30 American Tourist Traps That Locals Totally Hate
Every locale has its own version of Times Square.
Tourists, no matter how amiable they may be, invariously prove annoying to locals. It’s just an unavoidable fact of life. Take Times Square in New York City, for example: swarming crowds of picturing taking visitors from nearly every corner of the globe have completely taken over this nine-block swath of the city from locals, who can’t stand the overcrowded congestion and overpriced restaurants and overwrought attractions. Or Faneuil Hall, in Boston: What once was a haven of a historical destination is now a soulless shopping mall.
But, as it turns out, this unwelcome trend—the rapid transformation of popular landmarks into craven tourist traps—is happening all across the United States. From Seattle, Washington, to Washington, D.C., and everywhere in between, our country is slowly but surely turning into one giant gift shop. So read on to learn the areas you should avoid if you want to appear authentic across America.
Times Square; New York, New York
Ask any New Yorker about Times Square, and they will most likely tell you to avoid the area at all costs. According to locals, it’s the worst tourist trap in the entire city. Every year, no matter the season, New York City attracts millions of tourists from around the world. In fact, more than 355,000 people walk through this busy center every day, according to Times Square Monthly Pedestrian Count Reports. Since Times Square is often the first place tourists want to visit, it has become a mecca for tourists, and features countless overpriced eateries and uncomfortably-crowded sidewalks that native New Yorkers would only visit under the most extreme of circumstances.
Bourbon Street; New Orleans, Louisiana
This incredibly popular street in New Orleans’ French Quarter has become a gateway for tourists into the vibrant nightlife of this city. For residents of this small district in New Orleans, the constant partying and carrying on until the wee hours of every single morning has just become a part of their daily lives—though it still annoys them just the same. According to the New Orleans Gambit, these revelers constantly disrupt the lives of those living on the street—and they’re fed up.
Lombard Street; San Francisco, California
If you’ve never heard of Lombard Street, it’s because the locals would really like to keep tourists from overcrowding this famous crooked street. Pictured above, the steep and winding path features eight hairpin turns and unmatched views of San Francisco, drawing tourists from every corner of the globe. Unfortunately for the locals who live near this street, traffic has become so bad that they’ve even begun to petition for a fee to be enforced in order to drive on the street, hoping that will deter future tourists.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Keystone, South Dakota
As of the 2010 census, the population of the small town of Keystone, South Dakota, was only 337. Yes, that means that basically the whole town is dedicated to providing food and shelter to the three million or so tourists that come through the town every year to see the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. In this circumstance, we don’t blame these locals for feeling just a little hostility toward the swarms of Hawaiian shirt-clad dads trying to get a picture with their family in front of every sightseeing fixture.
Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue; Nashville, Tennessee
This statue, unveiled in 1998, features Confederate general Nathan Bedford in a cartoonish sneer atop a gold-colored horse. While thousands of visitors every year feel the need to stop and take pictures with the statue, locals are ashamed that such an overt sign of racism exists in their city, since the statue was created by Jack Kershaw, a co-founder of the League of the South, a white nationalist and white supremacist organization, and former lawyer to Martin Luther King Jr.’s killer. While many calls have been made to have the statue removed, it still stands as a bizarre reminder of the country’s controversial past.
Cloud Gate; Chicago, Illinois
Cloud Gate—or the Bean, as it’s more fondly nicknamed—was created by public sculpture artist Sir Anish Kapoor to instill wonder in the power of architecture by distorting the city skyline surrounding the structure. Unfortunately for those living and working in Chicago, this heavily populated tourist attraction sits directly in the center of the city, meaning that the throngs of selfie-takers it attracts are nearly inescapable.
Hollywood Walk of Fame; Los Angeles, California
For many visitors of Los Angeles, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a must-see attraction (and selfie spot). For years, this stretch of hallowed ground has become a heavily congested area and point of annoyance for locals who have made a point to avoid it at all costs. Every year, around 26 million people visit this sidewalk, more than Sunset Strip or nearly any other attraction in Los Angeles.
Rehoboth Beach boardwalk; Rehoboth, Delaware
The Rehoboth Beach boardwalk in Delaware was once a scenic and quiet happy place for Rehoboth locals. Now, the area largely caters to tourists with its overpriced shops, restaurants, and attractions, spurring the locals to avoid the out-of-town beach bums now appreciating their favorite spot. And, while tourist numbers clock in relatively here (they number in the thousands, not millions), it’s important to remember that only 1,400 people live in this tiny town.
Waikiki Beach; Oahu, Hawaii
While it is fair to say that much of Hawaii is home to one tourist trap after another, this beach is perhaps the grandest of them all, with millions of visitors each year eventually forcing the locals out due to hotel construction and local tourism efforts. Many Hawaiians even claim that this is the “real Hawaii” since it’s mostly overrun by tourists each year, according to the Chicago Tribune. Suffice it to say, if you want a real taste of the Hawaiian culture, steer clear of this commercialized beach.
Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market; Boston, Massachusetts
The Faneuil Hall neighborhood and its surrounding space—especially Quincy Market—is home to millions of tourists every year, who flock to the area to get a taste of Boston’s esteemed history and culture. But the food is subpar (too kitschy), the shopping is banal (too many chains), and the area is tough to navigate (too much foot traffic). And the main draw—the historical significance—is better elsewhere in town, whether it’s a visit to Paul Revere’s house in the North End or a jaunt through the historically-steeped and literally steep alleys of Beacon Hill.
Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota
Located just outside Minneapolis, the Mall of America is the 12th-largest shopping mall in the entire world, large enough to fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside its expansive interior. With over 500 shops and a dizzying array of attractions like movie theaters and a roller coaster, the mall, according to the Leisure Group Travel, welcomes around 40 million visitors each year, with each of them spending an average of over three hours inside its hallowed halls. The population of Minneapolis is one one-hundredth of that.
Las Vegas Strip; Las Vegas, Nevada
While it’s probably true that not many locals actually choose to live on the Las Vegas Strip, those who are well within its proximity can’t stand the gamblers and partiers that their home city attracts. The Fountains of Bellagio and the High Roller observation, while quintessential Las Vegas landmarks, mostly belong to the tourists who visit them every year—not the locals. The city hosts more than 40 million visitors each year, while the strip is the third most Instagrammed attraction in the United States.
Roswell, New Mexico
This southeastern New Mexico city is widely known for the 1947 UFO crash in which it was alleged that aliens were actually found and captured from a vessel that crashed into the earth. Whether or not that actually happened (it didn’t), the city of Roswell was quickly transformed into a tourist town following the mysterious incident. Now, tourists can visit a number of different museums, stores, and restaurants dedicated to perpetuating the UFO conspiracy. Good luck finding a local in any of those joints.
The Liberty Bell; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Liberty Bell, while a monument to the nascent beginnings of our nation, is displayed in an already traffic-laden section of Philadelphia. Each year, more than a million tourists visit the bell on a first come, first serve basis. The locals may respect the bell for its deeper meaning, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t roll their eyes at the hordes of picture-taking tourists creating standstill traffic in the city’s downtown area.
Gum Wall; Seattle, Washington
In the hipster oasis that is Seattle, art comes in many forms, including, um, gum? According to the News Tribune, this sticky situation offends many locals who believe that their city should be known for something other than a wall of gum. This bacteria-infested art installation is in an alleyway next to the famed Pike Place Market, meaning that locals looking to pick up some fresh-caught fish have to endure Instagrammers looking for their best angle against a wall holding the germs of at least a few thousand other people.
Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, New York
This town bordering Canada has been largely overrun by the tourism industry, thanks to being associated with the title Eighth Wonder of the World, Niagara Falls. In fact, over the course of just one year, this attraction sees over 30 million tourists and considering that, as of 2017, only 48,000 people lived in the city, it’s safe to assume that tourists, not the locals, own the city.
Space Needle; Seattle, Washington
The Space Needle ranks among the quintessential visual landmarks of Seattle, and draws nearly 40 million annual visitors, who flock to the spire for its panoramic view of the city’s skyline and surrounding island geography. However, despite the fact that it’s a pleasant night-sky sight, you’ll find few tourists at the peak; it costs $29 just to ride to the top—not something many would dish out for more than once.
Grand Central Terminal; New York, New York
For more than a century, Grand Central Terminal has been an opulent point of interest in Manhattan, serving as a hub for transportation and a bona fide destination for dining, drinking, shopping, and people watching. Though, just like most other popular attractions in the city, local commuters struggle against a massive tourist population: 21.6 million annually.
Beale Street; Memphis, Tennessee
Otherwise known as the “official home of the blues,” Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, housing many musical points of interest, restaurants, and other predictable tourist traps, is cleverly avoided by most locals—if they can help it. Each year, more than 11 million people crowd the streets, giving little room for the locals to enjoy their own culture.
The Magnificent Mile; Chicago, Illinois
This shopping district close to the city’s center houses both luxurious and tourist-friendly stores, providing blocks upon blocks of entertainment to both visitors and locals—though the locals would rather stick to the less-populated shopping malls. In fact, most of the locals who know about the over inflated prices along Magnificent Mile are too smart to spend their hard-earned money in a tourist trap such as this one. Lately, tourism has only been bolstered by the record number of tourists visiting the city, with a new record being set for 2018 tourism, which stands at a cool 55 million.
Garden of the Gods; Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods, an astoundingly beautiful accumulation of ancient red rocks seemingly placed right in the middle of Colorado Springs, Colorado, has attracted visitors from all over the world since it opened to the public in 1909. However, because the national landmark is in the center of this bustling city, as a previous visitor to its park, I can tell you that it creates quite a bit of traffic for local commuters who are constantly forced to endure the endless standstill traffic on a daily basis.
Savannah Historic District; Savannah, Georgia
The Savannah Historic District, roughly the size of the entire city during the mid 1800s, is one of the biggest historical districts of its kind in the United States. The district includes the First African Baptist Church, the oldest African American congregation in the United States, Old Harbor Light, numerous graveyards, and restaurants and bars dedicated to promoting tourism in the area.
While tourism is always great for a city’s economy, Savannah locals aren’t exactly thrilled about the number of tourists aimlessly wandering through their neighborhoods and peeking into their windows to catch a glimpse of these historical buildings. So far, the biggest fight in Savannah is between the locals who want to keep the historical buildings’ authenticity and new developers who want to build new structures quickly to profit from an influx of over 14 million tourists visiting the city every year. This bitter battle is just one of many reasons that locals distrust the tourism industry, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Churchill Downs; Louisville, Kentucky
Though Louisville admittedly doesn’t receive the international recognition that it should, there is one fixture in this city that receives more than its fair share of attention, according to the locals. Churchill Downs, located in central Louisville, attracts thousands of visitors, especially during the annual Kentucky Derby race held in May. Every year, around 170,000 people attend the races—meaning that a massive influx of people from outside of Louisville rush into the city at the same time—figures that make every local person’s head spin. For most locals, though, the outside attendance deters the locals from enjoying a big part of what makes the city they love so special.
St. Louis Gateway Arch; St. Louis, Missouri
Located just off nearly every major highway leading into the city, the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the surrounding park offers visitors a chance to view the impressive piece of architecture up close (though at rather steep prices just to ascend to the top of the arch). Take it from me: As a frequent traveler to the city, I can attest to the fact that the centrally located attraction causes major congestion and a commercialization of a St. Louis landmark that many locals don’t appreciate.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Cleveland, Ohio
Since 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has witnessed the christening of many rock ‘n roll gods in its hallowed halls. Though, for the those living in the Cleveland area (myself once included), the museum is an overrated tourist trap and creates an uncomfortable amount of traffic through the downtown streets of the city.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
In the quaint and idyllic town of Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, the magnitude of its role in multiple important historical moments is felt in numerous monuments to the Civil War and the abolitionist movement. Not only that, but the incredibly beautiful Appalachian Trail runs through the town, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts as well. Though, despite the significance of this town in the United States’ history, only 286 residents could claim Harpers Ferry as their home—meaning that they are almost always outnumbered by tourists in every capacity. In fact, residents have even called for more transportation systems to better equip the town for the number of tourists coming through each year.
Gatlinburg, a town full of scenic mountain passes and entertainment for the entire family, is such an effortless vacation experience that most living within a reasonable radius of the town have at least visited once. In fact, it’s estimated that around 12 million people visit Sevier County, housing both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, every year. Currently, there are over four thousand people living in the city—residents who have to constantly contend with inflated prices and tourist traffic.
The Grand Strand; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
If you’ve never visited Myrtle Beach, you’ve most likely at least heard about the overcrowded beaches, inflated prices, and tourist traps. For the locals, this overwhelming tourist population (14 million per year) floods the beaches, resorts, and restaurants every year in the warmer months. Many residents blame the recent crime spikes on the influx of tourism, with one woman articulating in a Facebook post, which went viral: “Your tourist shops are filled with scams, your hotels are filled with bedbugs, your restaurants are filled with roaches. You allow tourists on unregistered, unlicensed, untraceable scooters to ride on sidewalks, pass cars in the middle of traffic or wherever without consequence. They hit cars and pedestrians and simply flee.”
The Breakers; Newport, Rhode Island
Constructed by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, this opulent manor has graced the shoreline of Newport for Rhode Island for over a century. Unfortunately for residents of Newport, and those living in the luxurious neighborhood surrounding the historical estate, close to a million tourists flock to this area every year, causing quite a stir among locals. Though it might have been annoying at first, residents have now grown used to the steady population of tourists.
The White House; Washington D.C.
As it turns out, those who visit the most identifiable government building in the nation don’t know how to handle themselves. The White House receives around 100,000 visitors per month, making the surrounding streets impossible to navigate and near insufferable to walk along.