Giggles are muffled and eyebrows are raised when anyone mentions traveling to Amsterdam. After some perfunctory chit chat about the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, a pregnant pause typically lingers until someone asks the question: "Did you smoke marijuana?" Since the 1970s, tourists have flocked to Amsterdam to legally get high. Now, however, the laws have changed and, come May 1, coffee shops in the southern half of the country will cater only to Dutch residents who are registered members and possess a "weed pass."
Of course, lawyers for the coffee shops are fighting the ban on tourists and hope to prevent the law from going national come January 1, 2013. However, I think it’s high time that other cities followed the Dutch and made local customs available only to residents. Here are just a few treasured traditions that locals deserve to enjoy without having to share with tourists.
Throwing Fish at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market
Every travel show host has thrown a fish at Pike Place. Tourists love to snap photos of the tradition and even take part in it themselves. But what about the Seattle residents who need to toss a fish on their way to work or school? Think globally, throw fish locally.
Blocking Sidewalks in New York City’s Times Square
Visitors to New York love to see the lights, billboards, and chaos of Times Square. It’s where the ball drops every New Year's Eve and one of the most recognizable places on the planet. For decades, out-of-towners have monopolized Times Square. New Yorkers have waited while tourists gawked at skyscrapers and blocked the sidewalks. We need to take back this prized real estate so that only those of us who live here can shop for knock-off purses while wearing our "I ? NY" t-shirts.
Hanging Out on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a hotspot for tourists who want to spend their time in Los Angeles staring at the ground in order to find their favorite stars’ names. It’s also home to men dressed as Spiderman and Elvis just loitering on the street. Basically, it’s the coolest place in town and Angelinos are sick of sharing it. If there were a law to keep Hollywood Boulevard closed to tourists, surely locals would start riding the Metro.
Being a Hippie in Thailand
Backpackers from Europe, the United States, and Australia love to take extended vacations in Thailand in order to explore the country’s fascinating culture join drum circles at full moon parties. Sadly, none of those hippies ever stop to think that maybe the locals would like to grow dreadlocks, put personal hygiene aside, and spend the day being unqualified philosophers.
From Canada to Costa Rica to New Zealand, tourists are gliding over gorges with their nether regions crammed into harnesses. Meanwhile, local residents are left to commute in less efficient ways. At the very least, countries should create high occupancy zip lines for use during peak traffic times.