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The Lower Ninth Ward
New Orleans, Louisiana
The infamy: The hardest-hit area of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, this down-on-its-luck neighborhood saw most of its homes not just flooded but washed away.
Tasteless tourism? Amid the destruction—typically viewed through the windows of a tour bus, whose driver doesn't let anyone get off—vegetation is slowly encroaching upon an endless landscape of rubble. Yet the real tourist attraction these days is a handful of recently built, brightly painted houses that are the work of Make It Right, a foundation created by actor Brad Pitt.
Why go? A tour through the Lower Ninth Ward is a reminder of what a powerful force nature can be; nearly five years on, some here are still battling to overcome the aftermath. What's more, many New Orleans residents are happy to see tourists—and especially tourist dollars—returning (so demand to get off the bus to spend some!). You could also consider pitching in with the rebuilding efforts: Habitat for Humanity and HandsOn New Orleans welcome volunteers.
Hurricane Katrina Tour, $35 for a three-hour tour (children, $28).