There’s a guy out there named Chuck Thompson flogging a new travel book and his twist is that he tells you how it REALLY is as opposed to the usual puffery travel writers shovel at you. To prove that he is all candid and unvarnished and shit he puts on his book promo web-page a list of the Top Ten Most Overrrated U.S. Tourist Attractions and my adopted Bawlmer makes the cut. Here is what he has to say:
BALTIMORE’S WATERFRONTWhat he is trying to say is that all these tacky fake waterfront or historic district tourist areas are Teh Lame. What is great is that he singles out Baltimore’s HarborPlace as the archetypal example. Yes, HarborPlace is a couple of pavilions filled with overpriced gift shops and chain restaurants. Any tourist spot with both a Hooters and a Cheesecake Factory is not “authentic.” And the ticky-tackiness of the dining and retail extends beyond Harborplace itself. The huge gorgeous brick Power Plant has a Hard Rock Café guitar on the smokestack. What other town so proudly wears its middlebrow taste on its sleeve.
Or any derelict city center’s $65 million outlet mall, er, “downtown renovation project.”
What the Baltimore waterfront has is a great view of an open sewer with lots of other attractions within nominal walking distance. The science museum just added a big dino expansion. The world famous aquarium now lets you walk through an ersatz Australia and you can ride paddle boats through the Jones Falls flotsam anytime you want. Baltimore even has the prettiest building full of tacky tourist brochures I have ever seen. It only took dozens of years and bazillions of dollars to build a map dispenser on the last piece of open land left at the Inner Harbor. But we did it.
What we can take pride in is that we are the best of the fake tourist destinations. I get suckered into these areas all the time. The ones that give Baltimore a run for the money are Riverwalk in San Antonio (the granddaddy of the sow’s ear revival trend), the genuinely historic Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market in Boston and the Gaslight District in San Diego. And I have been through some clunkers. Laclede Landing near the St Louis Arch just stunk of Tacky Tourist Drinking District™ flopsweat.
And until some clever entrepreneur decides that there is a market to tour the REAL Bodymore, Murderland and starts offering double decker bus drive-bys (literally) of The Corner/Wire/Homicide highlights, we better stick with our title as the tackiest of them all.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: How tacky is your town's tourist district?