Landmarks have always been an important part of traveling, even if you consider yourself more of a "traveler" than a "tourist." They add context to your photos, texture to any cityscape and a feeling of gravity to being in the city where they stand.
In today's era of selfies and "look at me" social media, however, they also provide validation for travelers on the hunt for "Likes," follows and other shows of digital support. Paradoxically, today's crowds—global tourism rose 4% in 2015 to 1.1. billion, according to the World Tourism Organization—make getting that perfect Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty picture more miserable than ever before.
What's a modern traveler to do?
One answer, particularly if your camera or phone allows you to manually adjust its aperture, thus blurring the background to remove incriminating details, is to visit a fake landmark. They're not only less crowded, but in many cases are more convenient than the originals, allowing you to bank online clout with minimal frustration. Here are some of the world's most famous fake landmarks.
Japan's Fake Statue of Liberty
While the Statue of Liberty replica on Odaiba Island, in Tokyo Bay just south of Tokyo's city center, is definitely not more convenient for most Americans than the real one, there are a few advantages to coming here for your selfie with Lady Liberty.
The first is optical: The smaller size of Japan's Statue of Liberty means you needn't be as far away from it to get it perfectly framed in your picture, which in turn means you can be on land (rather than on a boat) when you take. Speaking of optics, Odaiba offers some of the best panoramic views of Tokyo's sweeping skyline, framed by the Rainbow Bridge, which glows in a beautiful spectrum of color by night.
Plus, Japan arguably boasts more attractions than NYC—and the country's network of Shinkansen high-speed trains is more efficient than the New York City Metro, and certainly more so than taking a taxi through the city's crowded streets.
Fake White Houses in Georgia and Virginia
Here's where the convenience starts: There's a White House lookalike in McLean, Virginia, only about an hour from the actual White House. That's the good news.
The better news? As of September 2016, this 12,000 square foot mansion was up for auction, although the aftermath of that auction is not currently clear.
There are a few pieces of bad news, both for visitors and would-be buyers. For starters, Virginia's Fake White House doesn't have an east or west wing, or a Washington Monument behind it or a rose garden in front of it. If you buy this, you'll not only not be the President, you won't even be able to work in the same sort of room he does! Secret Service is also not included, which might come as a surprise given the high starting price (nearly $5 million) of the auction.
Additionally, since this White House is private property, you'll need to be quick and discreet when you take your selfies. The same goes for the replica that exists in Georgia, which is a topic for another article.
India's Fake Taj Mahal
One of the most necessary experiences in India can also be among the most stressful. You see, although there are dozens of trains per day from Delhi to Agra, where the Taj Mahal sits, trains stations on both ends are littered with hustlers looking to scam naive tourists out of time and money.
An alternative option for seeing a Taj Mahal-style building is to fly to Mumbai and get a connecting flight to Aurangabad, also located in the state of Maharashtra, where you'll find Bibi Ka Maqbara. Less of a replica and more a product of the same historical period, rulers and architectural styles, Bibi Ka Maqbara will nonetheless fool most of your social media followers and non-worldly family.
As is the case with the fake White House, India's Fake Taj Mahal is not a one-off. The one in Bangladesh, for example, is an actual replica, albeit one significantly more tedious to reach than Bibi Ka Maqbara—there's nothing "fake" about the traffic in Dhaka!
Illinois' Fake Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a particularly frustrating monument to visit. Pisa, you must understand, is an otherwise quiet, charming city, located along the Arno River (the same one that winds through Florence) near its delta with the Adriatic Sea. Right up until the moment you arrive at the Tower, you're under the impression you might've missed the crowds, but then it's like you're in Times Square on New Year's Eve.
One option for skipping the flight to Italy is to head to Chicago, and drive north of the suburb of Niles, which has its own Leaning Tower, approximately equal in height and mostly identical in likeness. The only "crowds" you're likely to encounter are Chicago's notoriously awful traffic—this particular Tower has not reached near the ubiquity of the original, although once word gets out it might.
Thailand's Fake Gherkin
Although not as notorious for fakes as, say, China, Thailand nonetheless hosts its share of them. If you've visited Bangkok recently, for example, you might've noticed a familiar sight in the northern part of the city center, one that looks especially familiar if you happen to be from the UK.
Dubbed "The Pearl Bangkok," this 25-story building bears a striking resemblance to the so-called "Gherkin" in London, although developers claim it's purely coincidental. Likewise, while the Gherkin stands out amid London's comparatively small skyline, you have to be looking closely to even notice the Pearl within the context of Bangkok's.
(TIP: The Pearl Bangkok is easily accessible from the Ari station of the Bangkok BTS SkyTrain.)
Tennessee's Fake Parthenon
When you think of grand structures in the Volunteer State, the first thing that comes to your mind is Graceland, followed perhaps by Dollywood. As it turns out, however, Tennessee's most notorious replica building has as little to do with music as it does with anyone from Tennessee.
To be sure, it's difficult to establish a deliberate logical link between the Parthenon that sits in Nashville's Centennial Park and the original in Greece, other than the grandeur the park's builders were trying to convey. Nonetheless, it's one of many strange attractions in the Tennessee capital you need to make sure to check out if this is the fake landmark you choose to visit.
China's Fake Eiffel Tower
Keeping with tradition, this list saves the best for last. The best, or perhaps the most accomplished: China is notorious for fake versions of everything, so it shouldn't be shocking that a fake Eiffel Tower sits conspicuously along an otherwise normal street in Hangzhou, Zhejiang.
Then again, the fake Eiffel Tower is one of countless Chinese replicas, from the Easter Island statues you find in Beijing, to the various fake European villages developers have built in the country, to the infamous "Replica Park" in Ningbo, whose notoriety has come less from its existence and more from how badly it copies the original landmarks.
If there's one country in the world you can visit and be sure to come across fake landmarks without trying too hard, China is that country. China is also home to many fake stores, so you can sip a fake Starbucks coffee as you snap your selfie in front of a fake sphinx.