Celebrites as Tourist Attractions: Jackie Chan, Britney Spears, and More

Celebrity tourist attractions - star maps
Flickr, Donna Grayson

Millions of tourists visit Los Angeles every year in hopes of spotting a celebrity, but rarely see anything more than gated homes and unemployed actors in character costumes on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some enterprising celebrities are finding ways to become tourist attractions in their own right, with live performances and theme parks for fans to see their favorites (or at least their stuff) live in person.

-Britney Spears just announced a two-year residency at Las Vegas‘ Planet Hollywood starting in December. Over 1,000 fans gathered in the Nevada desert for her helicopter arrival and performance on GMA. Tickets for the pop star’s first 16 shows this winter go on sale tomorrow.

Action star Jackie Chan is opening his collection of historic sandalwood houses to the public in Beijing with a new theme park. The proposed park will show different cultural experiences with no admission, with some ticketed attractions to help maintain the antique buildings.

Film and TV actors on Broadway have become de rigueur in recent years, a way to prove their serious talent and break away from roles they’ve become famous for. This season, you can catch Orlando Bloom, Daniel Craig and Patrick Stewart on stage in New York City.

-Fans of Michael Jackson have been hoping that his Neverland Ranch in California might be turned into a park or pilgrimage spot like Elvis Presley’s Graceland, but part of the property was sold off in 2008 and has since fallen into disrepair. Hearing that his children would like to buy it back, Lady Gaga was rumored to offer to help with costs or open it to the public.

Faux Cityscapes: 5 Fake Places To Snap A Tourist Photo

Steve Jurvetson, Flickr

What are the main reasons people travel? To see the world, gain new perspective, learn about other cultures, get a photo of themselves in front of a famous destination. Let’s be honest, in the world of social media, the latter is of the utmost importance, so important that some people will take a fake background rather than the real thing.

Five places you can snap a fake tourist shot:

1. Hong Kong with a bright blue sky
When it’s too smoggy in Hong Kong for a blue sky (and most of the time it is) you can still get your photo taken in front of the city’s skyline, thanks to a fabric backdrop. Because nothing says “I’ve been there” than taking your photo in front of a colored sheet.

2. Paris… in China
Can’t make it to the real Paris? There’s always Vegas. Or in China, where a remade version of Paris outside of Hangzhou isn’t the City of Light, it’s more of a creepy deserted ghost town. There’s even a 108-meter replica of the Eiffel Tower, which is perfect for when newlyweds want a romantic backdrop without traveling to Europe.

3. Afghanistan… in California
Given the US military’s presence in the Middle East, it’s no surprise that they would work hard to train soldiers on the ins and outs of where they will be based. And what better way than with a mock Afghan village? Actors on the Fort Irwin base in California create a fake Afghan village, selling plastic loaves of bread and fake meat to provide some sort of cultural context for military personnel soon to deploy. Even civilians can visit, checking out the village and chatting with soldiers afterwards. Obviously much more less complicated than traveling to Afghanistan.

4. The Taj Mahal… in Bangladesh
Local wealthy Bangladeshi filmmaker Asanullah Moni was apparently tired of traveling to India to see one of the new seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, so he built one himself. The structure cost $58 million to construct, and took only five years to build; lightspeed compared to the original building’s construction, which was built over two decades in the 17th century. So thanks to Moni, Bangladeshis can snap their picture in front of the iconic architecture without ever leaving their home country.

5. The Titanic… in the Southern United States
Just because the real boat sank, doesn’t mean you can’t get your photo taken in front of it. Just plan a trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee or Branson, Missouri where you’ll find 30,000-square-foot replicas of the ship that sank in 1912. Welcome aboard.

Bigger is better: scout these mega-sized attractions on a cross-country trip

largest attractionsTaking to the roads this long weekend or on a summer road trip? Don’t miss these larger-than-life tourist attractions.

World’s Largest Rooftop Farm
New York City
Brooklyn Grange, is 40,000 square foot elevated garden is located on top of a six-story warehouse, and grows everything from tomatoes to peppers to fennel to salad greens and much, much more. Check out Inhabitat for more info and pics of the rooftop farm.

Largest Tourist Trap: South of the Border
Dillon, South Carolina
Perhaps more famed for the signs up and down Interstate I-95 that lead up to the attraction than for the actual destination, South of the Border has caused many a family carload to play never-ending games of “I Spy,” and, at least in my family, caused an unexpected delay as my childhood self insisted that we stop for a drive-through.

Largest Ball of Twine
Cawker City, Kansas
This ever-growing attraction today weights more than nine tons. Sadly, this is the only “big” attraction we could find in Kansas. Do let us know if we’ve missed anything else in this flyover state.

Largest Hole in the Ground: Grand Canyon
Arizona
Okay, so it’s way more than a hole in the ground, but it is certainly a destination unto itself. Pause for a day or an afternoon and marvel. Check out our previous coverage on Gadling for more information about what to see and do.

World’s Largest Dinosaur
Cabazon, California
Say hi to Mr. Rex and Ms. Dinny (12 million people visit them annually) or visit this great exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.

Should you want to fly to any of these destinations, CheapOair.com is offering a great series of travel promotions to all of these destinations, bookable through June 7.

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Odd Locations and Events on Road Trips in America

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to undergo $100 million renovation


One of Istanbul‘s most popular tourist destinations is getting a long-overdue makeover. The 550-year old Grand Bazaar is about to be infused with 140 million Turkish Lira (about $100 million USD) to renovate and update the covered market. Once plans are approved next month, work will begin at night to avoid disrupting day trade. The Grand Bazaar is over 45,000 square meters with nearly 3,600 shops selling everything from handmade rugs to gold jewelry to Turkish water pipes and was last renovated in 1894 after a major earthquake.

In addition to restoring the original features of the market, modernizing electrical work, the refurbishment aims to bring in more high-end Turkish and international brands to appeal to more local shoppers. While the bazaar currently sees about 500,000 visitors daily, only about 30% are local and name brands may attract more locals than tourist souvenir stalls. According to local newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, interested retailers include luxury goods label Vakko and supermarket chain Migros. With the Council of Monuments reviewing and approving plans, it is hoped that the Grand Bazaar will retain its heritage and avoid becoming another generic shopping mall. Regardless of new additions, locals and visitors can agree that cutting down on the large amount of stalls selling Made-in-China swag and “genuine” fake Gucci bags to make room for more traditional artisans could help preserve the unique landmark.

Top ten overrated U.S. travel destinations/attractions

Whether or not you’re an American, there are certain places that are on almost everyone’s must-visit list. Some tourist traps, like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland, are worth joining the masses and ponying up the entrance fee (although I just checked the Magic Kingdom’s website, and Mickey and friends are bilking the parents of children under nine for $68 a pop).

Other much-lauded, highly anticipated hot-spots are simply not worth the time and expense. This is, of course, highly subjective: one man’s Las Vegas dream vacation is another’s Third Circle of Hell. It can also be fun to visit certain craptacular or iconic landmarks.

The below list is a compilation of my picks, as well as those of other Gadling contributors, in no particular order. You may be offended, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

1. Hollywood
Unless you love freaks, junkies, hookers, crappy chain restaurants and stores, and stepping over human feces on the star-inlaid sidewalks, give it a miss.

2. Las Vegas
I understand the appeal of a lost weekend in Sin City, really. And I will not dispute the utter coolness of the Rat Pack, Vegas of yore. But in the name of all that is sacred and holy, why does the current incarnation of glorified excess and wasted natural resources exist, especially as a so-called family destination?

[Photo credit: Flickr user Douglas Carter Cole]3. Times Square
A dash of Hollywood Boulevard with a splash of Vegas and Orlando.

4. South Beach, Miami
At what point does silicone become redundant?

5. Atlantic City, New Jersey
The poor man’s Vegas

6. Orlando
Toll roads, herds of tourists, shrieking children, an abundance of nursing homes, and tacky corporate America, all in one tidy package.

7. Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
It’s hard to hate on San Francisco, but the once-glorious Wharf is a shadow of its former self. Hooter’s, Pier 39, seafood stands hawking overpriced, previously-frozen Dungeness crab cocktail, aggressive panhandling, and vulgar souvenir shops kill the mood.

8. The Washington Monument
The nation’s preeminent phallic symbol is admittedly an impressive piece of architecture. It’s also possible to get a great view from the car en route to other, more interesting historic sites and tourist attractions.

9. Waikiki
There is so much more to Hawaii, including beaches that aren’t man-made.

10. Mt. Rushmore
Faces carved into rock. Moving on…

[Photo credits: Times Square, Flickr user Falling Heavens; Waikiki, Flickr user DiazWerks]