11 Tourist Traps That Are Actually Worth Visiting
People flock there for a reason
You travel to see the world, not to wait in three-hour lines to make it to the top of an overpriced observatory deck. That said, certain proverbial “tourist traps” are totally worth the time, money and proximity to sweaty, disgruntled teen tours. Here are 11 of them.
The Grand Canyon (Arizona)
You could visit the Grand Canyon 100 times and always walk away feeling completely awestruck. While the South Rim draws almost 90 percent of tourists for its breathtaking vistas, and it shouldn’t be missed, you can escape the crowds by also venturing to the North Rim’s less frequented trails.
Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty (New York)
Look, New Yorkers--we’ll forgive you for avoiding the overpriced Empire State Building observation deck. But a trip to Ellis Island and Liberty Island is a must. The place is full of history, and you can even scan the books and try to find your family name among the 12 million immigrants who passed through from 1892 to 1954.
Tsukiji Fish Market (Tokyo)
We’re always wary of places deemed the “number-one, must-see spot” in any given city. But Japan’s largest fish market is 100 percent worth it. Go at 5 a.m. to see the live bluefin tuna auctions, where the best-looking, biggest fish sell for unthinkable prices. Before you leave, make sure to grab a traditional sushi breakfast.
The White House (Washington, D.C.)
OK, it might sound obvious, but no trip to the nation's capital is complete without a visit to what is possibly the most important political site in America. Arranging a self-guided tour through the White House takes a little effort (in fact, you have to submit a request through your congressman). But the experience is well worth the extra legwork, and hey, how many people can say they went to the president's house?
Anne Frank House (Amsterdam)
If you’re going to do just one educational activity in Amsterdam, let it be a visit to the secret annex where the Frank family hid during WWII. The exhibits, videos and commentary are exceptionally well done, and you can even skip the massive lines by buying your tickets in advance.
Sacré Coeur/Montmartre (Paris)
Perched atop Montmartre hill on the fringes of the city, Sacré Coeur basilica offers one of the most postcard-perfect, panoramic views of Paris. Climb about 200 winding stairs to the dome, and see the 21 arrondissements sprawl out before you.
Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro)
Watching over Rio from the top of Corcovado Mountain, Christ the Redeemer stands 125 feet tall with arms wide open. Getting to the iconic sculpture is an adventure on its own--pick a clear day to take the scenic tram ride 700 meters above sea level, through the lush Tijuca rainforest to the top of the mountain.
Alcatraz (San Francisco)
Alcatraz is one of the rare attractions that both locals and tourists can enjoy. The ferry ride over, offering sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and mainland San Francisco, is impressive all on its own.But the real reason to go is to see the prison where Al "Scarface" Capone and Robert Stroud (the so-called Birdman of Alcatraz) once served time.
Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
Cambodia’s most iconic temple, Angkor Wat, is sacred in both Hinduism and Buddhism. But religion aside, this relic of the 9th- to 15th-century Khmer Empire is one of the most incredible architectural accomplishments of ancient times. You could spend an entire day exploring the moats, towers, forests and intricate details that surround it.
The Great Wall of China (Beijing)
Sure, you’ll be walking with thousands of sweaty people on any given day, but there’s a reason why the Great Wall is one of the world’s most visited destinations. The 5,500-mile granite, brick and stone wall was built mostly by hand, with some portions dating back to 770 B.C. Head to the restored section at Mutianyu (about 45 miles outside of central Beijing) for a less crowded experience.
The Blue Lagoon (Iceland)
Don’t go expecting your own personal hot tub, but the Blue Lagoon--a 40-minute drive from downtown Reykjavík--is pretty incredible. The geothermal pool, set on a lava field, is bubbling with rich minerals believed to help a variety of skin ailments. Even durling Icelandic winter when the days are cold, dark and short, the teal, thermal water feels like dream and illuminates the otherworldly landscape.