Tourist destinations tend to get a bad rap as crowded, over-hyped, expensive, and not genuine places. However, the reality is that — in most cases — they became tourist destinations for a reason.
When traveling out of the country, I favor flights that go via San Francisco, simply so I can visit Boudin's Bakery and the sea lions down at Pier 39. I always feel a little foolish because of its status as being too touristy, but it's a guilty pleasure I can't seem to pass up. Those may be my tourist-heavy locations I'm happy to brave the crowds for, but there are so many around the globe to keep in mind for your next vacation.
1. Cancun, Mexico
People love the warm blue waters along Cancun's Gulf of Mexico. Despite the area having travel warnings, people flock here for warm sun, cervazas, and vacation bliss year after year.
2. Mount Rushmore
Over two million people drive into the Black Hills of South Dakota to see the iconic heads of four presidents carved into the granite firsthand. Despite being a tourist hot spot, it is a national treasure representing America. Take some photos, walk the Avenue of the Flags, and then grab ice cream.
3. Cape Town, South Africa
With a variety of beautiful mountains, sparkling beaches, and lush vineyards, Cape Town has a little something for everyone. Despite the crowds it draws, it's still possible to enjoy some time near the beautiful waters.
4. Santorini, Greece
When you imagine an extravagant island vacation, it probably looks a lot like Santorini, Greece. With a gorgeous ocean hugging the shore, its mesmerizing architecture, and a volcanic landscape, it's about as aesthetically appealing as anything gets. And the local cuisine is tasty and surprisingly low-cost, too.
5. Blue Lagoon, Iceland
With over 700k visits per year, it's easy to understand how this geothermal spa in southwestern Iceland gets its tourist trap status. For many, they simply can't resist the warm waters and beautiful scenery.
6. Hofbrauhaus, Munich
While this beer hall might have historical significance, it plays up to tourists and lacks an authentic experience. Still, the fun of Hofbrauhaus renders the need for a genuine experience redundant. If you're looking to have fun and dance, this is the spot for you.
7. Venice, Italy
UNESCO is about to recommend that this ancient city go on the endangered city list. It's rife with issues because of over-tourism, but history and beauty mean people keep returning. It's a beautiful city best seen at night when all the people are gone.
8. Pike Place Market, Seattle
I admit that I first heard of Pike Place on Frasier. I've often wanted to visit it just for that reason but have never had the opportunity. It's a very touristy location, but it's also frequented by locals, as it's a guaranteed place to grab genuine, locally-made products.
9. French Quarter, New Orleans
The French Quarter has a different vibe from the rest of the U.S. The history of it, the heat, the music, and the atmosphere are incredibly enchanting. The French Quarter is definitely a tourist destination, but even locals find its charm, shops, and architecture alluring.
10. Bruges, Belgium
After reading the descriptions of this place and doing a bit of research, I'm adding it to my bucket list. It looks like a fairy tale city, and it's known for crowds of people who are just happy to engage with one another. It must be the overall ambiance that makes everyone so kind and outgoing.
11. Coney Island, New York City
This well-known fun park takes about an hour via public transport from Times Square. The park is filled with cheesy, classic fun, but you'll also find some areas of interest under the local boardwalk.
12. Las Vegas, Nevada
It's hard to ignore the flash and artificial glam of this desert city, but if you pay attention, you'll see this place is full of history, especially from the 50s and 60s. Many incorrectly assume all of the fun is on the stretch of resorts known as the Strip, but the valley surrounding it is not without its entertainment value.
13. Times Square, New York
Times Square is one of those places that's fun to visit for the experience. Being surrounded by all those flashing lights is pretty surreal, not to mention you can act like you're in a blockbuster movie or music video. If you get a little tired of the crowded streets and touristy spots or want a taste of classic New York, it's only a few blocks to get away from the glitz of Times Square.
14. Mini-Europe, Belgium
Mini-Europe can be found within the Bruparck amusement park. This miniature park showcases scaled-down replicas, at a ratio of 1:25, of various landmarks from the European Union and other nations across the continent.
15. Solvang, California
This place seems random because it feels like you've wandered into a Danish city in the middle of California. The Danish-style architecture represents the town's heritage and association with Denmark. It's a fascinating place to stop after you've explored California's coastline.
16. Niagara Falls, Canada/USA
While not on the official list of world wonders, Niagara Falls is on many people's bucket lists. However, the tourist traps and overpriced places nearby put many off. Unfortunately, Niagara Falls, USA, has a high crime rate, which may drive some away from seeing the stunning natural attraction the city is named for.
17. Vatican City
It may be surprising, but one of the holiest destinations in the world, a miniature country devoted to housing the entire history of the Catholic Church, is often very crowded with tourists. There’s even a McDonald’s, which caters to the massive number of foot traffic Vatican City receives.
18. Banff, Canada
This stunning area of lakes, mountains, and ski resorts is in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over four million individuals from various corners of the planet journey to Banff National Park annually, so it's an understandable tourist destination that can get pretty crowded.
19. Covent Garden, London
Located in London‘s West End, Covent Garden dates back to the 17th century. It is a bustling focal point for shopping and entertainment. Its main area is the elegant Piazza, hosting fashion boutiques and the Royal Opera House.
20. Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg holds the title of Virginia‘s “Colonial Capital” and has gained global recognition for its endeavors in restoration, faithfully recreating 18th-century American life through Colonial Williamsburg. Its historical status and quaint appearance draw in hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.