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What tourist attractions have been money well spent?


Sep 26th, 2004, 03:46 PM
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What tourist attractions have been money well spent?

On the flip side of disappointing tourist attractions, what attraction were you surprised to find that you really enjoyed? Perhaps it was a place that you thought would be nothing special but turned out to be captivating. Or maybe it was a tour that was pricey but when it was through, you were so glad you spent the money. I'll start:

Cave of the Winds - Niagara Falls - From above, it looked like the tour might be fun but I wasn't sure if the cost was worth it. But, when I was down in the gorge on the hurricane deck with the water rushing at me, I would have paid several times the price for the feeling.

Ft Sumter - Charleston - I'm not much of a history person so I thought I might be bored. But, I loved the experience and the views were fantastic.

Monticello - Charlottesville, VA - Again, I'm not normally drawn to historical sites but I was stunned by the magnitude of the house and the grounds. They are truly spectacular.
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Sep 26th, 2004, 04:54 PM
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My daughter and her husband tried for a long time to get us to go to Sea World in Orlando. We finally went, and thought it was great. Would go again.
We had also heard terrible things about Key West and loved it. We found it to be very charming. We did go during a quieter off-season time, which may explain why we liked it.
My husband surprised me and took me to Alaska for our 25th anniversary. I didn't let him on the fact that I was sort of dreading the trip because I am not a "mountainy" or "wildernessy" type of person. Other than Maui, it was the most wonderful place I've ever been, and I'm so eager to go back.
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Sep 26th, 2004, 04:55 PM
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For me, it's the historical places that give me goosebumps! For some reason, the monuments in DC...like the Lincoln or Jefferson memorials, or the Vietnam memorial. Of course, they were free! George Washington's home, too. I actually felt like crying the first time I visited them (go figure).
St. Augustine, while somewhat touristy, gets me every time. So does Ft. Niagara. Pearl Harbor, too.

Everyone bashes it, but I kinda liked the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. Then again, I was 19 and never been outside the mainland or Canada!

Also, I have taken two side trips outside of Las Vegas - both times with a private tour operator. The best money I ever spent.

Great thread, kcapuani (from one BuffaloGirl to another)!

I loved whale watching in Cape Cod
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Sep 26th, 2004, 04:58 PM
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Whoa, I don't know what I did, but my response was all out of order....Sorry!

Oh well, as long as I'm posting again, I'll add Oak Alley Plantation outside of New Orleans. Fantastic!
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Sep 26th, 2004, 05:13 PM
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I will add Laura Plantation and Clark's Trading Post in Lincoln NH. Very entertaining for the money. I also think Niagara Falls is worth the money and the Rocky Mountains. Plum Island MA is also a place that is a good deal. Also Lowell MA, Lexington/Concord MA, the Basin in Franconia Notch NH.

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Sep 26th, 2004, 07:39 PM
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Since the thread went New England in the above post, I'll continue it...
Indian Museum; Warner, NH
Lost River; Lincoln, NH
Fuller Rose Gardens; Rye, NH
Hammond Castle Museum; Essex, MA
House of 7 Gables and Witch Museum; Salem, MA
Murder Myster at the Astor's Beechwood; Newport, RI
Most of the above (except the last) are fairly low-key and have very reasonable entry fees. I was pleasantly surprised at all.
Great thread, Kcap! Can't wait to print them out later!
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Sep 26th, 2004, 07:51 PM
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1. Alcatraz tour -- not expensive at all, includes a pleasant ferry ride, and there's nothing else like it (that you can tour).

2. Experience Music Project in Seattle -- especially for rock music lovers, guitarists, and teenagers. (As a middle-aged mom of teens, I found it very interesting, too.)

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Sep 26th, 2004, 08:02 PM
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Great question!

I don't know that I was surprised to have enjoyed these places, but...

Gateway Arch
Carlsbad Caverns - I know some people say don't bother walking in from the natural entrance, but you see a lot of cool stuff on the way down to the Big Room.
Arlington National Cemetery - I especially enjoyed going through Arlington House.
Mt. Vernon - would have liked to have spent more time there.

In the "pricey but worth it" category:

Plimoth Plantation
Colonial Williamsburg - my girls loved the reenactors; the man who played Patrick Henry was particularly good.

Lee Ann
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Sep 27th, 2004, 02:35 AM
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Here's just a few ...

Nighttime monument tour - Washington DC
Jeep Tour - Sedona
Swamp Tour - New Orleans
Battleship Tour - Charleston
Alcatraz - Self audio tour
Maid of the Mist - Niagara Falls

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Sep 27th, 2004, 03:03 AM
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I agree that the Alcatraz tour is great, as is the Hearst Castle. But, as mentioned above, I wasn't surprised that I enjoyed it.
I also agree with many of the moving DC monuments, but of course it's not exactly "money well spent," 'cuz it's free! I especially loved the FDR and Arlington Cem, in particular the new Women's Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ceremony.
I guess there are two questions from the original post to be answered:
1. Which tourist attractions are money well spent?
2. Which were much better than you anticipated?
And it looks like we're just going to put our two cents worth in with a third:
Which tours and/or attractions did you love - regardless of prior impressions or cost (or lack thereof)?

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Sep 27th, 2004, 05:29 AM
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Magnolia Gardens Plantation- Charleston SC
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Sep 27th, 2004, 05:32 AM
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I think the term tourist attraction may need some definition. To me places like Wall Drug, Gator Village (or similar), many Wisconsin Dells attractions, etc. fall into that catagory. I do not catagorize National parks, monuments and similar as tourist specific attractions (although I admit lots of tourists to to these places).

That being said, I thought the shark/reef attraction at Mandalay Bay was well worth it. I second the Maid of the Mist idea. On the monument side, buying the self tour tape at Gettysburg is great.

Just a thought, to each their own.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 06:09 AM
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I know this is a US board, but the Victoria Bug Zoo in Victoria, British Columbia. My daughter was 7 at the time and very into bugs. She saw the flyers for it and so we just HAD to go. I thought it would be a huge tourist trap and that we'd be in and out in about 10 minutes for our $4. It turns out to be a great place. There are two rooms of tanks of very exotic bugs from all over the world. The staff members are all young folks who have advanced degrees in bugs (whatever that is called.) They let you hold anything that doesn't sting or bite. We finally drug our daughter out of there after about 2 hours.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 06:24 AM
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National Parks and if I'm with my Dad, it's free admission (he has an old-age pass). The US has a wonderful set of parks and other sites run by the Park Service. The admission price is well worth what I get from the visit.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 06:29 AM
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When I posted the question, I was thinking that a tourist attraction would be loosely defined as any site that you have to spend money to see (I wanted to hear about the flip side of ripoff attractions). I guess some national parks and monuments do fall under the category. I just generally like hearing about positive travel experiences so I don't mind a deviation from my original thought.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 06:30 AM
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Taliesen West in Scottsdale, Arizona - very interesting!
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Sep 27th, 2004, 07:24 AM
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So many fall into this category. I too, especially love the more historic tourist attractions.

Most favorite for recent years, has been Jefferson Davis' home in Biloxi. We enjoyed a personal tour by a delightful woman who spent much more than the fees allotted time with us, personally answersing lots and lots of my engineer's questions. Wonderful in both an art and history capacity, plus all the veterans' homes land/ gardens are hours of great walking. Tomb of the unknowns/ cemetary etc. there so emotional and also very beautiful.

Have loved Sedona Jeep tours, especially to ruins. Chicago Architectural tours, are all great, even the 45 minute luncheon walks. The docents are terrific and so full of information.

In long years past, my children and I absolutely loved the coal mine "extra" at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. You felt like you were going down, down, down and it was well worth the money- some thought it really "hokey" but kids, grandkids- always got the "big eyes" hearing the machines cutting up that coal in the dark.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 08:05 AM
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The USS Constitution in Charlestown, MA. Its free but the sailors give a terrific tour with all kinds of interesting facts. My kids loved it.

On Nantucket, there is a church that lets you climb up into its steeple where you can see the entire island. I think it cost a $3 donation. Having lived in New England for most of my life I've always been curious about what's inside those beautiful white church steeples that tower over the trees of almost every town in New England. So my curiousity was satisfied plus the view was great and the arial photographs on display along with the available binoculars helped identify the landmarks. Worth 3x the price to me.

Maid of the Mist is another attraction well worth the price of admission.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 09:48 AM
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Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA. If you are into naval or milatary history at all you could spend all day there.
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Sep 27th, 2004, 10:20 AM
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Both of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses in Southwestern PA: Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob.

Of the freebies, the drive from Carmel to Big Sur, Muir Woods, Sedona Arizona, and the Wall memorial in DC.
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