Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"I can't believe I'm here!" vs. "Is this all?"

A 1997 family vacation evaluation, as completed by my little sister:

I've started a new mental classification of well-known tourist spots:  "Must See in Person" versus "A Photograph Will Do."  All the famous attractions of the world, which we've all seen zillions of pictures of, could fit in one of these categories.

A must-see attraction is one where experiencing it with my own eyes, ears, nose, and feet significantly adds to the interest or enjoyability of the place.  At a place like this, I think things like, "I can't believe I'm actually here," and "This is so much cooler than I expected."

Examples from my own experiences, in no particular order:   Yellowstone National Park, the U.S. Capitol building, Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, Pike's Peak, Teotihuacan (Mexico), Notre Dame cathedral (Paris), the Eiffel Tower, Angkor Wat (Cambodia), the Petronas Towers (Malaysia), and the Taj Mahal.

I would also include places such as Ground Zero and S-21 prison (Cambodia), where being there doesn't add much sensory interest, but helps you really feel the horrifying-ness of what happened on that spot.

My dad and brother at the Badlands, a definite must-see destination

My sister at Yellowstone

My family exploring the Mesa Verda cliff dwellings

Lentz kids at the Appalachian Trail.  We probably hiked a quarter-mile of this.

A photo-only attraction is one where you can see all there is to see just by looking at a photo.  Actually being there doesn't really add anything substantial.   At places like this, I think things like, "Is this it?" "I thought this would be more exciting," and "I want my money back."

Examples:  Niagara Falls, the Liberty Bell, Four Corners, Mt. Rushmore

Me at Niagara, disillusioned

I also think it's possible to guess in advance what types of attractions might be worth visiting in person.  For example: Stonehenge?  A photo-only attraction.  The moon?  A must-see destination.

With my parents coming to China next week, I've been thinking about the places I've visited in China and which category they'd land in.  Stay tuned for my take on some of China's better-known tourist attractions.


  1. ...Your "disillusioned" picture actually looks more like a "pondering my thoughts in the midst of this beautiful view" picture. I'm confused.

  2. I like your lists, but I have to respectfully disagree on Mt Rushmore. Not only is the monument itself a neat day, but there's *so* much to do and see in the surrounding area - the Badlands, the Black Hills, the Million Dollar highway, Crazy Horse monument, Custer State Park, buffalo, and dinosaurs!