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Trip Ideas

7 Tourist Traps to Avoid (and What You Should See Instead)

In the case of must-see tourist attractions, popular ≠ worthwhile, especially when insufferable mobs of iPad-wielding tourists and ludicrous prices are thrown into the mix. While we won't begrudge you if the Tour Eiffel is a top priority on your first Parisian rendezvous, if you've already been-there-done-that, we've got 7 alternative sites that are always worth their salt.

Chelsea is Brooklyn-based travel writer, editor, and photographer. When not home eating her way through NYC, she's gallivanting across the globe, sailing the coast of Croatia or hiking the peaks of Peru. Her superpowers include booking flight deals and sleeping in small plane seats.

See recent posts by Chelsea Bengier

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Paris: Sacré-Cœur, not the Eiffel Tower

Yes, the Eiffel Tower is gorgeous in all its glittering glory (and if it’s your first time in the City of Lights, by all means you should visit it). But, if you’re dreaming of a sunset picnic by the tower with a baguette and bottle of wine, brace yourself for a surprise. After all, nothing kills the mood faster than vendors hawking Eiffel Tower keychains and yelling pop culture references at you to get your attention (Lady Gaga is a popular one.) Instead, head to the heart of Parisian romance, Sacré-Cœur. Set above the charming Montmartre neighborhood, the Roman-Byzantine basilica is the highest point in Paris. Check out the colorful mosaics inside or climb the dome for a 360-degree view.

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Miami: Mid-Beach, not South Beach

Let’s take South Beach for what it really is: a hub for hard-partiers who throw back slushy alcoholic drinks at bars like Wet Willie’s. Meanwhile, the scene is much more polished and refined just a bit north. Here, you’ll find high-end hotels like 1 Hotel and Miami Beach Edition where a creative crowd sips cocktails in posh poolside cabanas. There’s also a lively arts culture thanks to the Faena and its 50,000-square-foot, Rem Koolhaas-designed complex.

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Florence: San Miniato al Monte, not Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo is popular for a reason: it overlooks the Arno River, the Duomo, and the Ponte Vecchio. But unfortunately, those beautiful views are often spoiled by people selling David miniatures and watered-down gelato. Avoid all this by climbing further up the mountain, past the blooming rose garden to San Miniato. Built in 1018, it’s one of the most striking Romanesque basilicas in Florence (and some say, all of Italy). If you’re lucky, you may even hear the monks’ Gregorian chanting.

RELATED: The Most Beautiful Hilltop Towns in Tuscany

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New York City: Bryant Park, not Times Square

We hate to break it to you, but Times Square isn’t as exciting as you might expect. Unless your idea of a good time is having Elmo chase after you and scam-artists soliciting sightseeing excursions. So trade Times Square’s bright lights for Bryant Park, just a few blocks away. Bordered by the stunning New York Public Library, this sprawling green is a central meeting place for locals. In the summer, there are outdoor concerts, movies on the lawn, and games like table tennis, life-size chess, mini-golf and more. Then, during the holidays, it’s transformed into the Winter Village with an open-air ice rink and charming artisanal market.

RELATED: 10 Stylish (and Affordable) NYC Stays

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Photo by Chelsea Bengier


Chicago: Nature Boardwalk, not Navy Pier

Sure, Navy Pier does has its worthy sights (namely Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Chicago Children’s Museum), but for the most part, it feels more like a cheesy carnival than a jaw-dropping monument. We recommend going for a stroll along the Nature Boardwalk by the Lincoln Park Zoo, where you’ll see birds, turtles and other wildlife as well as spot-on views of the city skyline.

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London: Sky Garden, not the London Eye

Want to get a bang for your buck? Swap the London Eye for the free Sky Garden. Towering at 500-feet high (that’s 50 feet more than the London Eye), the three-story glass dome has manicured public gardens, observation decks, two restaurants, two bars and an open-air terrace.

RELATED: 15 London Hotels We Absolutely Adore

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LA: Chateau Marmont, not Hollywood Boulevard

So you want to see the stars? While mobs of fans hit Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame, we’d much rather catch the celebs in person. And there’s no better place to do that than at the famous Chateau Marmont, which has been a movie star hideaway since it opened in 1929. Some of the biggest A-list scandals have gone down here (just ask Lindsay Lohan), and big-names like Robert De Niro, Leo DiCaprio, and Jennifer Aniston (among many more!) have been spotted at Bar Marmont and its coveted patio tables.

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