How to Beat the Crowds at 15 Popular Tourist Attractions
To avoid the crush, you'll need these insider tips; your photos will look like you had the place to yourself.
Vatican Museums: Vatican City
The Vatican draws more than five million people each year, and queues can reach four hours during peak season. Christie Hudson, senior communications manager at Expedia, recommends choosing a skip-the-line tour. “This not only lets you avoid the ticket counter but also includes the use of a private partner entrance.” Extra time to gawk at the majesty of the Sistine Chapel? Yes, please!
Bamboo Forest: Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto brims with historic shrines and temples, but its most Instagram-worthy sight has got to be the Bamboo Forest. If you’re longing to stroll the pathways and snap pictures in total serenity, Kyoto Arashiyama Travel Guide recommends hitting the famous Bamboo Grove Path as early in the morning as possible—think 7 a.m. if you’re up for it. Don’t miss these under-the-radar hidden gems you can only witness in Japan.
Chichen Itza: Yucatán, Mexico
Home to El Castillo and the Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itza is a must-see. But, yes, crowds come with the territory. Want to beat the rush? Schedule an early excursion that takes place before a site opens to the public. Led by an archaeologist guide, it’s full of fascinating insights and facts—without tons of fanny pack-wearing tourists.
Louvre Museum: Paris, France
The Louvre is one of the most popular museums on the planet. If waiting around in line to get in isn’t the way you prefer to spend your sojourn to Paris, consider purchasing a reserved time slot ticket. This will give you entry to the pyramid within a half-hour window. The Louvre is also open until 9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays if you’re up for some late-night art peeping. Not a fan of lines? You should go right ahead and skip the 50 most overrated tourist attractions in the world.
Stonehenge: Wiltshire, United Kingdom
If you want to learn more about your Neolithic ancestors, Stonehenge is the place to do it. The only problem: hordes of fellow history buffs with the same idea. “The inner circle access tour is a smart way to dodge the crowds and gain a different perspective while exploring the roped-off areas,” says TripAdvisor spokesperson Molly Burke.
High Roller: Las Vegas, Nevada
An aptly named 550-foot observation wheel, High Roller was Expedia’s most sought-after activity in 2018. No surprise, the queue—like the views—are soaring. Savvy jet-setters will tell you that avoiding peak hours and dates results in an experience that feels pretty darn magical. Most visitors go at night to see the city lights sparkle, so planning for the afternoon or a late after-midnight experience will give you the best chances at short lines. And if you’re looking to save a few bucks, pre-buying tickets is always a good idea.
Taj Mahal: Agra, India
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal: first thing in the morning when it opens. But there’s another layer to this common piece of advice, according to travel writer Nate Hake. As soon as you arrive, head straight to the back. “The rest of the onlookers will inevitably stop in front to stare at the Taj Mahal reflecting over the pool; however, if you beeline to the impressive rear, you’re likely to be nearly alone for a half-hour.” That means lots of opportunity for selfies without anyone else in the frame. Bonus: India lands on our list of awesomely affordable vacation destinations.
Lincoln Memorial: Washington, D.C.
Abraham Lincoln remains one of America’s most revered presidents. And the national monument erected in his honor gets a lot of attention. Luckily, you can avoid school trips and tour buses by going during off-peak hours. Many people don’t realize that the Lincoln Memorial is open 24/7. Go in the evening or at sunrise for a private audience with Honest Abe.
Machu Picchu: Cusco Region, Peru
Were you aware that these impressive ruins have exploded in popularity to the point that Peruvian authorities are starting to impose restrictions? Hake suggests securing an advanced booking to climb nearby Machu Picchu Mountain. “It’s a moderately difficult 90-minute climb that offers stunning views of the citadel without the crowds,” he says. Tickets cost less than $15 and are sold as an add-on when purchasing general entrance passes through the official government website.
Museum of Modern Art: New York City
The MoMA is as much a part of the Big Apple as the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. Because of that, it’ll take more than a New York minute to get in … unless you time it just right. Avoid Fridays after 4 p.m., when admission is free, and school holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas week, and spring break. Plan your visit on a weekday morning. Pay full price and relish room to roam. Find out which 10 common travel tips aren’t true anymore.
Walt Disney World: Orlando, Florida
Walt Disney World may be known as the happiest place on Earth, but waiting for hours with kiddos is enough to make any sane person question that moniker. “To the park’s credit, it has come up with several ways to help vacationers hack the system,” says Hudson. “FastPass+ is great for reserving rides in advance and jumping to the front of the pack during specific windows.” Learn 20 more secrets to beating crowds and saving money at amusement parks.
Yosemite National Park: Yosemite, California
Yosemite National Park is a playground for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies. Even with more than 1,100 square miles of wilderness, it still gets busy at certain spots. Your best bet for blissful wide-open space? Darshika Jones, North American director for Intrepid Travel, is a proponent of small group tours. “The leader can help organize equipment rentals and pay park fees in advance, so you don’t have to deal with it there,” she says. Arriving early and seeking out less frequented entrances, like the northern and eastern entry points of Yosemite National Park, will serve you well too.
Empire State Building: New York City
The Empire State Building is one of the most famous cultural attractions in the world. There are two ways to hedge your bets against hordes at this iconic landmark. As Hudson puts it, “be an early bird or a night owl.” You can start the day with soaring views from the observation deck before the masses. Not a morning person? No problem—the Empire State Building stays open until 2 a.m.! Here are 10 more of the most popular cultural attractions you’ll want to visit.
Eiffel Tower: Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower welcomes seven million admirers annually. If you’re not keen on standing in line, désolée (that’s French for “sorry”), because there’s pretty much always a wait. To avoid the box office, score an e-ticket up to 60 days in advance. And whatever you do, stay away from the Eiffel Tower at sunset, when lovebirds flock to this iconic monument for romantic photo-ops.
Colosseum: Rome, Italy
The largest amphitheater ever built and an enduring symbol of ancient Rome, the Colosseum was TripAdvisor’s most booked attraction in 2018. Needless to say, you’re bound to encounter crowds. But that doesn’t mean you have to hang with ’em. The special access Colosseum tour comes with admission through a separate entrance, so you can bypass the queue and step straight onto the arena floor where the gladiatorial games went down centuries ago. Make sure you know about these 13 tourist traps that are actually worth visiting.