05/20/2014 09:21 am ET Updated Jul 20, 2014

These 10 American Attractions Are Totally Touristy, But I'm Okay With That

Confession: I like to pretend I'm too cool for kitsch but at the end of the day, I too like to take those cheesy tourist photos: holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, running through the barrier at Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station, flashing the peace sign in the middle of a crowded Chinese market...

Here's proof:


Lean in.

So it's with only mild embarrassment and much more enthusiasm that I present my list of 10 totally touristy (but earnestly unironic) sightseeing stops on my bucket list.

Some are simply roadside photo ops, others are full-fledged tourist attractions, all are worth putting on your Americana bucket list.

Go ahead, strap on a fanny pack and grab your binoculars. We're playing tourist today.

  • ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
    This completely fascinating Texas art installation was clearly borne out of the 1970s, because why not stick a few Cadillacs nose-first into the ground and let passers-by graffiti them? The site has become enough of a classic Americana landmark to have its own "In popular culture" section on Wikipedia. (See also: Carhenge)
  • P Photo/Cedar Point
    Cedar Point just feels like "America's amusement park," whether or not you're a roller coaster aficionado (there are 17 coasters at the park). Mostly I just want to visit the park's animatronic dinosaurs and reenact "Jurassic Park" for some great Instagram shots.
  • AP Photo/Amy Smotherman Burgess, Knoxville News Sentinel
    Dolly Parton is an American treasure and her theme park, Dollywood, embraces that. How many other amusements parks offer roller coasters, a bald eagle sanctuary and a one-room schoolhouse?! There's also a restaurant called Aunt Granny's All-You-Care-To-Eat Buffet, to which I say, "Yes, please!"
  • AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz
    Four states -- Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado -- come together at one place. That has to be worth updating your Facebook profile photo, right?
  • Oli Scarff/Getty Images
    Pictured here is London Bridge in London, but did you know there's a London Bridge in Arizona that's not a reproduction? When London Bridge began "falling down" into the Thames in the 1960s, it was auctioned off to an American businessman who transported the bridge around the world to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. America truly does have everything. (London, of course, built a new bridge.)
  • Mark Erickson/Getty Image
    I love the Mall -- the big, green, open area in the middle of my Washington, D.C., hometown, that is. The Mall of America seems to be everything the Mall is not, but I'm curious to visit a massive shopping emporium that has its own aquarium, Nickelodeon theme park and a life-size Barbie Dreamhouse.
  • AP Photo/
    It took 350 people more than 14 years to carve four presidents' faces into the South Dakota mountainside. That's at least worth pulling the car over, right?
  • Original Buffalo Bill Museum Collection/Buffalo Bill Center of the West via Getty Images
    "This is not Hollywood, this is the real West." I've been to a few ghost towns in my day but there's something special about Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming (founded by Buffalo Bill himself). All I ask if that there's somewhere to rent ye olde costumes for the full step-back-in-time experience.
  • AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald
    This may be a hard one to fulfill, as I'm terrified of ghosts, but Halloween in Sleepy Hollow is an event any lover of American literature should experience... even if you do have to observe events while peeking through your fingers.
  • BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
    Live mermaids, people. Mermaids! There's something so campy yet charming about this ridiculous retro attraction, which has been in business since 1947.

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