Living in a top tourist destination can be as irritating as it is magical. Some places are so overrun with visitors that they’ve restricted or encouraged them to stay away entirely as tourists flocking to see a city’s world-famous attractions can often become an inconvenience to locals if not an outright threat to those very attractions.
While many locals have come to hate some famous landmarks, there are those that truly do hold enough charm that even the locals can’t stay away for too long. There is a reason certain buildings, structures, markets, amusement parks, and restaurants have become so popular; locals are often the first to discover their charm and, often, locals are the ones who have the most pride in them. Despite being considered “tourist traps” by many, these 33 attractions are still a hit with the locals.
Broadway tickets can get ridiculously expensive, especially when it comes to mega-hits such as “Hamilton” or “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” but even native New Yorkers know this travel cliché is actually worth experiencing. Home to the absolute best performances in the world, Broadway is the leading theater destination and an obligatory stop for anyone who’s ever been in Manhattan.
Open since 1843, Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest amusement park in the world and also serves as a pleasure garden, hosting events, carnivals, food vendors, and shows enjoyed by both tourists and locals alike. Wintertime is especially magical here, which is just one reason why Copenhagen is one of the best Christmas cities in the world.
The biggest mall in America is not just a tourist destination, but also a shopping destination with the most extensive retail options in the country. More than 530 stores populate the Mall of America, which is also home to two food courts, movie theaters, an aquarium, a comedy club, mini-golfing, a Crayola Experience, and a virtual reality sports entertainment center, as well as Nickelodeon Universe, an amusement park with 27 rides.
San Diego Zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the world, home to more than 3,700 animals from over 650 species and subspecies. One of the first zoos to have an open-air exhibit in which animals live in more natural habitats rather than cages, it’s also one of the few places in the world where you can actually see a giant panda.
The city of Rome is more than used to tourists, but locals still don’t frequent spots like the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain as much as visitors do. The Spanish Steps, however, are still quite popular among Romans, as they’re a great place to relax and enjoy the view as well as enjoy the shops surrounding the Piazza di Spagna at the base of the steps.
Probably the best spot for classic New York-style pizza, John’s of Bleecker Street is one of America’s top pizzerias. Founded by an Italian immigrant in 1929, it continues to bake its pizzas in a coal-fired brick oven to this day with all sorts of toppings available — pepperoni, ground sausage, sliced meatball, anchovies, mushrooms, onions, peppers, basil, ricotta, black olives, garlic, and sliced or roasted tomatoes. You won’t be able to order a slice here, however; the iconic New York institution only serves whole pies.
Kentucky’s historic Bourbon Country has a strong drink culture, particularly when it comes to, of course, bourbon. Not only do enthusiastic drinkers from around the world come to this region to try its famous bourbon, but locals also frequent the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, as well as enjoy the local history and beautiful scenery.
Take a summer trip to this island located on Lake Huron between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, known for its automobile ban and famous fudge. Mackinac (pronounced MAK-i-naw) is a great place to go biking, hiking, paddling, or horse-riding, and both fishing and golfing are popular endeavors as well.
You can get an incredible view of Berlin from the top of Fernsehturm — which literally translates to “television tower” in typically straightforward German fashion — which not only has an observation deck, but also a rotating restaurant and the highest bar in the city. Welcoming over a million people every year, it’s one of the top attractions in all of Germany.
The first Disney theme park, Disneyland in California is one of the happiest places on Earth no matter where you’re from. Discover the park’s many “lands” such as Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Mickey’s Toon Town, and the amazing new attraction Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A Disney vacation can get quite expensive, so locals tend to purchase annual passes, whereas visitors can always get discounted multi-day admission.
The beautiful town of Newport is known for its mansions and gorgeous coastline, making it a popular weekend getaway. Its famous cliff walk — a public walkway that’s 3.5 miles long and runs along that coastline and past the town’s mansions — has some of the most scenic views on the Eastern Seaboard, which can be great for a calming stroll or a romantic date.
An iconic landmark of an unforgettable destination, the Sydney Opera House is made up of multiple performance venues and sees more than 8 million visitors every year. More than 1.2 million of those people are audience members of its over 1,500 annual performances, and this beloved treasure of the city also earned a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
The Grand Canyon is undeniably beautiful and one of the greatest natural landmarks in the country. Beautiful natural scenery, stunning rock formations, and interesting critters make for fantastic hiking, and the Grand Canyon National Park has plenty of tours and events throughout the year.
One of the oldest continuously operated public farmers markets in America, Pike Place Market has been serving Seattle locals since 1907. More than 10 million people come here annually, making it a top tourist attraction as well as a top spot for locals looking for produce, crafts, home goods and delicious food from the many merchants, farmers and food vendors that have opened up shop here.
Founded by the son of Rudy Malnati, known for helping develop the recipe for Chicago’s deep-dish pizza, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is one of the absolute best pizzerias in the country — and probably the top spot for deep-dish. The most popular order is the Malnati Chicago Classic, which has lean sausage, vine-ripened tomato sauce, and extra mozzarella.
The surrounding town at Niagara Falls may be full of tourists and tourist trap restaurants and attractions, but the falls themselves are undeniably gorgeous. Located on the border with Canada, Niagara consists of three waterfalls which collectively have the highest flow rate of any cascade in the entire world. Catch a ride on Maid of the Mist and experience the power and beauty of the falls up close.
Located on the South Bank of the River Thames, the London Eye gives a wonderful view of the city. This top London attraction has won more than 85 awards in national and international tourism, making it an absolute must for everyone.
A top California attraction, not only is the Griffith Observatory an iconic part of Los Angeles, but it gives you great views of other equally famous local spots such as the Hollywood sign, the Capitol Records Tower, and downtown L.A. Not only is the observatory free but it’s a great spot to relax, and it also has scientific exhibits for guests to enjoy.
South Beach is the hip, artsy neighborhood of Miami Beach particularly known for its restaurant scene and nightlife, as well as its world-class beaches. You’ll find a melting pot of people from all over the world visiting this destination year round, but locals in the region also favor this spot for both family vacations and nights out with their friends.
This legendary D.C. food establishment is known for having some of the best hot dogs, as well as the best chili in the country. People from around the country make sure to stop at Ben’s Chili Bowl when in the nation’s capital, as can be seen from the long lines trailing out the door, but locals haven’t stopped eating here either. Famous faces spotted at Ben’s include Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Denzel Washington, and Bruno Mars.
The Eiffel Tower is a source of national pride, and the Bastille Day celebrations here can’t be beat. Built in the late 19th century, the tower has plenty of other charms as well; the top hosts the tallest observation deck open to the public in Europe, and the first two levels contain restaurants as well.
An indoor public market in the city center of Philadelphia, Reading Terminal Market has been open since 1893 and has over 100 merchants to choose from. Its culinary options are particularly notable, with some of the best food and drink in Pennsylvania having a presence here, and if you come on a Thursday, you can even get free samples.
Located just 15 miles from Boston, the historic city of Salem is best known for the Salem Witch Trials and indeed, it has plenty of witch-related museums and exhibitions, particularly around Halloween. There’s a lot of history here, however, as Salem is the birthplace of the U.S. National Guard, as well as home to the New England Pirate Museum, Salem Toy Museum, and the Peabody/Essex Museum, where you’ll find the world’s largest collection of Asian export art and some of the largest collections of maritime art.
The Celestial Seasonings tea plant offers free 45-minute guided tours that go through the entire process of how their tea is made, and visitors tend to enjoy their free samples of different types of teas as well as their art gallery consisting of artwork made from Celestial Seasonings tea boxes. In addition to the factory tour and its free goodies, locals also enjoy coming here for the tea shop.
Located in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island is just a 15-minute ferry ride from Pier 33, and is home to the famous abandoned Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, early military fortifications, the West Coast’s first operational light house, and beautiful natural scenery. Tours of the prison are popular among tourists as well as locals, but the island also continues to draw people in as a home for new art installations and exhibits for activists.
The largest open-air food market in America, Smorgasburg is located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, offering up cuisine from around the world with 100 local vendors. Setting up shop on the Williamsburg waterfront on Saturdays and in Prospect Park on the Sundays when it’s nice out, Smorgasburg goes indoors with just 25 vendors for the winter.
Considered one of Antoni Gaudí’s greatest masterpieces, Casa Batlló is a home that was redesigned by the Catalan modernist architect in 1904. Known locally as casa dels ossos (or “House of Bones”) due to the skeletal appearance of the exterior, it’s a popular tourist destination that locals visit often as well.
This Los Angeles neighborhood is known for its canals, as well as its colorful beach and boardwalk. A 2.5-mile stretch full of quirky street performers, interesting shops, and colorful murals, the Ocean Front Walk is a hotspot for locals, tourists, and even celebrities.
Open since 1870, Cedar Point is the second oldest amusement park in America and has more rides than nearly every other park — 72 in total, 17 of which are roller coasters. Consistently ranked one of the top amusement parks in the country, it’s a popular destination for local thrill-seekers as well as those coming from afar.
Navy Pier is an iconic Chicago landmark that attracts nearly 9 million visitors every year, as there’s quite a bit to do here. In addition to its famous Ferris wheel and rides such as the carousel and Pepsi Wave Swinger, the pier also has attractions such as an indoor botanical garden and Chicago Children’s Museum.
Rio de Janeiro is always an exciting destination, albeit often filled with tourists. Still, locals love to party and relax at Copacabana Beach which has a fantastic food scene and one of the best beaches in the world.
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