a city street with many buildings and signs

New York City, the big apple, the center of capitalism. Or perhaps, just the place where Kevin Macalister spent Christmas in Home Alone II. However you see New York City, there are thrilling opportunities at every corner. But are they worth it? Here are a few things life long New Yorkers suggest taking a pass on, and a few tips to get what you’re looking for instead.

30 Rockefeller Plaza skyline at sunsetEmpire State Building

You know all those iconic New York City pictures you’re dreaming of? Yeah – they’re OF the Empire State Building, not from it. If you want to wow your Instagram following, try Rockefeller Center instead. You’ll get epic NYC views, with the Empire State Building included.

Authentic Italian Food

Little Italy looks like something out of a movie set. What once may have been a quaint and romantic Italian neighborhood, where Mamma Bertoli bangs out delicious meatballs is now a tourist trap. You won’t find anything near the best authentic Italian food in New York City, and you’ll pay full on tourist prices. Head to Roberto’s in the Bronx, Barbuto in the West Village – or just anywhere that’s not Little Italy.

a city street with many tall buildings and people crossing itRide Offers

New York City has no shortage of yellow cabs, Uber, mass transit and airport shuttle busses. Therefore, much like many cities on earth – you should never accept a ride from the incredibly friendly folks offering rides in the arrivals area. Call an Uber, visit the arrival center for certified info or just hop in a flat rate yellow cab.

Statue Of Liberty Boat Tours

The Staten Island Ferry is FREE. Yes, zero dollars. Not only will it take you close enough to throw a good luck coin at the lovely statue which graces New York City harbor, it’s free! Take the ferry from lower Manhattan and enjoy a picturesque ride. You can take the $20 per person you’ll save and buy a fancy cocktail at a hip Tribeca bar when you’re done.

a woman singing into a microphoneTicket Scalpers

No – they won’t take your scalp, but they make off with your hard earned holiday cash. Never ever buy tickets off someone selling outside of a concert, sporting event or broadway show – unless they agree to walk in with you. Ticket scalpers and con artists are brilliantly clever in New York City, so stick to buying tickets when they’re released, at places like TKTS or online – on Stubhub or Broadway.com.

Street Hot Dogs

New York City has some of the best food trucks in the world – especially if you’re into Halal. But the Hot Dog trucks, especially those which descend upon tourist traps – are almost sure to give you a plethora of diseases or ill effects. Sitting in questionable water for hours on end, these hot dogs are mass produced, over priced and nowhere near the quality you’ll find if you do a bit of research. If you must, have a hot dog at a ballpark during a New York summer.

a city with many buildings and a body of waterThe Less Expensive Purse

This is New York City we’re talking about. If it sounds too good to be true – it is. Despite whatever the charming, cigarette smoking store clerk may tell you about the provenance of the wallet, bag or purse you desire, it’s a fake. If it seems too low to be true, and it’s sold somewhere between 38th and 20th street, or way downtown – it’s almost assuredly fake. Of course, if you can’t tell, your friends probably can’t either – so enjoy.

Horse & Carriage Rides

There is something quintessentially “New York” about this experience – but it’s one we can’t endorse. With a bountiful selection of bikes available for rent and plenty of paths to walk, we just can’t justify paying a ridiculous amount of money to subject a horse to New York City traffic. The cabbies hate it – and they’re human.

a city street with many buildings and carsTimes Square

We’re sorry. We just are, but Times Square is a tourist trap. There are precisely zero resident New Yorkers who enter Times Square for leisure or any reason other than business. It’s absolutely worth seeing once or twice, but from there – move on. Meals do not reflect the standards of New York’s delightful culinary scene or is the Olive Garden an “authentic” Italian restaurant. Take pics, buy TKTS and move on.

Club Promoters

This problem is hardly unique to New York – but it’s painfully amusing. No shortage of “club promoters” will offer those seeking a wild night out the best experience possible. But really, 99% of clientele are fodder for high fees, long waits and ratio maintenance. If you want to get into clubs, bring more girls than guys and get there early. Any real club promoter won’t need money from you to make it happen.

Any other tourist traps to avoid?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Saying the SI Ferry takes you close enough to throw a good luck coin is absurd… might as well throw one from battery park.

  2. This list seems pretty legit to me. I would like to add two details to items you already pointed out:
    1) Times Square – Don’t eat there, don’t drink there (or even nearby). If you want to do either of those without needing a cab/subway, I recommend the string of places along 9th avenue in Hell’s Kitchen (despite its name/reputation, it’s actually a pretty well-off area). If you’re willing to travel a little further, basically anywhere in The Village works for food/nightlife.
    2) Club promoters – This also includes comedy clubs. Don’t trust the guy on the street telling you that Dave Chappelle is opening for Jerry Seinfeld at this no-name club that still has last-minute seats available for $10. I recommend keeping track of these comedy listings to know who’s *actually* performing where:

    It took me a multiple visits to realize this, but getting a hotel in Midtown is probably a mistake. If you’re taking grandmom to a Broadway show, I can understand. Otherwise, you’ll always feel like you’re in a sea of dumb-tourists. The Village is better-located, and Downtown (ironically) offers the best bang for the buck.

  3. Avoid the “Disney Arena” around the mid 40’s on the west side. It used to be the unofficial music district. Now it’s a tourist trap. Also avoid the “charging bull” and the “fearless girl” on B’way in lower Manhatten.

  4. With the exception of the Empire State Building and Times Square which are must dos even with their drawbacks, that is a good list of things to avoid.

    On the flip side, on a one day layover in New York I recently discovered an activity that is an outstanding opportunity for any tourist in the Big Apple. The NYC Airporter provides bus transportation from LGA ($30) and JFK ($36) to midtown Manhattan. The transportation is great but even better is that the ticket includes a free walking tour of lower Manhattan and a bicycle tour in Central Park. In August 2017 I tried the walking tour and it was fantastic.


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