10 Destinations NOT to Visit

by Terry Ward 
Posted Jul 8th 2010 03:03 PMUpdated Aug 17th 2010 10:52 AM



Catherine Price, author of 101 Places Not To See Before You Die, picks her 10 most overhyped tourist traps.

Ever felt overwhelmed by all those list-based travel books telling you where you should go, from the world's top nude beaches to the must visit foodie destinations? And then there's 1000 Places to See Before You Die-it's exhausting just thinking about it, never mind getting there. But New Yorker Catherine Price has turned the whole thing on its head with her new book 101 Places Not To See Before You Die, exposing the destinations and attractions that aren't worth your time or your tourist dollars. From a museum in China devoted to tap water to Disneyland Paris, Price doesn't hold back from explaining why you should steer clear. "But the book is not supposed to be anti-travel," she explains. "It's supposed to remind people that sometimes the travel experiences that are the worst in the moment are actually the stories you love telling later."

Here, Price gives us her top 10 overhyped destinations (in no particular order) and explains why they shouldn't be included on your travel checklist any time soon.

Four Corners
Four Corners is supposedly the exact spot where the perpendicular borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico intersect-the only place in the U.S. where four states allegedly come together. But Price says that recent studies prove that Four Corners is actually in the wrong spot. "The only thing you can do here is take photos of yourself with one limb in each state," says Price, whose book includes a photo of a dog with each paw doing just that. Considering all the beautiful natural attractions in this part of the U.S. (red rock canyons, rivers and Indian ruins), she says, you're better off spending your travel time elsewhere.

Any Hotel That Used to be a Prison
Touring a former prison during your travels? Why not, says Price. But the author draws the line at bedding down in a former bastion of suffering and misery. Case in point, the Karostas Cietums in Latvia, a Soviet-era military prison-turned-hotel that caters to guests who aren't disturbed by the facility's claim that more than 150 people have been shot there (the site was a detention facility until 1997). There are even special prison bunks for kids. "Guests" get the experience of being a prisoner for the night, complete with a good verbal lashing from hotel staff that tests their acting skills as prison guards. "Do I really need to pay to stay someplace where 150 people have been shot?" asks Price.

Manneken Pis, Brussels
Belgium's most famous statue is a naked little boy doing his business in the middle of a fountain in Brussels. Tourists descend in throngs to see this statue, located a few blocks from the city's Grand Place, for what Price considers to be a less than grand cultural outing. "It's a statue of a little boy peeing," she says, adding that she has a pencil sharpener souvenir of the statue (chocolate renditions are also available at souvenir shops throughout the country). "Manneken Pis translates into 'Little Pee Man,' so don't go expecting anything else," she says. In the true spirit of equality, there's also a statue of a little girl squatting to pee (Jeanneke Pis) in a nearby alley.

Beijing Museum of Tap Water
That's right, there's a museum in China's capital dedicated to that which flows freely from the taps-never mind that you can't actually drink the tap water here (the source of the water is ok, says Price, but it's the city's poorly maintained pipes that render it unsafe to drink). The museum is built on the site of Beijing's first water plant, which opened in 1910. Among the exhibits are a U.S.-made stethoscope-style instrument used to listen for leaks in pipes and a mini active tap water filtration system. "I love it that there is something as mundane as a museum dedicated to tap water," says Price, but that's not to say you should put it on your sightseeing list.

Ibiza on a Family Vacation
Ibiza is one of the beautiful group of Spanish islands called the Balearics in the western Mediterranean that's home to UNESCO World Heritage sites and dreamy beaches. But if you come here looking for wholesome entertainment on a family vacation, little Jack and Jane might be in for a far from G-rated eyeful. "Ibiza has long been known as the party capital of the world, drawing hordes of hormonally-fueled visitors each summer," says Price. The island is being pushed as a family destination, she says-an idea that has merit in the right context. "But the idea of taking your five-year-old to Ibiza and trying to get dinner at 10pm with all these people around you spraying themselves with foam and doing drugs," is far from a family-friendly feel, says Price.

Disneyland Paris
For Price, who has lived in Paris, the idea of traveling to Europe to visit the transatlantic version of the house of the mouse borders on sacrilege. "If you're an American traveling abroad, shouldn't you travel a bit farther than an amusement park which is so quintessentially American that is has an Aerosmith-themed roller coaster?" Even at home in the U.S., Price was never a Disney fan. "I have an early memory of a character breakfast where I hid under a table, and I remember seeing this Pinocchio nose coming at me," she says. "It was horrifying." And many people who come to the French version of the theme park expecting California or Florida temperatures, don't realize that it gets very cold in France in the winter. But her larger objection, of course, is philosophical. "If you're an American going to Europe, do not go back to America via Disneyland."

Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota
This former small town pharmacy that touts itself as being "home to the world's second largest jackalope" is probably better known to people who've never been to America than it is to most Americans. Signs touting Wall Drug have been placed everywhere, from Kenyan commuter trains to London buses. The emphasis is on kitsch, all the way-attractions include a mini Mount Rushmore statue on display and a well pumping out free ice water in the store's backyard. "It's the tautology of a tourist trap," says Price, "and is only worth visiting because of the signs that tell you it's worth visiting."

Luxor Las Vegas
Price deems the Luxor Las Vegas--a black glass hotel and casino on the strip modeled after the famous Egyptian pyramids-Sin City's least worthy attraction. "It's this massive, black pseudo-tomb that combines the despair of an existential crisis with the ambiance of a parking garage," she says, adding that while the building may appear rather glamorous from the outside, "inside everything is dark and smells like smoke." Certainly no place for Nefertiti. When in Vegas, Price advises, "stay in a hotel with more emphasis on daylight."

The Top of Mount Everest
Striving to summit the world's highest peak strikes Price as seriously uncreative. "You're putting your own life at risk, you're hiring sherpas and guides who put their lives at risk, and basically people have already done it before," she says. "I think there are a lot of things in this world that are personal challenges, and it's a personal challenge, but it's a cliché, too." Price admits she cannot relate to mankind's obsession with "being on top of things." Certainly there are other ways to seek out adventure, she says, than paying $65,000 to do something that's already been done.

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose
Winchester Mystery House, a Victorian mansion in San Jose, CA. designed by rifle heiress Sarah Winchester "gives a sense of what happens when a multi million-dollar fortune and a belief in the paranormal are combined in a woman with no architectural training," says Price. "There are stairs that lead to the ceiling, chimneys that stop a foot and a half short of the roof, cabinets that are actually passageways..." In 1884, a psychic told Winchester to appease angry spirits by building a house and from that day construction began and didn't stop until the heiress's death 38 years later. "The effect of all this-the gift shop, the mile-long tour through endless empty rooms, the near total lack of concrete facts-is to leave you feeling as if you just binged on McDonald's: full, and yet, surprisingly empty," writes Price in her book. With so many more worthy attractions in the Golden State, you can forgive yourself for giving the Winchester Mystery House a miss, she says.

Photo Credits: Four Corners - Getty Images; Prison Hotel - Lauren Manning, flickr; Manneken Pis - Alamy; Beijing Museum - tour-beijing.com; Ibiza - Alamy; Disneyland Paris - Alamy; Wall Drug - tkksummers, flickr; Luxor Las Vegas - MGM Resorts International; Mount Everest - STR, AFP / Getty Images; Winchester Mystery House - Harshlight, flickr
Filed Under: Family, Tips & Tricks

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Edgar C. Ludwig

I'm adding my comment to the "I can't believe . . . . " list of comments that seem to be so popular.

I can't believe that this petty crap comment section actually is all that there is to think about or talk about for so many people - from the actual content of the article (generally "ho'hum" at best, but harmless and not worthy or the energy to criticize) - all the way to the nit-picky, minute scavenging that readers seem to do, as they look for anything at all to criticize . . . . in a spoiled rotten, "let's criticize everything" arogant way.

Through all of that, "I can't believe I actually got sucked into particpating in this tripe. I think a personal resolution to not ever click on junk comment blogs may be necessary now.. Maybe some of the readers who shred the writer of the article with a machete for the slightest minor error or typo can one day will get real lives and read and write about hunger or disease or nature or things that actually matter in life. While here on the planet, we each are allowed to try to make some difference. Air-head blogging is not contributing much to anybody or the quality of life.

Have a happy day.

October 05 2010 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nancy Murphy

I was traveling with a group of seniors. Our stop at Wall Drug Store was delightful. Learn the history of the place and enjoy it's friendly people.

October 01 2010 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with some of the comments. I have been to the Everest region. I lived in Nepal for 2 months climbing the Himalayas. Took a flight over Everest.

The writer is nuts. Some of the places mentioned seem really cool. To live at a former prision and experience history is what travelling is all about. Living the culture of other countries gives you an idea how great we have it here in the USA and Canada. Makes you appreciate your home country that much more. Just an opinion.

September 26 2010 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I went to Four Corners while living in Arizona, was passing close while going to the north rim. It was dirty with trash laying and blowing around, dusty and had no facilities except for the day lean-to's of the natives offering their wares, but this was in the 1980's. We stayed just long enough to take the necessary pictures and high tailed it out of there. I've heard it is better kept now and has facilities but I'm good for at least another 40 years.

September 26 2010 at 9:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So because others have already climbed Mt Everest you shouldn't try to also? I do agree with others having to risk their lives for such a stupid feat but just because someone else did it first doesn't mean you can't try to do it also,

September 25 2010 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People, get a grip ... this wasn't written by a "reporter", nor is it a news story. It is commentary, and commentary does not have to follow the same rules of journalism that a news story must follow. In other words, it's an opinion piece which gives the opinion of the writer.

Sort of like Fox News, except they don't admit that all they give are opinions, pretending that it's hard news.

September 08 2010 at 11:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Regarding the Mannikin Pis We have been all over the world and this statue is a classic. We have a bottle opener shaped like the little boy on our bar at home. So see it- the first question everybody asks if you have been to Brussells is "Did you see the Mannikin Pis?"

September 02 2010 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a stupid article. Ms. Price is a person I would never want to take a trip of any kind with. Even to the bathroom. What a prissy whiner.

With the exception of Euro-Disney--which I've never visited when traveling to Paris because there's so much else to see and do and I grew up next to Disney World anyway--I would enjoy seeing all of the places on this list. I'd even take my kids to Ibiza. I suspect Ms. Price's real problem (considering her negative reaction to Mannekin Pis) is that sunbathers go topless on the beaches--she needs to get over it. And the solution to keeping them from seeing foam-covered nightclubbers is to put them to bed before 10 PM!

September 02 2010 at 8:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

haha.. the comments are full of editors. Do you guys get paid for this? oh.. you just like complaining. Who cares about typos.. get a grip..

Anyway.. all of those destinations seem better than my daily destination of work! haha.

August 27 2010 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Who ever wrote this article needs to be fired. All of these grammar mistakes and putting Mexico instead of New Mexico. There are plenty of reporters out there looking for a job who can do a better job. AOL went back and changed it to New Mexico but they still did not catch this: American that is has an Aerosmith-themed roller coaster?

Don't cha mean American that IT has...

August 27 2010 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply