It's often difficult to determine which famous tourist attractions are little more than cheesy "tourist traps" and which are actually worth the hype.
For this reason, it can be tempting to simply avoid some of the most famous attractions altogether. Think about it this way, though: they're famous for a reason and many are absolutely worth a visit, at least once in your lifetime.
Here are some of our picks for the world's top tourist attractions that actually live up to the hype, along with insider tips for making your visit enjoyable.
Famous Tourist Attractions Worth a Visit
From awe-inspiring natural landmarks to incredible feats of engineering and even famous streets, these are some of the world's most famous tourist attractions that actually live up to the hype.
1. Niagara Falls
It's no surprise that more than 8 million people visit Niagara Falls every year. Not only is it the oldest state park in America, it's also one of the fastest-moving waterfalls in the entire world. Technically, Niagara Falls is comprised of three equally-spectacular waterfalls: American, Bridal View, and Horseshoe Falls.
Insider tip: There are several observation decks with fantastic views of the falls, but to really get the most out of this famous tourist attraction, book a Maid of the Mist boat cruise. Prepare to get (very) wet!
2. Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the incredible "Great 8" attractions in South Dakota, is well-deserving of a visit for several reasons. There is perhaps no more iconic symbol of Americana and democracy, but the real star of the show here is the incredible engineering feat.
400 men started constructing Mount Rushmore in 1927, sand-blasting the rock and carving the intricate facial features by hand. The masterpiece was finished in 1941, with each of the four faces at over 60 feet tall. Mount Rushmore cost nearly $1 million to complete and keep in mind, that was nearly 100 years ago!
Insider tip: Plan your visit for after the sunset, during the evening lighting ceremony. Seeing the memorial is neat, but this ceremony offers a ton of insight into the "why" behind it and will help you understand why exactly Mount Rushmore is one of the most worthy tourist attractions.
3. The Colosseum
Speaking of insane engineering feats! The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built, measuring about 510 feet by 615 wide in an elliptical shape. It's made almost entirely of travertine stone and accommodated up to 50,000 spectators who would come to watch gladiator fights, hunts, and even executions.
Insider tip: Absolutely book a tour of The Colosseum's underground chambers and tunnels. This is where gladiators prepared for battle and animals were housed, and experiencing this gives you a much more authentic look into the Roman Emperor era.
4. French Quarter
New Orleans truly has a culture all its own. It's distinctly Southern, it's very French, it's an incredible blend of Old World and modern-day, and the food and music scenes are unmatched. The French Quarter, in particular, embodies every one of these aspects, as it's one of the oldest residential communities in America. Plus, it's right on the Mississippi River.
Insider tip: Unless you really, legitimately love partying, avoid Bourbon Street. Better yet, walk it during the day when it's clean and quiet, so can actually appreciate the beautiful architecture and all the amazing places to eat.
5. Grand Canyon National Park
Not many places on Earth can claim that they're both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. But the Grand Canyon can, which is precisely what makes it one of the most worthy tourist attractions anywhere.
The canyon, carved over eons by the Colorado River, is one mile deep, 277 miles long, and a staggering 18 miles across at its widest point.
Insider tip: The Grand Canyon has multiple rims and to get the full experience, you absolutely should visit more than one. The most accessible and popular is the South Rim, but there's so much more to this incredible natural wonder.
Closed in the winter, the North Rim is the most remote (i.e., least crowded), while the West Rim is home to the incredible SkyWalk.
Psst...the Grand Canyon is just a quick detour off of Route 66, another famous toursit attraction that's well worth a stop!
6. Pike Place Market
It's hard to really define Seattle's Pike Place Market. An extremely popular tourist destination, the market welcomes over 10 million visitors each year, but it's also well-loved by locals.
The market houses over 500 vendors and has been continuously open since 1907, making it the oldest of its kind in the United States. It's also the site of the first-ever Starbucks, opened in 1971, a worthy stop in and of itself!
Insider tip: To find the famous "flying fish," head to the fish market at the corner of Pike Street and Pike Place. Also, arrive VERY hungry!
7. Great Barrier Reef
Another of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef stretches 1,430 miles off Australia's east coast, encompassing over 600 islands. 2,900 individual reefs, and thousands upon thousands of rare marine species. With nothing in the world even remotely comparable, this is one famous tourist attraction that's well worth its hype!
Insider tip: If you have the funds, book a multi-day cruise. These are the only excursions that get visitors up-close and personal with some of the more remote, pristine reefs and islands, well away from most tourists.
8. Yellowstone National Park
America's oldest national park (actually, the world's oldest national park — Yellowstone was literally the very first one!) is also one of the most famous tourist attractions on Earth. Between the geysers, the wildlife, the mountains, and the waterfalls, it's easy to understand why.
Insider tip: Give yourself at least a couple of full days in Yellowstone. The park is massive, and a day trip simply isn't enough to get off the beaten path. Major tourist stops like Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring are musts, but if those are all you see, you'll leave feeling like the only thing you really experienced was crowds.
9. Disney World
Even if you're not a huge Disney fan, a visit to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is a rite of passage. The cheerful characters, enchanting castle, vast variety of rides, Mickey ear-shaped everything, and all the delicious treats really do make this theme park the happiest place on Earth!
Insider tip: If you're going to do Disney World, do it big. This is one tourist attraction where it's well worth it to splurge on eating like a king (err...we mean a Disney princess!), a hotel right inside the park, and fast passes. Disney offers a variety of options including Genie Plus and Lightning Lane.
10. The Great Pyramid of Giza
Mankind is still trying to make sense of how the Egyptian pyramids were constructed — by hand. Just for the chance to look up at it, the Great Pyramid is one of the most hype-worthy famous tourist attractions in the world.
The Great Pyramid stands 481 feet tall and was the tallest man-made structure on Earth for over 3,800 years. It contains 2.3 million stone blocks, some weighing up to 80 tons. To this day, scientists and experts have not solved the mystery as to how they were transported 500 miles.
Insider tip: Every day, tons of tour buses descend upon Giza between 9-10:00am. To avoid the intense crowds, arrive by 8:00am or plan your visit for about an hour before the last entry (3-4:00pm, depending on the season).
Souvenirs for the World's Most Famous Tourist Attractions
Have you been to any of these famous tourist attractions and if so, what did you think? Are they worth the hype?
Regardless of where you've been, which destinations are still on your bucket list, and whether or not they're worth the hype, it's important to document your travels! One of the best ways to do that is with Travel Tokens from The Wander Club.
Collect Landmark Tokens for all the places you've been (or National Park Tokens, US State Tokens, Baseball Stadium Tokens...you get the idea!) and add them to your favorite Token Holder for a truly custom travel souvenir. Safe travels!