6 Worst Tourist Traps in New York City

New York City overflows with culture and excitement. Who hasn’t dreamt about visiting the City that Never Sleeps? But like the rest of the world, things change. Many of New York’s most famous attractions have become, at best, a waste of time, or even worse, complete ripoffs. New Yorkers can spot a sucker from a mile away, so do yourself a favor and skip these notorious tourist traps. If you have a few hours to explore the city, do it the right way: store your luggage in New York and visit the hidden gems directly!

Worst Tourist Traps in NYC

1. Times Square

Unless they’re hitting a Broadway show, most New Yorkers avoid Times Square like the plague. For several years now, Times Square has become nothing but a filthy labyrinth of overpriced chain restaurants with tons of traffic, annoying scams and a severe lack of public restrooms.

The idea of watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve might bring back nostalgic memories. But these days, NYE in Time’s Square is a miserably crowded commercialized nightmare. Maybe you’ll enjoy being penned in like cattle and watching cheesy pop stars lipsynch while holding your urine all night.

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Go for it.

Crowded Times Square

But if you’d rather escape the sardine can and have room to dance, hit one of the less-touristy NYE parties.

What to do instead of Times Square

  • Spend New Year’s Eve at Central Park, where a much less claustrophobic party includes fireworks and musical acts.
  • Better yet, head to the locals’ favorite NYE party at Prospect Park in the Bronx.
  • If you’re a first-time visitor to NYC, skipping Times Square may leave you totally heartbroken. Here’s a NY pro tip: Go in the early morning hours just before sunrise. You can still check out the lights and get out of there before the madness starts.

2. Little Italy

Despite over 100 years of history, there’s not much authentic Italian-American culture left in the neighborhood. Little Italy has sadly converted itself into a bonafide tourist trap. Sure, you might find a few quality, old-school Italian restaurants here, but it’s simply not worth the hassle. Pushy waiters on Mulberry Street will escort you to an overpriced and tasteless restaurant before you can bat an eye.

Little Italy

What to do instead of Little Italy

  • For authentic Italian-American food, most locals head to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
  • Hit up an original, neighborhood Italian deli, such as Defonte’s on Staten Island or Joe’s Italian Deli in the Bronx.
  • If eating in Little Italy is a non-negotiable bucket-list item, do your research first. Know what you want. Make reservations, and walk briskly past the pushy saleswaiters when you arrive.

3. The Empire State Building Observation Deck

The art deco Empire State Building, built in 1931, remains one of the most famous symbols of New York City. Unfortunately, with its long lines and astronomically-priced tickets, the view from the Observation Deck is a complete waste of time. You’ll pay upwards of $58 for standard entry and a whopping $93 for the “Skip-the-Line” ticket. Once you get there, you’ll find the deck so jammed with tourists that you’ll want to escape immediately.

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empire state building

Skip this tourist trap. There are far better places to get great views of New York. Besides, the Empire State Building looks far more impressive from the outside.

What to do instead of Empire State Building

  • Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, and see the amazing views from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
  • Though not as famous, the Manhattan Bridge offers excellent views of the city.
  • Go to the Top of the Rock. While tickets cost $34, this is the place where locals take their out-of-town guests for the best views of the city.

4. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center

Even though it’s been romanticized in every Christmas movie since the dawn of Hollywood, ice skating at Rockefeller Center has become a miserable tourist trap. It costs an arm and a leg, and you’ll hardly have room to move around.

Rockefeller Ice Skating

Go ahead and check out the Christmas tree and the view from the Top of the Rock. Then, get the heck out of there, and run to where the locals go to get their annual winter wonderland fix.

What to do instead of ice skating at Rockefeller Center

  • You’ll find much cheaper and less-crowded skating at Bryant Park nearby or McCarren Rink in Brooklyn. Both rinks are free. You’ll just have to pay a low skate-rental fee.
  • Boost your holiday spirits with a stroll through the Union Square Holiday Market.
  • Check out the Christmas lights at Dyker Heights.

5. Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe it or Not

New York City is home to some of the most exquisite museums in the world, and many of them are free. Why waste your time waiting in long lines to visit two unoriginal and overpriced chain museums? Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s will leave you feeling ripped off. Skip them.

ripleys museum

What to do instead of Madame Tussaud’s

  • Well worth the $25 ticket price, The Tenement Museum gives visitors an informative and entertaining insight into the history of New York’s immigrant population.
  • The Met exhibits a vast collection of international art dating back 5000 years.
  • Visit the MoMA or the Guggenheim to see enormous collections of some of the world’s most famous works of modern art.
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6. Electronic Dance Parties in the Meatpacking District

The once edgy Meatpacking District scene has become nothing but an expensive and cheesy meat-market. You’ll pay beaucoup dinero for watered-down drinks and commercial pop electronica. Don’t do it!

Meatpacking District

What to do instead of Electronic Dance Parties

  • From psychedelic electronica to rowdy live shows, Williamsburg rocks as the new hotspot for music in NYC.
  • Serious music lovers should head straight to Harlem. Harlem hosts an incredible global music scene that truly reflects the multicultural makeup of New York.
  • Go bar-hopping at some of the live jazz clubs in the West Village.

Hopefully, this guide will help you avoid the worst tourist traps and have an awesome time on your trip to New York City.

Share what else we should include here in the comments!

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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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