The Six Most Overrated Tourist Sites on the Planet


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Tourist destinations can be massive disappointments.

How long do you look at it?

Admit it: exactly that question has popped into your head and this is after you traveled many miles and hours to get to a "can't miss" tourist destination. All the guidebooks screamed that everybody who goes to XYZ must see QRS. So you did.

Now you know: they lie.

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Probably half the "must see" sites on the planet can pretty safely be ignored.

Don't believe that?

Read on for a list that may shock you.

The Empire State Building. It costs $46 for a ticket that will get you to the top, 102nd floor, and the main deck on the 86th floor. Completed in 1931, the Empire State Building for many decades was New York City's tallest, and it is now the fourth tallest in the U.S. (the 23rd tallest in the world). Let Phoenix travel writer Dena Roche, who blogs at fitglobetrotter, tell why you can skip this: "It's so iconic, who wouldn't want to meet for a midnight kiss atop the building? But in reality it's a throng of tourists that will sap hours out of your time in NYC."

That's the thing: The Empire State is thick with tourists, Always. Pay $67 for a "skip-the-lines" premium ticket and you'll likely still wait because many others had the same idea.

A better bet: wait until fall when the Rainbow Room reopens on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Buy a cocktail and drink in views that dazzle. Personally I have never seen better in Manhattan.

You want now? Go to Robert at 2 Columbus Circle. Snag a window seat and order a cocktail. Then kiss.

The Little Mermaid. There are lots of reasons to like orderly, friendly Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. The Little Mermaid statue - a statue that grew out of a fairy tale by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen - is not one of them.

Commissioned by a son of the founder of Carsberg, a very wealthy brewing company, it was unveiled in 1913. It sits in Copenhagen Harbor and much of the year it is besieged by tourists, some of whom hop in the water, swim to the statue and drape themselves on it while friends snap photos (presumably all had a few Carsbergs beforehand).

The statute is fetching, the location is lovely - but it also is tiny and not especially eye catching. If you traveled more than 100 yard out of your way to see this, you made a bad call.

Redeem yourself by visiting the majestic Soren Kierkegaard statue in the Royal Library Garden. The 19th century Danish philosopher - author of Fear and Trembling, The Concept of Dread and many other works that anticipate the fragmentation of contemporary life - appears to be thinking in the big bronze.

No surprise that.

Bourbon Street. I love New Orleans, will go there on any excuse, even in the sultry summer. But the only time I spend on Bourbon Street - the iconic French Quarter street - is crossing it on the way to much more stately or Royal or Burgundy.

Walk down Bourbon, and it is filled with drunks -- often nasty -- and barkers attempting to entice you into any of the many bars and the plentiful strip clubs. There are hustlers, cops, violent thugs. There often is a smell of vomit in the humid air. Do you need that?

Go to Nola. Stop in Arnaud's French 75 on Bienville; order a namesake cocktail. You are maybe 100 yards off Bourbon Street. Have a couple French 75s; it's a civilized place, maybe order a bowl of gumbo to eat the bar.

And just be thankful you are not in the scrum over on Bourbon.

The Eiffel Tower. Guidebook writer Caroline O'Connell, author of Every Woman's Guide to Romance in Paris, tells why: "I would say taking a day out to visit the Eiffel Tower should go on your list of sites you can skip.

You end up standing in line for hours (even if you have purchased your ticket ahead online). When you finally do go up, you get a view of the roofs of buildings, the Seine River, and some nearby parks. Much better to go to the observation deck at the top of the Arc de Triomphe at Éttoile (an intersection with many streets). From that vantage point, you get a nice view of the Eiffel Tower, and you're looking down the Champs-Élysées toward Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre in the distance. There is normally a very short line for this site."

You just saved money too. The Arc de Triomphe ticket is 8 euros, versus 15 for the Eiffel tower.

Hollywood Walk of Fame. At least it is free. But you get what you pay for. Scattered along the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard and a few blocks of Vine are some 2,500 five-pointed stars celebrating showbiz celebs, broadly defined. There are stars for Muhammad Ali, Houdini, Charlie Chaplin, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (the youngest ever, at 18 at the time), Max Factor, sci fi writer Ray Bradbury, Ronald Reagan (the only president), Sonny Bono (one of two members of the U.S. House), even some fictional characters such as Mickey Mouse and a few animals (Rin Tin Tin).

There's also all the predictable Hollywood royalty.

What's not to like? The Walk itself is lined by a parade of con artists, hucksters, pickpockets and worse. Want to snap a shot of that Marilyn Monroe lookalike by her star (6774 Hollywood Boulevard)? Be prepared to fork over cash. Ditto for pretty much every other lookalike lining the route.

At the Hollywood Walk of Fame you are the zebras on the savannah in Africa, And you are surrounded by hyenas, wild dogs, lions and other predators. Speaking cinematically of course.

Julie Roberts and Clint Eastwood, by the way, although they might have nothing else in common, both have declined to participate in the Walk of Fame. They aren't alone. Maybe you should rethink looking at it.

Mt. Rushmore. It may be definitional Americana, but this South Dakota landmark - begun in 1927, work finished in 1941 - which features the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln is about 200 miles from Pierre, the capital of South Dakota. That is another way to say: it's in the middle of nowhere.

New York-based comedian Dan Nainan isn't joking when he said: "I remember driving for hours with some friends, through twisting turning roads, that made our stomachs crazy. Then we get to Mount Rushmore, and it was so disappointing - it was tiny!"

Virginia based writer/editor Zach Everson said similar: "Sculpting those four presidents into the side of a granite mountain was an impressive feat of art and engineering. But after years of seeing the memorial on TV, when I visited Mount Rushmore, it just seemed so much smaller and unimpressive in person."

--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet

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