The Most Overrated Places in The United States (And Where to Go Instead)

May 21, 2020

1. Gatlinburg, Tennessee 

Although beautifully situated in the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is everything a mountain vacation shouldn't be. There, I said it.

What visitors expect is a quiet cabin in the woods. However, often they get what looks more like a theme park than a quiet mountain town. For a city that promotes "outdoor and adventure," there's a questionable amount of wax museums, over-priced mini-golf, indoor water parks, and knock-off Cirque du Soleil acts.

Where to visit instead: Greenville, South Carolina 

Across the Appalachian Mountains is a quaint city located at the foothills called Greenville. It's built around a series of natural waterfalls that run directly through the heart of town. The unique dynamic also features a riverwalk and a comprehensive park system through the limits.

A day trip into the mountains allows you to visit the highest point in South Carolina, Table Rock State Park, some of the tallest waterfalls in the east, and even access into the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There's a lot more room to play over there, and a lot less cliche touristy gimmicks.

2. The Las Vegas Strip, Nevada 

I have to be honest; I don't know exactly what draws people again and again to the Las Vegas Strip. Cheap hotel rooms often grab the attention of travelers, only to pay a fortune for food/drink/activities along the strip. That being said, the Las Vegas area has a lot to offer. The next time you take a trip to Sin City, rent a car and take a trip to Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston, as both are within an hour drive from the city.

Where to visit instead: St. George, Utah 

Fly into Las Vegas and take the hour and a half drive to St. George, Utah. During our time in the van, we made St. George our base for over a month and started applying for jobs to live there full-time. That's saying a lot considering I'm not necessarily a desert person (scorpions - EEK!). It's a mecca for golfers, foodies, and outdoor enthusiasts. It also stands as the gateway to Zion National Park, one of the most stunning National Parks in the country.

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3. Atlanta, Georgia 

Atlanta is called "The Hollywood of The East," but the city lacks a crucial aspect for visitors: character. If you happen to make it to the city without fighting hours-long traffic lines, you'll soon realize that although it's a city with some great food & nightlife, there isn't much it offers compared to every other urban place in the United States.

Where to visit instead: Savannah, Georgia 

Savannah is my favorite city in the United States, and I've bragged about it here more times than once. It has everything Atlanta lacks: charm, nearby beaches, hearty southern soul, and an appealing open-container law. There's the world-famous Wormsloe Historical Park, miles of beaches on Tybee Island, and the prettiest city streets you'll see in the United States, which are all framed by magnificent Oak trees draped in Spanish Moss.

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4. Phoenix, Arizona 

I've been to Phoenix a handful of times, and really can't say much about it. It overshadows many more-attractive nearby cities such as Prescott, Scottsdale, and Tucson. If you're looking for desert living or Arizona's famed wellness scene, Phoenix isn't it.

Where to visit instead: Tucson, Arizona 

Tucson is like the cooler, more trendy younger brother to Phoenix. And beyond the artisan city limits is an unexpected world of sights, wellness, and adventure. Spring and fall bring hoards of rock climbers, mountain bikers, and hikers to one of the numerous mountain ranges surrounding the town. In the winter, Mount Lemmon operates the southernmost ski resort in the country, a mere 60 miles from the Mexican border. Wellness lovers head to the renowned Joshua Tree Posada, a remote boutique inn with five suites and more than enough insta-worthy locations for the wanderluster.

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5. Los Angeles, California

Hollywood glitz and glam attract millions of visitors from around the world every year. Most of them come home disappointed. Los Angeles is a place that is elevated in our minds as a super luxurious and high-end tourist hot-spot with daily celeb cities and exclusive VIP clubs. But just like the movies, it's all for show.

Where to visit instead: Anywhere else in California 

I'm not picky here. California has it all: beaches, mountains, resorts, cities. Trade your next Santa Monica vacay with a trip to Morro Bay. Ditch L.A. for San Francisco. Enjoy the delicious food scene down in San Diego or head to Mammoth Lakes for a resort and mountain escape.

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Outdoor travel blog

At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.

Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure and outdoor tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.

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  1. Emma on May 21, 2020 at 11:12 AM

    Great post! I’m definitely going to have to take a trip to Savannah when life is normal again.

    • Shalee Wanders on May 21, 2020 at 11:33 AM

      Thank you, Emma! You definitely won’t regret a trip to Savannah. It’s a special place!

  2. Devin Hilla on May 21, 2020 at 12:21 PM

    I had a planned trip to Savannah 5/11-5/16. Obviously that didn’t work out.

  3. Devin Hilla on May 21, 2020 at 12:27 PM

    I had a Savannah trip planned 5/11-5/16. Obviously that didn’t work out.

    • Shalee Wanders on May 21, 2020 at 7:16 PM

      Nooooooo! Time to plan a makeup Savannah trip. I vote for October!

      • Devin Hilla on May 21, 2020 at 11:37 PM

        Come with! Then I’ll head west to visit you, Josh, and the kitties.

  4. Kathleen Bloom on May 21, 2020 at 5:02 PM

    Great suggestions! ah to travel again, have missed your blog

    • Shalee Wanders on May 21, 2020 at 7:17 PM

      Thank you! Feels good to be writing again. And can’t wait to head back to the airport someday!

      • John on July 1, 2020 at 7:19 PM

        Great post! I haven’t been to Phoenix, but I heartily concur with your views on Gatlinburg, Atlanta, LA, and Vegas. I like Greenville… It’s a very nice town (plus, I have some family there). That said, folks who want a smaller-town experience with great food and live music surrounded by the natural beauty of the region might appreciate Hendersonville, NC. It’s just across the border from SC, and also close to all the great places you mentioned!

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