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Readers Defend Their Favorite ‘Tourist Traps’

Since we published The World’s Worst Tourist Traps last weekend, hundreds of you have left comments on the story. Many of you offered your own picks, but some wrote in to share what you love about the destinations we featured. As we said in the story: “one man’s trap is another man’s treasure.”

And we’re convinced. After reading your comments, I’m ready to hit Niagara Falls for the Maid of the Mist tour and marvel at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Still not sure I’m ready to kiss the Blarney Stone though (read on to find out why).

So here we go. Here are your reasons for not missing:

Walt Disney World

Namretep did the math to discover the value of Disney: “I think Disney World is a pretty good deal. We got five-day passes, which cost around $400 total for myself and daughter: an average of $80 a day, or about $2 an hour for the 40 hours we spent in the parks.” Slpocza said, “also did this trip last year and it was worth every penny. The kids were the perfect age to be enchanted and we stayed in one of the value resorts for a decent price.”

To avoid the crowds, readers suggested going in the off season. Kell52 reported that a trip was “Well worth it in late October/early November.” And Aims.Consulting summed up the appeal of the parks in commenting that “every parent loves to see the smiles on their children’s faces that makes it all worthwhile.”

Niagara Falls

The majority of readers who wrote in about Niagara Falls mentioned the Maid of the Mist boat tour as a must-do. Kari wrote, “I highly recommend ‘The Maid of the Mist’ boat ride. Incredible!!” And oldcomputergeek said, “The Maid of the Mist boat is easily worth the price. I would pay more to do it again.”

Many of you wrote in with experience-enhancing tips for a Niagara Falls visit. AkronMaid said, “When we go, we cross the Niagara River by Lake Erie and drive the parkway along the river on the Canadian side. It is exciting to watch the river get stronger and wilder. When you approach from that direction, there is no ‘tacky’. A favorite spot besides behind the falls is to take the walkway (Canadian side) to the rapids and whirlpool downstream from the falls.” Abruton wrote, “One of the best things to do at Niagara Falls is drive the river road from the falls to Niagara on the Lake. Absolutely one of the most beautiful drives in the world.”

Some had money- and sanity-saving tips as well. Wanderer62 advised, “park on the US side and walk across to view from the Canadian side and avoid the hassle you are talking about.” And WhiteOak said, “a visit to Niagara Falls can be free. You can get great views of the river and the Falls from the state park on the New York side or public viewing areas on the Ontario side, and there are fine places to picnic – the ultimate budget meal.”

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa had its share of defenders. Reader urbaneone said, “Having done a good share of traveling, this was the most spectacular thing I’ve seen.” And ktrojas wrote, “standing on top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is thrilling.”

Even if you don’t climb the tower, there’s still reason to visit. Waydownupon commented, “The Plaza as a whole is really breathtaking in scale. The white marble set against the green lawns and a blue sky doesn’t cost a thing.” And ernesto28 said, “True the tower gets all the play, however, there are many interesting and exciting galleries, museums, cafes and restaurants to see, visit and partake of.”

Empire State Building

Reader pbridge1300 commented that “the Empire State Building is part of the history and the romance of New York City.” Cll advised timing a trip for the best experience: “I went to the Empire State building in early evening, and went right up to the top. (It was spring.) The view at night is spectacular, and worth the price.” And if you’re just looking for a view of the city, dave0508 suggested: “Skip the ESB and go to the Top of the Rock, much better view.”

Venice Gondola Ride

Sewhappy wrote in to say that “the gondola ride in Venice was one of the high points of our visit to that city with 2 teen-aged daughters. Of course, we walked along the canal & interviewed the gondoliers until we found one who would answer our questions during the ride instead of giving a canned spiel or just poling along.” Iampacked also had great memories, commenting, “we had a wonderful gondola driver who sang Arrivederci Roma for us! I loved it.”

Think it’s too expensive? Phn3101 said, “I went to Venice a few years ago and got to ride a gondola ride for $30 US it was off season so I guess they were willing to deal.” Want to explore the canals for less money? Patio commented, “You can do just as well by taking a water taxi around Venice and save mega euros.”


MBrandes1 suggested the absolute cheapest way to see Stonehenge: “You don’t have to pay anything to see it at a distance—you are driving along the road, and all of a sudden, there it is—right in the middle of a field. If you want to touch the stones themselves, go to Avebury.” Reader Lhildeb1 wrote in to say, “Although it’s true you’re not allowed to actually walk among the stones anymore it’s definitely worth the admission price – which I thought quite reasonable.”

Dolores1 offered this way of getting up close to the stones: “It’s easy to book a “private” one hour visit at dawn or dusk; up to 26 people allowed at a time. You can walk in/around the stones, touch them and hug them if you like. We’ve done it twice and I’d do it again. Magnificent.”

Blarney Stone

According to readers, the Blarney Stone itself is only part of the reason to pay a visit. “Even if you don’t want that experience, you should NOT miss the grounds at Blarney Castle. They are both beautiful and ENCHANTING! If you go in shoulder season, it is not crowded and the weather is nice also,” said Wanderer62. And Michiamacon wrote, “Simply climbing the stairs in the castle where the stone resides gave me a glimpse of life hundreds of years ago that was unforgettable–not too lux to say the least.”

And since multiple readers brought up the “do local kids sneak up and pee on the Blarney stone at night” question (most memorably patio, who wrote:  “The inside scoop is that the locals visit it for a nighttime ‘baptism.'”), I did a little research. No definitive answer, though forums on both Lonely Planet and give plenty of reasons why it’s unlikely to be true.

Do you have more suggestions for ways to make a trip to one of these spots better, cheaper, or more memorable?

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