Two South Carolina venues were listed on USA Today’s list of top tourist traps and most overpriced in the world.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston made all three USA Today lists — tourist trap, most expensive and most overrated, while the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston was ranked No. 6 as most overpriced. Admission there is around $30 depending on the day.
Kevin Mills, chief executive officer of the aquarium, said the aquarium is much more than an attraction. It is an educational and conservation organization
“From our widespread slate of education programming and our tireless efforts in sea turtle rehabilitation to our extensive conservation fieldwork opportunities and our accessibility and inclusion programs, we are serving a great deal of people,” he said in an email. “This list is not exhaustive, and it is ever-changing based off the needs of the people we serve. “
USA Today looked at 23.2 million Google reviews of 500 popular tourist attractions in the world. They analyzed certain “keywords that indicate a common negative sentiment among visitors,” such as tourist trap, expensive and overrated.
Not considered were national and state parks, lakes, mountains or sports stadiums. The list was further reduced based on the total number of reviews submitted for each attraction.
Nevertheless, the list is so extensive it seems that almost every major tourist destination in the United States is on at least one, from Dollywood to Disneyland, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury, Vermont, to Preservation Hall in New Orleans.
The list does not include comments from people about why they felt as they did about a particular venue.
No. 1 tourist trap was Four Corners Monument, the only place in the U.S. where four states — Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah — meet.
Most overpriced No. 1 spot went to Blue Lagoon in Grindavik, Iceland, a geothermal spa in a lava field in front of Mount Þorbjörn. For $62, you get entrance to the Blue Lagoon, silica mud mask, a towel and you can choose a drink. There are two hotels as well, one that begins at $627 and the other at $1,535 per night.
As for the most overrated, the top prize went to Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, which when you go to their website the first thing you sometimes see is tee-shirts, not donuts. They claim to be the creator of the maple bacon bar and call their doughnuts artisan.
Magnolia Gardens was listed as No. 54 tourist trap, No. 33 overpriced and No. 51 overrated. Located on the bank of the Ashley River, the gardens were developed in the 1840s by the Rev. John Grimké Drayton, the gardens’ website says. He wanted to make his wife happy after moving from Philadelphia.
“He directed the enslaved people at Magnolia in planting the gardens that continue to flourish almost 200 years later,” the website says.
Drayton opened the gardens to the public in the 1870s.
“In the late 19th century, Magnolia Gardens was recognized in Baedeker’s Guide to the United States as one of the top places to see in the country. Only two other places received such notoriety: Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon,” the website says.
The property is also used to tell the story of the enslaved people who worked there and four cabins have been restored to tell their story.
The property is still in the Drayton family.
The South Carolina Aquarium holds more than 10,000 plants and animals including North American river otters, loggerhead sea turtles, alligators, great blue herons, owls, lined seahorses, jellyfish, pufferfish, green moray eels, horseshoe crabs, sea stars, pythons, and sharks.
It also has the Great Ocean Tank, the deepest tank in North America, which extends from the first to the third floor and has 700 animals.
Mills said. the aquarium is a massive world with a concrete building that connects people to wildlife many would never be able to see otherwise.
“We have an ocean, a saltmarsh, a mountain forest and so much more – that is not insignificant. Extensive time, effort, knowledge and care went into creating these critical habitats for the animals that reside within,” he said
He hears from patrons that the ability to connect with the animals leaves them with the desire to protect them
“It is hard to truly quantify the impact of what this Aquarium means to the people we serve,” he said.. “But we see our impact. We see it in the student who is finally making the connection between a scientific topic and the exhibit in front of them. We see it in the family who is forging a core memory as they participate in our outdoor program. We see it in the neighbor who is proudly attending a litter sweep alongside us as we collect data to drive decisions. We see it in the child who is beaming with joy as they watch schools of colorful fish swim just beyond their reach. All of these moments that we witness each and every day only reaffirm our commitment and dedication to living our mission.”
Representatives of Magnolia Gardens could not be reached immediately for comment.
This story was originally published October 6, 2023, 6:00 AM.