When you’re a tourist standing in front of a podium stuffed with brochures in your hotel lobby, each one boasting a better deal, a more beautiful view, and a more exciting activity than the last, you have to know how to be discerning. When you’re traveling and have a few precious leisure hours in a city, you need guidance to avoid costly mistakes. Here are 10 popular but overrated tourist activities that are not always what they’re cracked up to be.
When visiting cities where celebrities like to have second homes, there are often tour buses that will take you around their neighborhoods. The problem is that most celebrity homes are behind enormous gates and hedges, or up mile-long driveways behind the hedges. So you spend a lot of money to look at some really gorgeous gates.
Many famous authors, artists and even some actors leave their homes to the public when they die as a sort of museum. You can often tour these homes but typically the celebrity sold off or donated most of the contents, so all you really get to see is the walls, ceiling and floors they lived within, and some designer’s concept of what the interior might have looked like when the celebrity was alive.
Of course few dungeons are liven in today, but many royal structure still have old dungeons beneath them that you can tour. For some reason though, you typically have to pay a fee on top of the one you paid to get into the building, just to see the dungeon. You’d hope to see at least some old torturing devices down there, maybe some skeletons. But many are filled with very silly looking mannequins portraying torture scenes with fake, plastic replicas of the torture devices.
There isn’t much reason to visit a glass blowing shop today. If you just want to see the art, there are YouTube videos that will give you a much closer look than you’ll get standing in a crowd of people, all pushing to get close to the front of the room. And as for the trinkets you can buy there — the factory owner usually charges more for them than you’d find at a street market.
Many big cities have China Towns, and tourists like to go there for authentic Chinese food, art —you name it. But most China Towns are so packed and noisy that you feel stressed the entire time and end up making impulse purchases that are overpriced, just so you can move on to the next stall. And as for the food, there is usually just as good if not better Chinese food at a restaurant in a shopping center in another part of town.
Do your research before visiting a wax museum. Some are pretty great, some are not, but all are pricey. They’re great when the wax figures are relevant, but some museums haven’t updated their wax figures in decades. You end up having to read every placard to even know who you’re looking at when, of course, what you want is that instant recognition that makes wax figures so much fun! You don’t want to have to explain in the Facebook photo you post who it is you’re standing with.
There was a time when old-time boardwalks with charming vintage rides and banana-cream-pie stands were underrated and for that reason, reasonably priced. But, like anything that becomes trendy, now they’re usually overpriced. So you pay almost the same cost of a modern amusement park ticket to stand in very long lines to ride extremely old, rickety, boring rides.
When you’re on a road trip, you’ll come across orchards that will let you pick your own strawberries, apples or blueberries for what seems like a low price. And, it is a low price if you were actually going to eat five pounds of cherries. Instead, you might end up paying $20 to pick all the cherries you can carry, and only end up eating about $5 worth of them before they go bad without refrigeration on your road trip.
Prison tours are like dungeon tours in that they appeal to our morbid sides. But most old, shut-down prisons that go on the tourist circuit have been cleaned up, cleared out and sanitized a dozen times. So you end up staring at a lot of empty cells.
You’re better off watching the Food Network’s show “Unwrapped.” When visiting a chocolate or cheese factory, you can barely see what the process of the chocolate- or cheese-making is. You have to stay far away from the machines and workers behind safety ropes. But on shows like “Unwrapped,” cameras go into every machine, showing you the nitty gritty of every process.