While locals and seasoned travelers know to steer clear of the overcrowded, overpriced and usually overrated, tourist-filled destinations, there are certain ‘tourists traps’ across the US that are worth your time. Head to these five iconic sights in the US, and prepare to sift through the crowds; however, take solace in knowing you won’t regret it.
Alcatraz, San Francisco
While locals know the Fisherman’s Wharf is a tourist trap not worth manning the disgruntled crowds, Alcatraz Island sure is. Home to the famous prison that housed some of the more notorious criminals of its time (think Al Capone), Alcatraz is a classic representation of the nation’s prison history frozen in time; not to mention, views of the San Francisco city skyline, Golden Gate Bridge, and chilly waters of the Bay make for breathtaking scenery that you’ll take home with you. For a spookier experience, head here for a night tour, where you’ll see the prison’s hospital and dungeon. Pro tip: book in advance as this night version books up quickly.
Seattle’s Pike Place Market has been an iconic Northwest destination since its establishment in 1907. While the market sees its fair share of tourists on the prowl for the legendary ‘fish slinging,’ there’s plenty of hidden gems within this area, including cafés, craft cocktail bars, a great selection of local produce, and eats so good you’ll be glad you made the trek. Plus, this one’s located on the stunning waterfront of Elliott Bay – the views alone should make this trip worthwhile.
Although there’s almost always a wait, the beignets from Café du Monde are quick to make you forget you’re surrounded by dozens of tourists. An institution since 1862, the Café has gained national recognition thanks to its consistent appearance in pop culture, including novels, music, TV shows, and films; and while the locals say to stay away from this ‘tourist attraction,’ it’s advised to get your beignet on instead – you’ll be glad you did. Don’t forget to indulge in the chicory coffee, developed in the mid-19th century by the New Orleans Creoles, for a truly authentic experience.
New York City is home to many of the nation’s most famous, albeit overly touristy, destinations – rather than face the crowds of the congested Time Square, plan a trip to Ellis Island instead. Once the entry point for over 12 million immigrants to the US, Ellis is bursting with history that begins as early as 1892. There are several exhibits and artifacts located in the museum, a Wall of Honor listing over 700,000 immigrant names, photo albums and family histories, and an audio tour detailing the story behind the island. History buffs, rejoice! Plus, you can get a picturesque view of Lady Liberty on your way to and from the island, a tourist attraction best seen from afar.
Washington D.C. is defined by its three famous government buildings: the Capitol, White House, and Supreme Court. While all three are iconic destinations bursting with history of our nation’s past, there’s only one attraction that’s worth your time: the Capitol Building. With its unparalleled, beautifully designed ceiling in the rotunda (the round portion of the structure), historic statues and paintings, long halls, and hundreds of rooms, the Capitol makes for the perfect step into a bygone era. Plus, tours are free, so it’s a win, win. Pro tip: get a gallery pass, and visit when the Senate or House is in session – this is an unforgettable experience.