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10 Tourist Traps We Love

We’re always shocked here at Fodor’s to learn what people out there in the big world of travel think is a tourist trap. Here are 10 tourist attractions that frequently wear the TT label. We heartily disagree with the branding, and wonder if perhaps some travelers just had a bad experience. Below you’ll find tips on how to get more out of your experience of said traps, followed by links to Forums posts written by other dissenters.

What tourist trap do you return to again and again?

The Eiffel Tower, Paris

For many, the Eiffel Tower is the ultimate tourist trap, especially now that those super-spangly disco lights go on every hour. But ascend the tower after dark, preferably armed with a split of champagne, and you’ll get a dazzling view of the city lights in one of the most romantic settings imaginable.

Tip: A Museums and Monuments Pass will aid you in skipping those long lines.

Talk Travel in the Forums: What restaurant should I consider for a special night out with a view of the Eiffel Tower?

Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz Prison is a stark reminder of America’s no-nonsense brand of law and order. Indeed, no other penal institution quite captures the solitary sense of isolation (and its attendant anxieties) as well as Alcatraz, which was once home to such notorious criminals as Machine Gun Kelly and Al Capone.

Tip: To get the full Alcatraz experience, take an evening tour. The evening tour has programs not offered during the day, the views of the city lights are breathtaking, and your prison experience will be amplified as night falls.

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Talk Travel in the Forums: Will my kid like Alcatraz?

The Blue Grotto, Amalfi Coast
It sounds more like a cheesy restaurant than a natural wonder, but the blue-on-blue water of the Blue Grotto, a phenomenon caused by sunlight refracting through the arch-way entrance of the grotto, is utterly magical.

Tip: If rough waters keep you from seeing the Blue Grotto, there are plenty of other grottoes on Capri (more than 50), including the Green Grotto, on the other side of the island.

Talk Travel in the Forums: Can we see Pompeii and the Blue Grotto in one day?

The Roman Colosseum, Rome

It’s surrounded by trinket sellers, T-shirt vendors, wild cats, gawkers, junkies, and sometimes criminals, but there’s no getting around the fact that the Colosseum is the most spectacular edifice of ancient Rome, harking back to the florid days of Flavian emperor Vespasian, who ordered the structure built in AD 72.

Tip: About half a block east of the Colosseum is Pasqualino (Via dei Santi Quattro 66), a neighborhood trattoria with sidewalk tables providing a view of the arena’s marble arches.

Talk Travel in the Forums: What are your three very favorite things about Rome?

Graceland, Memphis

Graceland might be the only Colonial-design suburban home on record to have a jungle room (complete with 70s-era shag carpet), a pink Cadillac, and close to 700,000 guests annually. You can see the King’s personal jet, ogle his piano, and check out his many outrageous costumes.

Tip: Graceland gets very crowded. Go early, when the place opens at 9 a.m. You can also order your tickets online in advance on the Elvis/Graceland Web site.

Talk Travel in the Forums: Did you find Graceland solemn or a flat-out tacky affair?

The Liberace Museum, Las Vegas

Some find it tacky, others find it endearing. Everyone agrees, however, that the Liberace Museum is the most entertaining tribute ever made to an entertainer. Costumes, cars, photographs, a collection of personal pianos (including one that belonged to Chopin and one to Gershwin) — all of it underscores the special magic of Mr. Showmanship.

Tip: Check out the gift shop — where else can you find Liberace soap, ashtrays, and candelabras?

Talk Travel in the Forums: What solo pursuits are there in Vegas?

The Mona Lisa, Louvre, Paris

It’s the most famous mug in the universe, but the image has become so ubiquitous through reproduction that it has lost the power to amaze. Still, for those who have the stamina to negotiate the Louvre’s crushing crowds, seeing Leonardo’s Mona Lisa up close is a singular, if unforgettable, experience.

Tip: If you really want to see Mona, go to the Louvre on a Wednesday or a Friday evening, after 6 p.m. By that hour, crowds have thinned.

Talk Travel in the Forums: Was seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time disappointing or “sublime”?

Niagara Falls, New York

It’s not the easiest place to visit (you are sure to get wet), and photographing the falls may mean sacrificing your camera. A long debate about visiting the falls centers on whether the Canadian side is better than the American side for viewing the actual falls. The debate diplomatically sidesteps the question of whether the place is worth visiting at all.

Tips: If you do go to Niagara Falls hoping to photograph the waterworks up close, make sure you have a waterproof camera (disposable ones are ideal, or make sure your expensive digital number has a waterproof casing).

Talk Travel in the Forums: What side of the falls do you recommend for a first time visitor?

Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg is the kind of medieval town that even Walt Disney might have thought too picturesque to be true, with a wealth of fountains and flowers against a backdrop of towers and turrets. There really is no place quite like it. It’s something of a tourist trap, but genuine enough for all the hype.

Tip: Crowds will affect the pace at which you can tour the town. Early morning is the only time to appreciate the place in relative calm.

Talk Travel in the Forums: Are there any comparable towns in southern Germany that are less touristy than Rothenburg?

The Venice Lagoon Via Gondola

Tell people you want to take a gondola ride in Venice and you’re likely to be laughed at. True, this isn’t the most original thing you can do in La Serenissima, but there are less gratifying ways to spend time and money in Venice (like paying for an overpriced Bellini at Harry’s Bar).

Tip: You pay by the hour in a gondola. Be sure to agree on the fare before boarding, and ask to be taken down smaller side canals.

Talk Travel in the Forums: What Venice “traps” are definitely worth our time and money?

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