10 U.S. Towns Totally Overrun by Tourists (and Where to Go Instead)

These places are often packed with people. But there are good alternatives that can give you a more enjoyable trip.
Last updated June 2, 2023 | By Jenny Cohen Edited By Chris Kissell
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There's still some time for summer travel, but you might not be the only one going to the coolest cities and latest hot spots.

In fact, tourists have overrun some places in the U.S., particularly during busy months in the summer or around the winter holidays.

To make sure you avoid wasting money the next time you book a trip, we’ve got a list of some places you might want to avoid if you don’t like vacationing among throngs of people. We also suggest some better alternatives.

New York, New York

f11photo/Adobe Statue of Liberty and New York city skyline at sunset

The city that never sleeps is also the city full of tourists. Tourist spots like the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty can be exciting, but be prepared to wait in long lines if you don’t book tickets early.

Places like Times Square also might be crowded with tourists.

Where to go instead: Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is a great city in the Northeast that has fewer of the extra people and added costs you find in the Big Apple.

Enjoy historic sites and attractions without the excessive crunch of a New York City crowd, particularly if you avoid peak visiting times.

Denver, Colorado

Jacob/Adobe Larimer Square after the Covid Shutdown was lifted

Denver offers plenty for outdoorsy tourists to do. There are hiking trails and whitewater rafting in the summer. Or, head up into the nearby Rocky Mountains in the winter to take on any number of huge ski resorts.

However, ski season also means big waits at restaurants and expensive hotels. You’ll also face long lines just to get on a ski lift and enjoy the slopes.

Where to go instead: Sun Valley, Idaho

Rumorfy Media/Adobe Beaver dam in Sun Valley Idaho

Sun Valley in Idaho also offers plenty of wintertime activities, from skiing to snowshoeing. But unlike some Colorado resorts, it might not be as popular or as packed with tourists, giving you more time to enjoy the mountain.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

andreykr/Adobe Philadelphia skyline at night

Philly may be rich with history, but those interesting historical sites can also be overrun with tourists.

Attractions like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall may have long waits and big crowds. That can be a big price to pay for a small glimpse of American history.

Where to go instead: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

checubus/Adobe beautiful Pittsburgh at sunset

On the other side of Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh, which also offers cool sites without the crowds.

Check out the memorial dedicated to hometown hero Fred Rogers, walk through one of the four Carnegie Foundation museums, or take a ride on the Duquesne Incline for sweeping views of the city.

Las Vegas, Nevada

lucky-photo/Adobe Aerial view of Las Vegas strip at night

If you want gambling fun, Las Vegas can be a good bet. However, the tables can be packed on weekends, and it might be hard to find a spot to play blackjack or poker.

You also may have to deal with an influx of people for conventions in the city or have to stay at a less-than-glamorous hotel to save money.

Where to go instead: Biloxi, Mississippi

David/Adobe Biloxi Mississippi area

Along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is Biloxi, which has had a bit of a rebirth after Hurricane Katrina roared through in 2005.

You’ll find casinos such as the Golden Nugget, Hard Rock, and Harrah’s, which give gambling-loving tourists a relaxing and more affordable alternative to the flashy Vegas crowds.

Napa Valley, California

allard1/Adobe Vineyards in Napa Valley California USA

Wineries are a great place to visit for those who like to try new reds and whites. But Napa Valley, which is home to more than 400 wineries, can still become crowded with tourists in tasting rooms and among the vineyards.

Where to go instead: Finger Lakes, New York

Bob/Adobe vineyard and red barn at a winery in the finger Lakes region of upper New York

Head to the East Coast instead and check out the Fingers Lakes region of upstate New York. The area has fewer wineries than Napa Valley — around 100 — but that also means there are fewer tourists pushing their way into tasting rooms.

Chicago, Illinois

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe sightseeing cruise and skyline on the river

The Windy City is home to several museums, including the Field Museum of Natural History, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Science and Industry, which is housed in a historic building from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

Unfortunately, all those sites attract hordes of tourists during the summer months.

Where to go instead: Detroit, Michigan

f11photo/Adobe aerial view of downtown Detroit at twilight

Detroit is another Great Lakes city with some wonderful museums. The Motor City is home to the Motown Museum, which is reopening after a major expansion project.

Nearby is Dearborn, home to The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Highlights include a reproduction of the laboratory from Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park and the bus Rosa Parks was on when she was arrested in 1955.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

David/Adobe Yellowstone National Park

Although it’s not a town, this true gem of the U.S. National Park Service attracts many tourists who enjoy the hot springs and surrounding scenery, as well as a diverse collection of animals. Overcrowding can be an issue here.

Where to go instead: State parks

Rixie/Adobe Half Dome Yosemite

There is no need to travel far when you can enjoy nature in your own backyard. Do some research to find the best state parks in your area that may have hiking trails in the summer or snowshoeing and snowmobiling in the winter.

You might be surprised by what you can find only a few hours away.

Key West, Florida

lucky-photo/Adobe paradise beach with palm trees and sailboat

The last stop on U.S. Route 1 is Key West, where tourists flock every year to enjoy laid-back days in the sun. The charming island is home to colorful houses that have become tourist attractions, including those that once belonged to Ernest Hemingway and Harry Truman.

The island has plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy a night out, and they attract big crowds.

Where to go instead: Islamorada, Florida

DANLIN Media GmbH/Adobe Islamorada Florida Keys

Just a short trip north on U.S. 1 is another stop in the Keys called Islamorada. The town may not be as busy as Key West, but that can make it easier for you to truly relax while on vacation. You also can pick up some key lime pie without a wait, or find a perfect beach and not have to fight others to stake your spot.

Orlando, Florida

kirkikis/Adobe A monorail passes in front of Spaceship earth

What kid doesn’t want to go to Disney World? Orlando has theme parks that offer endless fun, depending on what type of rides you enjoy. Unfortunately, that means there are a lot of people crammed into the area’s many amusement parks.

Where to go instead: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

ehrlif/Adobe  Ole Smoky Mountain Moonshine Distillery in Tennessee

Is there anything more American than apple pie and Dolly Parton? Check out Dollywood, a fun amusement park nestled in the mountains of Tennessee. You’re likely to save money and spend less time in line compared to at Disney World.

And if you need an amusement-park break, the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park can provide your family with some quality outdoor time together.

Miami, Florida

Tomas/Adobe sunset in Miami South Beach

Miami has become more popular with glamorous tourists who take over beaches, restaurants, and bars in the area. The city also has a robust nightlife, with plenty to do if you like to stay up late.

But beware that things may look different in the morning when you check out of your expensive hotel and try to find a sliver of sand that isn’t taken already.

Where to go instead: Savannah, Georgia

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe  bars and restaurants on River Street

Head up the East Coast and stop in Savannah instead. The city on Georgia’s coast has plenty of sand and water to enjoy, and you’ll pay less for the experience than you would in Miami.

Savannah has plenty of history if you want to spend a day exploring away from the beach.

Bottom line

Jacob Lund/Adobe parents carrying son on shoulders on beach vacation

Instead of going overboard and maxing out your credit cards at tourist traps, keep more money in your bank account by considering affordable alternatives that can give you a fun time without the added cost.

And if you still want to check out Times Square or Disney World, consider booking a trip during non-peak season, when it may not cost as much and there will be fewer tourists. After all, traveling smart is a great way to stay out of debt.

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Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.