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Top 5 Tourist Traps to AVOID in New York City

We know, we know. Why travel to New York City if being a tourist is so frowned upon? Not to worry – the stereotypical negative sentiments towards newbies from native New Yorkers is TOTALLY a myth. You just have to know the right places to go… and the wrong ones.

1. The Empire State Building

Keep reading if you don’t hate me yet. Don’t get me wrong; I adore the Empire State Building. It gave us Sleepless in Seattle, Affair to Remember, and most importantly, Chuck and Blair’s unfortunate incident in Gossip Girl… Even though this iconic landmark is gorgeous and a favorite even to the most cold-hearted New Yorker, no one can deny one simple fact: it’s not worth the price. It’s $46 for an adult ticket, and not only is this one of the most expensive observatory decks in the city, but you also won’t even get to see the Empire State Building in your skyline views and pictures because, well, you’re inside it. Unless you specifically have been dying for this experience (which is completely valid), I would recommend swapping out old Ol’ Faithful with The Edge at Hudson Yards or Top of the Rock, instead.

2. Horses in Central Park

This one’s a little bit tricky. I get told almost 50/50 that the horses you oh-so commonly see or associate with the largest park in Manhattan are/are not mistreated. So, research what you will, and make sure the inner animal rights activist inside you is okay with being pulled around by a horse for thirty minutes. Regardless of this controversy, however, these things are simply way too overpriced. These guys will seriously swindle you, and guess what? Walking is totally, totally free, and a 30-minute ride on a Citi Bike is only $3.50. I think there’s also a certain beauty to opting out of a guided tour and taking yourself around no matter where you are; do your own research and tour the attractions YOU want to tour.

3. Statue of Liberty

Ah, The Green Lady. Another iconic building that is simply not worth paying for. Unless you’re a history junkie through and through, or you have a sentimental connection to Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty is only worth viewing from afar. My favorite viewing spots are the High Line and Staten Island Ferry, both (you guessed it) completely free.

4. Times Square

I bet you knew this was coming, and for good reason. In my experience, New Yorkers only frequent Times Square when it’s two a.m. on a Saturday morning completely wasted with twenty of their closest friends. I recommend avoiding this infamous intersection at all costs, especially during the day or late at night, and particularly when you’re alone. And if you choose to venture into these waters, prepare for Whodini’s “The Freaks Come Out at Night” brought to life. “But Sarah, it’s our first time visiting New York and we HAVE to go to Times Square, DUH!” Okay, okay. The two times it’s even remotely acceptable to go is 1) to see a Broadway show, and 2) during sunset to walk around, stare in awe at the screens for twenty minutes, grab some pictures, and dip. Just one tip: don’t take any pictures with the costume people (trust me).

5. Chain restaurants

News flash – you’re in NEW YORK CITY. The Big Apple has some of the most rich, diverse food options in the country, so the crusty, stale bread sticks at Olive Garden should be the last thing on your mind. The East Village has the best street food and dessert bars, Little Italy has the best pasta and pizza (of course), and the Upper East Side has fine dining experiences you will never forget; your options are literally endless. My favorite restaurants are DOMODOMO, Thursday Kitchen, Pinto Garden, Oak Tuscan Truffle Lounge, and San Marzano; all 100% better than your average Big Mac.

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