6 Popular Tourist Activities & Why They’re Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be

There are certain travel experiences you’ll see advertised nearly everywhere you go. They might sound exciting at first. In fact, you might even do them once just so you can experience them.

But when it really comes down to it, these experiences are not all they’re cracked up to be. Let’s take a look at these overrated tourist attractions.

A View From the Most Iconic Building

The view from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

If you’re in Paris, it’s the Eiffel Tower. If you’re in Toronto, it’s the CN Tower. If you’re in Auckland, it’s the Sky Tower. Major cities all over the world have “see the view from the tallest building” on their must-do list.

However, it’s a to-do item that we have skipped many times. Why? Well, first of all – it’s usually ridiculously expensive. Lee and I skipped the sky100 Tower in Hong Kong because it was 169 HKD each to go up ($20 USD). That seems a lot for 5-10 minutes of looking at a bird’s eye view of a city.

However, there’s another reason why this experience isn’t that great – and I realised it when I was taking photos of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

My photos were missing one of the city’s most famous buildings, an iconic symbol of Paris… because I was standing on it. A much better view of Paris, with the tower included, was the one I saw from the steps of the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre (and it didn’t cost a thing.)

Green Screen Photos From Attractions

How weird is it that when you visit a major tourist attraction, such as Niagara Falls, you’ll see a little booth where you can have your photo taken in front of a green screen and purchase a printout of yourself at FAKE Niagara Falls?

This seems totally ridiculous to me. I mean… the real attraction is RIGHT THERE?!? Why not take an actual photo in front of it? For free?

These fake green screen photos look so cheesy and always seem like such a rip-off. What’s the point?

Most Cooking Classes

Sometimes, cooking classes can be really fun way to discover the local culture in a destination and learn how to cook an authentic recipe. They can help you to discover new ingredients, learn more about a new culture and improve your cooking skills.

However, they can sometimes be pretty simplistic and overpriced for what they are. (For example, this class where you cook Chicken fricassee and morel mushroom quiche… for £279 per person!) There are many disappointed reviews out there for cooking classes that just don’t offer good value.

Don’t avoid cooking classes completely, but make sure that you read reviews to determine whether you are getting a good value experience.

Brewery Tours

No offense to all of the passionate beer geeks out there, but once you’ve seen one brewery, you’ve seen them all.

Brewery tours are pretty much all the same – you’ll walk around in a warehouse and look at some big metal vats. After the first one, it’s really not that exciting. If you are into beers, it’s more fun to sit in the brewery bar, taste the beers and chat with the staff about them.

(The same doesn’t necessarily apply to wineries – because they are outdoors and feature different landscapes and pretty views.)

Pub Crawls

This might sound hypocritical, because I used to work for a pub crawl when I was backpacking around New Zealand in 2009. However, a pub crawl isn’t necessarily the best way to experience the nightlife of a new destination.

You’ll be herded around with a group of 20-30 other tourists, given cheap welcome shots and allowed only an hour or so in each bar before heading on to the next. Chances are you won’t find the most interesting, off-the-beaten track local bars – you’ll be in the touristy bars that have a special arrangement with the pub crawl organizer.

However, they aren’t all that bad. They can be a fun way to meet other travelers and can end up being a really fun night out. You just have to ask yourself whether or not you’d have just as much fun going out for drinks with that group of friendly people you met at your hostel.

Free Walking Tours

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have been on many free walking tours that I have really enjoyed. However, these tours can be hit or miss so I decided to put them on this list.

First of all, it’s important to understand that they aren’t free. (There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or a free tour.) They are advertised as “Free” but the tour guides work for tips, which means that you’ll be expected to give your guide some cash at the end of the walk. (You could technically walk away without paying, but that would be pretty rude.)

So, essentially it’s a pay-what-you-will tour. Also, they will probably try to upsell you to a different paid tour, or encourage you to come along on a pub crawl (see above for more about pub crawls.)

Secondly, they really vary in quality. If you go with an established name, such as Sandeman’s New Europe or Free Tour, there is a chance that the tour is pretty good. However, anyone can start up a free tour and some are not as great.

Lee and I went on one in Sydney, Australia that was so busy and disorganized that we got lost as the tour made its way through a busy marketplace. I went on a free walking tour in Tbilisi, Georgia with a tour guide who stopped for 10 minutes in the park to show off his melodic whistling skills. (No, I’m not kidding. It was bizarre.)

I’ve been on tours where the historic information was thin or boring, the pace of the tour was frustrating. Usually the tour guides are enthusiastic no matter what. After all – they are working solely for tips.  

So, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend avoiding free walking tours altogether. If you find a good one they can be a great way to see the highlights of the city and a fun way to spend an afternoon. I would just read reviews online beforehand and choose your tour carefully.

What do you think?

Of course, please take my opinion with a pinch of salt. Just because I have included something in this list of travel experiences that are not all they’re cracked up to be, doesn’t mean that it will always be terrible. You might find a fantastic brewery tour or a cooking class that is the best part of your trip.

Remember, it’s your trip and you have the freedom to choose the activities that you enjoy the most.

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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One Comment

  1. I could not agree more about the iconic buildings with views. I refuse to go up the Eiffel Tower because the cost, the lines and the fact that the most iconic building in Paris would be missing from my view! I much prefer to picnic on the lawn in front of the Tower and admire the view from there. For walking tours, I agree that they can be hit or miss. I went on one in London that was a bit too crowded and we couldn’t really hear the tour guide. Which made it all the easier when we decided to just break off from the group and leave the tour. So that’s always an option if someone starts whistling and you need an out! lol

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