Trip or Miss? 40 Reviews of Great American Tourist Spots - Parents Dome

Trip or Miss? 40 Reviews of Great American Tourist Spots


Considering taking a vacation across the country? If you’ve been doing your homework (thanks to targeted advertising), you’ve probably come across some web recommendations for “must-see” attractions. However—we weren’t born yesterday. We aren’t so naive that we’d simply put our faith in a random vacation signpost found on the internet.

There are a lot of highly-recommended places around the world, but in reality, many of them aren’t really worth checking out. If you’re visiting a new city, and want to free up some sightseeing time just to hang out and relax instead, then this list is for you. We’ve compiled a list of tourist attractions in major cities around the United States that may be worth your time—or skipping entirely.

Portland Japanese Garden

If you’re already in Oregon, we may assume that the state’s natural beauty is what drew you there in the first place! This garden is no exception. Japan is known for its rigorously elegant aesthetics, and the Portland Japanese garden does manage to capture that essence.

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Some have termed this popular tourist attraction “a trap,” but it’s worth checking out if you’re into Japanese gardens and seeking a little peace and quiet. If you aren’t interested in seeing koi swim under wooden bridges, perhaps the Umami Cafe has something else you could enjoy.

The Fenway Park

What’s more American at heart than baseball? If you’re planning a trip to the east coast and Boston is on your itinerary, we strongly suggest you visit this historic ballpark. It has been operating continuously since 1912.

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A visit to the “Green Monster” will unquestionably invoke your American pride, especially when the crowd starts singing “Sweet Caroline” before the end of the eighth inning. So even if baseball isn’t your thing, you should at least check out the game for its history. It’s an easy home run.

Statue of Liberty

When visiting the Big Apple, the Statue of Liberty is a worthwhile stop, but you may want to avoid it if you’re short on time. Lady Liberty is a popular tourist attraction in New York City, but she may not be worth your time if you’re short on the stuff.

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It’s a long boat ride there and back. There will always be many other people, and the costs will be steep. The torch hasn’t been lit since 1916, and the monument is smaller than most people think. So take in the aesthetics and contemplate the symbolism from afar, then go on to something else.

The Cloud Gate

Sir Anish Kapoor, an Indian-born British artist, created the “Cloud Gate” sculpture for AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park in Chicago, and it now serves as the centerpiece of the park. It’s open to the public, and it’s undoubtedly enticing.

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However, that’s all it is. You’ll get a strange visual experience and a weird, warped selfie out of it, but not much else. Though crowded, this site offers little more than a photograph or a story that begins and ends with “I’ve been there”—especially in the daytime.

Miami Beach

The residents of Miami are right to be proud of their city’s beaches, and we are not here to tell them otherwise. There isn’t much room for error when it comes to beaches—speaking of room—there isn’t much to be found on this iconic coastline, unfortunately.

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The beach has all the requisites to make a great spot—sand, sun, and sea—but once you factor in the overcrowding and oppressive humidity, the location starts to sound less desirable. We’ll go with a relaxing soak in the tub with some ocean waves playing on our phone, thanks.

The Space Needle

The Space Needle is a must-see point of interest in Seattle and throughout the state of Washington. SkyCity, the world-famous restaurant atop the Needle, swirls in the sky as you savor a meal. The Needle is only just six hundred feet tall.

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The restaurant is frequently overbooked—and reservations are expensive. Unless you have stacks of cash to burn, see the views, snap a photo, then escape the crowds. If not, don’t waste your time or money. 

The Blowing Rock

The Blowing Rock is a gorgeous rock formation overlooking a breathtaking landscape in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It can’t be that bad, right? Unfortunately, it’s a deadly tourist trap. You’ll have to shell out $10 per person to see this vista.

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There’s nothing else to do, and what’s worse, the surrounding parks offer the same sight for free. So even though the view is breathtaking and will undoubtedly make a nice shot for your Instagram feed, is it worth paying for something you can find for free somewhere else?

The Breakers

The next place on the list is Newport, Rhode Island. Essentially, people come here to pay to look at the historic homes that incredibly wealthy families once owned. The most notable structure in that area is referred to as “The Breakers,” and it is the biggest of all of the so-called “summer cottages.”

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It has not one, two, or three rooms—it has seventy rooms! It’s said that the Vanderbilt family once owned it, but it is now preserved as a national landmark. It offers a delightful tour for visitors. We give this one a thumbs up.

Project Greek Island

Codenamed “Project Greek Island,” this Congressional Bunker was designed to be a safe haven for Congress should a national catastrophe occur—but word spread too quickly, making the bunker functionally useless. Instead, it has been transformed into a high-end resort. In addition to staying there, you can take a tour as well.

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ShutterstockAlthough the facade is attractive, it is still an underground bunker. You’ll get to see the cinder block walls, wooden bunk beds, and cans of food for thirty-four bucks. Unless you’re really into end times prepping, the image above is the most interesting view you’ll get. Instead of wasting time and money here, you can just look at photographs online.

The Paper House

In the 1920s, one man decided to embark on a radical quest—he set out to create a house built entirely out of newspapers. Here stands the summer home of Mr. Stenman, a mechanical engineer who constructed his Massachusetts holiday abode entirely out of paper.

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How exactly this stood the test of time and how well it held up against the rain is something that piqued our interest. It turns out that he even took the time to construct a paper piano! In our opinion, this is a paper trail worth following and a site worth visiting.

Clark’s Trading Post

Clark’s Trading Post is a local favorite—for nostalgic reasons more than anything else—which sets it apart from other New Hampshire tourist attractions. Many locals have grown up with this alluring spot, so going there is just a natural part of their existence.

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Flickr Photo by rickpilot_2000You’ll find everything there, from a steam train to bumper boats to Segways and even trained bears at the trade station. However, using animals as an attraction is no longer as popular as it once was, and the experience has somewhat lost its gleam. As a middle-of-the-road attraction, tourists might want to avoid this area unless they’re really into steam engines.

Ave Maria Grotto

The Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama, might be a hit with religious, cultural, or artistic admirers, but the average person isn’t going to get much out of it. Built by Brother Joseph in the early 20th century, it’s crammed with small miniatures of major holy landmarks.

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Some say the replicas are too small and lack sufficient detail to be genuinely breathtaking. Of course, you’ll be able to take a few more pictures with your phone for less walking. You could even learn a little bit about the history of the place, but it’s not worth the effort.

The Kentucky Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum.

According to some religions, the Great Ark may have saved animal life, but one thing that isn’t being saved at the Kentucky Ark Encounter and Creation Museum is tourist money. The ark-like structure is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet tall, yet admission to the museum is an eye-popping $50 per head.

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What’s more, there’s nothing noteworthy about the interior. It features a zoo you can idle through for a few hours, but all the animals are fakes. Worse, sculptures and mannequins are the only way to identify them. You’re better off heading to an actual zoo with genuine animals that won’t charge $50 per person.

National Mustard Museum

To those who adore mustard, we have good news! We bet you didn’t realize that there was a perfect place for you, but lo, here it is. There is a museum dedicated to the yellow condiment found in Middleton, Wisconsin. You’ll discover every kind of mustard imaginable here, with over 5,000 different varieties originating from over 70 nations.

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The museum even organizes contests throughout the year for visitors to participate in. Of course, some people would consider this to be a tourist trap, but since it offers free entry, the only thing you have to lose is a few minutes of your time.

Salt & Pepper Museum

This archaeologist from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, found a love of collecting salt and pepper containers. Some people collect coins; others collect automobiles. Others collect jewelry or sports cards. Here you can find the (probably) largest array of novelty table shakers in the country.

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The collector has acquired more than 20,000 sets of shakers in their twenty-five years of collecting, including shakers shaped like small shoes, chess pieces, cake stands, automobiles, and so on. Visit this area if you want to mix things up a bit. It is a tourist attraction that is both unique and entertaining—if you’re into that sort of thing.

Elvis’ Home

Elvis Aaron Presley lived in a modest Tupelo, Mississippi home before he built the famed Graceland estate. Before all that, there was the two-room home where Elvis was born in 1935, which his father built, then there’s the chapel and the Assembly of God Church where Elvis and his family went to worship.

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But Elvis wasn’t even a year old when the family was forced to relocate. If you’re a huge fan of the king, stopping by might be worth your while—just don’t get your hopes up too high. Otherwise, feel free to “Move Farther Along” or just “Stay Away.”

The Mystery Spot

“Mystery Spot” billboards can be seen all around California and are not hard to miss. There are many activities at this location, including a zipline, a maze, and even some mini-golf, but you’ll always wonder what the mystery is.

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The “Mystery” is nothing more than a series of optical gimmicks designed to fool people into believing that gravity isn’t operating as it should be. While it may seem amusing to children, you won’t be left in awe if you’ve spent a few decades on this planet.

Stonehenge or Foamhenge?

There is a replica of Stonehenge in Virginia, although it’s much easier to move around. An art installation by Mark Cline, “Foamhenge,” launched on April Fool’s Day, 2004. We think Cline could have carried all of these fake rocks on his own, unlike the ancient British druids, who had to carry the enormous stones for hundreds of miles.

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After being deconstructed in 2016, the attraction was reassembled in Centreville, Virginia, where it now resides. If you must, pull over, take a picture, and then get back in your car. There is absolutely nothing else to see.

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk isn’t overrated, but it’s packed. There isn’t much that sets it apart from other boardwalks, but there are a lot of restaurants and gift shops, and many of those businesses have earned unfavorable ratings of their own.

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It’s nearly impossible to find a parking spot, and it’s much more challenging to get a picture that’s worth photographing—or at least one that isn’t littered with people or garbage. You should go at least once, but don’t expect an action-packed day. Even if it’s not the worst destination to visit on this list, it’s still not worthwhile.

Wild Bill’s Nostalgia

Visit Bill’s in the state of Connecticut, and you may find a site that is, well, let’s just say it’s quite extraordinary. Extraordinary in such a way that we can’t decide whether or not this is just a trap for tourists or if it’s actually worth traveling to see.

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It’s called Wild Bill’s Nostalgia, and it has a fascinating collection of relics, ranging from hockey jerseys from the Soviet era to the biggest Jack-in-the-Box in the world. It’s enough to make anyone shiver in their boots. You might also get a kick out of the life-size statues of the Terminator. Indeed, this is an exciting location.

The Enchanted Highway

The Enchanted Highway in North Dakota is a 32-mile stretch of road dotted with massive scrap metal creations. There are enormous birds, enormous grasshoppers, large schools of fish, and even a gigantic metal eye.

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If you’re passing through North Dakota, your companions might enjoy something different to look at, but don’t put this site on your list of must-see attractions. In North Dakota, it’s telling that this is one of their most popular tourist pulls.

House on the Rock

Some travelers believe that a scenic stop along the highway makes a worthy pull-over destination. Whether that’s true or not depends on what you are interested in. However, if you are in Wisconsin and want to see enormous replicas of musical instruments and sea Krakens, then you are in for a real treat!

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There is a carousel room that was opened in the late 1950s, and it has approximately 200 chandeliers. This place certainly had the appearance of one, but it’s definitely not a tourist trap! We say give this one a chance if you happen to pass by.

Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard

Ben & Jerry’s Creamery has more experience than anybody else in observing the ebb and flow of flavor trends than anyone else. So Vermont’s well-known ice cream manufacturer chose to pay tribute to its flavors by erecting a “flavor graveyard” in front of their facility.

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They decided to honor their failed flavors as though they were fallen friends. One of the now-defunct flavors is called “Makin’ Whoopie Pie,” and it was only available from 2002 to 2003. Ice-cream lovers will find that this establishment is the place to go.

J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum

The J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum is nothing more than what it appears to be. An enormous firearms museum with more than 50,000 relics is housed at this location. It’s chock-full of interesting tidbits about the country’s past, but it’s mainly about guns.

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Mr. Davis was a huge gun enthusiast. An avid collector would enjoy looking at the various artifacts, one of which dates back to the 14th century. Other activities are available in Oklahoma if you’re not interested in instant-murder weapons.

The Frontier Prison

While Wyoming is the most sparsely inhabited state in the US, there are still plenty of things to explore. For example, the Frontier Prison, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was operational for a total of eight decades, beginning in 1901 to 1981.

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Chillingly, there’s even room in the gas chamber for visitors to take a seat. This ominous building might be ideal for those who enjoy the macabre side of life. It even has an interactive tour, too.

Big Texan restaurant

In Amarillo, Texas, you’ll find the Big Texan restaurant. Flags, steers, vibrant colors, and posters everywhere, giving it a decidedly Texan feel. As you enter the restaurant, you’ll see taxidermy on the walls, as well as a wild west theme that extends all throughout the area.

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Pricey, crowded, and with terrible cuisine to boot. They are known for their “tough and dry” steaks. It’s easy to get lost in Texas’ vastness, but don’t let that deter you from checking out some of the state’s many other fascinating sights.

Old Man of the Mountain

Isn’t it funny how this rock formation resembles an old coot? There are five granite ledges on Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire’s White Mountains that resemble the ragged profile of an elderly man when seen from the appropriate angle.

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There is nothing to be seen if you are not looking at it from the right perspective. Climbing up the face itself doesn’t beget any interesting experience, either. The ridges collapsed in 2003, leaving a much more dull mountain to look at. So don’t include this in your itinerary.

The Ice Skating Rink of the Rockefeller Center

You might imagine that this attraction would get our thumbs down, but it’s actually not a bad spot—although it does depend on your disposition and the time of year. Are you feeling the holiday spirits? This place might be fertile ground to make some nice Christmas memories.

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If bitter cold, glittering baubles, and getting splashed with ice shavings don’t put you in a festive mood, we don’t know what will. It’s an iconic spot, plus it’s in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world. If it’s not your thing, there’s always something else to do close by.

The Iconic American Retail Store

What was Wall Drug’s infamous initial customer-enticing draw? Iced water. In the year 1931, if you were in the vicinity of this South Dakota tourist site, you’d be bombarded with advertisements urging you to visit. So, what exactly is it? It’s a mall.

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Since its inception, it has grown to include various retail establishments. Sales alone bring in ten million dollars yearly, but there are also free attractions like the snake pit and the giant roadside sculptures. Hard pass on this one, unless you’re passing through.

Largest Chest of Drawers

If you’re in and around North Carolina, you’ve probably heard about the largest chest of drawers located in High Point. The idea of anything being blown up to gigantic proportions is fascinating. What’s more American than making the biggest version of an object imaginable and monetizing it? Nothing, that’s what.

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In any case, it’s 32 feet high and makes for a good photo opportunity, especially if you want a terrific picture for Facebook or Instagram! Besides the obvious photo opportunity potential, we’re not sure if this location is worth the visit.

The Desert of Maine

The desert, with its sandstorms, scorching sun, and strong winds, should be no mystery to you. But The Desert of Maine has nothing to do with that. Yes, there’s sand there, but there are also pine trees all around, too.

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There are no real camels there, just plastic ones. Anyone who spends more than a half-hour here would know that there isn’t much to see or do. The beach is the best place to go if you really want to scratch your sand itch. It’d probably be more enjoyable.

Crater of Diamonds State Park

Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park sounds like a diamond miner’s paradise. But even if you’ve always fantasized about diamonds or are just starting out as an amateur miner, the site has been accessible for more than a century. If there were ever diamonds here, they’re probably gone by now.

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It’s now just a wide-open area with a lot of people. But, even if you don’t mind digging through a lot of dirt, there are plenty of trees and historic cabins to be found in the area. That’s about it. It’s almost as disappointing to learn that diamonds are quite common and that most of them are destroyed in order to keep the value of the rest artificially high.

Leila’s Hair Museum

Do you have a thing for hairstyles? If that’s the case, you’ll adore Leila and her assortment of headbands and other jewelry pieces. If you’re lucky, you can find wigs with hair from celebrities and some hair pieces used by Victorian-era women.

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You might be wondering, “Which ones?” Marilyn Monroe, for example! So if you feel as though you would be more interested in seeing this as a tourist destination, the city of Independence in Missouri is where you can find it! Otherwise, pass this one by.

Vulcan

Vulcan, the Greek god of architecture, has been relegated from Mount Olympus to Birmingham, Alabama, where he found his new abode. It’s a reminder of the city’s rich metallurgical and construction heritage.

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More than ten and a half tons of iron-ore make up the statue, which stands 56 feet tall and weighs more than eleven thousand pounds. Unfortunately, no one in this busy metropolis seems to care much about this 40-year-old statue in the heart of a gorgeous park. It’s a shame because it could be a fun photo op.

Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum

When you’re in Texas, strange and wondrous things are to be expected. As you were reading the title of this one, we’re sure that you were wondering what these toilet seat covers would look like. If you’re in San Antonio and have a weird sense of humor, consider visiting this site.

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Barney Smith, a retired plumber, has seen his fair share of toilets in his career. Over the years, he has amassed a sizable collection of toilet seats, many of which he has reused and transformed into artwork.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum

There are Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museums across numerous states. They’re certainly entertaining, with a wealth of fascinating facts and information to learn. However, it may be best to avoid the museum in Baltimore—not because it’s bad, but because Baltimore has so much more to offer.

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The city of Baltimore is full of incredible attractions, like helicopter tours, fine dining establishments, historic sites, and a slew of other establishments. With so much art and culture, you may want to visit a Ripley museum if you have time, but don’t put it at the top of your itinerary.

Coin Collections

What is it about Montana’s 50,000-Silver-Dollar Bar that attracts so many tourists? There are 50,000 silver dollars adorning the walls. In addition to being a pub, it’s also an enormous gift shop. It’s one of America’s most extensive coin collections.

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Additionally, it’s also an inn that features RV parking, horse corrals, and even a casino. Most people only stop over for food, but you might find yourself contributing to the wall anyhow.

Cross Island Chapel

Imagine the smallest, most intimate chapel that exists anywhere in the world. Okay, got it? If you opened your eyes, you would see something that resembles the Cross Island Chapel. The little chapel is located in Oneida, New York. The chapel itself measures just 30 square feet.

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It is large enough to accommodate the happy couple and the person who will be officiating the ceremony. This is the ideal location for your elopement if you are looking for somewhere other than Las Vegas! If you’re looking to get married on vacation, you can probably do no worse.

Churchill Downs

For more than a century, Churchill Downs has hosted the Kentucky Derby, one of the world’s most prestigious horse races. During the Derby, the area is overcrowded with race spectators, visitors, gamblers, and even a few celebrity faces.

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Generally speaking, this isn’t the place for those who don’t fit in with any of the categories listed above. You can expect to pay at least a hundred dollars per person to visit. There are other events at this location, but it’s the Derby you’ll really want to be there for—assuming you have the funds.

Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail Museum

A massive mound of boulders concealing TNT, asbestos, mercury, radium, and radioactive uranium can be found at the Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail Museum in Missouri. It was once one of the state’s largest explosives plants but later became a uranium-ore processing facility.

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The US Department of Energy covered it in stones and built a museum on top of it after closing it down in 1966. You can go on a walk and study a little history, but other than that, you may be left wondering why you even bothered to go.