The Biggest Tourist Trap in Every State
Don't be fooled by these major attractions across the U.S. that seem to disappoint some visitors.
There are places all over the world that are considered tourist traps, or places where tourists are lured in with the expectation of something great. Sometimes, these attractions can exploit travelers with overpriced goods or services, but other times, they can really live up to the hype. Either way, it's always good to be aware of what popular and frequently visited locations are considered tourist traps that won't have much to offer before you travel there.
Here are the places considered the biggest tourist traps in every state—from the good to the bad and the downright weird. (It's also worth noting that a lot of spots that have been considered major tourist traps in the past no longer exist, perhaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of visitors.)
Read on to see if any of your future "must-see" tourist spots around the U.S. made the list. Maybe there are even a few you've been to before! And for more travel tips, check out The 10 Best Trips Every Movie Lover Has to Take in Their Lifetime.
Alabama: Ave Maria Grotto
Ironically, the first tourist trap on this list isn't the biggest. Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama is actually one the smallest as a miniature landscaped village. Per the grotto's website, the miniature town includes 125 tiny stone and cement structures made by Benedictine monk, Brother Joseph Zoetl, O.S.B. of St. Bernard Abbey. He evidently began the creation in 1912 and finished with the Lourdes Basilica Church in miniature in 1958.
For travelers who love miniatures of anything, this could be a great destination. But for others, it can be an underwhelming two-block site.
Alaska: North Pole
Just because Alaska has a reputation for being cold doesn't mean it's quite north enough to be at The North Pole. But that hasn't stopped one city in the state from trying. North Pole, Alaska celebrates Christmas all year round. Their whole city is done up for Santa's arrival at all times, and even has streets like Mistletoe Lane–just in case you needed further evidence of their loyalty to Christmas.
Arizona: The Thing Museum
To the surprise of no one, Arizona's biggest tourist trap is a spot that's notorious for being advertised on billboards along the highway. The Thing Museum, located at the Bowlin Travel Center in Benson, is a circus sideshow-esque showcase. According to its website, there are hundreds of billboards advertising The Thing to drivers traveling down the road. What is The Thing? Their famous answer is that you'll have to go to the museum to find out… but we can tell you that involves aliens.
Arkansas: The Crater of Diamonds State Park
Crater of Diamonds State Park has its fair share of disappointment, according to Tripadvisor. While some visitors might balk at the idea of digging around in the dirt at the prospect of maybe finding a diamond, it can happen. The largest diamond ever found at the park (a 2.38-carat brown diamond) was uncovered by a guest in May 2022. Arkansas State Parks said one to two diamonds are found and registered by park visitors every day.
California: Hollywood Boulevard
Without a doubt, Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California is the state's biggest tourist trap… with an emphasis on the biggest. A street dotted with celebrity names and full of impersonators or costumed characters, this spot has its fair share of pop culture references. Take this locale's Tripadvisor reviews to show that the experiences in the area are very hit or miss.
Colorado: Four Corners U.S.A.
Regardless of whether you think this is a cool spot or not, Four Corners in Colorado is definitely the state's biggest tourist trap. Where else could you get a Twister-like photo sprawling across four states at once? At the Four Corners Monument, you can simultaneously be in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. And, well, that's it. There's plenty else to see out this way, according to Colorado tourism–if you're up for it after traveling to four states.
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Connecticut: Holy Land USA
Since the 1950s, Holy Land USA has been part of Waterbury, Connecticut. The pinnacle of the site found at the top of a hill is a giant lighted cross that sits high above the statues that depict the life of Jesus Christ below. Per Holy Land USA's website, this park is a place where folks can gather in peace together while also seeing attractions based on the Bible.
Delaware: Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk is another example of a place that can be considered a tourist trap that is still popular for folks. It is a frequent recipient of Travelers' Choice awards from Tripadvisor with visitors raving about the snacks. Although, some tourists have chimed in about the boardwalk being overcrowded at times with difficult parking. Still, you get one look at those fries and you have to admit: They look mighty tasty.
Florida: The Coral Castle Museum
He wasn't a monk, but Edward Leedskalnin did carve over 1,100 tons of coral rock by himself in secret for almost 30 years. Those efforts have culminated in a bizarre place called the Coral Castle Museum in Miami, Florida. According to the sculpture garden's website, no one ever found or figured out how Leedskalnin managed to do all that carving… but we're not sure it's worth it to try to crack the mystery.
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Georgia: World of Coca-Cola
Bubbling up to the top in Atlanta, Georgia is none other than the World of Coca-Cola. Millions of visitors come through this space every year. They taste some soda, learn about the brand, contemplate what the secret formula tucked away in the vault might be, and hang with the Polar Bear mascot. Just as Futurama once portended, Coca-Cola is pretty tied to its home in Georgia.
Hawaii: Waikiki Beach
One of the most famous beaches in the country and, perhaps, even the world, Waikiki Beach gained its popularity because of Duke Kahanamoku. Kahanamoku made surfing famous and, by default, this beach as well. Though it remains a destination for many, it is also plagued by the typical tourist trap issues: high prices and high population density. According to Yelp, if you want a chair or umbrella, you better be prepared to pay between $50 and $80 for just a few hours.
Idaho: Craters of the Moon National Monument
Another park to add to this list, only this time it has a more stellar backstory. Craters of the Moon National Monument is made up of lavaflows and sagebrush in Arco, Idaho. Because of its unique environmental aesthetic, the preserve/monument is said to simulate the landscape of the moon (well, with gravity anyway). You can even sleep here if you're so inclined.
Illinois: Super Museum
It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the Super Museum! In Illinois' very own Metropolis, you'll find what is, evidently, the world's largest collection of Superman in an appropriately painted brick building. Per the museum, there are around 70,000 items in the collection and even a giant Superman statue outside. Get that Superhero pose ready!
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Indiana: The World's Largest Paint Ball
This is probably the only place on the list that has appointments. The World's Largest Paint Ball, created by Mike and Glenda Carmichael of Alexandria, Indiana, can be seen any day of the week from 9 to 5 so long as you call or email to make an appointment. Here you will see a baseball that is covered with over 27,000 layers of paint.
Iowa: Spook Cave
There was a time when Spook Cave was, apparently, set up to spook you. Which makes sense. Now, it still has some of its silly spookiness, though it's more of a cave tour than haunted house at this point, according to Roadside America. It's an actual cave tour by boat with the trappings of what could be considered a literal tourist trap. After all, the cave itself only has one passageway.
Kansas: Dorothy House
It would almost be insulting if the biggest touristy spot in Kansas wasn't Dorothy's house, right? According to the Dorothy House, the beginnings of the endeavor to bring The Wizard of Oz to life in Kansas involved a resident traveling to San Francisco in the 1970s and asking a waiter what he would expect to see in Kansas. The answer? A house like the one from the beloved film. There you have it. That's how this cinematic replica and its Land of Oz touring area were born.
Kentucky: Ark Encounter
"Biggest" gets some liberties here because Kentucky is home to Ark Encounter–where you see a full-sized Noah's Ark replica. Per the website, it was made to the exact specificity given in the Bible: 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. When you're done at the ark itself, you can hop over to the Ark Encounter theme park. Though, given that the ark was built for an apocalypse, a horror theme park would probably be more fitting.
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Louisiana: Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street has a reputation for being the place to be in New Orleans. If you ask Tripadvisor though, it's not even in the top 100. Even so, the street itself is made to cater to tourists in the best and worst ways. If you do decide to go out on Bourbon, remember not to make eye contact with the random people selling shots on the sidewalk or to answer anyone who says they bet they can tell you where you got your shoes.
Maine: Lobster Shack at Two Lights
Visiting the East Coast, especially for foodies, means gorging on some fresh seafood and knowing it'll cost a pretty penny. And if you decide to indulge your lobster tooth at Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Maine, it'll probably cost even more than usual. This spot is big for tourists and has had its time on the Travel Channel too, so it's definitely a tourist trap. At least the ocean views and shack-like coziness give it a warm and beachy aesthetic.
Maryland: Inner Harbor
Not only is Inner Harbor one of the oldest seaports in the country, with history dating into the 1600s, it's also one of the busiest tourist attraction areas in Baltimore, Maryland. Tripadvisor suggests at least three hours to spend in this area, which is full of shops, restaurants, museums, and other attractions. If you don't mind the crowds, there is fascinating history to be found here.
Massachusetts: Faneuil Hall Marketplace
According to Boston.com, Faneuil Hall Marketplace has more annual visitors than Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort. If that's true, this place must be packed like sardines. Especially since the whole marketplace is about eight acres, and Magic Kingdom is 142. Still, as one of Boston's major historical spaces, Faneuil Hall is still bringing in guests well into its almost 300 years of operation. That's a feat.
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Michigan: Mystery Spot
In the same category as The Thing Museum, Mystery Spot in Saint Ignace, Michigan is another one of those wacky roadside attractions that beg you to inquire. Even though the locale is a bit dated, per Tripadvisor user reviews, the ziplines, minigolf, mazes, and optical illusions do delight the kiddos. At the time of publication, Mystery Spot's website wasn't working, so what it entails really is quite a mystery.
Minnesota: Mall of America
With hundreds of stores, tons of restaurants, an aquarium, and an actual theme park inside, Mall of America wanted to be a destination in its own right. This behemoth Minnesotan attraction has been around since 1992 and visitors tend to love or hate it. Myself? I am a Camp Snoopy fan (the original theme park) all the way, and Nickelodeon Universe just isn't as good.
Mississippi: Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum
No offense to The King, but he probably wouldn't be surprised that his Birthplace Museum was on this list. His childhood was pretty tragic. That hasn't stopped fans of Elvis from all over the world from stopping by the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo, Mississippi. His childhood church is on the premises too, which is pretty cool because that's where Elvis found his musical roots.
Missouri: The Titanic Museum
Branson, Missouri is one of those parts of the country that is known for being a place for tourists. That said, The Titanic Museum has a pretty great reputation even though it is absolutely for tourists. (This location is owned by the same person who owns the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee museum.) Every visitor gets assigned a passenger that they learn about during their tour of the museum before finding out their fate at the end. Touristy? Yes. Still cool? Also yes.
Montana: 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar
Anytime a place has a claim to fame like "state's largest gift shop," it's probably a tourist trap. If it has a restaurant and a gas station? It's probably a tourist trap. 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Haugan, Montana? It has all three. And two casinos, two bars, and a convenience store. The name is derived from the massive silver dollar collection you're surrounded by inside the bar itself.
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Nebraska: Pioneer Village
Despite its name, this isn't a wild west-style town. Pioneer Village is actually a 50,000+ item museum that depicts how the country grew from its days of buggies to the technological super age. According to the museum, it is the only one of its kind in the country that really shows "how America grew." Museum founder Harold Warp chose the year 1830 to be the museum's chronological beginning so there is a lot of innovation to see.
Nevada: Alien Research Center
Surprise! It's not Las Vegas. Largely because of its name, Alien Research Center is Nevada's biggest tourist trap. Why? Because, unless you look it up, you'll be under the impression that this is a museum or some kind of cool extraterrestrial attraction–it's not. It's a souvenir shop on the way to Area 51. Not a bad tourist trap, though it definitely fits under the "deceptive" category.
New Hampshire: Story Land
A place where families go for a good time without having to trek down to Orlando: Story Land in New Hampshire. With theme park rides, character interactions, and other experiences, Story Land is a place where fairy tales come to life, according to its website. Though the Daniel Tiger costume and knockoff Tinker Bell in this photo definitely give off an upgraded Hollywood Boulevard or Times Square character vibes.
New Jersey: Ocean City Boardwalk
Jersey Shore has quite a reputation, thanks to MTV, so its role as a tourist destination only makes sense. Like many other parts of the East Coast, Jersey is full of boardwalks, which often become tourist traps. But one of the biggest, most popular boardwalks is also still considered a pretty good spot despite being so touristy. Ocean City boardwalk was named the best in the state by NJ.com. Even with all the trappings of the others, Ocean City is apparently still the right mix of locals and tourists–overpriced snacks, silly t-shirts, and all.
New Mexico: Roswell
Obviously, it's Roswell. The whole of the city, really. Because of its reputation for being the site of Area 51, Roswell, New Mexico became the epicenter for all things alien encounters. You'll find the UFO Museum here, other exhibits around space/interterrestrial phenomena, and even chain restaurants getting down with the outer space theme. There are things in Roswell that aren't alien-centered, but the little green men have a stranglehold on this spot.
New York: Times Square
If you've done it once, you probably don't want to do it again: Times Square. Depending on where you're going in New York City, it might be inevitable to have to venture into the square, though it has become the epitome of a tourist trap. From being harassed by scammers to creepy costumed characters, overwhelming neon and way too many people, Times Square looks better on TV–and smells better too.
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North Carolina: Mary's Gone Wild
With hit or miss reviews on Tripadvisor, Mary's Gone Wild in Supply, North Carolina is an oddball tourist trap. Artist Mary Paulsen started making folk art from glass bottles in 1996 and now her thousands upon thousands of art pieces are available for public viewing. The Visionary Folk Art Garden and Doll Village has a philanthropic side too in abating childhood hunger, according to its website. So. tourist trap or art gallery, it's the only place on this list that's giving back.
North Dakota: Rugby
In 1931, it was determined that the geological center of North America was in Rugby, North Dakota, so there is a large monument dedicated to that fact… and tourists travel to see it. Though the validity of that geological point has been debated, even in jest, it's the claim to fame for the ND town. Also, the monument is now in the parking lot of a local Mexican restaurant, so at least there is food nearby?
Ohio: BibleWalk Wax Museum
Wax museums in general are tourist traps, and the BibleWalk location is no exception. It's the only wax museum in Ohio and includes 325 figures of Biblical characters enacting 100 scenes, per its website. Seeing wax celebrities is weird enough in other museums, let alone being stared down by Judas Iscariot.
Oklahoma: J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum
We hope they don't get up in arms, but the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum is too bizarre not to be the biggest tourist trap in Oklahoma. Besides being the largest privately-held firearms collection in the world with over 12,000 guns in their collection, the museum also has mugs, beer steins, and local county history artifacts, too. Just because.
Oregon: Prehistoric Gardens
If you love dinosaurs, love nature, and would go to Jurassic Park if you had a guarantee not to be eaten, you might love the Prehistoric Gardens in Gold Beach, Oregon. The nearly two dozen life-sized dinos are silly and also cool at the same time. Sometimes roadside attractions or tourist traps are popular for a reason.
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Pennsylvania: Haines Shoe House
Remember the story about the little old lady who lived in a shoe? So, someone actually built a shoe-shaped house in York, Pennsylvania, and you can go inside it. Haines Shoe House is five levels and can be toured from spring through October. The couple that currently owns the house even does the tours. Even if the house doesn't impress you, at least there is ice cream for sale.
Rhode Island: Mystery Tower of Newport
Word to the wise, if something has the word "mystery" in it, it is probably a tourist trap. So goes the story for the Mystery Tower of Newport, also known as the Mystery Viking Tower. According to Roadside America, it's believed that the tower was built by vikings in the 1100s, or the Knights Templars in the 1300s, or the Chinese in the 1400s… and so on. It's an old, random tower in the center of Newport, Rhode Island.
South Carolina: South of the Border
Bad theming, political correctness, and not-subtle stereotypes aside, South of the Border is a tourist attraction for some reason. Named for its positionality along the South and North Carolina border, it's a gift shop with a tacky name. Even visitors have pretty mixed opinions about this "destination," in general.
South Dakota: Wall Drug Store
Have you ever seen those bumper stickers for Wall Drug? Where it felt like an inside joke that was lost on the rest of us? Well, Wall Drug is in South Dakota and is an amalgamation of the things that make tourist traps, well, tourist traps. With photo opps, restaurants, gift shops, things to do with the kids, and entertainment options, this stop is like a jacked-up roadside attraction on steroids. Or, more appropriately, a jackalopped roadside attraction.
Like Branson, Gatlinburg, Tennessee began as a place where people would go to escape into nature. Now, the city is not only overrun by tourists throughout the year, it's also full of tourist trap souvenir shops. Tourist traps in the city are so pervasive there are articles specifically on how to avoid them.
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Texas: Big Texan
Everything is bigger in Texas, right? Even the tourist traps. Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas is known for its 72 oz. steak challenge, giant steer, and all things Texas. According to the Big Texan website, over half a million people from all over the world come by to eat every year. And now, it has an Airbnb and RV ranch so you don't even have to leave!
Utah: Hole N" The Rock
Going to Moab, Utah, you are prepared to see a lot of rock formations. What you might not expect to see is something like The Hole N" The Rock. This 5,000-square-foot home is built into rock that has become a tourist attraction and gift shop. You can tour the home itself, see their on-premises zoo and other touristy attractions they've collected, like Big Foot (not the real one, sorry).
Vermont: The Museum of Everyday Life
When a spot is destined to be a tourist trap, it's only polite that it also be free. That's the case with Vermont's The Museum of Everyday Life. This museum celebrates the mundane, as well as the things we might use every day without a second thought. Past visitors love this spot because it's keeping Vermont weird, which we can appreciate.
Virginia: Dinosaur Land
For whatever reason, tourist traps love to use dinosaurs to lure visitors in. White Post, Virginia's Dinosaur Land, is yet another example of dinos trapping tourists. Here you can encounter fifty dinosaurs as they may have been in the Mesozoic era. Of course, there is also a dino-themed gift shop too in case you don't get enough dinosaur time in the park.
Sorry Starbucks, your original location is a tourist trap. Unless you are a diehard mermaid coffee fan, the original 1971 coffee shop location in Pike Place Market in Seattle is touristy to the max. Sure, it's the first location and that's cool, though it's also often crowded. Past visitors have said on Yelp that it's not really worth the line.
West Virginia: Mystery Hole
Remember what we said about things called "mystery?" West Virginia's Mystery Hole is another place that is a combination shop and illusion attraction. It definitely looks like the Mystery Shack from "Gravity Falls" which makes us wonder if that's what the shack is based on. Hokey roadside attraction or not, visitors seem to be pretty mixed about whether folks should stop by.
Wisconsin: House on the Rock
House on the Rock has a pretty bizarre reputation because it's a bizarre place. As a native Wisconsinite, this is definitely the biggest tourist trap in the state. It's a museum of oddities to be sure with some pretty interesting architectural designs, though generally, it's an overpriced attraction that lures people in with name recognition alone. One Tripadvisor visitor estimated that 15% of the paid tour is worth it and I would agree. Even though the Infinity Room is pretty spectacular–and a bit scary.
Wyoming: Old Trail Town
A tourist trap list could not be complete without a frontier town. Old Trail Town is made up of over two dozen buildings dated 1879 to 1901, with frontier era artifacts on display as well. Here, you will also find the Museum of the Old West. Tripadvisor users say not to let your first impressions of this place deter you from checking it out because most were impressed by the collection(s).
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