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Originally published Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:13 PM

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Do’s and don’ts of top U.S. cities

Tourism clichés to avoid — or embrace — in Vegas, San Francisco and beyond

Chicago Tribune

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Every great city has its tourist clichés. Still, some are worth seeing or doing. Others are worth avoiding. But which is which?

I reached out to experts, friends and social-media contacts across the country to weigh in on some of the busiest tourism cities. A sampling of the advice:

LAS VEGAS

Do: 1. The Bellagio fountains still take my breath away.

2. A quick — and free — visit to the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on the south Strip is worth doing for the people watching alone.

Don’t: 1. Clubbing. Unless you have prearranged for table service, it really is just miserable.

2. I can’t figure out the long line of people waiting to get inside the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop from “Pawn Stars.”

LOS ANGELES

Do: 1. The Griffith Observatory.

2. The J. Paul Getty Museum (it’s free, but you have to pay to park).

3. For great people watching, the Venice Beach boardwalk.

Don’t: 1. The Hollywood “Walk of Fame” is dirty and crowded. You’ll be bored after 15 minutes.

2. Don’t waste money on a “See the Stars’ Homes” bus tour. All you see are giant fences and foliage.

SAN FRANCISCO

Do: 1. Ride a cable car (preferably the Powell line, preferably hanging off the side). It’s one of the best thrills $6 can buy.

Don’t: 1. Fisherman’s Wharf is all tourist shops.

NEW YORK CITY

Do: 1. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan and up to Chinatown for dim sum.

2. Grand Central Station.

3. Stuff on the water (Governors Island, Roosevelt Island, Red Hook, bridges, boat rides). It’s an island city. Appreciate that.

4. Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side. The atmosphere is tops, and the food is still amazing.

Don’t: 1. Magnolia Bakery, made famous by “Sex and the City” — mediocre and overpriced.

2. Stand in line for everything; the city has too many options to waste your day on one thing.

3. Shop at the same chain stores on Fifth Avenue that you find in any midsize American city.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Do: 1. The Smithsonian, the Holocaust Museum, Lincoln Memorial (especially at night) and the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery are all great and free.

2. The National Mall is a treasure, filled with tourists from across the world.

Don’t: 1. Museums where you have to pay — the International Spy Museum, the Newseum — are a waste in a town with far better free museums.

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