted by Mavri at 12:07 PM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


Overrated: Athens. I went there planning to spend a week and after two days I couldn't wait to get out.

For the anti-list:

Petra
Registan Square
Uluru
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I can imagine that if all you've done is taken the bus up the hill to Machu Picchu, then you might be inclined to see it as just another tourist stop. But if you've spent the previous three days walking the Inca Trail, and woken up at 4am to see the dawn from the Sun Gate, then Machu Picchu is a destination that you've worked for.

We're just back from two weeks in Morocco, and Marrakech was right at the end. It's not just the Djemaa el Fna, the whole city feels like a tourist trap. Meknes is the anti-Marrakech.
posted by daveje at 12:10 PM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yes, White Sands. It is on the way to and from nowhere else. But it's a pretty unique place. Having been in the middle of summer, it's absolutely incredible or terrifying. There's a decent aerospace museum in nearby Alamogordo. From memory, it's about the only thing worthwhile in Alamogordo. It was there I visited what was the worst Mexican restaurant I ever encountered. Taco Bell would have been preferable by far, and more authentic, too.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:12 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


In Seattle we've got the "original" Starbucks in Pike Place Market. There's always a long line outside, and many tourists with selfie sticks. I guess it has some historical significance (even if the actual first location was down the street) but still, you're just queuing for a mediocre cup of Starbucks. (My recommendation would be to get an espresso at Le Pichet instead, or even the coffee at the Daily Dozen Donut Co., but what do I know?)

The irony is there's another Starbuck's just up the block with a much shorter line and the same damn coffee.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:17 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Lake Louise really is not done justice by the pictures. Sure it's full buses of tourists, but Emerald Lake, which is possibly prettier is not that far away. Moraine Lake is even less traveled and also very worth the short trip. And if you don't get out on at least one of them by canoe, I'm sorry, that's still on your bucket anti-list.

I'll give you Whistler though. That's kind of jumped the shark.
posted by bonehead at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


In Seattle we've got the "original" Starbucks in Pike Place Market.

The New England equivalent would be the original Dunkin' Donuts on Southern Artery (Rte. 3A) in Quincy, redesigned a few years ago to look like it did in the 1950s. Not worth going out of your way for, but if you happen to be heading down to Nantasket Beach, it's worth a stop (and it's open 24 hours).
posted by adamg at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


...my parents really wanted to see this scenic sunrise

I feel your pain. Keenly I feel it.
posted by tirutiru at 12:49 PM on December 16, 2017


Major reason why I prefer to travel alone: I am free to just decide this World Famous Thing actually is not really my jam and bail (or never go in the first place) at the first sign of meh without having to convince anyone else or justify myself.

I find the British Museum overwhelming (yo dawg, I heard you like Mesopotamian friezes--here's five galleries full of them!) and I'm sure if I lived in London I'd go all the time and take it in small pieces, but when I visit London I prefer to be out actually in London rather than looking at things I can see pictures of in the internet anytime I want.

Also, I had like 30 minutes to get out of my car and look at the Grand Canyon while on a cross country road trip and I don't recommend doing that. Either go with enough time to hike around and experience it from multiple angles and perspectives, or skip it. It looks like the pictures.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:57 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Doesn't take a drought. A minimum of 50% of the Niagara River flow never makes it to the Falls, because it's diverted to the hydroelectric power plants. In times of high electric demand, like Summer, the amount diverted to the plants can be much larger, and the Falls are consequently smaller.

IIRC, you have that backwards. They have to maintain a minimum flow over the falls, and that minimum is reduced further at night and outside of tourist season.

The falls themselves are in that middle ground where they're nifty but I could see being disappointed by them. Especially if you're in NY looking at the crap on the Ontario side.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:05 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you're in London you should really take a train and go to Hampton Court. The Tudor parts are well preserved, and the Queen Mary/ Hannoverian parts are also fun to wander through. The gardens are also lovely and they even have a rose garden of heritage varieties that smells like heaven.
posted by sukeban at 1:06 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't know how much marketing Uji needs to do considering that byodoin temple is on the 10 yen coin. That was actually all the thinking behind my first visit there, "hey, this place on the coin is close by, why don't I check it out?"
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:14 PM on December 16, 2017


Munich: tourists crowd the downtown area around Hofbräuhaus. Nobody else ever goes there. Surprisingly enough, you can get a decent Schweinsbraten at the Hofbräuhaus, but it‘s not really the place I would seek out for an ‚authentic‘ experience.
posted by The Toad at 1:17 PM on December 16, 2017


mackinac city and mackinac island - mackinac city is pure tourist hell with miles and miles of motels that if they were located anywhere else, would be exactly the kind of places people get shot over meth deals gone wrong

you have to take a ferry to get to mackinac island where you will see more tourist hell, lots of horses, a hotel that's like the summer home of the republican national committee, quite a few bike trails, lots of horses, overpriced fudge, a quaint old fort with lots of play acting soldiers and last, but not least, lots of horses

my father was allergic to them - he hated mackinac island

there's also a bridge - for a few bucks you may cross this bridge and go to a land where finnish people celebrate st urho's banning of the frogs from finland by eating cornish pasties while watching black bears rummage through dumpsters - that's also overrated, but at least the bridge goes somewhere and you'd be well advised to do the same, during the 4 months of the year the people aren't hibernating

ps - do not say mackinAC - we will know you're a tourist if you do
posted by pyramid termite at 1:25 PM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


I don't know how much marketing Uji needs to do considering that byodoin temple is on the 10 yen coin.

But how many people outside Japan know that, really. I've geeked on family and friends about byodoin and shinden zukuri (in short: palatial architecture from the Heian era) but nobody seems to get it.
posted by sukeban at 1:27 PM on December 16, 2017


Everyone has it wrong, I hear. The best way to see Niagara Falls is from behind:

Journey Behind the Falls: The Toronto Power Company tailrace

Previously on Metafilter.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:28 PM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


you have to take a ferry to get to mackinac island where you will see more tourist hell, lots of horses, a hotel that's like the summer home of the republican national committee, quite a few bike trails, lots of horses, overpriced fudge, a quaint old fort with lots of play acting soldiers and last, but not least, lots of horses

My early awareness of Mackinac came from growing up on the Canadian side at the starting point for the Port Huron-Mackinac sailboat race and as a kid I just remember it having a lot to do with drunk people with on boats - at least that's how adults talked about it.

And that's how I learned Mackin-aw is pronounced like that at an early age.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:37 PM on December 16, 2017


It has about as much charm as LA.

LA is an interesting example, because it seems like most tourists go fully expecting that they'll hate it. They go to the shittiest parts of the city, do lame stuff, get stuck in traffic looking for celebrities' houses, and then leave saying "this place is even worse than they say it is!" I mean, you're not guaranteed to love the city, either, but in a lot of peoples' minds, it seems like "LA" actually means "Hollywood and Highland, the Sunset Strip, and Beverly Hills." Which are three excellent examples of places that suck to visit. There's OK stuff on the Sunset Strip, but mostly it's just some overpriced bars and restaurants. Beverly Hills has the TV museum, but otherwise it's just a city for rich people. Hollywood and Highland is, of course, the Demon's Gate through which all the evils of Baphomet propagate in a world unprepared for their horror, which sounds cool, but in reality is just a bunch of smaller tacky, overpriced tourist traps and people dressed as superheroes charging $20 for a photo.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:38 PM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


Disappointment is to some extent a matter of the extent to which an attraction takes you away from things that are authentically interesting to see or do. Like, the Gastown Steam Clock mentioned above --- there are plenty of good reasons to be in downtown Vancouver, and after you stop and spend 10 minutes gawking at a garish clock you can go to Stanley Park or something. Or take the Mona Lisa, which millions of visitors have noted with dismay is tiny and behind like a meter of bulletproof glass; after you've been underwhelmed by it you can look at one of the many breathtaking pieces of art elsewhere in the Louvre. On the other hand, going to Mount Rushmore or Four Corners not only makes you say "meh, I've experienced this thing, what do I do now?" but also situates you many, many miles away from anything else remotely worth doing.
posted by jackbishop at 1:46 PM on December 16, 2017 [15 favorites]


Hollywood Blvd, or anything around Hollywood.

I can't think of anything else that fails so spectacularly to live up to the hype and myth surrounding it, and it's an actual tourist trap in the purest sense of the idea.

It's possibly even worse than Time's Square. I mean, yeah, Times Square is a Disneyfied version of its seedy self that is now just the puckering rectum of hyperconsumerism, advertising and marketing but at least it's actually a place with a history, instead of this made up version that gets shown off once a year for the Oscars.

This is one of the things I don't miss about living in LA is that I no longer have to escort someone to Hollywood Blvd to go sightseeing or whatever. Or trying to explain how one-day tourist itineraries like going to Disneyland, Hollywood Blvd and the Getty or something all in the same day just isn't physically possible or even remotely sane or rational.

Hollywood Blvd is not Tinsel Town. Tinsel Town doesn't actually exist, and as much as Tinsel Town exists at all it's actually a weird, toxic metal alloy made up of bits and pieces of Hollywood, Culver City, Burbank, Simi Valley and other places around LA that had or currently have studios and sound stages - and from a tourist's eye level these real places are all hours apart in traffic and are mainly just high concrete walls in industrial looking areas.

Anyway, Hollywood Blvd itself is deeply depressing and uninteresting beyond how remarkably depressing and shabby it is.

OK, fine, let's go look at Hollywood and Vine. Yay, it's a street with an arched sign over it noting that it is indeed Hollywood and Vine and oh my God get out of the fucking road are you crazy? People run over other people with their cars here for fun!

Yes, yes, this is the Walk of Stars and there's the Wax Museum and Mann's Chinese Theater, and there's the Kodak theater or whatever they're calling it now - and yes it's all remarkably dirty and shabby, and yes that guy in a dirty Spiderman costume is openly urinating right there in front of a bunch of kids.

Why yes, there are a whole lot of random street people in remarkably dirty costumes trying to make a buck taking photos with tourists. Yes, they're basically all homeless drug addicts. Yes, it's super depressing to see so much poverty trying to feed off the scraps of movie and pop culture. Look, I warned you.

And, yes, that's basically it. This two or three block stretch that you can see is "Hollywood Blvd" as presented by the movie industry. There's a few more blocks of stars in the sidewalk and a bunch of really bad souvenir shops, and it just gets rougher and dirtier the farther east you go.

Why yes, that's the Scientology Hollywood headquarters, and no way are we going inside. Look, this is how you end up bankrupt, brainwashed and confused, by going into that visitor center right there.

No, we're not going to buy a map to go around looking for star's homes. For one it's hot and stupid hilly up there, and for two you're just going to see a bunch of privacy hedges and gates, and for three I don't want to get hassled by the cops for walking around a rich neighborhood.

And, argh, no, we're not going to Disneyland now. It's now 3 in the afternoon on a weekday, it'd take us like 3 hours to get there in traffic with a good driver and by the time we got there you'd have a couple of hours to make use of a hundred dollar admission ticket.

No, fuck it, we're going to Apple Pan for a burger, and then we're going to Griffith Park Observatory for sunset.
posted by loquacious at 2:08 PM on December 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


This is what mass tourism does; it creates conditions that prevent the ordinary from becoming sublime and wonderful. There's nothing wrong with the actual Mona Lisa nor the Steam Clock; the problem is the context of not fully experiencing and being present because of the overwhelming number of other tourists. It's a paradoxical activity, why we continue to do these things anyways.
posted by polymodus at 2:11 PM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


The Seattle Space Needle is alright if you don't have to pay for it. I've been up a bunch of times for free because I kept finding unused tickets on the ground all over my neighborhood in Belltown.

Not having to justify a $20+ elevator ride made it a lot more fun and guiltless to just spontaneously pop in for a half an hour on my way to get groceries or something. Sometimes these were CityPass tickets without an immediate expiration, and sometimes they were inexplicably tickets direct from the Space Needle ticket office that would expire in an hour or so. (Random conspiracy theory: The Space Needle staff seed the grounds with free tickets when its slow to make it look busier?)

Local Seattle tip: Look for discarded CityPass ticket booklets on the ground, or left on top of street furniture. They're oblong and look like coupon books. They're not just coupons. They're often filled with free tickets or extreme discounts on local stuff.

Tourists can buy these ticket/coupon booklets as a package deal, and I think there's two of each ticket, and most or all the coupons are 2-for-1 kind of things. So it can be more affordable to buy the CityPass just to use a specific combination of tickets and discard the rest.
posted by loquacious at 2:39 PM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


I think most of the New York City tourist attractions are like this, really. Long lines, not very impressive except to say you went there. Ellis island was kinda neat, especially if you had any family that might have gone through there.

Otherwise I recommend people skip ALL that crap and just do whatever they're into. That's actually generally my traveling recommendation.

Waikiki beach is a good one, though. Totally just a place to put hotels and so eroded. I kinda feel that way about much of Oahu, though. If you want actual unspoiled gorgeous beaches, try another island.

As for my actual home of Texas...actually I've been quite happy with most of the touristy things I've done here. The Alamo is worth it, IMO, but I'm a Texan and we have feels about it. San Antonio Riverwalk, same, it's a nice place to shop and eat. The natural caverns generally don't disappoint if you like caves and even the drive-through safari places I've been to have been worth it, if you like trying to save your food bucket from a hungry ostrich poking through the sun roof of your car.

I hear Schlitterbahn isn't really worth it these days because of how insanely crowded it is, so you spend most of your time in line. I went as a kid a few times when it was MUCH MUCH smaller and it was awesome. It's totally worth tubing down the rivers on your own though.
posted by threeturtles at 2:41 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


People think the Alamo is out in the desert, surrounded by tall saguaro cactus, when it's really in slightly scruffy downtown San Antonio. The museum displays have got a lot better, it used to be mostly bare empty buildings.

If you were disappointed in the Alamo, it was probably because you did not ask to see the basement.
posted by incster at 2:41 PM on December 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


The pubs in Dublin are fine, as is the Tart With a Cart, the Wilde monument (although it seems every town in Ireland has at least one) and the Guiness tour (not technically of the brewery) but the number one thing you should see in Dublin is The Chester Beatty Library in the Dublin Castle. Because a) it's free b) it is is the single best collection of manuscripts from across many cultures I've ever seen c) you will likely have the place to yourself and d) it will give you something to talk about in the aforementioned pubs, because tourists won't know about it and locals will be tickled you did something off-beat and will talk your ear off.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 2:51 PM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


When my family went to Maui, my parents really wanted to see this scenic sunrise from the top of a volcano. This involves waking up at 3 AM and getting on a bus for two hours, and the day we went, it was cloudy and we didn't see a damn thing. It was awful. Maybe this is just me being grumpy about my beauty sleep, though.

Oh yeah the sunrise at Haleakala is a tourist trap. Getting up at like 3AM to spend several hours in vans just to freeze your ass off for a sunrise is a stupid idea. Now actually just driving up there yourself whenever you feel like it is AMAZING. Stopping and walking around the trails? Taking in the fact that it looks like freaking Mars? Must do. Just not at at ass-crack of freezing o-clock. Same with the bike riding down after sunrise. If you want a good chance of serious injury on your vacation, go for it. Otherwise rent a damn car and do the mountain and the road to Hana. But the point of the road to Hana isn't to get to Hana, where there is NOTHING. The point is the journey and stopping along the way to discover little waterfalls and bits of gorgeousness.

(I have family on Maui.)
posted by threeturtles at 2:59 PM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


The only archeological site that ever didn't live up to the hype for me was the Roman Forum. It's really just some rubble and columns. Of course part of that effect is that the Colosseum is RIGHT THERE and much, much more impressive.

The Eiffel tower is mixed because I stood in line for freaking hours but the view of Paris from the top really is pretty darn impressive.
posted by threeturtles at 3:06 PM on December 16, 2017


I did downtown LA as a tourist maybe a year ago, and it was astounding. The architecture and the urban park spaces were surprising, and it was a lot of fun to wander around for a day. That was eye-opening. You can't actually drive anywhere within the LA area within any reasonable amount of time, and it took us nearly an hour to get from Marina del Rey where my partner was living to downtown even taking light rail, which itself was a drive from where he lived. But it was a delightful day, and I can recommend downtown LA if you're ever visiting.

But don't plan on doing more than one "piece" of the LA area in a day because it's literally hours to travel 5 miles.
posted by hippybear at 3:06 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


If I ever get chased down by a blade runner and executed, my death speech is going to reference having seen sunrise from the top of Haleakala (and sunset from the top of Kohelepelepe) so your mileage may vary - though the most spectacular view of Oahu I've ever seen was at the end of the Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail. So worth the pain.

But yeah if you catch Haleakala when it's cloudy, it's pretty meh. Same as with any view from on high anywhere in the world.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:29 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


When I visit a city, I usually am most interested in being able to walk the streets and wander through neighborhoods. Strange neighborhoods are fascinating! Tourist areas are neat too -- those are the places that the locals have tried to present their ideals, so this way I get to contemplate how a city's self compares with its image of itself.

I feel like spending all your time on one aspect without the other leaves a weaker, poorer impression of the whole.

So anyway, it's not like Seoul is a major tourist destination among Westerners, but I think the only real disappointment I've had on my trips has been the visit to the national art museum in Gwacheon. Aside from the monumental Nam June Paik installation in the entryway, the rest of the large museum was full of pretty uninspiring stuff. I did enjoy happening across a very old-fashioned amusement park we walked past from the subway station to the museum grounds.
posted by ardgedee at 3:41 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Tourism has always existed, before it was called tourism, it was called pilgrimage.
I like going outside the beaten track, but the beaten track can be very fine indeed. I love Rome, and it is really built for tourists/pilgrims almost from the beginning. That's a good thing, and it never prevents you from having lovely experiences there, or finding local activities and atmospheres.
But I think in general, we spend too little time at each place we go. If I go to a new place and I only have a couple of days, I don't even try to see the main sights. I'll just walk around and soak in the atmosphere, maybe with a local person to lead the way if the city is large and complex. Or I'll choose just one thing that I've always wanted to see, going there will undoubtedly lead me to other places.
posted by mumimor at 3:58 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


You know it's going to disappoint you, but you have to go anyway, because of the chance it's one of the anti-examples, things you had low expectations of but turn out to be pretty damn amazing. Like the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor - ok, yeah, I saw it, there's a ship there. But the museum while you're waiting for the boat is really well done, and you can go the the Bowfin at the same time.

This happens to me all the time in Japan - things I think are going to be cheesy or even slightly fun turn out to be holy shit I had no idea. It used to frustrate me that I couldn't really explain to my friends and co-workers why no, you really want to go to this. "A bunch of old minka-style houses?"
posted by ctmf at 4:29 PM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


What? No! Personal tastes differ of course, but when I was there several years ago it was utterly charming the way 80% of the businesses in town were trying to cash in on Twilight tourism. Twilight tours! Twilight firewood! Twilight Lock and Key! Plus there’s the giant rain gauge right on Main St.

And now that the gold rush has dried up, those Twilight businesses are all but gone. I guess you might call it charming. Seemed much more like seagulls fighting to grab a bunch of discarded french fries to me. There's not even any "real" Twilight stuff. There's no real basis for any physical locations, the author simply picked the name off a map, and the movies weren't filmed there. Sorry, I'm intending to come off like a grumpy puss.

On a nice summer day, Forks ain't too bad. But on a cold wet day like today, when it's practically dark now at 4:30 is when you really need to stretch to appreciate it.

I'm delighted you enjoyed it. The Olympic Peninsula is a fantastic place to live. I just figured it was a place people wanted to go and probably found disappointing.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:37 PM on December 16, 2017


For the anti-list. Never wait in line and pay to go up the Tokyo Tower. It's crap once you are inside because then you can't see Tokyo Tower. So, instead you go up to the observation deck of the nearby Mori Tower so you can see Tokyo Tower.
posted by Gotanda at 4:38 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


My go-to attractions are ships. USS Intrepid in NY, USS Constitution in Boston, paddlewheeler Ticonderoga at the Shelburne Museum, battleships in Fall River MA, Wilmington NC and Newport News VA. Sailing ships in San Diego and Amsterdam (forgot the names). Submarines like U-505 in Chicago or USS Nautilus in Groton CT. Fancy pleasure boats in the Thousand Islands.

Most every seaport, Great Lake port or major river port has some sort of museum ship and they are all fascinating.
posted by leaper at 4:56 PM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


I forgot an important "NOT" up there. Srry.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:58 PM on December 16, 2017


Plymouth Rock is almost certainly an invented landmark anyway, it wasn't even mentioned in writing for more than a hundred years after the landing.

This, for some reason, is making me wonder what a similar article would look like if it was written in the Middle Ages about pilgrimage destinations. "It was just a dried-out finger. Didn't even look like a finger. I walked 500 miles for this?"
posted by clawsoon at 5:02 PM on December 16, 2017 [18 favorites]


As with all journeys, the value in a pilgrimage doesn't lie in the destination but in the journey. c.f. Chaucer.
posted by hippybear at 5:05 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Anti-list: Drive from Banff to Jasper. I thought I had gotten jaded about mountains after a couple of motorcycle trips through the US, but I was wrong.
posted by clawsoon at 5:16 PM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


Rock City, GA (just outside of Chattanooga, TN). Though it is interesting that the place actually appealed to mid-20th century tourists. (And my 3-year-old liked the gnomes and holiday lights.)
posted by mkuhnell at 5:43 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Pisa makes the Guardian's list. It kinda breaks my heart that everyone feels the need to go see the Leaning Tower of Pisa for no reason other than that it's famous. They then take a stupid selfie and complain that the place is overrated. For those who come with a real interest in Italian history and art, the tower and especially the cathedral itself are stunning works of architecture and art.

And seriously, what do people expect from ruins that Macchu Picchu is disappointing!?
posted by mkuhnell at 5:49 PM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


The Alamo is worth it, IMO, but I'm a Texan and we have feels about it.

I think you might have to be from Texas to enjoy it? I'm not from there and found it (a) a little bit sad for being so little (b) pretty creepy insofar as there was a little altar to Davy Crockett and (c) more sad for that whole seceding to keep slaves bit.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:07 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Things I recommend to people over-enthusiastically without worry about spoiling it by creating high expectations:

The Taj Mahal
Yosemite
Crater Lake
Carlsbad Caverns
The Paris Catacombs
The Hot Springs that cascade into the Pacific just north of Tofino, British Columbia
Pearl Harbor
Westminster Abbey

Tourist places that are wholly unsatisfying without any redeeming qualities:
Las Vegas
Fisherman’s Wharf (SF)
Four Corners
The Kerala Backwaters Houseboat Tour (this once would have made the list above until it was discovered by ten million westerners)
Santa Fe
Literally any travel destination in Florida
The Tower of London

Things I’ll defend as a Seattlite:
Yeah Starbucks is dumb, but as a tourist attraction Pike Place Market is actually pretty cool and I can spend an entire day there at least three times a year.
The Space Needle. I lived here for 15 years before some out of town visitor made me go (and paid for my ticket) and it was actually kind of cool, but I had extremely low expectations. They are currently renovating it so the restaurant will have a glass floor. Heeelllll no!
I like the EMP/MoPOP/SciFi Museum so suck it haters.
The Kurt Cobain suicide house, since renovated but the park next door still is covered with graffiti and usually has candles burning.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:11 PM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


In the summer of 1987 my family drove from our home in Sarnia, Ontario to Banff, Alberta and back, through the U.S. on the way out and Canada on the way back. We were in the middle of what I believe was one of the Dakotas when we saw a sign urging travelers to turn off the highway and visit a Buffalo Jump. It seemed like a nice break from the tedium of the landscape we’d been plodding through, so off we went down an increasingly dodgy road for much longer than the sign seemed to imply...but eventually we arrived at what turned out to be not even a dramatic cliff but just a slight bulge in the landscape, accompanied by a plaque and nothing else. At first we were pissed off but then my dad started laughing about how exceedingly boring it was, the rest of us joined in and now The Trip To The Buffalo Jump is a family evergreen we still trot out 30 years later, long after trips to many other, better tourist attractions have been forgotten.


The most overrated thing I’ve ever been to is Stonehenge. Just stay home and read about it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:19 PM on December 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


Yeah Starbucks is dumb, but as a tourist attraction Pike Place Market is actually pretty cool and I can spend an entire day there at least three times a year.

I've only been a couple of times, but virtually everything in that area other than the fucking Starbucks is pretty damned good. Though the pirogi place always has a line nearly as long as the one for the Starbucks. I mean, I don't think I'd make Pike Place Market a specific destination in itself, but it's definitely a great place to grab lunch in between doing other things.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:28 PM on December 16, 2017


I haven't been to Mt Rushmore since I was 10 years old, and have no burning desire to go again. I found Crazy Horse nearby more interesting, although there was not much done when I was there in the mid 80s.

I also grew up in Nebraska and am the same age as the first two commentators. I liked Pioneer Village however. Maybe because I was a girl and I was really into the Little House Books?
posted by weathergal at 8:40 PM on December 16, 2017


I agree with the Space Needle. Totally underwhelming. Also Dunns River Falls in Jamaica. The falls are cool, but the experience of going to them is to be endlessly hassled by a Jamaican tour leader and you get 30 seconds to actually enjoy each notable part before moving on and you get aggressively hassled to buy overpriced video experience/local crafts on the way in and out. I imagine it is what a timeshare presentation is like.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:52 PM on December 16, 2017


While it's not personal experience, I remember having an extended conversation with some friends about their honeymoon trip to Greece, specifically to visit ancient temples and other historically important sites. Oh, the sites were impressive, she has an advanced degree in architecture and appreciated the ruins consisting of mostly foundations and rubble, but at the time (late 90s) at least there were no real provisions for sanitation, so they all apparently stank of urine and feces, and littered with cigarette butts and broken bottles. Most of the less famous sites were, at least, not commercialized or touristy, allowing them to go walk around and get a good look at what was left after millennia of lack of upkeep, looting, and souvenir taking.
posted by Blackanvil at 9:07 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


IIRC, you have that backwards. They have to maintain a minimum flow over the falls, and that minimum is reduced further at night and outside of tourist season.

You may not be RC. The minimum flow you speak of is 100,000 cfs, which is 10% or less of normal flow.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:12 PM on December 16, 2017


Here in Spain I'd say that the average archaeological site that you can visit in situ -- be it Itálica, or Empúries, or Celsa-- is incredibly underwhelming because it's usually walls up to your knees and little more.

So true, my little town has roman ruins they're trying to cash in on, but they are extremely underwhelming.

The aqueduct in Segovia, on the other hand, never fails to impress me although I've been there at least a dozen times. The fact that it runs right smack through the center of town makes it even better.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 9:21 PM on December 16, 2017


Navelgazer: "Yeah, Ben's is good, but its importance is to the community. And Hard Times is the better DC-area chili anyway."

This is the wrongest thing I've ever read on Metafilter.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:03 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


My Skip-It-List...
Disneyworld in Orlando
Roswell, New Mexico
The Florida Keys
Las Vegas Strip
Atlantis Hotel Nassau, Bahamas

My Anti - List
Angels Landing Trail in Zion (despite how crowded that poor park is)
Blue Springs just above Orlando
Ushuaia Argentina
Kangaroo Island South Australia (its been a long time since I went, not sure how well its been preserved)
Corsica (ditto the comment on Kangaroo Island)
Ironwood National Monument near Tucson AZ
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:20 PM on December 16, 2017


FireFountain: " People aren’t willing to work a tiny bit harder to see better stuff in my experience."

A lot of people are on a time budget while travelling to these places. And they are essentially checking things off like a birder checks off birds.

threeturtles: " Getting up at like 3AM to spend several hours in vans just to freeze your ass off for a sunrise is a stupid idea."

Or the best way to get good landscape pictures. I can't count the number of times I've set an alarm for three hours before the crack of dawn just so I could hike someplace, in the dark, where their might be good light at the crack of dawn. Or been out till midnight because I was a two hour hike from my sunset location.

ctmf: "You know it's going to disappoint you, but you have to go anyway, because of the chance it's one of the anti-examples, things you had low expectations of but turn out to be pretty damn amazing. "

The plaza where Kennedy was assassinated was this for me. A couple of friends and I made a side trip there on a calm day of storm chasing and it was super weird and awesome and wonderful. It's amazing that a location so deep in the public unconsciousness can look so different when you are standing there.

clawsoon: "Anti-list: Drive from Banff to Jasper. I thought I had gotten jaded about mountains after a couple of motorcycle trips through the US, but I was wrong."

Yep. I live in BC, drive around on highways threading through mountains of varying degrees of awesomeness all the time and the Icefields Parkway is far and away the best mountain views I've ever seen.
posted by Mitheral at 10:32 PM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


The Acropolis in Athens. Studied architecture, have seen 1,000 reconstructions, illustrations, diagrams, etc., climb up the stairs, there's the Parthenon and a loooot of rocks.
posted by signal at 3:40 AM on December 17, 2017


I grew up in California but have spent the better part of this last decade in England. Most people I meet here who have been to America spent their holiday in NYC or Florida, but some have made the 6500 mile trek to California … to LA. They are tremendously disappointed and I don’t blame them. They come all that way, full of the SoCal they’ve been sold for ages to find a sprawling, polluted beigeness with nowhere to go and not much to see. It’s such a shame because the rest of California offers so much more, easily accessible and with much greater payoff than a Hollywood sign and studio backlots.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:02 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


mumimor: I found the Pyramids in Giza disappointing. Not the actual monuments, but the suburbs growing up almost to the foot of them, and the tired unregulated trade there.

Ayup. Go there and you'll see that the Sphinx is smaller than it looks in the pictures, the city is much much closer, but fortunately the Pyramids themselves are bigger and every bit as impressive.

And don't buy the bottle of Coke even if the guy has already opened it as you were approaching on your camel, and is holding it up for you to grab. It's the most expensive Coke you'll ever drink. Just let him stand there with that open bottle in his hand. He'll drink it himself. It's fine.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:24 AM on December 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


Mostly this all just gives me the sense that a lot of people are too jaded to appreciate the magnificence of human endeavor and natural beauty. You're way up high in a building looking down on a city! Look there's a bunch of giant heads made out of stone! There's steaming pools and bison just roaming around! Some total freaks made a bunch of bizarre people out of wax for some reason! My cat's breath smells like cat food!

I recently went to the Three Sisters in Australia's blue mountains, and there were all these tourists just standing on the overlook taking selfies, and my in-laws were like "yawn, we've been to the grand canyon." I hiked half a k. away and just looked around gob-smacked.

Garden of the Gods used to actually be a lot cooler; tons of it burned several years ago.

I'll give you four corners as just an arbitrary point on the map, but even then it's really funny to watch other people there.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:52 AM on December 17, 2017 [9 favorites]


Mostly this all just gives me the sense that a lot of people are too jaded to appreciate the magnificence of human endeavor and natural beauty.

I think it's proportional to the amount of time spent waiting in line and the number of other tourists crowding the view. "Don't stand in line for five hours to see the view from building X, just go to building Y instead" seems to be the most common suggestion here, and for good reason.

(While I haven't seen it in person, it's probably accurate to say that the guy who described Macchu Picchu as "essentially a pile of rubble"as "too jaded", though.)
posted by tobascodagama at 9:05 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


you have to take a ferry to get to mackinac island where you will see more tourist hell, lots of horses, a hotel that's like the summer home of the republican national committee, quite a few bike trails, lots of horses, overpriced fudge, a quaint old fort with lots of play acting soldiers and last, but not least, lots of horses

When I was a teenager, my cousin and I spent a week riding our bikes from our home in southern Michigan to her family's house on Lake Superior about 30 miles past the Mackinac Bridge. We crossed by taking the ferry to the island, and then from the island to St. Ignace on the other side. Mackinac Island was so boring that we amused ourselves by riding the very nice bike trail that circles the island two or three times before we left.

Seriously: we'd just ridden our bikes over 300 miles, and there was so little of interest on the island that we amused ourselves by riding our bikes 30 miles or so.

The next time we did a bike trip like that, we paid the bridge commission to drive us and our bikes across the bridge in the back of a pickup truck.

I now have four children, ages 23 to 10, and none of them have ever been to Mackinac Island. Every now and then I think, "How can they be native Michiganders and never have been to the island?" and then I remember what a bore the island is and we do something else instead.
posted by Orlop at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2017


Pat's and Geno's in Philly are both just seriously sub-par sandwich shops with long lines and nothing at all to recommend them. The population-dividing rivalry is entirely manufactured and everyone who actually lives in Philadelphia can name ten better places to get a sandwich without the wait.
posted by 256 at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


What? No! Personal tastes differ of course, but when I was there several years ago it was utterly charming the way 80% of the businesses in town were trying to cash in on Twilight tourism. Twilight tours! Twilight firewood! Twilight Lock and Key! Plus there’s the giant rain gauge right on Main St.

Perhaps the town of Port Isaacs in the UK could learn from them. It's the town where Doc Martin is filmed and the locals hate the influx of tourists.

And yes, this may be the first time Twilight and Doc Martin have been mentioned in the same comment, although having said that, I now want a crossover.
posted by daybeforetheday at 11:43 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Probably first time for "learn from" and "Forks" being mentioned in the same comment as well. Certainly the first time I've ever seen "charming" invoked about Forks.

:-)
posted by humboldt32 at 11:49 AM on December 17, 2017


I grew up in Charlevoix, MI, and always felt kinda miffed that my folks refused to take me and my sibling to nearby Mackinac Island (we could buy overpriced fudge in our hometown, they said), but I appreciate now that we instead visited Beaver Island nearly every summer. That place was a gem and I hope it still is. If you are ever in the area, please do yourself a favor and take the ferry from Charlevoix, rent a bike, and go learn about the polygamous Mormon "King" who was assassinated by his own followers, who were fined $1.25 for the murder and set free.

If you'll permit me this immature joke that I never understood until I was an adult, it's worth noting that after all the childhood trips to Beaver Island, I did indeed end up a lesbian! Who knows what I would be if my folks had instead taken us to Mackinac Island like all my peers.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


One more for the anti-list: The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. I have not yet had the pleasure of going, but everyone I've sent has been either appalled or enthralled, but none have ever claimed disappointment or boredom.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 3:27 PM on December 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Hot Springs that cascade into the Pacific just north of Tofino, British Columbia

That place??
The tour operator took us there at high tide... so we sat for a few minutes in warm, muddy puddles at the top of the cascade, while the ocean pounded what I expect would have been the nicer part. Total bummer.

And the boat nearly capsized on the way back!!! The only positive thing to come out of this ordeal was that it didn't :)
posted by wats at 4:40 PM on December 17, 2017


The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota is delightful, and I don’t regret my visit at all. I agree that the attitude you take into a trip matters a lot. I remember my only trip to Rome, and I could hardly believe I was there in reality. Can I cop to being really conflicted about Christ the Redeemer? It’s a long, boring wait to go up on the train, but it’s spectacular to actually be there. The view of Rio is amazing. For the Anti list, may I propose the Musee d’Orsay in Paris? When I was there in November one year (out of season, I realize) the line was really short and it was full of incredible art. In the US, I really enjoyed Hot Springs, AR, and found Memphis to be really disappointing, outside of Graceland. The Gateway Arch has a nice view, but it sways, never again.
posted by wintermind at 4:46 PM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit astounded that anyone would be disappointed by Plymouth Rock.

I mean, it's obviously just a rock. Either you're enough of a history buff that you really want to have a first hand look at physical objects that were of use to the Mayflower survivors, or you really have no reason to bother going to Plymouth to see that rock.
posted by ocschwar at 5:04 PM on December 17, 2017


There's a cabin in the woods in Northern California called the Mystery Spot that purports to have some strange phenomena like people lifting themselves up easier and heights looking similar but it's actually because the cabin is on this crazy incline on a hill and it's just an optical illusion.


True story: I went to the Mystery Spot with my parents. I knew what we getting into so I wasn't disappointed per se. What made the trip worth it was the deaf group taking the tour with us. As the tour guide started to ramble on about a possible alien ship trapped under the cabin and other garbage, I watch the deaf translator clearly mouth "I have no fucking idea what he's talking about."
posted by chairface at 6:14 PM on December 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


Rock City, GA (just outside of Chattanooga, TN).

I think its popularity was driven by the thousands of "See Rock City" signs painted on barns all over the south. There were other signs, though not as prevalent, for two other tourist traps: Ruby Falls and The Lost Sea. As a kid, we were eventually taken to all of them, and all of them were pretty disappointing.
posted by wolpfack at 6:25 PM on December 17, 2017


I don't think this fits on either this list or the anti-list, but when I was in South Africa there was a tourist destination called Big Hole. It was created by mining. My friends went there and were disappointed for some reason. But as I understand it lived up to its name.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:58 PM on December 17, 2017


acrasis: "Here in Frederick MD we have the Barbara Fritchie House. Barbara Fritchie used to be an important tourist attraction for our town; you could go visit her grave, eat at the Barbara Fritchie Diner"

I have eaten at the Barbara Fritchie Diner, and it's not bad. I recommend the coconut cream pie.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:39 PM on December 17, 2017


Overrated: Athens. I went there planning to spend a week and after two days I couldn't wait to get out.

A million or two people who left their villages to come live in Greece a generation or two ago would agree. Messily built, dirty and there's often an impressive gap between the ancient ruins and modern construction since Athens wasn't much of a Byzantine centre and remained minor until the capital moved there in the 1800s.

And you may go to acropolis to see the famous building with other tourists all over the place.

On the other hand... you can enter the pedestrian way under the acropolis, maybe going up the stairs to see the Herod's Odeon. You continue walking, looking at the symmetric buildings of the acropolis complex which are visible throughout the route, maybe recollecting a myth about olive trees in Athens (they are all over around that area), maybe wondering what a person walking here 2500 years ago would be thinking about the fancy new temple. The penultimate time I went up the hill, there was a light drizzle earlier and there were just five people on the hill. And it's not just the Parthenon, it's the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena. Maybe not as impressive if you're climbing under the hot sun of an August noon when the rock is teeming. But you can also go to Thiseion or Monastiraki, other archaeological spaces that are considerably less crowded.

The acropolis museum has some of the finest sculpture one can see. It is outright beautiful and we may not know who the artists were in all cases, but sometimes I observe a statuette worked with such care, such style, that makes me think that being unknown does not equal being forgotten.

And the acropolis museum is just the marquee. The national archeological museum is not as famous, but it has one of the world's best sculpture connection. Nice antikythera mechanism exhibition too. There's the museum of cycladic art that has some stunning exhibits (regardless of whether one cares about the 20th century art connection). The museum of Byzantine art. The numismatic museum. Some of the modern exhibitions at Benaki etc.

Yes, Plaka is full of tourist shops and monastiraki is more commercialised nowadays (though still a good source of curios). There are guided walks for the neoclassical buildings of Athens, some off the beaten path. There are local bars and restaurants. You can rent a car and go to the beach. Hell, you can rent a car and go to all kind of sites in a two-hour range. Or walk up the hill of Philopappou, hike the trail and enjoy the view. The economic crisis may not have been kind, but there is a healthy theatre scene (in Greek) and bands doing gigs like my friend playing Brazilian music for 30-50 people.

So, Athens may need some extra work now that tourism is increasing, but I'd hardly call it overrated. YMMV
posted by ersatz at 11:45 PM on December 17, 2017 [6 favorites]


I really enjoyed Hot Springs, AR

I grew up maybe an hour and a half from there. It really is one of the nicer parts of Arkansas, and it's well worth a visit. (Part of the town is a national park, even--one of the first in the US.)

If you find yourself in the area and feel like a little luxury, I recommend staying at the Arlington Hotel. Mrs. Example and I stayed there for about half of our honeymoon, and it was fantastic. The building is gorgeous (it dates back to 1924, and there are all kinds of Art Deco touches), and the hot tub built right into the side of the hill the hotel is on is huge. Check it out.

Oh, and if you have kids (or are a big nerdy kid like me), go by the Mid-America Science Museum. It was one of my absolute favorite places to go when I lived there, and yes, it was another honeymoon destination. (I married well, I think.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:05 AM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


“My trip, it was vile! Balaclava
was a bore, Etna was crawling with lava.
The ship was all white,
but it creaked in the night,
and the band! They did not know La Java!”
posted by acb at 5:20 AM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


I just remembered one for the list: America's Stonehenge, which is a name they came up with after I went there as a kid. It used to be 'Mystery Hill,' and IIRC it was pretty definitively established that it's modern construction. It still crops up on those "what if?" shows on the Discovery TV Empire, and still skims money from the easily amused and gullible.

OTOH, the Polar Caves on the other side of the White Mountains are actually really neat and a lot of fun, even if their use of the word caves might seem a stretch.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:31 AM on December 18, 2017


Whoever is not enthralled by Machu Picchu is the type of person who prefers Vegas over Paris and Rome. Obviously there are lot of people, but the place is magical like the Grand Canyon.

Lake Titicaca is slightly different as you as a tourist are directly changing the experience as you are visiting a real, living community (vs. imagining how things may have been). But getting a real human connection even if brief helps, and for that kids are great. Our kids ended up playing some sort of tag game with the local kids on the floating islands.

Of course it wasn’t some National Geographical expedition into the unknown, but I do think it was a great day and expanded my and my kids worldview.
posted by zeikka at 12:51 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


As this thread seems to be illustrating, I think it'd be even better for people to talk about stuff in their own home towns, since everyone spots the patterns of tourist disappointment.

....I live in New York City. I'd be here all freakin' day.

Also, the Eiffel Tower is neat to look at, but the view from the top is hardly worth the aggressive tourists.

This quote is directly lifted from the Facebook post I made after going to the Eiffel Tower (and standing underneath and abandoning going up):
THE GOOD NEWS - coming out of the Metro and seeing the Eiffel Tower just sitting there about 10 blocks down the street is as cool as you think it would be.

THE DRAWBACK - the area directly under the Eiffel Tower is a portal to a chaos dimension that disguises itself by luring a teeming crowd of tourists, sidewalk crepe stands and guys selling light-up toys to surround its maw.

I alone am escaped to tell thee.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:01 PM on December 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


Japan I think is interesting because it's one of the few places I think where a lot of the super touristy locationss are actually totally awesome and clearly chosen on merit. Japanese observance of common fucking decency certainly helps, too.

We went in January, ie the lowest of low season and it was pretty great. I imagine high season is awful, though.

For super touristy things, I quite recommend low season. The weather is often not as bad as you're expecting, and places are merely busy instead of being a seething hell hole of humanity. Everything is cheaper, sometimes significantly.
posted by smoke at 2:33 AM on December 19, 2017 [4 favorites]


The view is what it cost....

Seldon Pass
Muir Pass
Mather Pass
Grouse Meadow
Forrester Pass

....among others.
posted by mule98J at 10:28 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


Gotanda: instead you go up to the observation deck of the nearby Mori Tower

Excellent suggestion, thanks! I did just that this last Saturday and it was amazing. Also you didn't mention for 500 yen more you can go up on the MF'ING ROOF OF THE SKYSCRAPER. Best view*, I got there right at sun-going-down twilight.

And the price includes admission to the Mori Art Museum, which I though would be meh, but they had a Leandro Erlich installation exhibit that was fantastic. And that whole Roppongi Hills center is a pleasant way to spend the day wandering shops.

Definitely one for the anti-disappointment list.

And also being an engineering department/physical plant type of nerd, I thought all the switchgear and machinery on the mezzanine below the top platform was a neat tour too. The helper/guards up there didn't quite know what to do that someone was interested in that and eventually decided to chase me away to the real visitor area.
posted by ctmf at 1:50 AM on December 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


This is still open? Let me add one to the anti-list: Michelangelo's David. Florence is awash in copies, many of which share the same proportions, but the real deal is truly awe-inspiring. I did not expect to be awed by it, but it's the closest thing to a truly religious experience I think I've ever felt.

I'm sure in the high tourist season the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds might reduce the magic somewhat (we were there in rainy November with maybe 15 other people), but being in the presence of the David absolutely should not be missed.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:32 AM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


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