Tourist attractions usually belong to one of four categories;
- natural attractions;
- built attractions;
- festivals and events;
- entertainment and leisure.
Natural attractions like the landscapes, mountains, rivers, or coasts are often also protected areas such as regional or national parks. Sometimes the animals, birds, or vegetation will be as important as the landscape itself.
Built attractions include historic sites, monuments, museums, and theme parks, theme parks are purpose-built – the designers created them thinking primarily about tourism. Monuments and historic sites were built for a different purpose, but in time have become tourists attractions.
Festivals and events are like built attractions. Many were not originally aimed at tourists. This is the case with Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and with countless religious festivals around the world, which often include a procession through the local streets. A parade is similar to a procession, but without a strong religious element.
Theatres, nightclubs, zoos and shopping centers are examples of entertainment and leisure facilities. Frequently, they are intended for use by the local population, but tourists use them while on holiday, in major tourist resorts like Las Vegas, this situation may be reversed.
In the past, sightseeing meant locating an attraction, taking photos, and going on the next one. Nowadays, tourist authorities work hard to bring attractions to life. At a historic site there may be animators – actors dressed in period costumes that try to help visitors capture the flavour of the past.
The tourist is always looking for new attractions, and the ‘attractions industry’ has to keep on changing.
The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is one of the best examples of London’s 19th century architecture. The building looks very much like a cathedral and was designed by the architect Alfred Waterhouse using an iron and steel framework hidden behind arches and columns, which are decorated with sculptures of animals and plants.
The museum houses a whole host of exhibits of dinosaurs, mammals, as well as insects and plants. There are also displays devoted to human biology and the origin of species.
You can also visit the Earth galleries where you can find out what it’s like to be in the middle of an earthquake or standing next to a volcano.
Entrance to the museum is free and there’s a cafeteria if you get hungry, and a bookshop and a gift shop if you want to buy any souvenirs.
The Palace is the London home of the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and other family members also have their own rooms. About 50 domestic staff live there. John Nash started converting the original Buckingham House into a palace for George IV (reigned 1820-30), but Queen Victoria became the first monarch to live there in 1837.
The rooms include the state ballroom used for banquets, the music room where state guests are presented and the picture gallery containing a selection of the Queen’s paintings. There is also a swimming pool, a private cinema and a post office.
During the summer the palace guard, which consists of three officers and forty men, is changed to the sound of martial music.