24 Tourist Spots to Avoid This Summer
For most people, summer means it's time to pack a few bags and go on vacation. Unfortunately, not all destinations are created equal -- some are too crowded, too hot, too expensive, too buggy, or just plain dangerous. Want to make sure you don't spend big on a trip your family remembers for all the wrong reasons? These 24 tourist hotspots may be great some other time of year, but it's best to skip them this summer.
Itching to see Ripley's Aquarium (dismissed as "expensive," "small," and "chaotic" by previous visitors)? Willing to spend $14 to ride a Ferris wheel (the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel)? Eager to press against lots of hot, sticky people in a sweltering mass? Then, by all means, join the 14 million visitors who swarm Myrtle Beach each year, many in the summer. If that doesn't sound fun, consider Kiawah Island in nearby Charleston. Voted the "second most romantic beach in America" by National Geographic Traveler, it has 10 miles of pristine beach, 40 miles of bike trails, and an oceanfront hotel and spa.
Manhattan has a little bit of everything -- but for some reason tourists still think gaudy Times Square is a must-see. The Big Apple is one of the most expensive destinations in the world, so don't waste time visiting hokey tourist traps and chain restaurants that can be found in every suburb in America. Instead, consider a stroll through Central Park (free), $16 cheap seats at the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night in Harlem (perhaps the cheapest live entertainment in Manhattan), or saying hello to the dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History.
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While no longer as seedy as it once was, the area is by no means glamorous. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is still a sidewalk -- with all the usual dirt, litter and crumbling tiles and cement. It also has performers dressed as movie and TV characters in cobbled-together costumes that aren't likely to impress anyone. Don't want to explain to the kids why Elmo and Batman seem so different than they do on TV? Consider visiting the Grammy Museum downtown. It has rare musical instruments and interactive exhibits, and sometimes real celebrities perform there.
Yes, it's the seat of the U.S. government and chock-full of learning opportunities, but throngs of sweaty tourists combined with Washington's infamous steamy weather can easily deflate the awe that might be inspired by the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. Try Boston instead. The city has even more history, and visitors can beat the heat by staying near the water.
Sure, bargain hunters will find some budget-friendly deals in Vegas during July and August -- and that's because sane people have no desire to go to the desert in the middle of summer. Average temperatures are 106 degrees in July and 103 in August, which means strolling between two casinos on the strip feels like walking on a barbecue grill. Determined to gamble? Buy a lottery ticket.
With its balmy weather and beautiful beaches, Hawaii is a great place for a romantic honeymoon or anniversary. But if that special day falls in summer, fuggedabout picking the biggest city on Oahu for a getaway. Thanks to its many restaurants, outdoor attractions, zoo, and a sea life park, crowds flock there in summer, especially families with kids -- ensuring every starry-eyed moment by the pool will be undercut by high-pitched screaming. To avoid the crowds, look to the less-traveled but beautiful island of Kauai.
Condé Nast Traveler readers named Charleston the No. 1 U.S. city for four consecutive years, so why not visit this summer? Because the humidity is miserable, the temperatures are close to 90 degrees, and it's always raining. This misery doesn't even clear out the crowds, as everyone with some summer vacation to burn is packed into the city's picturesque but narrow streets. Go, but plan for September through November, when the weather is mild but not stifling and crowds diminish.
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For most people, visiting Disneyland or Disney World is a major investment -- for three-day tickets to both Disneyland and sister park California Adventure, a family of four can easily cough up close to $1,200 -- and that's not including parking, food, or hotel. With that kind of dough involved, everyone wants to get the most for their money. So, don't go when lines are epic and it's miserably hot (and no, a dry heat does not make it cooler in any way). Spring and winter (but not the weeks around Christmas vacation) are better bets.
Sure, some people like to look at wax figures of celebrities, but wouldn't most of them prefer to look at real celebrities? While these museums have locations in Asia, Australia, and Europe, some of the American branches are in cities that actually have a fair number of famous people roaming the streets -- Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville, to name a few. No need to spend $20 and up to take selfies with fakes that won't fool anyone when a real celeb encounter is possible.
Considering a summer jaunt to Tangier? Visitors who go between June 5 and July 5 may find few crowds thanks to Ramadan. Unfortunately, most of the populace is fasting during the day because of the holiday, so restaurants are closed and cold beer (a welcome option during the hot summer months) is a no-no. Another complication brought on by the fast: lots of hungry, cranky, short-tempered people, even in the service industry. Sundown is no better for tourists, as the police take time off to break the daily fast with their families.
Some people love swampy heat, expensive nightclubs (think $12 beers), overcrowded beaches, and horrible traffic, but why? Miami is just as much fun in November, when the weather is still warm, but isn't nearly as stifling, and the snowbirds that swarm the beaches after the holidays are still in their northern nests. Or ditch the Christmas tree and start a new December tradition of sunbathing and watching palm trees sway in the breeze. And should the evening temperature somehow dip below 60, curl up with a nice cup of hot chocolate and a churro.
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The Alamo is free year-round, so the price is right -- but the summer crowds are intense and the bathrooms are tiny. Why should that make any difference? When guzzling down Texas-size drinks to beat the crushing heat and humidity before going inside (no drinks or food allowed), it's hard to budget time for a bathroom line that might be akin to what awaits shoppers on Black Friday.
Not only are crowds intense, May is the beginning of mosquito and black fly season in Cape Elizabeth. Wondering why a few bugs should be a deterrent? There are 40 varieties of black fly in Maine, and they leave behind itchy, swollen spots on unlucky victims. There's even a Black Fly Breeders Association that credits the bug for keeping tourists away. Save a trip for September or October, when it's cooler and much less itchy.
Amazingly, since 2012, 5 million people have swarmed this museum that one blogger calls "a thinly veiled Coca-Cola commercial." It costs $16 for the privilege of absorbing more marketing. Skip the long-form advertising and head next door to the Georgia Aquarium for some more refreshing entertainment.
Dubbed a "smorgasbord of the despicable" by one U.K. writer, Dubai tries to be a Las Vegas of the Middle East but also has laws that Western tourists might find draconian. Summer temperatures are intolerable, so air conditioning is pumped into every location, including an indoor ski slope -- which might be why Dubai the second-most expensive place to stay after Geneva, Switzerland. Instead, visit nearby Oman, which has stunning desert landscapes, beautiful beaches, and a crowd-controlling limit on how many outside travelers can visit.
The Venice Boardwalk is known for being a combination of kooky fun (Palm readers! Weightlifters!), weird and sometimes disturbing "performers," and big crowds. Rather than drive in endless circles only to reluctantly fork over $25 for a spot in a private parking lot, head north to Santa Monica. It has free public parking, just as much beach, and street performers on the Third Street Promenade who are required to get a license. It really does make a difference.
Marrakesh is North Africa's top tourist destination thanks to intricate architecture, bustling souks, and historical mosques. Unfortunately, it's also known for taxi drivers who take advantage of visitors' lack of familiarity with the currency and a maze of pathways that make getting lost, even temporarily, a given. Add extreme heat, noxious air pollution, and an overcrowded summer tourist season (with the high room rates to go with it), and a chaotic trip is guaranteed. To tackle a dazzling but overwhelming locale like this, wait until crowds subside in October or March through May.
Sure, this iconic museum has the "Mona Lisa," which visitors may or may not be able to see through the wall of tourists stacked in front of the painting's bulletproof glass. But for those who don't want to wait in line to see an image better viewed on a postcard (no one is getting close enough to see brush strokes at the Louvre), try the Rodin Museum. There's a lovely garden and, best of all, the artist's most famous work, "The Thinker," is outdoors -- so no stifling crowds.
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The high season is October through April, so why aren't people flocking to Bangkok in summer? Answer: monsoon season. While some years there is very little rain, booking travel in one of the hottest cities in the world during the humid rainy season is a gamble that may put a damper (get it?) on any Thai vacation.
While Milan has a few tourist destinations, it really lays claim to being the fashion capital of the world -- which means lots of exorbitantly priced shopping and exclusive fashion shows that are closed to the public. Once a tourist has visited the Piazza del Duomo, "The Last Supper," and La Scala opera house, it's hard to ignore that the business-oriented city is an Italian New York. For more culture, architecture, and sightseeing, Florence is a good choice.
When tourists want to see big animals in South Africa, they usually think of Kruger National Park -- which is why people sometimes outnumber animals and cars end up jockeying for position to get the best photo. When an expensive African safari feels like a trip to the zoo, it's time to reconsider. Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is said to attract more than 100 mammals, the most diverse assortment in any national park.
Half a million people come to this crowded shopping district daily, and the search for deals comes with risk -- three of its pedestrian crossings are among the 10 most dangerous in the entire country, according to the Department of Transport. Thanks to traffic from diesel-fueled cars and buses, it's also one of the most polluted streets in the world. Instead, visit Greenwich Market, the only historic market set inside a World Heritage Site.
The high tourist season is October through April, because the summer months in Egypt can be brutal -- temperatures over 90 degrees are made even less tolerable by humidity, city grime, and desert dust. For women who need to cover their shoulders and legs (no shorts or tank tops) out of respect the local culture, waiting to visit until fall is a no-brainer.<
Who wouldn't want to spend the summer on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro? Before buying a plane ticket, remember that Brazil's Southern Hemisphere summer is actually November to February. During June, July, and August, it's usually a not-very-beachy 70 degrees. And this year, the world will descend on Rio for the Summer Olympics, crowding out tourists and driving up prices -- unless the Zika virus forces the games to be moved or postponed. When 150 health experts recommend against going, it's probably best to listen.