24 destinations in North America that were ruined by tourists over the past decade

Crowds in the French Quarter of New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

caption
Crowds in the French Quarter of New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
source
Sean Gardner / Getty Images

New York City has always been a draw. But now even ordinary things like staircases are drawing crowds, thanks to movies like “Joker.”

caption
Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, who becomes the infamous DC Comics villain, in “Joker.”
source
Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros

As previously reported by Insider, not everyone is happy about the large numbers of tourists stopping to pose for pictures on a stairway that many Bronx locals use daily. Things have even gotten testy at times: this past October, someone was filmed throwing eggs at people taking pictures at the stairway.


Another destination that’s struggled with crowds following a pop culture moment is Forks, Washington — where the “Twilight” books and films are set.

caption
Forks, Washington and the surrounding Olympic National Park are supernaturally pretty enough on their own.
source
Ben Mack / Insider

The last of the “Twilight” films came out in 2012 (and the last of the books written by Stephenie Meyer long before then), but the small Washington town of Forks still regularly sees visitors from around the world drawn by the supernatural romance series – even though the movies were actually filmed in Oregon and Canada.


Vancouver has become a hotbed for moviemaking. And that has made it a hot destination.

caption
Cherry blossoms in Vancouver.
source
Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival/Flickr

Movies tend to attract tourists – and Vancouver, the second-largest city in Canada, is no exception. Stunning outdoor scenery, a rich array of cultural activities, great nightlife, a burgeoning food scene; the city seems to have it all. The only thing is that a lot of other people seem to know this, too. And hosting a Winter Olympics in 2010 has only added to the popularity.


It might not be hot in southern Alaska, but it is very popular with tourists — straining its delicate ecosystem.

caption
Passengers from cruise ship Safari Endeavour sea kayaking at Pavlof Harbor in the Chatham Strait near Chichagof Island in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
source
Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket via Getty Images

The temperate rainforests of the Tongass National Forest in southern Alaska are unlike almost anywhere else, home to large populations of bears, deer, whales, and more. Many of the small towns nestled among the waterways of the Alaska Marine Highway are also largely dependent on tourism, reports NPR. However, such a unique environment means a delicate balance needs to be struck between keeping communities afloat and protecting native species.


The pigs of Big Major Cay Island in the Bahamas are undeniably cute — but tourists feeding them too many treats is killing them.

caption
A pig swimming at Big Major Cay Island in the Bahamas.
source
Paul Lee/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Big Major Cay Island’s seriously adorable pigs have been dying in large numbers because tourists have been feeding them on the beach, leading to the pigs eating too much sand.

Some tourists have even been giving the pigs alcohol and trying to ride on their backs.


Hanauma Bay, Hawaii, is also struggling with the effects tourism is having on the environment.

caption
Cheerful people wave as the motorcade of US President Barack Obama and the First Family heads back to their vacation home after spending time in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii.
source
Jewel Samad / AFP via Getty Images

According to Buzzfeed, one study found chemicals common in sunscreens can poison coral reefs – and in Hanauma Bay, scientists found about 2,600 average daily visitors had left a whopping 412 pounds of sunscreen in the ocean. Hawaii has now banned the sale of sunscreen that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate – two chemicals that can harm coral.


Cabo San Lucas in Mexico is a tropical locale that’s long been a tourist draw — and the effects are adding up.

caption
Inside a club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
source
Nicole S / Yelp

Cabo is incredibly popular with American tourists. To help combat this, Baja California Sur, the Mexican state where the resort city is located, has introduced a tourist tax, as reported by The Telegraph. The current tax is 350 pesos (about $18.50) per person.


The effects of overtourism are also adding up on Cancún’s beaches.

Cancún and partying are synonymous with each other in the minds of many, especially Americans. However, in addition to the hordes of holidaymakers, foul-smelling algae and climate change have become serious concerns.


The Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring. But a crush of tourists is having consequences — some of them deadly.

caption
The Grand Canyon Skywalk.
source
Mike Kline / Getty

Tourists getting too close to the edge have fallen over and died several times in the past year alone. And they are continuing to get dangerously close to the edge, despite the deaths.


Tourism has also had deadly consequences at Niagara Falls.

caption
Visitors at Niagara Falls.
source
Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Getty

One of the most-visited attractions in North America, deaths do happen when people go over the side of Niagara Falls. But this past July, a man who plunged down the falls miraculously survived.


Coachella has become a pop culture phenomenon. A very popular one.

The world’s biggest stars, like Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift, converge every year on California’s Coachella Valley for the annual music festival. And more people than ever before want to be there to take it all in and document it on social media, with 99,000 people attending each day in 2019. And this is all despite weekend tickets costing upwards of $429.


So, too has South by Southwest — changing the culture of Austin, Texas dramatically.

caption
A group of South by Southwest attendees.
source
Business Insider/Alyson Shontell

Austin, Texas, has a more laid-back culture than the rest of the state. It’s a culture that’s changing, too, thanks to an influx of new residents, tech companies like Google and Apple establishing themselves, and events like South by Southwest (SXSW).

Not everyone is happy about that, with The Guardian reporting that “residents famously despise the festival, and their grumbles are getting louder.”


Some people argue that Burning Man is now burned out.

caption
A group of Burning Man participants, also known as “Burners.”
source
Jim Urquhart/Reuters

As ever-increasing numbers of celebrities and the ultra-wealthy make their way to the Nevada desert each year for Burning Man, there are serious concerns commercialization is taking over the famed festival originally meant to be about anything but that.

Some people are fighting back to return Burning Man to its roots – for the 2019 edition, a $100,000-a-ticket camp favored by influencers was banned, after intense backlash from fellow attendees.


Others might argue Portland, Oregon is “over” — just like the TV series “Portlandia.”

caption
Crowds queuing outside Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon.
source
Katrin Kasper / picture alliance via Getty Images

The culture of Portland, Oregon is not like it’s depicted in “Portlandia” – a TV show which, it should be noted, ended in early 2018. For one, if you’re keen to sample the famous confectionaries at Voodoo Doughnut, prepare to stand in line – and, it should be noted, Voodoo Doughnut is far more popular among tourists than locals.


Thanks to “Star Wars,” Disneyland and Disney World have reached record heights of popularity — and crowding.

caption
First Order stormtroopers clearly perplexed by the presence of a smartphone at Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, AKA “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.”
source
Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

While Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney World is probably the closest any of us will get to traveling to a galaxy far, far away, some have criticized it for being too heavily-focused on shopping – and expensive.


The same goes for Universal Studios, thanks to “Harry Potter.”

caption
Universal Studios’ Harry Potter World is popular among witches, wizards — and muggles.
source
Scott Audette/Reuters

People like Harry Potter. People also like Universal Studios. Combine the two and you get an attraction that’s pretty popular – though, as Insider’s Kirsten Acuna writes while ranking each ride from worst to best, some are definitely superior to others.


Wyoming has a lot of space. But crowds have been converging on a single barn near Jackson Hole.

caption
Photographers line up in early morning to shoot one of the most photographed barns in America – the southern Moulton barn in Grand Teton National Park.
source
Jeff Clow / Getty Images

The T.A. Moulton Barn has been called the most photographed barn in America, according to Atlas Obscura. Business Insider’s Katie Warren visited in 2019 – and found she was far from alone, despite the rather rural location, thanks to its popularity with Instagrammers, influencers, and tourists.


New Orleans’ French Quarter was seemingly made for Instagram. And that means it’s more popular than ever.

Crowds in the French Quarter of New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

caption
Crowds in the French Quarter of New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
source
Sean Gardner / Getty Images

New Orleans is always packed during Mardi Gras, and really much of the year. Good luck getting a table to try some local gumbo or Cajun cooking without a reservation.


Spring Break is still a huge deal at US colleges, and places like Miami Beach, Florida are struggling with the throngs more than ever.

caption
Spring Break crowds at Miami Beach.
source
Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Hitting the beach for Spring Break is a rite of passage for many college students. Condolences to anyone taking their family someplace like Miami Beach, South Padre Island, during the end of March and early April and expecting some level of personal space.


Much has been made of the changes in San Francisco and the Bay Area, which have been drawing a large number of tourists.

caption
A street scene in San Francisco.
source
Robert Alexander / Getty Images

San Francisco has changed a lot in the past 10 years. According to Business Insider’s Aria Bendix, the changes, including an escalating homelessness crisis, and increasingly dirty sidewalks, are eye-opening.


It’s a similar story in nearby Napa Valley and the famous wine country.

caption
Napa Valley is a popular draw year-round.
source
Press

The crowds in Napa Valley are typically older than you might find in, say, Cabo or Cancún. And with millions of people visiting every year, it might pay to do a bit of planning before visiting.


Cuba had a moment in the mid-2010s with the easing of US sanctions. The sanctions are back — but tourism remains robust.

caption
Visitors in Havana, Cuba.
source
Joe Raedle/GettyImages

There were concerns in the middle of the last decade that Cuba’s infrastructure would not be able to keep up with an influx of American tourists as a result of the easing of US government sanctions restricting travel to the island nation. When Harrison Jacobs visited in 2016, he found the country to be more expensive than he expected, noting “nothing costs what it should.”


Maho Beach in the Caribbean is famous for the planes that fly just above it — though in recent years, safety concerns have become more evident.

caption
A plane coming in for a landing on Maho Beach.
source
Benny Zheng

The images of massive jet planes flying so low over tropical Maho Beach that it seems people can jump up and almost touch them are stunning. However, being so close to the planes taking off and landing at the nearby airport on the island of Saint Martin can be deadly – The Guardian reports that in 2017, a New Zealand woman was killed when she was blown back by a jet blast and hit her head.


Yellowstone is beautiful — and deadly.

caption
A crowd of tourists photograph the eruption of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park on June 17, 2016, in Wyoming.
source
Ann Hermes / The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Soaring tourism numbers have posed problems at Yellowstone. More people also means it’s harder for officials to keep an eye on everyone to help keep them safe. Case in point: in 2016, a man from Oregon fell into a hot spring and was dissolved – and it’s more common than you might think.

Read more:

22 destinations that were ruined by tourists over the past decade

40 stunning places to visit in 2020 before they become packed with tourists

100 under-the-radar islands everyone should visit in their lifetime

100 under-the-radar beaches everyone should visit in their lifetime

10 flight attendants reveal the most disappointing part of their job