Countless people dream of visiting New York City’s Times Square, and many do. That’s one reason why the neighborhood is included on lists of “Most overrated places in the United States.”

I’m not saying that if you haven’t been to the celebrated enclave, or have dropped by in the past and long to do so again, you should remove it from your bucket list.

It does mean you should be aware reasons the area shows up on inventories of famous sites throughout the United States that fall short of their stellar reputation.

Tripadvisor, TheTravel, and Far & Wide are among websites that list destinations and attractions that don’t always live up to their high repute. For those who wish to see them anyway, these sources suggest being aware of the drawbacks so you aren’t too disappointed when you arrive.

That advice has served me well over the years when I took my children, and first-time visitors, to New York to experience Times Square.

Forewarned about its downsides, we accepted them as the price pay to enjoy basking in the bright lights, taking a behind-the-scenes tour of Broadway theaters, and admiring the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and other renowned landmarks.

In addition, we also explored other Big Apple neighborhoods and Central Park, which have their own appeals with far fewer people.

Despite the familiar phrase “Remember the Alamo,” many visitors to that structure in San Antonio, Texas, find it to be easily forgotten.

Granted, the story of the small group of fighters for the independence of Texas from Mexico who died for their cause is inspiring, but given its fame, the 18th-century Franciscan mission building itself can be underwhelming.

Furthermore, the surrounding area is tourist trappy, in contrast with other historic missionary posts located nearby.

Another structure, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, has a lot going for it. The largest such edifice in the world is 63 stories high and offers views stretching up to 30 miles away. Exhibits in the museum at its base cover various aspects of the nation’s westward expansion as well as information about construction of the arch.

However, lines to ride to the top can be very long, the pod that makes the journey is tiny, and, once there, crowds can make it challenging to peer out of the very narrow windows. Some sightseers prefer to take advantage of the city’s inviting list of museums, gardens, and parks.

The glitzy casinos, mega-hotels, and lavish shopping malls that line the Strip in Las Vegas make it one of the most famous entertainment destinations in the country. They also attract hordes of out-of-staters seeking fun in many forms.

In the words of one resident, “It can be fun for 21-year-olds, but that fades quickly when you encounter the heat, hordes of people, and go-go activity.”

A much more sedate alternative is the drive through nearby Red Rock Canyon, a conservation area of desert landscape; massive, flame-hued rock formations; and sandstone cliffs and peaks.

Some well-known rock formations don’t live up to their billings and may even have a dark side to their creation.

Granted, the 60-foot-tall sculpted heads of four presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt — on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota are an impressive memorial.

An often-overlooked part of the story is that it occupies land the U.S. government set aside for Native American tribes, but when gold was discovered in the area, the government reneged on that promise.

Once admirers have gazed at the carving, there’s little else to do at the site. The eroded buttes and pinnacles of Badlands National Park and Custer State Park, which is home to bison, elk, cougars, and other wildlife, are worth a look-see.

Plymouth Rock is much smaller than the Mount Rushmore sculpture but even larger in lore.

That is so despite the fact that no historical evidence exists to confirm the stone was the first place where the Pilgrims set foot in the New World. It wasn’t until 1741 – 121 years after the arrival of the Mayflower – that a boulder was pointed out as the precise spot where the wayfarers landed.

As one skeptical viewer reported after seeing the 40-pound stone that is on display today, inscribed with the year (1620) of the Pilgrims’ landing: “It’s just a rock.”  

Close by in the Massachusetts town are the Mayflower II, a replica of the famous ship; Plimoth Plantation, a living history exhibit that recreates life in the original Plymouth Colony; and Pilgrim Hall Museum, which opened in 1824 and is the oldest continuously operating public collection in the country.

When thinking of visiting one of the iconic sites around the United States, it’s wise to do a bit of research in advance. Check what others have said about long lines, suffocating crowds, and, in some cases, being let down when they finally saw the place.

If you decide the benefit is worth any negatives, consider including other nearby lesser-known, but no less interesting, attractions.


After gallivanting around the world, Victor Block still retains the travel bug. He believes that travel is the best possible education. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Victor loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won a number of writing awards.

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