20 American Tourist Traps That Are Actually Worth the Money

Nikolas_jkd / iStock.com

There’s a fine line between must-see attraction and overrated tourist trap. Some of the most iconic landmarks in the world are overrun and overcrowded simply due to their popularity. But that’s just it — they’re popular for a reason. These 20 tourist attractions are not flying under the radar by any means, but if you plan a visit in the offseason and know how to avoid getting ripped off, they’re highly worth a visit.

Click through to find the best tourist attractions in the U.S. that are worth your money.

KingWu / Getty Images

Pike Place Market — Seattle

Cost to fly: $266

Seattle can be one of the most expensive U.S. tourist destinations, but Travel + Leisure makes a case for Pike Place by arguing it defines Seattle tourism.

One of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the country, the multilevel space is a sensory overload of smells, tastes and sights with over 500 shops, restaurants and vendors. Famous for flying fish, the “almost” first Starbucks and a plethora of fresh eats, the iconic market is simply a must for foodies.

Entrance to the market is free, and group tours start at $15 and up depending on the level of the tour.

OlegAlbinsky / iStock.com

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island — New York City

Cost to fly: $390

One of the most historic sites in America, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and the American dream. Ellis Island is a place where you can trace your own family’s lineage. Both are quintessential New York experiences because, despite the crowds, they’re shockingly intimate.

The price for a round-trip ferry to both attractions is $21.50 if you want to climb to the crown of the Statue of Liberty or $18.50 to just access the pedestal.

Joel Carillet / iStock.com

Bourbon Street — New Orleans

Cost to fly: $291

It might be one of the tourist attractions where you’ll want to watch your wallet, but visiting Bourbon Street might be worth the risk. It’s home to the famous Red Light District of Storyville, acclaimed architecture, jazz clubs, restaurants and bars. Plus, it’s a bucket list experience for foodies, revelers and history buffs.

It’s free to wander around, but entertainment can add up fast with hurricanes running $8.50 a pop at Pat O’Brien’s and reserved seats at the Jazz Playhouse coming in at $20.

holgs / Getty Images

Fisherman’s Wharf — San Francisco

Cost to fly: $269

More than 75 percent of San Francisco’s travelers pay a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf, but that’s just a testament to how popular it is. And if you visit during the cheapest times, you can save money on your trip.

Home to Pier 39 and epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the skyline, it’s free to play photographer and take in the waterfront, but other attractions will cost you. The place to indulge in fresh seafood, a clam chowder bread bowl from Boudin Bakery, costs $7.49. And entrance to the Aquarium of the Bay will set you back $26.95.

aimintang / Getty Images

Reading Terminal Market — Philadelphia

Cost to fly: $191

The nation’s oldest continually operating farmers market, Reading Terminal Market is a treasure trove of edible delights. With more than 80 vendors and Amish merchants, the market is a vast culinary bazaar home to the best food in Philly.

Smells and snaps are free. But sampling the “best sandwich in America” (which is DiNic’s roast pork and beef, according to the Travel Channel) will cost $8.50. And a traditional cheesesteak from Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies and Cheesesteaks (of which former President Barack Obama is a fan) will cost you $11.34.

lewkmiller / Getty Images

The Strip — Las Vegas

Cost to fly: $137

With over 42 million visitors a year, Las Vegas is one of the top travel destinations in the U.S., and the Strip is its epicenter. The 4.2-mile jaunt along Las Vegas Boulevard is where a majority of high-end hotels, casinos and attractions lie so it’s a safe bet that a trip to Sin City almost guarantees at least some time there.

If you’re looking for fun and free things to do in Vegas, you can see the free fountain show at the Bellagio and even get free drinks in the casinos. But the average visitor’s gambling budget is $619, so prepare to leave with a bit of a hole in your pocket.

Jacqueline Nell / Disney

Disney World — Orlando, Fla.

Cost to fly: $124

The most popular theme park in the world, according to Themed Entertainment Association, Magic Kingdom gets over 20 million visitors a year, making it one of the biggest tourist attractions on the planet. With ticket prices starting at $102 per day, the “Happiest Place on Earth” doesn’t come cheaply.

That said, it’s a magical experience for children and adults alike to see their favorite motion pictures brought to life and something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

Find Out: How Much It Costs to Stay at These 10 Disney World Hotels

gdelissen / iStock.com

The Grand Canyon — Arizona

Cost to fly: $137

One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon enthralls with its prehistoric geology and exotic wildlife. Despite receiving over 6 million tourists last year, it’s a place to admire endangered vegetation, and the Telegraph says it’s worth getting “morning before Christmas” excited about it.

But keep an eye out for these hidden expenses when visiting the Grand Canyon. For example, a park vehicle permit costs $30, and tickets to the skywalk range from $49.92 to $333.14 with a shuttle to various viewpoints.

littleny / Getty Images

The Hollywood Walk of Fame — Los Angeles

Cost to fly: $294

The world’s most famous sidewalk honors 2,500 actors, musicians and Hollywood legends. Though touristy, it’s a place to pay homage to your favorite on-screen performers, and it’s a major symbol of the City of Angels.

You can walk the celebrity boardwalk on your own or, if you want to actually spot a celebrity, attend one of the free star ceremonies throughout the year. If you’d like a professional tour guide to point out the sites, you can book one for $25 to get the inside scoop on Hollywood history.

Joyce Vincent / Shutterstock.com

Fenway Park — Boston

Cost to fly: $67

America’s oldest ballpark has been operating since 1912. A mecca for baseball lovers, whether you’ve seen one game or hundreds, a trip there is always worth the cost of a ticket.

The Green Monster ensures a sense of nostalgia for America by maintaining traditions like belting “Sweet Caroline” before the bottom of the eighth inning. Guided tours cost $20 and game tickets range from $10 to $197.

Starcevic / Getty Images

Millennium Park — Chicago

Cost to fly: $120

A centerpiece of downtown Chicago, Millennium Park is a free outdoor sculpture garden and public park. As the most visited tourist attraction in the Midwest, it’s always crowded but boasts one of the best views of the skyline that won’t cost you anything.

The must-have photo-ops include Cloud Gate (also known as “the Bean”), the Crown Fountain’s spitting faces and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which has free outdoor concerts throughout the summer and free ice skating in the winter. However, rentals are $10.

OlegAlbinsky / Getty Images

The Smithsonian Museums — Washington, D.C.

Cost to fly: $64

The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum complex and saw over 30 million visitors in 2017. There are 11 museums and galleries right on the National Mall, making it an important place to commemorate the country’s history and immerse yourself in arts, history and science. As one of the best free educational opportunities in the capital, it’s worth battling the crowds.

Go Explore: These Are the World’s Best Museums You Can Visit for Free

Michael Rosebrock / Shutterstock.com

Dodge City — Kansas

Cost to fly: $131

A replica Wild West town, Dodge City was the gateway to the Santa Fe Trail way back in the early 1800s. Known for its raucous gunslinging and lawless debauchery, the Boot Hill Museum pays tribute to the rough-and-tumble lifestyle. Though most reenactments are kitschy, it takes just reading the tombstones at Boot Hill Cemetery to realize that it’s the real deal.

Tickets are $12 to explore the general store, saloon and cemetery.

Frank Romeo / Shutterstock.com

Wall Drug — South Dakota

Cost to fly: $375

Wall Drug fancies itself a roadside attraction, not a tourist trap, but arguments can be made for both sides. It is the must-see stop en route to the Badlands.

Geographically in the “middle of nowhere,” this quirky corner store became famous in the 1930s for offering free ice water to weary travelers. Today, it’s a place to peruse the trinkets and Western wear and take free photos with a Tyrannosaurus rex and a giant jackalope. The café menu has American classics like hot beef sandwiches, donuts and 5-cent coffee that have managed to withstand inflation, so the price is definitely right for a bit of nostalgia.

DenisTangneyJr / iStock.com

Atlantic City — New Jersey

Cost to fly: $191

Atlantic City gets a bad rap, but after more than $1.7 billion were poured into revitalization projects, it’s worth giving the tired casino town a fresh look. A handful of luxury hotels without casinos have opened in recent years, most notably The Water Club.

The Walk is 15 blocks of designer shopping, five-star restaurants and celebrity chefs that grace the area, and luxury spas have become more popular than ever. You can get there for just $2.25 on the jitney and walk the world’s first boardwalk for free. But that’s about where the savings end for this pricier getaway.

Onfokus / iStock.com

Niagara Falls — New York

Cost to fly: $85

Niagara Falls was called a tourist trap by Smarter Travel, but the New York Times said differently when they named it one of the top 52 places to visit in 2018. Buffalo-Niagara has also undergone a massive transformation in recent years. Today, the area is a cultural hotbed of art galleries, craft breweries and impressive architecture, and the falls are just the icing on the cake.

Parking at the oldest state park in the U.S. is $8 to $10, entrance to the Cave of the Winds is $7, and a ride on Maid of the Mist is $19.25.

dszc / Getty Images

The River Walk — San Antonio

Cost to fly: $174

A treasure in Texas, the River Walk is the heart and soul of San Antonio, garnering millions of visitors a year. But it’s not just a place for overpriced waterfront dining. Actually the largest urban ecosystem in the nation, the River Walk has 15 miles of sidewalks and paths where you can visit museums and 300-year-old Spanish missions that are definitely worth exploring.

It can be a fun vacation for the whole family. Take a water taxi ride for $10 or upgrade to a narrated boat cruise for $12.

LauraAnna / Shutterstock.com

Route 66 — Chicago

Cost to fly: $120

An epic 2,500-mile cross-country road trip from Illinois to California, Route 66 is littered with larger-than-life roadside attractions, neon motels and forgotten cities. Whether you’re interested in photo-ops with giant whales or the chance to sleep in a teepee, everyone should drive “the Mother Road” at least once. The route has inspired musicians, filmmakers and writers, and is sure to provide a creative jolt for those lacking inspiration.

You can find rooms for under $100 a night and meals for $2.50 and up, so it’s not a budget-buster kind of trip.

Drive There: Cross-Country Road Trip Vacations Under $350

wdstock / Getty Images

Central Park — New York

Cost to fly: $390

More than 25 million people frequent Central Park a year, which might make getting a green reprieve feel downright impossible. But with over 9,000 benches, the first public park in America has plenty of space to go around.

The park cost almost as much as the entire state of Alaska to build, so a lot of impressive elements went into its development. A carousel ride costs just $3, and a lap around the ice rink will run you $12 to $19.

View Apart / Shutterstock.com

Times Square — New York

Cost to fly: $390

Although millions pass through Times Square every day and many call it overrated, the hotspot is the heart of the Big Apple. It’s one of the most Instagrammed places in the world and its chaotic glittering lights can be seen from space. It’s worth battling the crowds to experience the crossroads of the world at least once — but probably not on New Year’s Eve.

If you prefer to dive into the history of the area, make it a scavenger hunt to find the hidden Broadway bar, the site of America’s most famous kiss and Lichtenstein’s pop murals. The best part? It’s all free.

Now, click through to see 10 tourist attractions that aren’t worth your money.

Flight prices came from Skyscanner based on a flight from New York City (JFK) on April 7, 2018. For attractions that are based in NYC, flights were based out of Los Angeles.