I’m very vocal about the fact that a lot of travel writing is bullshit. So much so, that a friend sent me this infographic because she knew I would be furious about it and write a response. I’m referring to Insider’s article “The worst tourist trap in every state.”
I hate pieces like this because you know that the person behind this has most probably never been to every state (and it’s obvious based on some of the choices). But mostly, I hate writing like this because it’s not even writing! It’s an unfounded generic list, based on no evidence at all delivered via an infographic. And worst of all, it’s introduced by explicitly discouraging travel to these arbitrary locations with a grim warning: “they should be avoided at all costs.”
What is a tourist trap?
I have a pet peeve about people calling something a tourist trap just because it’s popular. I’m the first person to hate on crowds, but just because a lot of other people love it doesn’t mean it has no value. A real tourist trap is usually designed to extort money out of gullible travelers, while offering little to no value in return. And the thing about value is that you can’t decide what is or isn’t worthwhile for anyone else. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a wax museum, but if that’s what you like to do when you travel, then my opinion isn’t really relevant.
So let’s look at what the travel writers at Insider think are the absolute worst things to do in every state and should be avoided at all costs.
The most unfairly treated sites on the list
How I immediately knew this entire infographic was bullshit was because they chose Epcot as the worst tourist trap for Florida. Anyone that thinks Epcot is a tourist trap has most definitely never been to Epcot. Unless they went when they were 10 and were disappointed by the rides and didn’t realize their parents were drunk as fuck at the World Showcase.
Something that’s free can’t be a tourist trap
I didn’t think I would ever find myself defending Times Square or the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but here I am. People dressed as superheroes taking pictures with people doesn’t necessarily make something the worst. The Walk of Fame is 15 blocks long. You don’t even have to be looking for it to stumble upon the Walk of Fame.
And yes, Times Square is full of people and it’s annoying to walk there and in the end it’s just a bunch of advertisements. But I have to say, passing by 42nd street in the middle of the night after a few drinks when night turns to day and lights dance before your eyes is pretty amazing. If you wouldn’t say it about Tokyo, then you can’t say it about New York. Hating on Times Square is just as basic as Times Square is.
Other random things that are totally free that this infographic condemns as the worst tourist trap in an entire state: Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the Gum Wall in Seattle, the Alamo in San Antonio. Yes, the Alamo is small and underwhelming. But if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go inside. And if you decide to, you can do it for free. What part of that is a trap?
It’s not a tourist trap if it’s exactly what you would expect
Look, if you’re going to Bourbon Street in New Orleans and expecting anything other than a messy shitshow where you can get totally wasted on like $12, then that’s your bad! That’s not Bourbon Street’s fault. Are there better things to do in New Orleans? Absolutely! But if you want to drink a hurricane out of a fishbowl and flash your tits for beads, don’t let some lazy travel writer on the internet talk you out of that experience.
Yes, the Four Corners is a plaque on the floor. What else did you expect?! You’re getting exactly what is advertised. The World of Coca Cola in Georgia is a giant advertisement for Coke. Duh! And this is a tourist trap in the truest sense of the word, but if you’re driving from Miami to Washington DC and you pass by South of the Border, it’s the most exciting thing in the universe.
When you make a list, you need enough items to fill it out
Apparently the biggest tourist trap in Alaska is the North Pole.
In Maryland, it’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not! I guess they didn’t get the memo that Ripley’s is in 13 states. And in Oklahoma, the most offensive tourist trap is the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum, despite the fact that it has fantastic visitor reviews. And I’ve never been to Oklahoma, but is there even anything else to do there?
And in Pennsylvania, they consider the Liberty Bell to be the absolute worst. Well… I guess they’re not wrong about that one. But at least try it before you knock it!