All right that was sort of click bait-y, wasn't it? Sorry, about that, but one thing I don't like is getting "trapped" someplace with thousands of fellow tourists! Niagara Falls is not a tourist trap, it’s a beautiful natural phenomenon sharing space with some interesting development choices and a lot of popularity! And no matter how crowded it gets or no matter how many crazy ways concessionaires dream up to experience a place (IMAX! Ziplining! Base jumping!) most places like this became popular precisely because there is something to see or do that makes it worthwhile. I don't want to miss seeing these places, and you probably don't either. So, if your future holds a trip to a tourist attraction that attracts a lot of tourists, I have a few thoughts about how to survive the experience!
1) Go during the slow season.
Put on a coat (or prepare to sweat) and avoid the crowds of the high season. We visited Niagara Falls on an unusually balmy November day and while we didn’t exactly have the place all to ourselves; the huge parking lot was nearly empty, and there was plenty of space at the railings to view the falls and snap a photo. I can only imagine what a mid-summer day might look like, but by visiting a major attraction during a time when fewer people are, there’s a better chance to see it without the crowds. The downside might be that certain attraction concessions, restaurants or lodging options might be closed. (see our Niagara Falls Trip Report here) http://www.goseeittravel.com/new-page-8/
2) Go early and then get out of there!
This has always been my families plan for enjoying a major tourist attraction or crowded amusement park. In Paris for instance, my daughter and I got to the Eiffel tower, early on a weekday morning, we got our tower selfies without the crowds and could climb the base without having to wait in a line. The secondary benefit is by hitting the headliner, early and first, you remain one step ahead of the rest of the tourists for the rest of the day! As an example, see my itinerary for Universals “Wizarding World of HP here, which earned 144 helpful votes from visitors some of whom reported to me they used it with great luck avoiding crowds!
3) Choose carefully which experiences you want to have and ignore the rest.
At Niagara Falls, there are no end to distractions from just viewing the actual falls…you can gamble, you can put on a poncho (though it won’t keep you dry) and take a boat up to the base of the falls, you can zip line across the lake, go wine tasting, or go to a wax museum. What you can’t do in a crowded tourist attraction, unless you have unlimited time, is ALL of it! I like to think about what interests my family and seek out those activities. Because Jeff is history buff who never misses a chance to visit a fort, we had a quick look at the falls, and then spent a couple of hours wandering around Ft George on Lake Ontario, where costumed re-enactors talked about the strategic significance of the fort on the lake and the history of the War of 1812. If history of war makes you snore, make sure you book that adrenaline junkie activity that interests you! See our full Niagara Falls area trip report here.
4) Find a similar experience in a place that hasn’t been “discovered” or is a little harder to access.
There are plenty of natural areas that have become “famous” not only because of the awe-inspiring scenery, but also because they are easily accessible to a large population. Or the place gets great publicity, or it's a place that has been designated as a heritage site, or national park that is surrounded by lots of tourist infrastructure. What we found is that maybe a place nearby offers a similar experience and environment. There are similar experiences all over the world, without the crowds if you do a little research and talk to experts from the area. (You can hire a Destination Expert travel agent to help plan your trip, or just ask one on Trip Advisor to get decent advice from a local expert to plan your own trip)
As an example, I spend my summers in an area of Maine where the coastline is every bit as dramatic and beautiful as what you can find in Acadia National Park, but aside from a small colonies of summer people, there aren't many tourists to contend with. Take a peek at the photo above and below this paragraph; can you tell which was taken from the summit of Cadillac mountain with hundreds of our new friends, and which was taken at our local lookout, where we often have the view to ourselves? (answers at the end of my post) The disadvantage of finding the "off the beaten path" but similar experience is that there are sometimes not as many places to stay and the area might not have as much happening at night. The obvious advantage is getting to know the locals and having the scenery to yourself!
I'm not picking on popular tourist destinations...they are popular for a reason!! In addition to being easy to research and plan to visit, usually they are easy to reach with plenty of tourist infrastructure. They became popular because there is something fun and cool to experience there. I've been to lots of popular tourist destinations, and have always found it's much better to follow my tips and enjoy them in a way where the focus is on the attraction and not on getting "trapped" in crowds of fellow tourists!!
The top photo is of Bar Harbor from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, the bottom photo is from the Caterpillar Hill Lookout about an hour south of Bar Harbor on the Blue Hill Peninsula. For more of our posts about Maine click here