As much fun as it is to wait in line for hours just to get a new Facebook profile picture, at some point you start wondering if visiting famous tourist attractions is even worth it. After all, these are the most photographed places in the planet. Even if you've never been there before, you already know them better than your grandma's living room (you're a terrible grandkid, by the way).
Or you think you know them, anyway. It turns out that many of these iconic locations have fascinating secrets hiding in plain sight, like real-life versions of video game Easter eggs (or, you know, actual Easter eggs). So the next time you're stuck in a line with 200 other tourists, look around and you may spot ...
7The Empty Building In The Middle Of Times Square
About 37 million people visit New York City's Times Square every year, making it the world's second-most-visited tourist attraction (the first is presumably the nearest public bathroom). Hiding a whole building in such a heavily-transited area sounds like some David Copperfield bullshit -- and yet hardly anyone pays attention to the empty 25-story skyscraper at the center here:
We always figured those billboards were suspended in the air with dark magic.
One Times Square was originally constructed in 1904 to serve as the headquarters of The New York Times (hence the name). Despite making a big deal out of their giant concrete dick, they ended up moving out only eight years later. That's right, even the people who named Times Square couldn't stand to stay there for too long. Here's what the building looked like back then:
Was there ever not traffic in New York?
After its most recent owners went bankrupt in 1992, the building was sold to Lehman Brothers. Rather than house new tenants in the tower, they had more lucrative residents in mind: ads. Shitloads and shitloads of ads. The firm had large screens crudely attached to the facade of the building, and now One Times Square rakes in $23 million a year, despite having zero tenants.
Unless the graffiti-scrawling ghosts count as tenants.
OK, they have a Walgreens on the ground floor. Other than that, the building's only current inhabitant is the New Year's ball, which sits alone on the roof all year, dreading its next encounter with Ryan Seacrest's face.
It draws upward and shrinks from the thought of those teeth.
When Lehman Brothers sold the building to another firm in 1997, they did so for an obscene 300-percent profit. These days, the building is worth $495 million, and each billboard rents for between $1 million and $2.4 million annually. That's, like, at least twice as expensive as renting a hotel room in that area.
With that kind of money, you could build your own naked cowboy.
So when you're watching the ball drop on New Year's, remember that you're watching it fall onto a building full of nothing but empty halls and abandoned office space, making it exactly as full of character as Times Square itself.
Times Square: a tourist attraction of Super Bowl commercials.
6The Secret Room Behind Mount Rushmore
In the cinematic classic National Treasure 2: Book Of Secrets, protagonist Professor Yellface McEyebrows (or something) discovers that there is a secret complex behind Mt. Rushmore which contains another hidden treasure hardly worth the ticket price of seeing Nicolas Cage when he was still relevant. But that's ridiculous, right? There isn't any secret room behind Mt. Rushmore, and if there was, our teachers would have told us in school. Right?
Well, as we keep telling you, your teachers sucked.
via National Parks Service
It's right by the historically accurate rendition of LBJ's rock-hard buttocks.
It turns out that sculptor Gutzon Borglum's (we're 90 percent sure we didn't make up that name) original vision for Mt. Rushmore was a slight bit more elaborate. Among other things, it included full torsos for each of the presidents, and the entire mountain was to be carved into the shape of the Louisiana Purchase. Then he wanted to inscribe descriptions of important moments in U.S. history in enormous letters across this Mt. Louisiana Monstrosity. No word on how many moving lasers he wanted to include, but we're guessing "all of them."
Once logic, reason, and money set in, Borglum settled on an idea for a "Hall of Records" where a repository of important U.S. documents could be stored for future generations (like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and hopefully the tab for the epic post-Constitution-signing bash). Borglum's death in 1941 stopped the project ... but not before he had already begun blasting for it. Because even at age 73, the man loved to blow shit up.
National Park Service
You can stop clicking the screen to make it go further. This isn't a '90s PC game.
In 1998, the U.S. government installed a sealed titanium vault and a 1,200 lb. granite capstone inside the chamber to hold copies of the its most important documents, and not to contain an eldritch atrocity Richard Nixon accidentally summoned into existence in 1972. Nope, that never happened.
But the important thing here is that there is a literal national treasure hiding behind Mt. Rushmore, and now we have to go check Wikipedia to see if Ghost Rider was a real guy.