Saturday, August 15, 2009

Adam Villani, Master of the Overrated Tourist Trap

So, today Yahoo has a little feature up called "U.S.'s Most Over-Rated Tourist Traps," where they list eight places that aren't as good as we would hope. I've visited all eight. I think if you're finding the places you visit to be overrated, then you aren't doing a very good job of managing your expectations. With a lot of these places, I'm not really sure what they expected to see that they didn't see.

Let's go through the list:

1. Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
Yes, it's very tourist trappy. No surprise there. On the other hand, as the article mentions, it does have the Musee Mecanique, one of the coolest attractions you'll find anywhere. It also has the boats to Alcatraz, sea lions, and clam chowder in sourdough bowls. And here's the kicker --- really, pretty much all of San Francisco is a theme park version of a real city anyway. Fisherman's Wharf is just more honest about that.

2. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Okay, so it's not as spectacular as the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. Who ever said it was? There's a whole lot of petrified wood and some nice views of the high desert. It doesn't deserve the slagging the article gives it.

3. Wall Street, New York City
Who ever even said this was supposed to be a tourist attraction? It's a financial district. I visited on a Sunday, and sure enough, there weren't many people around. For all the times I hear about Wall Street on the news, I was just happy to be able to have a place I could fit a visual to for it. Sorry, Yahoo Travel, there's no interactive museum of capitalism.

4. Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts
Now for this one, I agree with them. For all I wrote above about managing your expectations, I don't think it's possible to set them low enough to imagine that this giant piece of American mythology is nothing more than a boulder smaller than a VW Bug sitting on the beach inside an enclosure. Really, that's it.

5. The Alamo, San Antonio
It's a Spanish mission where a battle took place, not some gigantic palace on a hill or anything. My sister and I got here in 1991 about 15 minutes after it closed, and for the rest of our road trip we would jokingly ask each other, "Hey, remember the Alamo?" in a blase manner. But really, our disappointment was that it was closed, not that we expected it to be bigger.

6. Hollywood, Los Angeles
I suppose if you're a complete rube, you might expect to see hordes of movie stars strolling Hollywood Blvd. and the streets paved with gold or something, but surprise! that's not reality. What is in Hollywood is several spectacular movie theaters, some good live performance venues, some tourist attractions, the Walk of Fame, handprints in the concrete, nightclubs, a bunch of shops, drunks, punks, etc. And it's a lot nicer and livelier than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

7. Bourbon Street, New Orleans
Is it full of drunk tourists and gift shops selling cheap gewgaws? Yes. Should you look beyond it to the other neighborhoods? Yes. But would your first trip to New Orleans be complete without it? No! Some of these travel writers need to step outside themselves every now and then and learn to appreciate tacky, touristy places. I'm not saying that touristy = good, I'm just acknowledging that some places are overrun with tourists for a reason. They're places they don't see back home. And guess what? If you're visiting New Orleans on vacation, you're no less a tourist if you avoid Bourbon Street than if you embrace it. Tourism is not a dirty word.

8. The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California
Long Beach is my hometown, and I would say that the Queen Mary does qualify as over-rated except for the fact that I've never heard anybody rate it very high, unless you count their own advertisements. It's a big, nice, historic boat, it looks very good across the harbor, they have fireworks in the summer, you can take an interesting tour, but... yeah, it's just not as good as it is big. I lived about three miles away for 28 years and visited maybe four times.

So there you go. I think only 2 of those 8 really count as overrated. For the rest, sure, anybody can imagine some perfected version of them in their minds, but to say something doesn't live up to some dream-world version of itself isn't really a knock against it.


At Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 8:58:00 PM PDT, Anonymous BaddicusFinch said...

The Alamo is overrated. No basement.

At Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 8:06:00 AM PDT, Blogger clynne said...

Did we manage to take a picture of you attempting to "storm" the Alamo by climbing the fence? I can't remember. :)

At Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 8:18:00 AM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Hm, no, I don't remember such a thing.

At Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 2:31:00 AM PDT, Blogger clynne said...

Perhaps we just discussed doing it.

This Harper person, BTW, is Kind of a dumbass:
""Some of the places on my list are well-known tourist traps, but not all tourist traps are a waste of time (the Empire State Building... well worth a look).""

I've been to the Empire State Building, and I think the Musee Mecanique is way more awesome. I can't figure out what makes a building-with-an-elevator cooler than some-old-buildings-in-Texas, either. I'd think they're roughly equal.

Why do I suspect this guy would loathe the California Missions?

At Friday, October 23, 2009 at 9:00:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Adam,
It has been a while since I clicked over to your blog, and I am glad I did today. This is a great post.


At Monday, December 24, 2012 at 3:13:00 AM PST, Blogger Linda dadson said...

'San Francisco' best to me. I visited that place to see sea lions, but many other attractions were available there for kids.
peppa pig world


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