Tourist traps Or Alternatives?
We’re thanking USA Today for this insight on planning your Europe getaways. Not necessarily our take, but since the experiential traveler was born, and we love you all, leading the way now is rediscovering the world and its fascinating venues! What’s on your list of iconic sites? Let’s get more creative here! What’s your take?
It is now said some iconic sites just don’t live up to the hype. Consider these 10 tourist traps and visit an alternatives instead. Let’s take a look!
Stonehenge, England: this group of mystery stones has been described as mystical and magical. But what you rarely see in postcards is that Stonehenge is wedged between two very busy roads—and that you’re not even allowed to get close to the stones. You’ll pay an admission fee, but you’ll only be able to view the site from afar. (Tourists used to chip off pieces of the ancient rocks as souvenirs. This is why we can’t have nice things, people.)
Instead: Check out Avebury, about 25 miles away from Stonehenge, where an entire town is set inside a stone circle.
Blarney Stone, Ireland: Legend has it that kissing this rock will give you the gift of gab, (what else will it give you?) but judging by how many people smooch the stone every day, we think you’re more likely to come away with a communicable disease. (Especially if you believe the rumor that locals think it’s funny to sneak in after-hours and use the Blarney Stone as a bathroom.) You’ll have to brave long lines and a vertigo-inducing climb, and you’ll be unceremoniously tipped backwards and headfirst over a ledge by a worker in order to get your peck.
Instead: Skip the long lines and spend your saved time exploring the Blarney Castle grounds, which are definitely worth the visit and (probably) won’t infect you with anything
Pyramids at the Giza Necropolis, Egypt: if you’re expecting a journey out to the quiet desert to see this world-famous wonder, think again. Located in a suburb not far from downtown Cairo, the pyramids are set against the backdrop of a Pizza Hut, a KFC, and a ton of litter. Be prepared to be surrounded by some of the most aggressive touts in the world, some will literally jump into your moving taxi to try to sell you a camel ride. You also can’t touch the Sphinx or climb up the sides of the pyramids anymore.
Instead: Visit the less crowded (and less stressful) pyramids at Dahshur.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy: After you’ve taken the obligatory photos “pushing over” the tower (and purposely photo-bombed the background of many others’ photos), there’s not much to do here except be hounded by hawkers who patrol the area. It’s a long journey, especially if you’re coming from Rome, just to see that the tower does, in fact, live up to its name.
Instead: The Duomo di Pisa, a Romanesque cathedral full of artwork, will give you something else to do besides stare at the tower, waiting for it to tip over.
Prague Astronomical Clock, Czech Republic: yes, it’s the oldest working astronomical clock in the world. But unless your idea of a good time is staring at a giant glorified cuckoo clock while being jostled by fellow tourists, there’s not much else to recommend it. If its on your must see list, time it so that you arrive right as the show is starting (every hour on the hour), to save a good 50 minutes of staring at the clock, waiting for it to perform.
Instead: Catch the time at Paris’ Musee d’Orsay, which houses multiple beautiful clocks inside a beaux-arts railway station that’s been converted into a museum. This makes me think of the movie “Hook” and the clock ticking!
Times Square, New York: Flashing advertisements, obnoxious peddlers selling knockoff DVDs, chain restaurants, and hordes of lost tourists looking at maps await you in the five famed blocks of Times Square. Residents go out of their way to avoid this area where personal space goes to die. Travel all this way to New York City to buy grocery-store candy at the M&M’s World store, dine at an Olive Garden, and gawk at billboards?
Instead: Check out New York’s Museum Mile, a stretch of eight museums along Fifth Avenue. Less crowds, more unique things to gawk at—and there’ll still be hot-dog carts for you to buy from.
Hollywood Walk of Fame, California: why not just Google famous people’s names instead of traveling to see those names etched into a sidewalk? Plus Hollywood visitors may be shocked by the seedy streets filled with hustlers in superhero costumes trying to sell photos to tourists.
Instead: Visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum’s Hollywood location. There,at least you’ll be able to take pictures with inanimate celebrities and briefly fool people on Facebook with your star-studded vacation.
Manneken Pis, Belgium: yes, the name of this statue in Brussels pretty much translates to “Little Man Pee.” A statue of a naked child peeing. If you insist on going, time your visit for when the statue has been dressed up by a city employee—you’ll feel a little less like a pervert. Better yet, come during one of the occasions when the fountain’s water is replaced with a keg of beer, so you can at least get a free drink out of it!
Instead: Visit the Zinneke Pis, a lesser-known sculpture in Brussels of a dog doing the same thing as the Manneken Pis. At least this one is cuter! We’re definitely pet lovers here at Wild Side Destinations so we vote for this!
Don’t bother visiting this house of lies. Tourists snap photos at the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City), a park with a monument and a painted line that claims to be the middle of the world—0 degrees latitude. The actual equator is hundreds of feet away in a pretty inaccessible spot. In the park’s defense, it was built before the advent of GPS.
Instead: If you enjoy posing for pictures while straddling lines, head to England and stand on the Greenwich Meridian Line, which is at least in the right place. (You’ll be marking a longitude, not latitude, of 0 degrees, however.) Better yet, head to Fiji and strattle theThe International Date Line. It sits on the 180 line of longitude in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is the imaginary line that separates two consecutive calendar days. It is not a perfectly straight line and has been moved slightly over the years to accommodate needs (or requests) of varied countries in the Pacific Ocean. To the left of the International Date Line the date is always one day ahead of the date (or day) immediately to the right of the International Date Line in the Western Hemisphere.
The Little Mermaid, Denmark: This famous sculpture in Copenhagen, based on The Little Mermaid fairy tale, is actually a copy. The real statue is kept at an undisclosed location, which is probably for the best since the replica has been defaced, vandalized, decapitated, and blasted with explosives. You may feel the same destructive urges if you seek out this site, as visitors on TripAdvisor call it “hard to see, given it’s so small,” “a discredit to Hans Christian Andersen,” and “not a must-see”, “in the middle of nowhere.”
Instead: Pay a better tribute to Hans Christian by visiting the Hans Christian Andersen statue in New York’s Central Park, where you can climb on the sculpture for photos
Next: other parts of the world?
Pamela (PJ) Ott, Road Warrior,