May 7 is National Tourism Day. It’s a day for tourist destinations around the country to promote their local areas, regions or states. A lot of these places get a bum rap and are referred to as “tourist traps.” But upon further investigation, they’re not tourist traps at all. They’re worthwhile destinations that, while crowded, are well-worth you taking the time to explore.
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Paul Theroux once said, “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” But every year, particularly in the summer, millions of visitors (travelers or tourists) travel to the destinations listed below. Some of these places are great natural wonders, others are important historical or cultural attractions. Still others are resorts or just places where you can have a good time. But all of these “tourist traps” are worth your time, money and attention.
1. Yosemite National Park, California. Yosemite pretty much has it all: magnificent natural wonders, hiking, biking, trail riding, campsites, tourist cabins and choice hotel accommodations. Portions of the park are open all year, but the main season usually begins in May. In 2012, the park hosted more than 4 million visitors.
2. The Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York, NY. A gift from France, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and became a national monument in 1924. Access is exclusively by ferry from either Battery Park in Manhattan or Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Approximately 4 million people visit the statue each year.
3. The National Mall & Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C. The National Mall itself is the long greenway that stretches between the U.S. Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial. The park also includes the Smithsonian Institution Museums, the Washington Monument and many nearby monuments, memorials and parks. The mall is open year round.
4. The Grand Canyon, Arizona. The Grand Canyon is truly grand. It is approximately 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and can reach a mile in depth. Visitors can hike, camp or raft through the park or trek on mules to the canyon floor. In 2012, the park had over 4 million visitors.
5. Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL. It’s crowded, expensive, over the top, and unforgettable for kids and adults alike. Disney World includes 40 square miles of theme parks, water parks, golf courses, shopping and entertainment areas, hotels and residential subdivisions. In 2010, the entire resort exceeded 37 million guests.
7. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA. With a view of the famous bridge, Golden Gate Park includes gardens, groves, museums, an aquarium, playgrounds and even has its own herd of buffalo. Run by the City of San Francisco, the park hosts about 13 million visitors per year.
8. Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA. Colonial Williamsburg commemorates the former Virginia colonial capital and historic and current home of The College of William And Mary. The park showcases Revolutionary War Era buildings and crafts and hosts numerous historical reenactments throughout the year.
9. Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, NV. Located at the intersection of Nevada Highway 593 and East Tropicana Avenue, The Strip is the center of the City’s attractions. Here, visitors can stay in high class hotels, gamble, shop, view world class shows, get married or just stroll along the street and see the sights.
10. Times Square, New York, NY. Sometimes called “the Center of the World,” Times Square includes hotels, theaters, musicals, Broadway plays, festivals, animated billboards and jumbotron video screens, restaurants and various modes of entertainment. It’s also the location for the annual New Years Eve Ball Drop, attended by millions each year and watched by many millions more on television.
11. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA. Faneuil Hall is the historic “hub” of Boston. It includes four separate areas: the historic meeting hall, itself, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market. Visitors can experience world class hotels, fine dining, and outdoor entertainment. The area receives around 18 million visitors annually.
12. Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro, AR. Crater of Diamonds sits atop a prehistoric volcano. Ancient volcanic eruptions brought diamonds to the surface and now, visitors to the park can dig for their own. The 37-acre site remains the only diamond area in the world where visitors are allowed to find and keep their own diamonds.
13. Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, MS. The Union victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863, along with the almost simultaneous victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, marked the crucial turning point of the American Civil War. Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the historic campaign and siege. Visitors can walk through a Civil War Era City, tour the Cairo Gunboat and Museum or view the National Cemetery.
14. The North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, NC. The North Carolina Zoo, is one of the largest natural habitat zoos in the United States. The 2,200-acre park includes about 1,600 individual animals, representing 225 species from around the world. The zoo receives about 700,000 visitors annually.
15. Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, OH. The Pro Football Hall of Fame bills itself as “America’s Premier Sports Showplace.” It hosts an annual “Enshrinement Festival,” in which new members are awarded an exhibit in the Hall’s museum, an annual fanfest, a marathon and various other events. More than 186,000 visitors toured the Hall in 2012.
16. Grand Ole’ Opry, Nashville, TN. Starting as a radio show in 1925, the Grand Ole’ Opry has been called “the home of America’s music.” The Opry features hundreds of country music shows annually, is Nashville’s #1 attraction and can still be heard on the radio.
17. Hershey’s Chocolate World, Hershey, PA. This chocolate fantasy-land showcases the history of the Hershey Candy Company and the history of chocolate in America. Visitors can tour a working chocolate factory, experience the rides and shows and enjoy in-park dining. Approximately 150 million guests have visited the park since it opened in 1973.
18. Harper’s Ferry, WV. Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Harpers Ferry was a U.S. government arsenal that played a crucial role during the American Civil War. The arsenal was captured by Confederate troops under Stonewall Jackson in 1862, during the Antietam Campaign. Visitors can tour the arsenal works or buy Civil War antiques at the town’s shops.
19. Balboa Park, San Diego, CA. Balboa Park hosts a miniature railroad, a carousel, a hospitality house, an international visitors program, museums, the United Nations Building and the San Diego Zoo. Home to many of the city’s clubs and cultural organizations, Balboa Park is a must see for visitors to San Diego.
20. Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA. Pike Place Market is the historic commercial center of Seattle. Pike Place contains farmers markets, fish/seafood markets, specialty stores, hotels, restaurants, and street musicians. Pike Place is a visual treat that should be included in any visit to Seattle.