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Tourist Traps Alert: 8 Places to Avoid While Exploring New York City

Don’t fall into these tourist traps in NY! 

If you’re not from New York, you may be tempted to say it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And I will definitely agree with you, especially because I was there more than two times, and it was a different experience every time. I am saying that because the first time I visited New York, I and my family didn’t know much about it, only what we’d read on the internet, which was far from the truth in many cases.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest hoaxes we fell into was accepting bracelets from monks. Before we could even respond, they attached the bracelets to our writs and demanded money, of course! Here’s a list of tourist traps to avoid if you plan to visit New York City.

tourist traps, New York
Photo by Jerome LABOUYRIE from Shutterstock

1. Having lunch/dinner in one of the Times Square restaurants

Going on a stroll around Times Square and taking pictures of the surroundings sounds like a good plan, right? But no matter what you do, make sure you don’t stop to grab a bite at any of the restaurants in the area.

If you want to taste authentic New York cuisine, you should head west. The good thing is that you don’t need to call a cab because you’ll get from Times Square to the west on 9th Avenue in just 10 minutes.

Why should you choose 9th Avenue? This area offers an excellent selection of eateries, spanning from 49th Street to 43rd Street. There are so many different cuisines to select from, including American-made burgers and Asian, Greek, Italian, and French cuisines.

2. Fake Ubers right outside the airport

Those who travel regularly are aware of the illegal taxi and rideshare drivers who attempt to pick up people as they exit the airport. And unfortunately, this well-known tourist trap still exists in New York.

To avoid this happening to you too, plan your trip, even before landing. See in which area your accommodation is located and how long it will take to get there by public transport. In case you have too much luggage that is also hard to handle, I recommend you use a cab app. You will easily recognize the pickup locations for all authorized cabs within walking distance of the airport.

Even though the majority of these unregistered drivers would probably drop you off safely, they will scam you and charge you ridiculous fees, even for short drives.

3. Food carts in touristy areas without clear pricing

This is probably one of the biggest tourist traps of all time! A lot of food vendors from New York (especially those who stay in touristy areas) don’t put the prices up front, so if you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a tiny hot dog, it’s better to ask how much it costs before ordering it. Paying $25 for a hot dog that would have just cost $5 down the street is the last thing you want to happen to you!

4. Ice skating at the Rockefeller

The City that Never Sleeps appears in or is the setting for several films. This implies that if you’re not local, you probably have an idealized opinion of certain locations. One of them might be Rockefeller. I get the idea of going there at least once in a lifetime but if you’re planning on visiting during the winter holidays you may re-think your plans.

Despite its historic status, this rink is somewhat modest and often packed. There are better choices, such as the McCarren Rink in Brooklyn or the free rink at Bryant Park.

5. Christmas markets (seasonal)

No matter where you are from, a Christmas market is always going to be packed. Everybody rushes to get presents for their loved ones, which makes the prices skyrocket.

6. Fifth Avenue

One may think of shopping when one thinks about New York City. Shopping, celebrities, and designer boutiques are commonly associated with Fifth Avenue, one of the city’s main streets. For a more distinctive experience that won’t break the wallet, you could check out locations like Beacon’s Closet.

7. The Empire State Building

Yes, the view is breathtaking, but according to various local citizens, this is another tourist trap. It’s famously expensive to enter, and there are long waits. It gets more expensive the higher you wish to go.

I am not saying you will have a bad time visiting, and if you don’t mind mingling in the crowds since you’re there, you might as well enjoy the experience.

Are you looking for a trustworthy guide to take with you next time you travel to NYC? The one from Pauline Frommer should be your first choice! This one is a revised edition for 2024 and it contains a lot of easy-to-read stuff like advice about where to eat on a budget, what to visit and what to stay away from, small itineraries, and a lot of other things plus a full-color NYC subway map. Buy yours for just $20.99 only on Amazon. 

tourist traps, New York
Photo by Norbert Rehm from Shutterstock

8. Horse carriages

Avoid spending more than $155 on a hansom cab fare. A horse-drawn carriage ride around Central Park is not nearly as romantic in real life as it is in movies. If you want to enjoy the surroundings, I’d recommend hiring a bike and riding it around the park. Perhaps the most amazing public park in the world is Central Park. This vast urban green park extends 341 hectares and stretches from 59th Street to 110th Street.

9. Cruises around Manhattan

Sadly, the majority of locals dismiss the experience as just another tourist trap in New York City, even though several cruise lines sail around Manhattan. It’s unfortunate since taking a cruise may be an unforgettable experience. Cruising in the off-season is the best way to ensure you receive a fair deal. There are fewer visitors, which lowers rates due to a lack of demand.

10. Museum Madame Tussauds

Even if it’s popular and literally everybody will tell you to go there, save your money for something else because this museum is among the biggest tourist traps in NYC. It is time and money-wasting, as well as chaotic. Many amazing museums in New York are well worth seeing, but this is NOT one of those. Alternatively, you may choose to spend a few wonderful hours visiting the Frick Collection or the 9/11 Museum & Memorial.

Please remember that these recommendations are based on my personal experience, maybe yours will be different. But, no matter what itinerary you will choose do a little research before visiting a certain place. Buy your museum tickets from authorized places and never from shady websites that offer them cheaper!

Are you a fan of traveling? You’re in the right place, for sure! From sandy landscapes to off-road mountain scenery, here at Adventure in America, we have the best travel guides for everybody who is avidly searching for fun! In case you’re new here, don’t forget to subscribe. You won’t regret it! Until next time! 

If you’re thinking about visiting Florida anytime soon check out this article: This Woman Lived in Florida for 20 Years; Here Are Her Top 7 Tips for Tourists

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