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6 Most Overrated Tourist Attractions

Not all world-class destinations live up to their postcard promises


(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)

Not all tourist destinations are created equal, and many don’t live up to their much-hyped hype. Here, travel bloggers weigh in on which tourist hot spots are not all they’re cracked up to be — but what they do have going for them.


Location: The Louvre, Paris, France

When Marcia Frost, of Champaign, Ill., braved the queues at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, it was roped off and hung behind glass on a large wall. Even worse: Da Vinci’s masterpiece was so small compared to what she had imagined that it “looked like a 5×7.” And with dozens of people around her, it was impossible to get a close-up view.

BUT: The most famous art museum in the world holds other captivating treasures. Frost enjoyed the less-crowded exhibitions at the museum — especially the French sculptures. Although pricey, Café Marly, located inside the courtyard of the museum, is a perfect stop for a snack, offering commanding views of the Pyramid entrance to The Louvre.

Midwest Travel Guide Blogger at About.com, Marcia Frost writes about travel and lifestyle. Her portfolio can be found at MarciaFrost.com.

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Location: Plymouth, Mass.

Veronica Stewart James (a perpetual traveler with no fixed address) found Plymouth Rock “shockingly underwhelming” because it was so much smaller than she imagined. (Even the woman at the Visitor Center joked that she hoped visitors had brought their magnifying glasses.) Commemorating the Pilgrims’ Mayflower landing in 1620, the stone sits five feet below street level and is partly buried in sand, making it appear even tinier. It was once much larger but has been relocated several times, split in two and chiseled away at by eager tourists who want a souvenir.

BUT: The picturesque town of Plymouth, called “America’s Hometown,” is charming and rich with history. There are pretty parks, statues, fountains, and seafood eateries and shops with zany “pilgrim-pirate-patriot souvenirs.”

Veronica and her husband David blog about empty nesters and boomer travel at: The Gypsy Nester.

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Location: China

From pictures she had seen of the Great Wall of China, Karen Escalera of Miami, Fla., thought the UNESCO World Heritage Site would be surrounded by open space, offering a sense of serenity. But when Escalera arrived at the gate at Badaling, she found that encountering hoards of tourists “diminished the grandeur” of the architectural marvel and even made it difficult to get photographs.

BUT: The section of the wall at Badaling is the most popular, attracting thousands of visitors a day, because it is closest to the city of Beijing (about 43 miles away). The section at Mutianyu is far less crowded and has fewer souvenir hawkers because the last 10 miles of the 55-mile trip are on local roads that are less accessible to tour buses.

Karen Escalera blogs about food, culture, fashion and travel at MiamiCurated.

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Location: Queensland, Australia

Sue Campbell, of Montreal, Canada, is passionate about snorkeling and the Great Barrier Reef was big on her bucket list. When she finally had the chance to go, however, she was somewhat disappointed.

“The coral was the biggest I had ever seen anywhere — massive underwater mountains — but as far as tropical fish, there were very few and the ones I saw were very small,” she says. “I had envisioned being immersed in an enchanting underwater wonderland of colorful marine life á la Jacques Cousteau, so it really was a let-down.”

BUT: What she witnessed as she flew over the reef by helicopter was definitely “bucket worthy.” She says the brilliant colors and interesting textures of the coral she was able to see from above simply defied description.

Susan Campbell is a travel and lifestyle writer specializing in the Caribbean for many print and web-based outlets. Her portfolio is at Rebelmouse.

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Location: Florida

Because some vacationers head to Key West to relax on its beaches, Teresa Mears, of suburban Fort Lauderdale, Fla., expected to find a sleepy fishing village filled with historic charm. Instead, Key West turned out to be a bustling cruise port packed with tourists, T-shirt shops, bars and street entertainers along its main drag, Duval Street.

BUT: Duval Street still wows visitors with its quaint architecture and interesting art galleries; it’s a great spot to people-watch and savor conch fritters with a Key Lime Martini. And Mears discovered some quirky local restaurants as she toured the surrounding neighborhood. Within walking distance of Duval Street is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where Papa lived for a decade. Go to learn more about the author; stay to see the property’s famous six-toed cats.

Teresa Mears is an editor writer and blogger who publishes Florida Keys on the Cheap, Miami on the Cheap and Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap, as well as Living on the Cheap.

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Photos always show this iconic 1700s Franciscan mission standing by itself. But when Jackie Dishner of Phoenix, Ariz., first arrived at The Alamo, visited by millions of tourists each year, the “intrigue and romance died a little.” The 4.2 acre complex is located smack dab in the middle of a downtown surrounded by busy streets, curio shops, hotels and a loiterer-packed public park.

BUT: The disorientation didn’t last. Once she set foot on the property and heard docents recount its rich history, Dishner felt like she was walking on sacred ground.To summarize: In 1836, although vastly outnumbered by thousands of Mexican soldiers, some 150 volunteers fighting for Texan independence held out for 13 days, until finally they were overwhelmed. Those who died in the Battle of the Alamo included American folk heroes Davy Crockett, James Bowie and William Travis. The cry “Remember the Alamo” later rallied soldiers during the Mexican-American War of 1846.

Jackie Dishner is an Arizona-based author and blogger who writes about travel, lifestyle and turning obstacles into opportunities at BikeWithJackie.

What do you think? Share your biggest travel disappointments and surprises below:

By Irene S. Levine
Irene S. Levine is a psychologist, lifestyle and travel journalist, and member of the Society of American Travel Writers who produces MoreTimeToTravel.com, a blog offering advice and inspiration for travelers over 50.

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