Just as useful as a list of top tourist destinations for the upcoming year is one that gives advice on where in the world you should avoid. The truth is, we’ve all had bad experiences, and they can really affect our perceptions of a place. When I solicited social media users for suggestions on domestic destinations to avoid this year, many lively conversations were sparked – and several individuals audibly spewed their disdain for certain cities across the country.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m a pretty open-minded traveler. I’ve had plenty of unpleasant run-ins, transportation failures and otherwise terrible experiences – it comes with the territory. But I’m also not one to throw an entire city into the negative category. Instead, I took the most complained about places and looked into why they have a stigma, and conversely, wrote about what might make the social media users change their minds. Maybe the bad taste in these travelers’ mouths will never go away, but hopefully this will end up changing some perceptions.Detroit, Michigan
Complaint: “just plain depressing”
The Point: Once one of America’s most prosperous cities, today Detroit seems more like a post-industrial ruin. Corrupt city officials, economic decline and budget mismanagement have caused law and order to break down in the city. In October, the Detroit Police Officers union went so far as to warn visitors to enter the city “at their own risk,” and ALT (Alternative Luxury Travel) travel agency called Detroit the “Most Dangerous U.S. City to Visit for Gay Travelers” because of its increase in crime and the shuttering of a high number of landmark gay bars.
The Counterpoint: If you’re looking for trouble in Detroit, you can easily find it – but that doesn’t mean it will find you. The city still has a thriving music, art and theater scene, drawing creatives from around the country and world to live and visit here. And if you like cars, you can visit museums dedicated to both Ford and Chrysler, take a tour of the former estates of auto barons, or check out one of the many automobile-related annual events. There is still a lot of hope for this city, and earlier this year Gadling even wrote about it as a sustainable city to watch.
Complaint: “ZERO attempt at a culture”
The Point: Reno makes the list of cities to avoid because, as one Twitter user put it, “it felt like where old gamblers go to die.” It bills itself as the second largest tourist town in Nevada, and can’t seem to shake the runner-up epithet of a tame, rundown version of Las Vegas. Most people sell the city by pointing out how close it is to Tahoe, which isn’t really a reason to stay in Reno at all.
The Counterpoint: If you don’t like casinos – Reno’s number one tourist attraction – it might seem you are in trouble. The truth is, this city has the same good eats, music, nightlife and boutiques you find in any other major metropolitan areas – you just have to search a little harder to find the gems. The Nevada Museum of Art also has a surprisingly prestigious collection and is well worth a visit (even if it’s just to kill some time during your layover to another destination). Yes, the pace of life is slower here than other major metropolitan areas, but many visitors might find that a redeeming quality instead of a negative one.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Complaint: “dodging trucks that were allowed to drive on the beach”
The Point: When you imagine a day along the shore, you probably don’t conjure images of laying your beach towel next to cars and trucks. On parts of Daytona Beach, automobiles are allowed to park in the sand during select hours of the day, making the beach vibe turn from tropical to tailgating party.
The Counterpoint: Here’s the thing: Daytona Beach is the home of NASCAR, so if you’re visiting for a racing event, you probably don’t mind a few cars on the beach. In fact, you might even enjoy the novelty of it. If you’re not into it, that’s OK too: there are plenty of other stretches of sand in for you to discover.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Complaint: “boring and flat”
The Point: Salt Lake City doesn’t top many travel bucket lists, mostly because the local culture isn’t too supportive of those who like to imbibe. Just a few years ago, the capital of Utah lifted a prohibition that limited the number of bars on each city block to two, but the city can’t seem to escape the conservative stigma.
The Counterpoint: Fostered in part by the Sundance Film Festival, Salt Lake City has a growing film and art scene. Summer visitors can watch live bands outdoors during the annual Twilight Concert Series, and those who come in winter should know that the city is known for its close proximity to the slopes – 14 ski resorts are within an hour of Salt Lake City. Year round, the city has many small businesses worth seeking out, which makes it a great destination for those looking to skip chain restaurants and big box stores. And if your complaint is that the city is flat, take a trip to the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats, and you might be surprised to find out how beautiful a flat landscape can be.
Los Angeles, California
Complaint: “smoggy and snooty”
The Point: Los Angeles is notorious for its smog, a haze produced by millions of vehicles operating in a low basin surrounded by mountains. It’s also an expensive place to visit, and the people who live there have a reputation as struggling actors, models and rock stars who will do anything to get ahead.
The Counterpoint: Multiple California government agencies have been working to reduce smog. It’s still a major problem, but it’s not a reason to avoid the city’s numerous landmarks and other attractions. Besides, the nearly 4 million people who live there don’t seem to be too turned off by it. And that sheer number of people discredits the “snooty” point. Choose your company wisely and you can avoid self-important people with stars in their eyes – or at least learn to roll your own eyes and walk away.
Do you echo these social media users’ sentiments, or can you get behind one of the cities above? Similarly, if you had a bad experience in a U.S. city and think it should be on the list, let Gadling readers know in the comments below.
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this article, the population of Los Angeles was incorrectly identified. The article has been updated to accurately reflect the current population of the city.
[Photo credit: Flickr user Ben Amstutz]