Not the places people call “tourist traps”. The phrase itself.
There is no such thing. As with art, and so many other subjective topics, a tourist trap in the eye of the beholder.
Which makes articles like a recent one from USA Today titled “Top 100 biggest tourist traps worldwide” even worse than the usual clickbait.
In July 2023, we analyzed 23.2 million Google reviews of the 500 most popular tourist attractions in the world, spanning 65 countries in six continents. For each attraction, we asked a simple question: How frequently do the reviews mention the terms “tourist trap,” “overrated” or “expensive”?
I pity the poor intern who had to spend time collecting and organizing the data for this piece. Online reviews are generally worthless, often badly written, and mostly generated by people who just want to complain about something. Anything. See also one-star Amazon reviews.
There isn’t much in this post that’s worth your time, but if you have a few minutes to kill, scan through it and see how it compares to your experience. I mean it’s really not hard to understand why the Four Corners Monument ranked number one.1 Or why Disneyland is high on the list of overpriced attractions.
However, there are a few places on the list that I have to wonder about.
For example, I’m curious as to why 8,680 Google reviewers gave a thumbs down to Monticello (ranked number 69). Maybe they were expecting more flash and less history? Did they think the mansion would be haunted?
On the other side, the one and only time I visited Graceland (story for another post), I wasn’t especially impressed. But I didn’t think it was a “tourist trap”. For most of the other people on our tour, it absolutely was not.
As the saying goes, one person’s tourist trap is another person’s life-changing experience. Or something like that.
The photo above is of the main house at Monticello, similar to the view you get on the back of a nickel and $2 bill.
1. It’s in the middle of nowhere, not really on the way to anywhere, and the Street View images tell the whole story. But it’s certainly not the worst place I’ve ever visited.