Tourist Traps to Watch Out For in the USA

Road trips, beach holidays, city tours are all in our minds this summer. As there are so numerous tourist attractions over the nation, it is often so difficult to make the difference between sites worth visiting and tourist traps. Whether you are a local, an experienced, well-informed traveler or a tourist looking to enjoy an awesome vacation in the States, we’ve compiled a list for you with tourist traps to watch out for when planning a trip to the USA.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls on Our Tourist Tramp List

Location: Niagara Falls, New York

Undoubtedly, Niagara Falls are spectacular and an indisputable candidate for the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” list. Unfortunately, though, there are so many other aspects that make this iconic place a tourist trap: kitschy gift shops, thousands of tourists obstructing the amazing view, expensive and overrated hotels and restaurants.

Tip: Sure, the view might be worth paying for, but watch out for scamps.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

M Monroe Hand Print on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Location: Los Angeles, California

After watching hundreds of movies and TV shows, who wouldn’t dream of taking a picture with the footprints of his or her favorite star? But from dreaming of it to actually paying for a trip to California just to see famous people’s names written on concrete and be waylaid by weird dudes trying to sell you something is a long run.

Tip: What you can do instead, is visit other tourist attractions in the area. Our suggestion is to spend a day at the Hollywood Museum where you can see thousands of props and costumes from renowned movies or visit the Hollywood Wax Museum and take pictures with your fav (inanimate) celebrity.

Times Square

Times Square, New York City by Day

Location: New York, NY

New York, New York! Yes, Times Square is a must-visit New York location, especially if you “want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep”. We understand if it seems to you a bit contradictory to include it in our USA tourist traps list after this introduction. The reason for this is not the place in itself, but the odd things foreigners and locals alike discover with disappointment. To name just a few, the people impersonating all kinds of characters willing to pose for a pic for a few bucks, the numberless adverts, the annoying peddlers trying to sell you anything, will make you wish avoiding the area.

Still, if you’ll make it there, you’ll make it anywhere in the US.

Tip: If you are wondering what other alternatives are there for you instead of moseying the crowded Times Square, there are plenty of interesting things to do in New York City. Take for instance the NYC’s 5th Avenue known as the Museum Mile. If you are an art lover, you can step in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (82nd – 86th Street) or visit The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts. Lectures, galleries, concerts, tours and other unique programs you can enjoy and benefit from are presented on a regular basis.

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle Tourist Trap

Location: Seattle, Washington

Ideally, the Space Needle provides tourists with a memorable view over the “Emerald City”. In truth, however, what tourists experience is a very expensive ride in an overcrowded elevator and a few minutes of sightseeing from over 500 feet above the city. The food up there is bad

Tip: As a relaxing alternative we suggest hanging around the city center, sit in the grass and enjoy the view towards Space Needle without paying those 20 bucks. Also, there are so many other tourist attractions in Seattle worth visiting such as the Aquarium, the Museum of Flight or the Woodland Park Zoo.

Empire State Building

the empire state building - tourist trap

Location: New York City, NY

Located in Midtown Manhattan, The Empire State Building is surely a legendary landmark every person wishes to visit and capture in a memorable pic. But is the amazing experience and panorama offered worth spending hours in a crowd of tourists?  And do you honestly think you are going to include this American iconic skyscraper in a picture? The Empire State Building is on everyone’s bucket list, but in reality it became so busy and expensive that it makes it belong to our awful tourist trap list.

Tip: Instead of admiring the city view from the top of The Empire State Building, go to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade across the Brooklyn Bridge. The view is amazing, it is free and you won’t experience a 2hrs queue.

The Leaning Tower of Niles

the Leaning Tower of Niles - Tourist Trap USA

Location: Niles, Illinois

Now that we have ruined any foreigner’s dream of visiting all the iconic sites in the States like the Niagara Falls, Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Empire State Building, it is time to add to this list some less famous tourist traps in USA. The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-sized mock-replica of the real leaning tower of Pisa. Half size, half fun for tourists. The reason behind its creation remains unknown. Some say that the tower was built as a sign of celebration of the 600th anniversary of the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa. Others speculate that it has a functional purpose of storing water for recreational swimming pools. Anyhow, it is now worth a picture and, least of all, a trip to Niles.

Tip: There are few notable locations to visit in Niles. If you are new to the USA wonders, you’d better check out our posts on best places to visit in San Francisco, Florida, New York, as well as on top ranked Grand Canyon tourist attractions.

Dorothy’s House & Land of Oz

Dorothy's House & Land of Oz in Kansas

Location: Liberal, Kansas

While this is a must-see Kansas location, it is definitely an overrated USA tourist attraction. If perfect for a family trip, I wouldn’t recommend a foreign tourist drive all the way to Kansas just to visit Dorothy’s residence. If you get near Liberal, however, you should stop and give it a try as the tour and the museum are well-organized. This applies to all Wizard of Oz fans too. Still, Dorothy’s House is one of the odd American tourist attractions.

Tip: The state has so many alternatives when it comes to must-see places and things to do in Kansas. The Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson, The Rock City in Minneapolis, and the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson are just a few of them.


Foamhenge American Tourist Trap

Location: Natural Bridge, Virginia

Not that Stonehenge wouldn’t be one of the world’s tourist traps worth visiting, but you can actually find a less interesting styrofoam copy of it in Virginia. Just like the Truckhenge in Topeka, Kansas, another distorted American Stonehenge, Foamhenge is a joke as compared to the real thing. USA hosts a great number of Stonehenge replicas and derivatives designed at various scales. The question is: are these really worth visiting when there are other cultural and archeological sites of our own?

Tip: America’s Stonehenge located near the town of Salem, New Hampshire, is a perfect alternative to Foamhenge. Its snowshoe trails and alpaca farm makes it an ideal tourist location for those who wish to enjoy some time outdoors. Its controversial history is another reason to find out more about this indigenous (or not?) archeological site.

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