CHEROKEE, N.C. (WGHP) – We aren’t blowing Smoky stuff here: The national park in the mountains on the North Carolina/Tennessee border is just as grand as the one by the canyon in Arizona.

That’s based on an analysis of grades on the travel planning advice site Tripadvisor. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Grand Canyon National Park get the most positive reviews.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Grand Canyon in Arizona. (Getty)

TripAdvisor always wants to know how you feel about where you go and what you do, and of those of you who have attended the Great Smoky Mountains or the Grand Canyon, 89% gave them better than “great” or “grand” reviews, rating them “excellent” (or 5-star).

Family Destinations Guide, which also plans vacations, decided to look at 50 of the most popular sites in the U.S. (based on annual visitors) and see how those 5-star reviews shook out.

That the Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon tied for first is a pleasant surprise for what some probably consider the South’s most popular place to go (sorry, Disney World).

What might be more surprising is to recognize that Smoky Mountain National Park, a relatively small area of 816 square miles, actually drew more than twice as many visitors: 12.1 million to the 5 million who visited the 1,904 square miles of the Grand Canyon’s parks.

There are other parks in the survey that certainly drew more visitors. For instance, Central Park in New York had 42 million visitors (or each of the 1.63 million residents of Manhattan visiting about twice a month – 26 times – during the year). But only 78% gave the park excellent reviews. That ranked fourth on the list, though.

Others in the top 10 based on positive reviews were:

  • No. 3: Mackinac Bridge, Michigan: 9 million visitors, 82%.
  • No. 5: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco: 10 million, 75%
  • No. 6: Balboa Park, San Diego: 13 million, 74%.
  • No. 7: National Mall, Washington, D.C.: 32 million, 73%.
  • No. 8: Millennium Park, Chicago: 25 million, 71%.
  • No. 9: Disney’s Epcot Center, Orlando, Florida: 12.44 million, 71%.
  • No. 10: Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando: 20.4 million, 69%.

Family Destinations Guide does its own “best” lists on all sorts of vacation topics, and in its release about this analysis, its authors offered this: “Looking at reviews online is a great way to get a second opinion of an attraction before spending time or money visiting.” 

TripAdvisor claims nearly 1 billion reviews of some 8 million businesses and outlets, from hotels and restaurants to travel locations.

So now that you know which ones got the highest percentage of great reviews, aren’t you curious about the bottom of that list? Family Destinations compiled the “bottom 10” as well.

At the bottom was Venice Beach in south Los Angeles, where only 37% of the 10 million visitors gave it an excellent review. That was slightly better than the South Street Seaport in New York City, which generated 39% from 9 million visitors.

The rest of the bottom 10, in reverse order:

  • Navy Pier, Chicago: 9 million, 40%.
  • Union Station, Washington D.C.: 40 million, 41%.
  • Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston: 18 million, 47%.
  • Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco: 10 million, 47%.
  • Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota: 40 million, 52%.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Orlando: 11.48 million, 57%.
  • Times Square, New York City: 50 million,59%.
  • Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada: 42 million, 59%.

In case you were wondering about the inclusion of some of these areas, the National Park Service claims more than 424 “individual units” in all 50 states. The Blue Ridge Parkway, for instance, is one of four such roadways listed.

NPS boasted nearly 312 million visitors in 2022, which is a bit of an increase from the 120,690 in 1904, the first year a count was kept. In those 118 years, more than 15.7 trillion have visited a park.