New York City Travel Guide

15 Things NOT to Do in New York City

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No matter how many times you’ve been to New York, the city can overwhelm you with its plethora of sights, museums, restaurants, activities, and more. Unfortunately, many visitors make the mistake of spending their precious vacation time on the wrong things, or go about seeing the city in the wrong way. To help you avoid making common mistakes, eating at the wrong places, and spending your money on the wrong things, we compiled this comprehensive list. Follow this expert advice on what not to do in New York City—forget Times Square!—and you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

By Michael Alan Connelly

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Don’t take taxis

Unbeknownst to most visitors, there exists a secret rule of the universe that states: If you are running late in New York City and take a taxi, you will get stuck in traffic. And if you’re not in a rush, there’s really no good reason to take one: They’re expensive and the drivers don’t always know how to get to your destination. Instead of taking a taxi, hop on the subway, which is much cheaper, easy to navigate if you familiarize yourself in advance, and in many cases will get you where you want faster than any cab can. There are exceptions, of course, especially late at night, so if you must take a car, try Uber. The app-powered service uses geolocation to let drivers know where you are and how to get to your destination, and it happens to be about 20% cheaper than taxis. (Beware of surge pricing during bad weather and peak times, when Uber should be avoided at all costs.) As another alternative, consider getting around town on a Citi Bike.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t waste time in Times Square

Let’s be clear: We’re not saying you should never go to Times Square, but know that New Yorkers avoid it like the plague, only making their way there if they have the misfortune of working there or to see a Broadway show—and even then we find ways to avoid walking directly through Times Square. In other words, one visit is enough for a lifetime. If you’ve never been, make your way there, gawk at the massive signs and shops, snap some pictures, and get out of there about 10 minutes later. If you’ve been to Times Square before, there’s no reason to go back, unless you have an affinity for strangers dressed as Elmo and Buzz Lightyear trying to make a buck off you. New York’s a big city—don’t waste your time here when there’s so much else to do.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t go to the top of the Empire State Building

Iconic though it may be, it’s usually just not worth it to go to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. The lines are horrific, and you’ll have to fork up $50 in order to skip them. For something similar, head to Top of the Rock, where the views are just as good if not better, and the lines aren’t as menacing. And if you prefer no lines at all and a cocktail with your views, check out the city’s best rooftop bars.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t pay for a Circle Line tour

If you want to pay $30 or more for one of Circle Line Sightseeing’s cruises, be our guest, but we have some better suggestions. One of the best rides in town is onboard the Staten Island Ferry, a free 25-minute trip that affords views of the Lower Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and the majestic Statue of Liberty. For a nominal fee, a ride on the East River Ferry includes views of Manhattan as well as the Brooklyn Bridge, plus the ferry connects a lot of areas that aren’t easy to get between on the subway. On weekends, New York Water Taxi offers free 20-minute rides between Pier 11 on Wall Street and the hard-to-reach but worth-visiting neighborhood of Red Hook.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t go to the High Line on weekends

New Yorkers love the High Line, visitors love the High Line, we all love the High Line. Unfortunately this means that the elevated walkway can feel like a conveyor belt on weekends, when the crowds jostle you along the path. If you genuinely care about taking some time to enjoy this urban wonder, go on a weekday as early as possible.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t limit yourself to Manhattan

New York has five boroughs, not one, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re overlooking Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Each borough has its own set of neighborhoods, landmarks, parks, cultural institutions, ethnic communities, and more that is worth exploring, but highlights include the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, the Queens Museum, and Historic Richmond Town. Think of it this way: If you don’t ever leave Manhattan, you can’t really say you’ve been to New York.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t take a horse carriage ride

The city government is in the midst of a protracted political battle over potentially banning horse carriages from city streets, so there’s no telling how long they’ll even be around. But even so, there’s something unseemly about forcing horses to share territory with honking cars, zooming cyclists, and gregarious pedestrians, and paying for a carriage ride is one way of supporting the industry. The idea of a horse pulling you through Central Park may be a nice one, but it’s best to leave it as an idea.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t go on an overpriced bus tour

All over Midtown you’ll see guides hawking tickets for tours on huge red buses, but ignore them. The tours may show you many sights, but you’ll only see them from a distance for a fleeting moment, and you won’t learn very much about them, either. Instead, pick a neighborhood that interests you and do some research to see if anyone offers walking tours of the area; otherwise, design your own walking tour. Alternatively, rent a Citi Bike or track down a cycling tour. Both options offer you a lot more interaction than any bus tour ever will.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t go to the Statue of Liberty

Truth be told, there’s no reason to see the Statue of Liberty up-close. Glance at it from afar in Battery Park or get a closer look as you pass by on the Staten Island Ferry. If you have dreams of climbing the steps to Lady Liberty’s crown, know that less than 300 people are allowed to do that each day, and those tickets can sell out months in advance.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t block the sidewalks

Sidewalks in New York are like highways: You should never stop abruptly in the middle of one, and it’s a good idea to check your blind spots before changing lanes. In all seriousness, please don’t stop walking to check your text messages, look at a map, or gawk at a building. If you do, people will bump into you, possibly give you attitude, and definitely see you for the tourist you are. If you need to stop walking for some reason, step to the side away from the flow of foot traffic. That will make the sidewalks a safer and saner place for all of us.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t eat at chain or tourist trap restaurants

Did you really come all this way to eat at the Olive Garden, Applebee’s, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.? Hopefully not, because New York is home to amazing restaurants and a diverse array of ethnic eats. Here’s a simple rule to follow: If you can eat there when you’re home, don’t eat there in New York. Whether you want dirt-cheap dumplings in Chinatown or top-tier cuisine prepared by the best chefs in the world, you’ll find all that and more here, so why not take advantage of it?

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t eat from street carts

By all means feel free to buy bottled and canned beverages from street carts, but avoid eating from them. Their hot dogs are lackluster, the pretzels forgettable, the knishes dry, the chestnuts over-roasted, the meat skewers questionably safe. If you spot a breakfast cart, run in the opposite direction, for the coffee is weak and the bagels are a waste of so many calories. That being said, do order food from any of the city’s increasing fleet of food trucks if you come across them. Another important exception: If you see a street cart where large amounts of meat are being cooked on a griddle and you see dozens of hungry people waiting in line—perhaps at the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue—then get in that line.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t ignore the smaller museums

It makes sense that you’d want to go to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art—they’re only two of the finest art institutions in the world—but don’t overlook the other, lesser-known options. The Brooklyn Museum has more than 1 million pieces in its permanent collection; it would be the finest museum in the city if it weren’t overshadowed. The Morgan Library and Museum contains some amazing medieval and Renaissance treasures, and the library itself is stunning. Elsewhere, the Museum of the Moving Image is a cinephile’s dream, and the elegant Neue Galerie showcases German and Austrian art from the early 20th century.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t go shopping in Midtown or SoHo

By and large, the stores you’ll find in these areas are the same you’ll find in any other city, so why waste your time at them? In addition, both areas can also be terribly crowded on weekends, making the shopping experience an unpleasant one. If shopping really is your passion, seek out independent boutiques in NoLIta, the West Village, the Lower East Side, and Williamsburg.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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Don’t limit yourself to Broadway shows

Broadway may rule New York’s theater scene, but there’s a vibrant world of plays and musicals awaiting you Off Broadway and even Off-Off Broadway. Many smaller theaters are located near Times Square, but you’ll also find them scattered throughout Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. Some of the most reputable Off Broadway theaters include Signature Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, the Public Theater, and New York Theatre Workshop. Still unsure what to see? You can always check to see what shows are selling discounted tickets through TKTS. And if you do see something on Broadway, try to see a show that you haven’t seen already, or that won’t be touring to your hometown anytime soon.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide