While combing the web for potential 2018 destinations, I kept encountering the same phrases: “avoid,”overcrowded,” and, of course, “tourist trap.”
I’m a self-proclaimed fan of isolated vacationing spots, but I also recognize that many overcrowded areas tend to be that way for a reason. This means that, if pressured to have an opinion on the matter, I lean heavily toward the tourist-traps-are-worth-visiting stance. I’m not gonna miss out on the chance to see something extraordinary just because everyone else had the exact same thought!
When I was in Paris, I went to the Eiffel Tower. When I was in Rome, I visited the Colosseum. Both places were crawling with people, but I do not regret waiting in line, carefully edging past countless tour groups, or dropping hard cash for tickets. Both monuments were extraordinary to see up close.
This sentiment also applies to the smaller tourist traps. In Paris, after oooing and aaahing at Notre Dame, I made a beeline across the river to Shakespeare and Company. I, the English major, wasn’t about to miss the place where writers like Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein spent their free time. Making my way up the narrow stairwell to the second floor, everything around me smelling heavily of dry, old books…I couldn’t stop grinning.
Yes, sometimes a tourist trap is overrated. Take the Leaning Tower of Pisa as an example: You get there, you stare at it, you take a picture, and then…that’s pretty much it. Some people buy a ticket that lets them climb around inside of it for a while, but it’s not a very tall tower. And there’s nothing else to do or see in Pisa, so you’re basically stuck there. It didn’t help that Beth and I had just visited Lucca, another Tuscan town, which is a way more appealing place to explore. (More on that in another post, perhaps.)
That particular experience turned me against tourist traps for a while. I avoided Blarney Castle in Ireland, and in London I didn’t go inside numerous places, including the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Looking back now, I think I was right to settle for a picture outside of 221B Baker Street, but I wish I had gone to Blarney.
As I am now waffling back and forth on this, as I tend to do in discussions, here’s my main point:
As with most things, tourist traps remain in a grey area; a few of them are worth skipping, but there are many more worth visiting. And I, personally, would rather go and be disappointed, than not go and wonder, years later, if I made the right call.
In less than two weeks, I’m heading to New Orleans. And I’m definitely going to stop by Café du Monde while I’m there…and eat so many beignets, crowd or no crowd.
Thanks for reading,
Bonus note: For those planning to visit New York, here’s a recommendation. Go take a look at the Empire State Building from the ground level, then make your way uptown and get a ticket for Top of the Rock instead. You get a great view of Central Park PLUS an equally stunning view of Manhattan, without being in the thick of the buildings.