Whether it's the London Eye, Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building* some tourist attractions live up to their expectations and some fall short. The more I travel, the less I go near tourist attractions. Yes, they have a time and place, but also have the potential of being traps, and even savvy travelers can sometimes fall prey. Whether or not a tourist attraction is worth it, is largely a personal decision, therefore, I've put together a list for evaluating tourist attractions before you go to [hopefully] help save you time and money, the next time you're galavanting the globe and become tempted by attractions. Good and Bad Tourist Attraction Examples ITALY - [trip style = sightseeing] In the fall of 2009 I stopped over in Lucca, Italy with my husband and two friends. One of the best days we spent there was an amazing afternoon biking around the fortified city's walls and randomly stopping for lunch at a restaurant that "looked good"--and it was. Rather than getting stuck in a tower or dungeon tour, we were outside, admiring the city from every angle, lunching at a local haunt and riding bikes like many of the locals do.
KENYA - [trip style = adventure + safari] Also in the fall of 2009, before going to the Masai Mara, my husband and I spent 3 days in Nairobi. We were there for a wedding. On day 2, we researched local attractions and found an elephant orphanage that was highly rated on Trip Advisor. We decided to go. Seeing the baby elephants paraded around, drinking out of giant bottles and cooling themselves in the mud was cute, and I was happy the entrance donation went to rehabilitating the little (big) "Babars", but I left thinking: "what did I just do, I'm leaving for the Masai Mara in two days to see elephants in their natural habitat."
PERU - [trip style = urban] Spring 2008 took my husband and I to Peru. While in Lima I was more impacted exploring and experiencing different neighborhoods on foot, than touring the city's nether regions (catacombs) gazing at age-old bone piles. In Lima, I preferred to stay above-ground, especially given the earthquake that happened a few months before we arrived.
Evaluating Tourist Attractions Before you Go
- Will it enhance or deepen my destination experience?
- Am I just doing it to pass time?
- Am I going because I think I should do touristy things?
- Is it totally different from what I'd experience at home?
- Am I interested in the topic?
- Is it on my bucket list or a wonder of the world?
- Do locals do it too? (This consideration is major because if locals do something, you know it must be an authentic draw. Case in point, when I hiked a portion of the Great Wall of China, there were more nationals than tourists climbing the ancient, uneven stones used to construct the wall.)
*The London Eye: ...is a cool way to see the city for first-timers, but not a must. There are so many other ways to see London. Only go to the "eye" on a clear day. I even got a little motion sick, even though the gargantuan wheel only moves at 1km/h.
*The Eiffel Tower: ...the first time I went, it was sundown. Seeing the sun set and the City of Lights illuminate in the evening was nothing short of spectacular. The tower wasn't too busy and I spent over an hour at the top taking it all in. A few years later, my second time was a bust. It was so crowded, the line-ups were long and nor could you move or walk around freely. The best experience is during off-hours, or off-season. Get the full experience, before or after you ascend, bring a baguette, cheese and wine to enjoy on a blanket at its base.
*The Empire State Building: ...this NY mainstay is worth it. Again, try to go in off-hours for full enjoyment. Ogling at the NY skyline on a clear day or night is advisable. Buy your tickets online to avoid waiting in line.