Overrated Atlanta: World of Coca-Cola

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Overrated Atlanta: World of Coca-Cola

Some attractions have a way of weaving themselves into the fabric of the typical vacation. That doesn’t mean they’re worthwhile. Here are some you can miss, and recommendations for what to do instead.
Only a Coke fiend would spend $16 to wait in line at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta to learn the history of America’s favorite drink, from its beginnings as an elixir to its worldwide domination. Your admission price does, however, include tastes of more than 60 different Coke products from around the globe, from Peru’s Inca Kola to Italy’s Beverly, a bitter tonic made with quinine.

Underrated Atlanta: Historic Sweet Auburn District

You don’t have to be Baptist, or even Christian, to sit in on Sunday services at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached his message of nonviolent social change. Newcomers are greeted with a handshake or “holy hug” from a congregant. Across the plaza at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site Visitors Center, videos and other installations bring King’s stirring oratory to life.

Overrated Ireland: Kissing the Blarney Stone

Even if you don’t believe tall tales of local lads relieving themselves on the Blarney Stone in Blarney, Ireland, you might think twice about puckering up to a rock that’s been bussed more often than a call girl. Legend has it that smooching the stone bestows the gift of gab, but to find out for sure whether it’s truth or blarney, you’ll have to pay $15 admission.

Underrated Ireland: The Wild West Coast

This is not the Ireland of wee whitewashed cottages and tiny teashops, but a landscape of soaring mountains, sweeping valleys, glittering bays and dolphins frolicking in Killary Harbor, the country’s only natural fjord. The Connemara peninsula surrounding the still-charming town of Westport is Ireland’s answer to Colorado, luring hikers, bikers, kayakers and even surfers to its great outdoors by day and its affable local pubs by night.

Overrated Venice: Riding a Gondola

This is supposedly one of the most romantic ways to experience Venice, Italy. That is, if your idea of romance is haggling with a gondolier over your ride’s duration (40 minutes at most) and price (the official, regulated rate of 80 euros during the day — or 100 euros after 7 p.m. — is seldom respected). Be sure to ask whether singing costs extra.

Underrated Venice: Getting Lost

The best parts of this utterly unique city are the ones you find by accident. Wander into narrow alleyways and nooks and crannies in search of bakeries, bookstores, salumerias (delis) or nothing in particular.  Venice is tiny — you can walk from one end to another in an hour — so it’s impossible to get too disoriented. Ubiquitous signs always point you back to overpriced Piazza San Marco.

Overrated Los Angeles: The Hollywood Sign

There’s no reason to make a special excursion to view L.A.’s most recognizable landmark.  After all, it’s just a sign; what’s the big deal? It isn’t any different in person than the image you’ve seen in countless movies. You’re sure to catch a glimpse of it from some freeway or parking lot on your way to doing something more interesting.

Underrated Los Angeles: Malibu

Want to see some real Hollywood icons? Roll up Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, Calif., a secluded community where you just might run into a movie star buying milk at the local grocery store. Malibu is home to some of Southern California’s finest beaches — including Zuma, Carbon and Matador — for surfing and sunbathing alike. And the drive along the ocean is one of the world’s most spectacular.

Overrated Maui: Sunrise at Haleakala

Getting up at oh-dark-thirty in the morning and driving two hours up a tortuous mountain road has been part of Maui’s beaten path since 1866, when Mark Twain declared sunrise at Haleakala “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.” What Twain didn’t mention was freezing cold temperatures, theme-park-style throngs and clouds that obscure the sun’s appearance as often as not.

Underrated Maui: Sunset at Haleakala

“Haleakala is a sacred spot for native Hawaiians, but the time of day has nothing to do with it,” says Keli’i Brown of Maui’s Visitors Bureau. Unless you’re biking down the mountain, plan to arrive before dusk, when the sun illuminates the gorgeous colors of Haleakala crater before descending behind Hawaii’s other islands. It’s also warmer and a lot less crowded.

Overrated Mexico: Cabo

Big anonymous hotels, overpriced restaurants serving mediocre food, jam-packed tequila bars hawking watered-down margaritas, and everywhere a timeshare representative trying to sell you a vacation home.  Why was it you wanted to visit Los Cabos, Mexico?  Oh, yeah, the weather. San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas definitely have that going for them. Just not much else.

Underrated Mexico: La Paz

La Paz, Mexico, the capital of Baja California Sur, is a real city (population 280,000) but still has the relaxed feel of a small boating and fishing community. The palm-fringed malecon, or sea wall, hums with activity day and night, but you needn’t venture far to find a deserted beach. Duffers will delight in the new Gary Player-designed golf course at Costa Baja Resort, overlooking the ultramarine Sea of Cortez.

Overrated New York: The Statue of Liberty

Long lines and wait times of 90 minutes or more can turn a Statue of Liberty visit into a daylong chore. If you’re not one of the 3,000 people permitted onto her pedestal or the 240 lucky folks allowed to get inside her head, behold her from shore or from the decks of the Staten Island Ferry, a free ride across New York Harbor.

Underrated New York: Ellis Island

While Gustave Eiffel’s statue is merely a symbol of what America represents, Ellis Island comes alive with the stories of the 12 million immigrants who sailed west between 1892 and 1954 in search of a land of opportunity. The 45-minute audio tour does an outstanding job of replicating the “new arrival” experience for visitors. Your ferry ride to Ellis Island includes a stellar view of Lady Liberty.

Overrated Vancouver: The Grouse Grind

Billed as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” this 1.8 mile trek straight up the side of Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, British Columbia, is no day in the park. Attempt it only if you want to spend two hours panting and staring at your feet so you don’t trip over rocks, roots and other hazards. Instead, take the tram, which affords gorgeous aerial views of the mountain and the city below.

Underrated Vancouver: Granville Island Market

This former industrial area has been transformed into a feast for all the senses. Vancouver’s premier gathering place is part vegetable market, part restaurant mecca, part marina, part theater district and much more. If private developers operated it, Granville Island might have become a series of chain stores and coffee bars. But because the Canadian government owns it, the island retains a unique local flavor.
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