What I found: My experience was mixed: so much art, so much heritage, but dealing with New Yorkers and the amped-up level of confrontation that they seem to thrive on and their general nastiness was exhausting at times.
Michael Routery, San Francisco
Yosemite National Park: Another view
What I expected: Having secured a coveted reservation months in advance, we visited Yosemite in the autumn of 2005.
What I found: The crowds were thicker than the flies, garbage cans overflowing, traffic gridlocked, hotels overpriced, food terrible, all of it [missing word? 'it'?] overshadowed the natural splendors. The experience felt more akin to being in downtown Los Angeles than a storied national park. Visitors have loved the place to death.
Maryruth Wilde, Carmel
Disneyland: Another view
What I expected: You pay to travel here, pay to stay, pay to park, pay to get into the park, pay to eat in the park, you pay for a ton of memorabilia for the kids.
What I found: The traffic is horrible, you still walk miles after you park, your hotel room stinks, tickets run you hundreds of dollars, the food is less than average, and your kids break, lose or ignore all those souvenirs you just got for them. Bottom line, you might hate it, but you'll be back at least five more times before your kiddo hits puberty. Disneyland has a gravitational pull equal to that of Jupiter.
Heriberto Rosales, Sacramento
What I expected: I visited only because my grandmother lived there. She was a delightful lady, as were her friends, but nice people are the area's only redeeming element, and you can find them anywhere.
What I found: The primary cultural activities are the exact same chain stores and restaurants, repeated every two miles ad nauseam nauseum. No character, no views, no beauty: American shopping mall sprawl at its worst. I will, however, credit them with some decent parks around the country club area and a nice symphony hall.
Lee Bridges, Los Angeles
New York: Another view
What I expected: I hated it because the rudest and nastiest customers that I have dealt with are always from New York. I hated it because it looked way too congested and too expensive. I hated it because New Yorkers are snobs and think their city has the only culture this side of the pond.
What I found: When I finally visited last spring, I fell in love with the diversity, the energy and the freedom of the city. It had everything you could possibly imagine layered in with things you don't want to imagine. It was dense and crazy and expensive, but it was also exciting and even magical. I vowed to go back as soon as possible.
Anna Hoener, Los Angeles
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
What I expected: Exquisite; amazing craftsmanship, a world jewel. Plus, surrounded by all the abject poverty and beggars missing limbs that is India.
What I found: Next to one of the most posh hotels on this planet, gated and guarded of course. One only need visit once to be simultaneously impressed and sad.
Raena Honan, Flagstaff, Ariz.
Las Vegas: Another view
What I expected: I am 24 years old, from Southern California. I enjoy staying up too late, beautiful women and drinking too much as much as the next person, but I can't bear the thought of another Vegas trip.
What I found: Las Vegas is a place where simply spending money is the goal, and I am most likely going to be waiting in line to get into smoke-choked rooms or pools. I'd much rather party hard after a day of skiing, mountain biking, surfing, hiking, or a good, old-fashioned backyard barbecue.
Evan Rodriguez, Santa Barbara
What I expected: I expected Auschwitz, the Nazis' largest, most notorious concentration camp, to be traumatic.
What I found: It was not as traumatic as I thought it might be, primarily because I've been to several Holocaust museums that prepare you somewhat by explaining what happened there. Still, seeing it in person means coming face-to-face with real evil, which is something no museum exhibit can possibly duplicate.
I didn't realize till I got here that what's referred to as "Auschwitz" is really three different camps. The first camp was called Auschwitz and was a former Polish army barracks. When the Nazis outgrew that, they built another facility a few miles away called Birkenau, which was striking for its massive scale. Row upon row of barracks to house men, women and children, most of whom didn't last more than a few months before dying or being killed. Along with Buna-Monowitz (the third camp), the whole place was just a gigantic death factory.
Although it was worth visiting, I don't think I'll ever go back to Auschwitz or Poland. The entire country is just a vast graveyard for what was once a vibrant and prosperous Jewish community. All that's left now is cemeteries and museums.
Guy Nadivi, Renton, Wash.