Friday, January 04, 2008

Top Ten Tourism "Honor" For Bawlmer

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:

Or any derelict city center’s $65 million outlet mall, er, “downtown renovation project.”
What 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.


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?


Anonymous said...

My favourite part of the Inner Harbor area is the Coca Cola-sponsored 19(for no particular reason)-star American flag that sits across the way on top of Federal Hill.

Cham said...

Regarding the giant map disperorium, yes there is a pile of maps in there. But I have to give those people behind the desk in there big credit, the know every corner of Baltimore and share their knowledge readily and willingly. If it exists, the vistor's people know about it.

There is a market for hood tours, I lead them about twice a year and have to fight people off with a stick, even though I make them walk the entire route.

Unknown said...

For tacky tourist traps, my city has Times Square for teh win/loss.

yellojkt said...

Those hikes sound fantastic. I'd be up for one, but the route looks a little too long for my wife.

I was going to make a snide comment in the post about South Street Seaport, but Times Square trumps that. I did talk about one of NY's tackiest living attractions here

Anonymous said...

Don't feel too bad. Out here on the upper left coast they're trying to turn the entire city of Portland into a fake tourist destination. Beware of any politician touting "livability" as an urban goal.

HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything said...

My town's tourist district you've already pegged as "genuinely historic", with lots of big box retailers encroaching.

Maybe I'll create a Norwood tourist district as a goof...ooh, blog 365 idea!

Elizabeth said...

Wow, your visitor's Center is beautiful!
Downtown Juneau is mostly owned by the cruise ships and we have about 25 jewelry shops. But you only have to walk a block or so until you get to the real town.

Cham said...

BTW, look what I just found. I think I am going to go have an orgasm.

Anonymous said...

The Inner Harbor IS lame. Even only a couple of years ago, it had a little bit of cool in it when it wasn't entirely chain stores. I was kind of broken up when The Christmas Dove disappeared.

New York City has a Mafia tour where you can see the sites of famous whackings. The tickets are ten dollars, and nobody sees nothin'.

Sadly, the hotel where Luca Brasi was garrotted no longer exists.

Unmolested Altar Boy said...

The Dragon Boats pladdle around the Flotsam that is the Patasco (sp?) River.

A lot of the museums have walking tours, just give them a call.