Readers weigh in on tourist magnets

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Oracle Team USA (L) and Emirates Team New Zealand sail near Alcatraz Island during Race 8 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sailing race in San Francisco, Calif.

Oracle Team USA (L) and Emirates Team New Zealand sail near Alcatraz Island during Race 8 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sailing race in San Francisco, Calif. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

A few weeks ago, I consulted friends, colleagues and acquaintances across the country to weigh in on their cities' tourism cliches that were both worth seeing (the National Mall in Washington) and avoiding (the Hollywood Walk of Fame).

The subject generated a fair bit of reader response. A woman from Wisconsin wrote to say that the suggestions "made me realize that one of the reasons that I enjoy planning a vacation far more than the vacation itself is because I fall for the cliche activities.

"Naturally, this made me realize that my approach to planning is flawed," she wrote.

Many others responded with suggestions of their own, and today, the readers get their say. Replies have been edited for space or clarity.

New York City

Tiffany is home to the Tiffany Diamond (at the flagship store, Fifth Avenue and 57th Street) and it is worth stepping inside the store to view that magnificent sight. It is absolutely stunning. I am of the opinion that Tiffany has enough merit to stand on its own as a worthwhile attraction and should be excluded from the blanket advice to avoid all chain stores in New York.

— Donna C., Joliet, Ill.

Philadelphia

I will have to try your cheese steak recommendation, Dalessandro's, but I thought Pat's was delicious and much better than Geno's. But what made Geno's worth visiting were the law-enforcement badges on display. I had a great time looking through them and finding the badges with geographical significance to us.

— Steve F., Joliet, Ill.

See the Wanamaker pipe organ at the downtown Macy's. The resident organist does regular 45-minute concerts on an organ built for the St. Louis World's Fair (in 1904).

— Karin R., Stillman Valley, Ill.

Seattle

I found the Space Needle's revolving restaurant quite enjoyable. The view was amazing, the service was excellent and the food was tasty. Dinner patrons can visit the observation deck for free, but the view we had allowed us to watch the sunset and have a delicious dessert at the same time! It was a great experience.

— Donna C., Joliet, Ill.

San Francisco

I would recommend Coit Tower for great views of the city; Crissy Field for a stroll, picnic and beautiful views of the bay; the Golden Gate Bridge (in fact, you can get right to the south base of the bridge, where there is an old fort); and Golden Gate Park for museums, a conservatory and even a windmill. The park and Crissy Field are free.

— Chaz Z., Western Springs, Ill.

Alcatraz lives up to its hype. Also, walking or biking over the Golden Gate Bridge is on my "Do List." My husband and I did the bike ride over the bridge and into Sausalito. It was an awesome experience. However, the brochure advertised it as suitable for all bike riders, which (in my opinion) was not true. It was very challenging and at times scary!

— Sandy C., Philadelphia

Toronto

Probably my favorite tourist attraction was the Toronto Islands. They are a 10-minute ferry ride from the city and have a lot to offer. For families with children, there are rides and carnival games, and there are beaches (including a nude one!) if you want to get away from the city for a while. My husband and I rented bicycles and rode around for almost three hours. It was breathtaking to go from a shoreline on one side of the islands to a majestic city skyline on the other.

— Sandy C., Philadelphia

Washington, D.C.

The free attractions are terrific and in some cases very moving, such as the Holocaust museum and the Lincoln Memorial. The Mall is also great with the Vietnam and World War II memorials. I, however, loved the Newseum and tell all of my friends not to miss it. It offers a fantastic history of the news, and unlike many of the free museums, it is not too crowded.

— Ken L., Highland Park, Ill.

jbnoel@tribune.com

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