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10 U.S. "Tourist Traps" That Are Actually Worth Seeing

It would be a shame to miss the unique experiences these spots offer.

Most of us do what we can to steer clear so-called tourist traps. Popular tourist destinations often feature long lines, predatory vendors, and views obscured by masses of people's arms taking photos. According to Get Your Guide, 68 percent of travelers say that "they've decided against visiting attractions and excursions that are considered tourist traps." But not all apparent tourist traps are disappointing—some of them are popular for very good reasons. From the electric energy of the Vegas strip to endearing roadside attractions, these are 10 of the biggest "tourist traps" in the U.S. that are actually worth visiting.

RELATED: The 12 Quirkiest Small Towns in the U.S.

1. Boston Duck Tour (Boston)

boston duck tour
Sergii Figurnyi / Shutterstock

Up first on the list of tourist traps that are worth your time is the Boston Duck Tour. According to Becca Siegel, co-owner of Half Half Travel blog, this attraction is "actually awesome."

"If you haven't heard of it, it's basically a tour of Boston in an amphibious vehicle that starts as a bus and then turns into a boat. It sounds ridiculous, and it is," Siegel says. "It's a great way to see Boston, though, especially for first-timers, and it's fun. Is it worth the money, and is it a trap? You decide, but it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

2. Kualoa Ranch (Honolulu)

movie props at kualoa ranch
Alister Newby / Shutterstock

If you're traveling to Hawaii, there's so much to see and do—but as with most destinations, there are certainly tourist traps. If you're going to "fall" for one, make it Kualoa Ranch on the island of Oahu.

"Hands down one of the BEST tourist traps I feel into while living on the island," @taysulltravels, a travel operating room nurse, writes in the caption of a Dec. 2022 TikTok.

Located about 45 minutes from Honolulu, this Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve offers different adventures, including e-bike tours, ziplining, horseback riding, and movie tours. The site has actually been used for over 70 Hollywood films since the '50s.

"I chose the Hollywood Movie Tour which [included] real props used in movies like Jurassic Park, Jumanji, and [King] Kong," @taysulltravels notes.

If you plan to visit, the TikToker recommends booking your tour of choice in advance, as they do fill up.

RELATED: The 8 Best Off-The-Radar Destinations in the U.S. That Need to Be on Your Bucket List.

3. Disney World (Orlando, Florida)

magic kingdom disney world
Konstantin Yolshin / Shutterstock

While some travel across the country to visit Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the theme park is often considered a tourist trap, and a very expensive one at that. But if you're firmly opposed to a Disney trip, you might want to reconsider.

"Plenty of people all over the world gripe and groan about how Disney is a tourist trap," Taylor Beal, Europe travel blogger and content creator behind Traverse With Taylor, tells Best Life. "They say it's overrated, over-priced, and packed full with people—so much so that it makes it unenjoyable. But the reality is that Disney World really is one of the most magical places on Earth."

According to Beal, this Floridian attraction gives you the opportunity to escape into a world "where life is a celebration and most things are simple."

"Everywhere you turn, there are characters, parades, rides, delicious food, and a million other things to see," she shares. "For the best visit, consider a time during a festival like Epcot's Food and Wine Festival. You can avoid major crowds by staying away from holidays or weekends."

4. Salem, Massachusetts

ropes mansion in salem massachusetts
Heidi Besen / Shutterstock

If you enjoy spooky season, a trip to Salem, Massachusetts, is likely on your bucket list. And while it's long been a tourist destination, the little town has been inundated with visitors in the fall in recent years. Even so, travel experts say it's a memorable spot worth seeing.

"Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, is often regarded as a tourist trap, but having been myself a few times in October for the town's Haunted Happenings festival, I fully stand by my opinion that it's a unique and exciting experience to add to your fall itinerary when visiting the region," Samantha Hamilton, creator and writer of New England Wanderlust, says.

She continues, "The entire month is one big Halloween celebration with special events around town, but the charming streets sprinkled in fall foliage, historic architecture, and famous Hocus Pocus movie filming locations all make this a memorable, fun, and cozy fall excursion."

Hamilton concedes that it is extra busy in the weeks leading up to Halloween, but the secret to this destination is planning ahead and anticipating the crowds. However, one thing she recommends skipping is the Salem Witch Museum, which was dubbed the second-worst tourist trap by USA Today in 2023.

"I do agree that this museum can be a bit disappointing. Instead, I recommend booking a walking tour of the city, exploring the amazing Peabody Essex Museum, and visiting the House of Seven Gables," she says.

RELATED: 10 Most Relaxing Tourist Attractions in the World, Study Reveals.

5. Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee)

entrance to dollywood in pigeon forge, tn
Dennis MacDonald / Shutterstock

Yes, country music legend Dolly Parton has her own theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee—and while it might sound like the ultimate tourist trap, visitors disagree.

TikToker @otherjackieo, who rates tourist traps and decides whether they are "slaps" worth visiting or actual "traps," gives Dollywood the coveted "slap" designation.

"Many of the rides at Dollywood are actually pretty intense and not for the faint of heart," @otherjackieo says in a Sept. 2023 TikTok. "It was Great Pumpkin LumiNights when we were there, which just means that there's a bunch of pumpkins around, but it was really fun and festive."

They continue, "The park itself had some of these pockets of serenity with water features that I really enjoyed. And with it being an American and country-themed park, there was a bird show where you could see an actual eagle right in front of you."

Beyond that, the food is also a hit, with the park's famous cinnamon bread leaving a particular impression.

"Overall, you can still tell that Dolly has her hands in this. There's music around every corner, there are local artisans that she is lifting up, there is a full steam train that goes around the entire property—and oh, my golly, Miss Dolly, this place slaps," @otherjackieo concludes.

6. Wall Drug (Wall, South Dakota)

Two boys pose for a photo on the Jackalope at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota during the summer of 2017

Travel expert Olive Christine adores Wall Drug—the internationally-renowned, cowboy-themed shopping complex with an 80-foot brontosaurus sculpture.

"It's kitschy and unexpected in the best way, with a mix of shopping, dining, and various quirky attractions like a giant dinosaur and the famed free ice water," she shares. "There's a certain tongue-in-cheek humor to the entire establishment that I love."

She recommends taking time out of your road trip to explore the complex, "whether it's the Western Art Gallery or the Backyard. Have a meal at the cafe, take plenty of photos, and don't forget to get your free ice water as a souvenir of your visit."

7. Hollywood Walk of Fame (Los Angeles)

Hollywood Boulevard
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Los Angeles natives often have a love-hate relationship with the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's crowded, messy, and lined with cheesy souvenir shops. But Laura Lynch, founder of Go Travel California, sees the boulevard for what it is beyond the stars.

"If you land up on the Walk of Fame, don't just hustle past the stars. Take it slow," she tells Best Life. "Strolling the Walk of Fame, each star unveiled a history of struggles and triumphs, dreams, and inspiration—it's a nostalgic journey."

8. The Strip (Las Vegas)

neon museum
iStock / Page Light Studios

Casinos, same-day wedding chapels, and an overabundance of Elvis impersonators and bachelor and bachelorette parties are all reasons someone might want to avoid the Las Vegas Strip. And if you don't like to gamble, it might feel too overpriced for a regular vacation destination.

Mal Hellyer, travel blogger of Raw Mal Roams, begs to differ.

"One of my most cherished memories is this early morning walk along the strip. The city, usually buzzing with life, was tranquil. The neon signs against the dawn sky—that was a sight to behold," she recalls.

"Next time you find yourself in a tourist trap, I'd say, jump right in," she adds. "It could turn out to be the adventure you've been seeking."

RELATED: The 10 Best 3-Day Weekend Trips in the U.S.

9. Fisherman's Wharf (San Francisco)

fisherman's wharf san francisco
travelview / iStock

In operation since the days of the Gold Rush, the Fisherman's Wharf of today overflows with pricey shops, expensive eateries, and Golden Gate Bridge photo ops. With that said, this San Francisco spot is a particularly polarizing tourist trap. But some say it's still worth stopping by.

Ady Meschke, founder of Verbal Gold Blog, thinks Fisherman's Wharf is a must for out-of-towners.

"I used to live in San Francisco and every time someone would visit I would always take them to Fisherman's Wharf," she shares. "The bushman, who jumps out and scares you, is an unforgettable local experience. The waterfront views, the fresh bread from Boudin that they make in little shapes of animals, the clam chowder in a bread bowl that you can't get anywhere else is like no other, and the sea lions at Pier 39."

The iconic Irish coffee at The Buena Vista Cafe holds a special place in her heart as well.

"Make sure to sit at the bar, you won't regret it. Plus, it's supposedly the place where Irish coffee was first introduced to the U.S. in 1952," Meschke shares.

10. Bourbon Street (New Orleans)

bourbon street during mardi gras
Joel Carillet / iStock

Lined with bars, music clubs, and souvenir shops, Bourbon Street in New Orleans is a beloved destination for partiers. Its reputation is certainly wild, overrun with groups of birthday celebrators, spring breakers, and others looking to let loose. It's also a loud street, with drumlines, rock bands, and performers entertaining folks as they stumble from bar to bar carrying open containers (that's legal in New Orleans). We'll spare you the gory details of how messy this area can get as a result.

It's easy to write off Bourbon Street, but locals like Richard Campanella, associate dean for research with the Tulane School of Architecture and author of Cityscapes of New Orleans, understand that it is one of the best parts of New Orleans.

In his essay, "Hating Bourbon Street," he writes, "There's something refreshing about a place that flips off coolness and measures success the old-fashioned way: by the millions. What you see when you peer past the neon is exactly what you get."

This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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