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15 Less Crowded Alternatives to the Most Popular Tourist Attractions

Calling a hot spot "overrated" does not mean that it is unworthy of a visit, but rather that there might be an alternative that is less expensive and crowded. Check out these solid alternatives to some of the most frequently visited attractions and destinations around the United States.

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courtesy Jason Varney

Baltimore’s Washington Monument

You can’t miss the iconic Washington Monument in the nation’s capital, but the first monument to the country’s first president was actually erected in Baltimore. Located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood where many well-known writers like Emily Post and F. Scott Fitzgerald resided, this statue is less crowded, more historic, and close to the famous Peabody Library. The monument was designed by the same architect that created the D.C. landmark. Rooms at Hotel Revival Baltimore, a Joie de Vivre property, enjoy some of the best views. The United States isn’t the only place with overrated sites—these are the most overrated attractions around the world.

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Bourbon Street in New Orleans
courtesy Paul Broussard and New Orleans & Company

Bourbon Street in New Orleans

One of the city’s most popular attractions is this energetic strip known for its lively bars, party scene, and occasional debauchery. But, for most, Bourbon Street can be a bit overrated. Those in-the-know should budget the most time for Frenchmen Street, which is similarly active and alive albeit a bit less touristy. You’ll find live music venues offering every style of performance from impromptu jazz to bars with traditional rock tunes. The Royal Frenchmen Hotel & Bar will have you front and center to all the action.

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courtesy Alabastro Photography

Try Seattle over San Francisco

It may not have a famous red bridge, but it enjoys similar bayfront views and a vibrant cultural scene throughout its hilly cityscape. The natural mountain backdrop adds to the outdoors appeal of Washington state’s biggest city where Pike Place Market packs in hundreds of creative spots to shop and dine. It is every bit as eclectic as San Fran’s Ferry Building Marketplace. Chinatown-International District offers food and shopping from a multitude of Asian backgrounds, and city sights like the Space Needle and the waterfront Great Wheel are perfect for families. The new Hyatt Regency Seattle, decked out in natural wood, local art, and minimalist furnishings and the largest hotel in the Pacific Northwest, is in the center of the city’s most visited attractions.

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Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
courtesy South Dakota Department of Tourism

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

While a big draw, most visitors are underwhelmed by Mount Rushmore, which seems smaller than one might expect. Save more time to visit the Badlands National Park for its 244,000 acres of eroded buttes, grass prairies, and hiking trails. Campers will find the nighttime stargazing to be a magical experience. This is the largest mixed-grass prairie in the National Park System and is packed with roaming wildlife including bison, mule and whitetail deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, vultures, eagles, and hawks. This is one of the state’s top attractions and regularly earns high accolades from visitors especially after snapping a quick photo at Mount Rushmore. Get inspired for your trip with these spectacular photos of National Parks that will leave you awestruck.

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courtesy Waikiki slide

Waimea Bay outshines Waikiki any day

While all eyes are often on famed Waikiki Beach, it can be crowded and packed with tourists. Instead, head for Waimea Bay for excellent snorkeling and swimming. Waikiki’s shore has a larger swell in summertime meaning less experienced swimmers fare better at Waimea Bay. In the winter, it’s also where people can watch professional surfers tackle waves that can reach 25 feet, which draws surfers from around the world to the island of Oahu. The scenic drive from Waimea Bay is reason enough to visit, and Turtle Bay Resort is one of the closest properties near this relaxed stretch of beach.

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Enjoy the HOLLYWOOD sign from bed

While the HOLLYWOOD sign is a landmark of Los Angeles, it is quite far from most of Hollywood. And, it is not permitted to climb up to the sign itself. Instead, catch views of the sign from bed at The Kimpton Everly Hotel in Hollywood. While the sign itself is rather underwhelming, the hotel is only a short walk away from a major stretch of the Hollywood Walk of Fame where you will find the sidewalk stars of your favorite music, TV, and film icons. It’s a much better way to enjoy the celebrity world despite the sign’s legendary hype.

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Southern Oregon
courtesy Travel Southern Oregon

Been to the Grand Canyon? Try Crater Lake National Park

Whether you’ve already seen it or just want to skip the crowds, the 1,943 feet deep Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon is the deepest and bluest lake in America. In fact, it is the ninth deepest lake in the nation. With cliffs almost 2,000 feet high, the views of this natural wonder are exceptionally glamorous. This is a great alternative for those looking to explore the great outdoors without the crowds. Activities include hiking, backpacking, picnicking, and boating; in the winter, both cross country skiing and snowshoeing are popular. The spring-to-fall Crater Lake Lodge is the only hotel within the national park and a favorite of repeat visitors.

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courtesy Adrienne McLeod

Tucson can match Scottsdale any day

These two destinations share common traits like desert heat and stunning mountain backdrops, but Tucson deserves attention for its laid-back appeal and less inflated prices to resorts and activities. Tucson is the first American city to become part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for gastronomy, honoring Southern Arizona’s food traditions and culinary innovation. With more than 40 popular golf courses and big-name resorts like Canyon Ranch and Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa luring everyone from spa aficionados to business travelers, Tucson doesn’t get enough credit in the shadows of glitzy Scottsdale.

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Catalina Island
courtesy Catalina Express

Head to Catalina Island instead of Santa Monica

Tourist lore draws people to Santa Monica Pier, but travelers looking for something more authentic are better off hopping the Catalina Express to Catalina Island from Long Beach or Dana Point. Once there, fine dining, eclectic shopping, and a historic casino are just some of the attractions that have been drawing celebrities and locals for years. The island boasts many renovated lodging options including the popular Hotel Atwater. Avoid the tourist traps of many Los Angeles waterfront venues and head for a well-kept secret off the coast instead. Couples, in particular, will love it as it’s one of the most romantic island destinations in the United States.

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Traverse City
courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Cherry Blossoms in Michigan instead of Washington, D.C.

Avoid the camera-toting crowds of D.C. by snapping cherry blossom photos in Michigan. Lakefront Traverse City is well-known for the plentiful cherry blossom trees that cover the rolling hills and countryside. In fact, the city is known as the “cherry capital of the world.” The cherry blossoms are at their peak in mid-May and last only for a week or two. The state highway along the Old Mission Peninsula offers some of the most stunning photo opportunities.

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susana valera/shutterstock

Artsy Miami, meet West Palm Beach

The host city for the annual Art Basel event and home to the blossoming Wynwood district, Miami is no stranger to the art scene. A short drive up the coastline, West Palm Beach is home to an art hot spot of its own, however. You’ll find more than 30 larger-than-life public art displays at the newly reimagined Rosemary Square, and a $120 million renovation to the Norton Museum of Art is deserving of attention for its latest exhibition of Toulouse-Lautrec’s daring private collection. The Hilton West Palm Beach, an urban lifestyle hotel is home to an expansive contemporary art display of its own.

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Could Reno be the next Austin?
courtesy Reno Tahoe

Could Reno be the next Austin?

Keep Reno Rad is the city’s unofficial tag line and is quite fitting given its growing music, art, and food scene. A booming tech sector is also propelling the community forward with more attractions to keep visitors busy. Craft breweries, gastropubs, and plenty of music venues are popping up around town, and the world’s largest industrial park at 15,000 acres of land is drawing tech companies galore. The annual OffBeat Music Festival draws over 300 performances from every style of music, and that’s not to mention the annual Burning Man Festival that draws global attendance north of the city. Vibrant street art and life-sized sculptures now populate the downtown scene adding just the right amount of creativity and eclectic energy. Try downtown, dog-friendly Whitney Peak Hotel with the world’s tallest climbing wall and bouldering park.

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Booker Vineyard
courtesy Paso Robles Slide - Booker Vineyard

Visit Paso Robles for the same Napa Valley vibe

If you want fewer tourists competing for a wine tasting and more affordable lodging, try Paso Robles, California (near San Luis Obispo between Los Angeles and San Francisco). Paso is often referred to as the Brooklyn of California wine country with an edgier vibe and a more independent spirit. Because of its numerous “microclimates” and rich soil, it is known for a variety of grapes including Syrah, Grenache, and Tempranillo. Beyond its many vineyards including popular Booker Vineyard, tourists can pay a visit to well-known landmarks like Hearst Castle.

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Statue of Liberty
Matej Hudovernik/Shutterstock

Statue of Liberty succumbs to overcrowding

One of New York’s iconic landmarks, the Statue of Liberty may leave time-strapped tourists stressed waiting in lines and pushing to the front for photo ops. Restrictions have been put into place to limit private tours visiting the monument. While it is a thrill to climb to the top, it might be more enjoyable to snap a photo and spend more time at Ellis Island instead. Here, you will learn about the history of immigration to the United States and the grueling travel experience so many people endured before being processed to enter the country. Learn these facts about the Statue of Liberty instead, and catch views of both from rooms on the east side of the Conrad New York Downtown.

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courtesy Redding

Yosemite without the crowds: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Near Redding, California (just over two hours north of Sacramento), Lassen Volcanic National Park bubbles and steams just like Yosemite National Park albeit without the crowds—it’s one of our favorite off-the-beaten-path national parks. The scenic drive from Redding boasts mountainous scenery, and once you arrive, you’ll discover this is the only spot in the world where all four different types of volcanos are found in one spot (shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome). Whether you’re into geology or just like to see something new, the hydrothermal activity provides plenty to explore. Don’t worry, picnicking is a favorite pastime, too, amid the wildflowers and crystalline lake backdrops. Make Redding’s Best Western Plus Hilltop your home base in the Shasta Cascade region because it is especially close to nearby restaurants and bars once you’re ready to settle in for the evening.

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Ramsey Qubein
Ramsey Qubein covers the hotel, cruise, and airline industry from every corner of the globe. He is highly recognized as an expert in travel loyalty programs and writes for RD.com's Travel section. You'll find Ramsey flying more than 450,000 miles per year on his quest to visit every country on the planet (166 and counting so far). His work has appeared in numerous publications including Reader's Digest, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel+Leisure, CNBC.com, AFAR, Robb Report, Business Traveler, BBC Worldwide, USA Today, Frommers.com, Fodors.com, and NerdWallet.com. He is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and completed a Master’s Degree thesis studying the history of branding in the airline industry. Follow along on his travels via Instagram and Twitter.