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Tourist traps to avoid when visiting New York City [here’s what a New Yorker recommends doing instead]


The Big Apple is one of the most beloved tourist destinations. Every year, there are thousands of people visiting the city. That being said, not everyone knows what to expect and many get lost. Here are ten tourist traps to avoid in New York City.

Table of Contents

NYC Tourist Trap #1  See the sights from the top of Empire State Building; Instead Go to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

The Empire State Building is undeniably one of the most famous symbols of the United States while also being a tourist destination in the “top priority” list of any traveler. That being said, the entrance ticket is quite expensive, so if you are on a budget, you might want to save that money for something else.

Moreover, getting on top of that building is ultimately not worth it. Instead, you could go for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This will allow you to see the city’s skyline absolutely for free both during the day and at night.


On the Urban Adventures tour of Brooklyn (DUMBO) you’ll visit the ultra hipster Time Out Market

NYC Tourist Trap  #2 Spend all your time in New York’s Central Park; Instead have a stroll in Prospect Park

For anyone who has ever been to Central Park, this tip will be an obvious one. For those who haven’t, it might seem strange. The thing is that while Central Park is incredibly beautiful, it is also insanely crowded which might prevent you from enjoying its beauty.

Fortunately, there is a great alternative for anyone who wants to visit one of New York’s famous parks. Brooklyn’s Prospect Park was created by the same architects, so it is quite similar to Central Park. Nevertheless, there are fewer people there and it will even give you the impression that you are in a completely different place rather than being in the great NYC.

NYC Tourist Trap #3 Buy discounted designer fashions in Century 21; Instead hit up a real NYC sample sale

Century 21 is a great store for everyone who wants to find discounted designer clothes. On the other hand, it is not a very good store for those who like shopping: the endless lines, the clothes-hungry crowds, and everything that comes with them are definitely not a pleasant sight.

What you could do instead is go to one of NYC’s sample sales. The clothes are no worse than at the aforementioned store, and there are actually more places to visit (260 Fifth Avenue and SoHo among others).


Rent a bike and get some exercise while you are in New York City.

NYC Tourist Trap #4 View the city from the tour bus; Instead Walk around

Of course, one of the most beloved ways among tourists to travel in cities is by bus. You can get a feel of the atmosphere and listen to the guide explaining to you the most important facts about different sights. However, what would be much cheaper and environmentally-friendly is simply walking.

There are plenty of tourist walking routes that you can find online. If you do some research, you could have a predetermined route for yourself, but even going for a walk without a certain aim in your head can be quite refreshing and you will definitely find interesting things to see.


Urban Adventure Brooklyn walking tour is pretty cool!

NYC Tourist Trap #5 Spend too much time in Times Square; Instead go anywhere else

Did you know that New York City is huge? It’s enormous! Times Square is not the only place you can visit! There are so many other things to see from shops to restaurants, from cultural attractions to historic sights, from neighborhoods to boroughs.

That being said, you should still visit Times Square at one point or another. Go there, have a stroll, take some pictures, and never go back again. Spend your time seeing things that you wouldn’t expect other tourists to see and make your trip truly special. Brooklyn is fast becoming one of the hot spots for tourists, yet it still remains artsy and definitely not a tourist trap. Once of the best things you can do if you don’t feel comfortable on your own, is take a tour with Urban Adventures! This tour, called the DUMBO tour was so small, and intimate – plus our tour guide, Sasha was amazing!! 


The Empire State Building is perfectly framed in this popular Brooklyn spot for instagrammers

The small group tour of Brooklyn was amazing – we went to a bakery (Jacques Torres) and had ice cream, hot cocoa (actually we made our own ice cream sandwiches) So fun! We got to visit an artist’s loft and hear about her creations and see the art up close. Plus there were ample opportunities to photo opps. Yes, were were taken to some totally Instagram worthy spots on this Brooklyn tour!

NYC Tourist Trap #6 Eat “Italian” food in Little Italy; Instead Eat in Arthur Avenue in the Bronx

You might know that Little Italy is located not far away from Chinatown and supposedly has everything you would expect such a place to have. However, it’s not entirely true. A much better place to visit if you want to find something genuinely Italian in New York City.

The best place is Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. There are many great places on this avenue that you should definitely check out. For example, Casa Della Mozzarella is perfect for finding fresh cheese while Cosenza’s has a wide range of different types of fish. There are also many good bakeries if you are a fan of such.

NYC Tourist Trap #7 Go clubbing in the Meatpacking District; Instead Go clubbing in Williamsburg


This bookstore, called the Powerhouse Arena, features a disco ball, wine and fun music! Park of the Urban Adventures tour

You probably already know that the Meatpacking District in New York City is usually full of celebrities and models. But what you might not know is that it is also very expensive to go clubbing in the District. In addition to that, not everyone is able to get past the door because the entrance has limitations sometimes.

On the other hand, there is Williamsburg, a suburb in New York City. The bars and nightclubs are cheaper, the people are less pretentious and annoying, the variety of nightlife is still intact. In other words, it’s a sure way to have fun while not having to overpay for it.

NYC Tourist Trap #8 Take a pedicab ride; Instead Rent a Citi Bike

Pedicabs are considered to be an integral part of New York City life. They are quite popular among tourists, especially those who are hanging out around Central Park and midtown. Those are the parts where it’s hard to catch a cab. Nevertheless, pedicabs can be quite expensive and somewhat slow. 

What you can try instead is rent a Citi Bike. It is easy and relatively cheap to sign up for an entire day pass and then ride around the city yourself. Besides, it will be a pleasant trip for those who usually enjoy riding a bicycle.

NYC Tourist Trap #9 Eat cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery; Do: Eat cookies at Levain Bakery or Jaques Torres

So, what is NYC actually known for? Magnolia Bakery sells some of the tastiest cupcakes you will ever find. The downside is that due to this quality, the bakery is usually full of people (not to mention the health violations this bakery had in the past). A great alternative would be to visit Levain Bakery located on the Upper West Side. This bakery is known for its delicious cookies which – though they do cost more than you would expect – are absolutely gigantic, so you won’t regret them at all.


Or, if you go on the Brooklyn Tour like I did – head to Jacques Torres (aka Mr. Chocolate) – amazing chocolate chip cookies!

NYC Tourist Trap  #10 See sex toys and exhibitionist exhibits at the Museum of Sex; Instead Go to a show at Galapagos Art Space

Last but not least, visiting the Museum of Sex to see sex toys and exhibitionist exhibits might seem like an exciting idea. After all, the name itself attracts a lot of attention. However, the price is actually not worth it when you consider the crowds and all the other nuances. But if you still want something unexpected, you can get tickets for a burlesque show at Galapagos Art Space. There is a variety of performances that you will definitely enjoy if you are looking for something truly unique.

Whether this is your first time to New York City or you’ve been there many times, make sure to broaden your horizons and step out of your comfort zone a bit. There are many amazing things you can see in New York City without having to go to the regular tourist places. Do some research or perhaps make conversation with some other travelers at your hotel and you will discover that there many interesting and unconventional things you could do in New York City.

Frank Hamilton has been working as an editor at review service Online Writers RatingHe is a professional writing expert in such topics as blogging, digital marketing and self-education. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German and English.



About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!

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