Do This, Skip That: 11 U.S. Cities Where Tourists Are Doing It Wrong
3:00 pm, July 16th | by Grace Rasmus
I’m in the midst of planning a trip to Washington D.C. and, like always, the Internet has brought to my attention that I have no idea what I’m doing. Comfortingly, I’m not the only one; apparently, tourists are doing it wrong everywhere. As you Doughnuts gear up to take your summer vacations or weekend trips, visiting new cities in ol’ ‘Meri the Beautiful (if for no other reason than to just escape this damn heat), I figured someone should offer some help. Check out what I’ve determined (with the help of this Reddit thread) to be the best and worst of 11 U.S. cities (in no particular order) and be sure to leave your own suggestions in the comments!
Do this: The National Basilica at Catholic University. The Air and Space Museum is cool, but apparently the Udvar Hazy Center out near Dulles is better because it has the museum’s annex and thus, more planes. If you like seafood, head down to the waterfront and hit up the Fish Market on Maine Ave. The National Arboretum is “a gorgeous park on the outskirts of the city that a lot of people don’t know about.” Definitely go to the monuments, but do it at night and don’t forget about Jefferson or Korea, which are often overlooked.
Skip that: Union Station. The National Harbor, which is apparently a big tourist trap. The Washington Monument is closed right now, but even when it’s open, tourists should go to the Old Post Office Pavilion instead which has “almost as good of a view with much less of a wait.” Also, “there’s a reason the aquarium is getting closed down.” And unless you want to announce to the entire city that you’re a tourist in one fell swoop, “for godssake, don’t confuse the White House and the Capitol. Also, don’t ask where the National Mall is when you’re standing on it. Its a big green space. You don’t shop there.”
New York City
Do this: The High Line and the Brooklyn Bridge are the best places to take a stroll. Taking the Staten Island Ferry at sunset or at night is apparently the best “free” tour in NYC because you get a “phenomenal view of downtown NYC, Hoboken, and Jersey City, plus it goes right past the Statue of Liberty.” And remember, young grasshopper: hole-in-the-wall restaurants will always exceed your expectations.
Skip that: Okay, sure, go to Times Square (at night), but do not eat there — the insane prices and lines for a plate of undercooked nachos at a chain restaurant aren’t worth it. Also, I’ve lived in New York for most of my life and have never been to the top of the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty and I’m doing just fine. While we’re talking: please, please, please don’t stop in the middle of the street to take pictures. Please.
Do this: “Go to the top of Stratosphere at dusk – and ride the rides!” See the free atrium at Bellagio: ”it’s beautiful and you can go look at the fountains outside while you’re there.” Go to the Voodoo rooftop and get this cool looking drink called the Witch Doctor.
Skip that: The Fremont Street Experience because even though it’s free, the lights on the strip are more impressive. The Pawn Stars shop (Gold and Silver Pawn Shop) — it’s on an underwhelming part of the strip and there’s always a line, in the heat, with no shade. Besides, you probably won’t even see Chumlee. Also, “don’t go to Rehab at the Hard Rock unless you like to swim in puke with a bunch college kids” and “if you go more than 100 feet off the determined path on Fremont you’re in Crackton.”
Do this: Griffth Observatory, La Brea Tar Pit, California Science Center, and MOCA. If museums aren’t your scene, ”go hiking in Malibu, get some decent Mexican food, or go buy a bong in Venice.” If you’re a music person, Amoeba Music can’t be missed.
Skip that: Hollywood and those stupid double decker buses. (The latter applies to every city.)
Do this: Alcatraz! Redwoods! ”Spend the day in Dolores Park, eating and drinking.” Walk/bike across the Golden Gate Bridge or at least go up to the Marin Headlands to get some spectacular shots of it.
Do this: Millenium Park; even the locals love it. Some of the best views of the Chi-town skyline are at the museum campus right next to Adler Planetarium. Go to Portillo’s to at least once for Chicago-style hot dogs and don’t forget to grab some deep dish pizza.
Skip that: Navy Pier. (“The best part about going to Navy Pier was realizing they have those architecture tours down the river and taking one of those.”) Some suggest not even bothering with the observation deck at the Sears (Willis???) Tower; according to them, you should go up to the 96th floor of the Hancock and have a drink instead. Then again, other Redditors said exactly the opposite, calling the Hancock elevator ride “a bit terrifying.”
Do this: Reading Terminal Market. The Mütter Museum. The Wagner Free Institute of Science. Passyunk Ave, which has recently “exploded into a foodie paradise.” The National Constitution Center is an absolute must.
Skip that: “The best cheesesteak is the one you have in your hand,” one commenter wisely wrote. “No need to go any place fancy. (I’m looking at you, Pat’s & Geno’s.) Just go to any shop that doesn’t put ‘Philly’ or ‘Philadelphia’ in front of the word ‘cheesesteak’ and you’ll be fine.” Also, the Liberty Bell isn’t all that great. Sorry.
Do this: The Rose Test Garden. Walk around the Saturday market by the waterfront or drive to Multnomah Falls and take a nice hike. Head over to 23rd for some great shopping. Powell’s is apparently the “best bookstore ever, period!”
Skip that: Voodoo Donuts. (Though based on the website, I’m skeptical of this decision.) “Also don’t waste your time or money going to Rogue, there are tons of better breweries and taprooms here that don’t treat their beer and employees like shit.”
Do this: The Freedom Trail. The MFA. The Boston Common. Newbury Street is great for shopping, especially in the summertime. The Museum of Science is great for kids. The Sam Adams Brewery Tour is free and includes a tasting.
Skip that: Dick’s Last Resort. The Cheers bar. The Duck Boat Tour is a $40 waste of time. The New England Aquarium isn’t so great, especially now since they’re renovating it and many of the cool animals (read: penguins) are gone. Some say Faneuil Hall is a waste of time, but I have to disagree: you don’t have to buy the overpriced food at Quincy Market, but you should at least go check it out.
Skip that: Haunted History Tours: “Most of the guides have no idea what they’re talking about and are just making stuff up.” Also if someone comes up to you on the street asking you to donate money, it’s apparently a scam.
Do this: On a really clear day, going to the top of the Space Needle provides a “pretty awesome” view, but there are other cost-free views that are also awesome like Smith Tower and the Columbia Center. ”Only about 30 min outside the city you will find some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the country.”
Skip that: “Ride the Ducks” sounds an awful lot like the Boston Duck Boat Tours, so NO. And try not to visit during the fall or winter, because rain.
There ya have it! I can only vouch for a few of these cities, so don’t shoot the messenger if this list offends you and your hometown. And, of course, the touristy things are often the reason to go to a city in the first place; as one Redditor noted, if you go all the way to Orlando just to check out some artsy museums, you’re pretty much the worst.
Did I miss anything or get something totally 100% wrong? Tell us the best and worst things about your city!