Top Tourist Traps in New York City
We have all seen some pretty lame tourist traps across the world, but what are the top tourist traps in New York City? Well, as a long time local, I have experienced much of what the Big Apple has to offer. That’s why I decided to create this list, so that you can avoid thinking, “Seriously? I spent money on THAT?”
This is always such an awful feeling because you just wasted your precious time, and money, on something that was overpriced and not that enjoyable. And when you’re on vacation, time and money are two things that can be in very short supply.
So, to help you make the most out of your time in New York City, I have created a list of some of the top tourist traps in the City, that you may want to avoid. Bare in mind, just because something appears on this list, does not mean its awful. Some of these places are nice but are on this list because they are super expensive and just way too crowded.
Finally, just remember that this is all MY opinion. None of this is fact, so you may agree with some of what is on this list, and totally hate the rest. And that’s okay because we’re all different. This list is just here to give you some alternative places to visit that are cheaper, less crowded, and more enjoyable (any place on this list is somewhere that I would go if I was spending the day in New York City).
- Empire State Building – I know, I know. This 102 story building on Fifth Avenue is a total New York City landmark, so I
understand why you are like, “How can this be a tourist trap?” Well, I have been to the top and it is nice enough, but the lines are insanely long and the tickets are a whopping $34 a pop. A better way to take in the New York City skyline is to head across the Brooklyn Bridge and stroll along the Brooklyn Height Promenade, which is gorgeous, free, and a whole lot less crowded.
- Junior’s Cheesecake – I am not saying that Junior’s doesn’t have AMAZING cheesecake (it does), but the line can be heinously long since the store front is RIGHT in the middle of Times Square. Instead, try Levain Bakery (167 West &4th Street or 2167 Frederick Douglas Boulevard which is ALWAYS less crowded) for the most amazing cookies I have EVER had. They are so warm and chewy and just plain old amazing. My other favorite dessert place is Underwest Donuts (638 West 47th street). This donut shop is totally unassuming since it adjoins a carwash and is right across the street from the Intrepid. A total hole in the wall but with moist, rich, non-greasy donuts, in favors like Lavender Vanilla, can you really go wrong?
- Madame Tussauds New York and Ripley’s Believe it or Not New York City – Ummm… My mother always told me that if you don’t anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. So yeah. I am not gonna say too much about this except that it’s crowded, expensive, and I left feeling disappointed. I would opt for the Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street) or the Frick Collection (1 East 70th Street) instead.
- The Book of Mormon on Broadway – Suffice it to say, I have seen better shows on Broadway. I thought this was was overhyped and that Waitress (256 West 47th Street) was much better (Seriously, I thought it was gonna suck and loved it. Tickets to Waitress are also reasonably priced and easy to get).
Central Park – Look, this park has it all. Strawberry Fields, the Central Park Zoo, Shakespeare Gardens, etc. So what is there not to love? Well, the CROWDS. Everybody goes to Central Park so it can be a pretty anxiety invoking, claustrophobic experience. For a more relaxing park visit, try Prospect Park in Brooklyn. This park was designed by the same architects of Central Park. However, Brooklyn was less developed than Manhattan, at the time of the park’s inception, so Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were permitted more creative license to develop this park into a real, oasis of greenery. Wooded areas, a lake, and a mile long meadow all combine to create an escape from the busy insanity of the city, at least for a little while. To get to Prospect Park, take the Q towards Coney Island and get off at the, you guessed it, Prospect park Subway Station.
- Little Italy – I love Little Italy but it can be expensive and hard to find a table. So, to satisfy your hunger for delicious Italian food, try Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. I swear, it’s where all the locals go and you won’t regret it.
- Pedicab Ride through Central Park – I did this once and let me just say that I’ll never do it again. Take my word for it and rent a citi bike (for $10 a day) to explore Central Park.
- High Tea at the Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court – It’s not that high tea at the Plaza is bad, it’s just that you will literally have to wait a matter of months for a reservation to open up. So, if you’re short on time and money, try Bosie’s Tea Parlor in the West Village (10 Morton Street). High Tea here is only $55 for two people , and includes 2 teas of your choice, three types of sandwiches, macaroons, scones, and cake.
- Iceskating in Rockefeller Center – Look, we’ve all seen this iconic love scene immortalized in about a thousand romantic comedies, but the real life experience just doesn’t live up to the hype (Not with the long lines and at $25-$32 a ticket). You can literally ice-skate just about anywhere else since ice rinks pop up all over the city throughout the winter months (Bryant Park,
Central Park, Mccarran Rink, etc.).
- Serendipity – This New York, confectionary institution is world renowned for it’s frozen hot chocolate, but lines are long and tables hard to come by. For a more intimate dessert experience, try The Chocolate Room at 51 5th Avenue. Here, the dimly lit restaurant has a cozy feel that creates a more personal dining experience for any restaurant guests. Try their brownie sundae, cakes, or ice cream sandwiches. All are insanely delicious and worth every calorie, which is high praise when coming from a dessert addict like myself (10 Below’s famous rolled ice cream, on 10 Mott Street in Chinatown, also really good).
- Grimaldi’s Pizza in Dumbo – The pizza here is good but not the best I have ever had. Personally, I love the pizza at Mario Batali’s Italian grocery store, Eataly. And don’t think for one second that this place is, “just a grocery store”. This innovative, Italian dining concept is a unique food experience, that includes everything Italian, from grocery shopping to upscale, restaurant dinning (not to mention all the fresh ingredients that are encapsulated in truly artistic displays). Additionally, the downtown location is
amazing because it is conveniently located at 101 Liberty Street, right near the World trade Center Memorial
; another site that is definitely worth checking out.
- Times Square – It’s insanely crowded, overpriced, and just basically, tourist trap central. Just get your pictures and go anywhere else, like right now!! LoL.
- The Meatpacking District – I think I went here once and vowed never again because it was insanely expensive and I felt like a sardine that was packed into a very tiny tin can. So, if you’re in New York and into the clubbing scene, check out Williamsburg, Brooklyn instead. The atmosphere here is much less pretentious and way more down to earth; basically, a relatable scene that is more my style, not that I actually go clubbing anymore, but you get the idea.
- Yankee Stadium – It pains me to put this on the list, because I am a die hard Yankee fan. But, the tickets can be expensive and the cost of food and drinks there are just ridiculous. I still go because I am a fan, but if you just want to experience a baseball game in New York City, then get tickets to a Mets game at CitiField. You’ll get the same experience at a cheaper price. And if Yankees fans ask, I never said that.
- Statute of Liberty – I get it. Who doesn’t want to experience the glory of good old, Lady Liberty, first hand? Well, your answer might change when you learn that it’s $28.50 for a ticket into her crown. For me, a better, and cheaper, way to see the Statue of Liberty, is aboard the Staten Island Ferry. From this boat, you can marvel at the Statue of Liberty while floating across New York Harbor (The ride across is about 25 minutes and you can board the ferry at the Whitehall Terminal at 4 South Street, Manhattan). Not only are the views amazing, but the tickets are FREE; a price that just can’t be beat.