New York, New York! It’s absolutely an iconic city, the largest metropolis in the United States, and one of the largest anywhere in the world. New York is a bustling hub of economic activity, and it’s also one of the main centers of US culture.
New York is so central to American culture that it permeates almost all media. Whether it’s an Avengers film or an iconic TV show like Friends, New York is well-represented in books, comics, music, movies, and more.
Since we see so much of the Big Apple, it’s little wonder people want to visit the city and see the sights for themselves. The city is definitely built up in our cultural mindset, and many people will insist that New York City is somewhere you simply have to have on your bucket list.
Like most “must-see” destinations, however, New York has become more than overrated. There are plenty of reasons to want to visit New York, and most of them are also the reasons you’ll be disappointed when you finally get to the Big Apple. We’ve collected 15 reasons why NYC is horribly overrated. But there’s a silver lining: There are still plenty of good reasons to visit anyway.
20 Harsh truth: The Statue of Liberty Is Much Smaller Than You Think
The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for everything America stands for. A gift from France after the US Revolution, Lady Liberty has been standing guard over the harbor for centuries now. Over time, she’s become virtually synonymous with freedom and the American way.
She’s also been built up to be a larger-than-life figure. In movies and TV shows, they’ll often use some optical trickery to make the statue appear much larger than it actually is. This is so the visual matches people’s perception. But when you see the real thing, you’re almost bound to be disappointed. Lady Liberty is tiny compared to what we’ve been told.
19 Harsh truth: Broadway Is Too Expensive
Is there anything as iconic as catching the latest hit musical on Broadway? The street and its theaters are synonymous with musicals, and people still flock here to catch award-winning productions and “original” casts.
Unfortunately, the price of Broadway tickets has skyrocketed, and it can be virtually impossible to get tickets to some shows. Just take a look at the waiting list for Hamilton tickets. Even if the show isn’t as popular as the Lin Manuel Miranda sensation, you’ll still end up paying an arm and a leg to get a decent seat. Here’s the worst part: you can often see the same shows in other cities, like Toronto and Chicago, for a fraction of the cost.
18 Harsh truth: Central Park Is Gross
Central Park is another iconic New York landmark. The park was created as green space in the 19th century. The park’s history has been troubled since the beginning, as it was created by evicting a community of poor people from the area.
These days, the park is a major attraction, but it’s also very dirty. The bathrooms routinely rank as some of the worst in the city. The water features are stagnant, allowing mosquitoes to breed, and the water isn’t all that clean. Worst of all, it will cost you to do virtually anything here. You might want to skip this one.
17 Harsh truth: Times Square Has Been Disneyfied
Times Square is absolutely iconic in the collective conception of US culture. The bright lights, the ball dropping at midnight on New Year’s Eve, the iconic imagery in the opening of TV shows like Saturday Night Live—it’s all quintessentially NYC.
A few decades ago, Times Square was home to some of the shadiest retail stores in Manhattan. Since the 1970s, though, it’s cleaned up, and you can now stroll through brightly lit streets. It may be safer now, but the square has lost all of its character. You can flit in and out of the same chain stores, like the Disney Store, you’ll encounter in any mall. This isn’t the real NYC!
16 Harsh truth: There Are Too Many Pizza Places (And Most Of Them Aren’t Great)
New York City is famous for its food, and one of its most famous is pizza. There are plenty of pie places around the city, owing to its long history of immigration from Italy. Grabbing a New York slice is something of a tradition.
As with anything, however, you have a few stand-out places, and then you have a whole swath of mediocre-to-plain-old-bad joints. Yes, there are a few truly great New York pizza institutions, but most of the pizza you pick up in the city is going to be nothing to write home about. Unless you know where to go, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.
15 Harsh truth: The Empire State Building Is Overrated
Once upon a time, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. Those days have long since passed, but the building is still the 6th tallest in the United States. It became even more famous for its role in King Kong, and millions of people still visit the iconic tower every year.
It’s also become a top spot for romantic dates and proposals. If you’re not planning something romantic, you might want to skip it. Even if you are planning to pop the question, you may want to do it somewhere other than this crowded tourist hotspot.
14 Harsh truth: Williamsburg Is Too Hipster
After decades of being ignored, Brooklyn has finally been getting the love and respect it deserves from tourists visiting NYC. The long-maligned borough has become thoroughly popular, particularly Williamsburg. This quarter has become renowned among the hipster subset for its trendy restaurant scene.
There’s so much more to Brooklyn than Williamsburg, though, and at this point, Williamsburg itself is overplayed. There are some excellent restaurants here, but you can pick up some more unique eats by hitting up some of the other neighborhoods in the borough. Move away from the water and experience what this part of New York really has to offer.
13 Harsh truth: We Need To Move On From The Cronut
In 2013, cronut fever swept the nation. Chef Dominique Ansel invented this croissant-donut hybrid, and line-ups outside his bakery became par for the course. Flash-forward 5 years, and there are still line-ups outside the bakery in Greenwich Village every morning.
The cronut isn’t entirely unique in this aspect. New York is known as a mecca for foodies, with all kinds of experimentation going on in restaurants and bakeries. The problem is when a food trend or craze is born. As the cronut proves, these trends rarely die. There are so many options, though, you can skip the line and try something even more unique.
12 Harsh truth: Carriage Rides Might Be Unethical
A number of cities around the world and in the US have started banning carriage rides. One of the reasons is that the treatment of the horses and ponies isn’t always ethical. The animals are often forced to work in all weather conditions, and there are questions about how well they’re treated during their downtime.
The rides cost around $50, excluding tip, and many tourists ride around Central Park, enjoying the novelty of a horse-drawn carriage ride. You might want to skip this attraction, however, if you truly care about animal welfare. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy NYC.
11 Harsh truth: Chain Restaurants Have Invaded
As we already mentioned, NYC is a mecca for foodies and food tourism. There are many great restaurants. Inventive new foods hit the streets all the time. Even grabbing some street food can feel like getting a gourmet dinner.
New York has also seen more and more chain restaurants invading the restaurant scene lately. While some tourists prefer the tried and true, others will decry the increasing sameness of the offerings they find here. When NYC offers the same dining options as every other city in America, you know you have a problem. The unique restaurants still exist, but you’ll have to look harder to find them.
10 Harsh truth: You Will Wait In Line For Everything
There’s a rule in NYC. If it’s popular, you’re likely going to need to line up and wait. Between millions of New Yorkers and millions of tourists, you can pretty much guarantee you’re going to hit a line at least once during your time in the Big Apple.
You’ll probably need to wait in line more than once. From attractions to ticketing to tours to restaurants and everything in between, you’ll be lucky if you don’t spend much time waiting around. Be sure to give yourself extra time, or better yet, pick a different vacation destination. When there’s so much to see and do, the last thing you want to do is wait around in lines.
9 Harsh truth: Driving Is A Nightmare
New York’s transit system is one of the best, but mostly out of necessity. Traffic in the city is an absolute nightmare. If you’re planning on going anywhere in the city, familiarize yourself with the subway, or check out what’s in your immediate vicinity. You can walk more easily than you can drive around this city.
This goes ditto for any kind of cab or ride-sharing program as well. You might think you’re being smart by hopping a bus or taking a shuttle from the airport, but you’re just as likely to end up sitting in traffic. The only difference is someone else is behind the wheel.
8 Harsh truth: Magnolia Bakery And TV Tourism
The TV show Sex and the City made Magnolia Bakery a household name. The show has been off the air for years, but people are still flocking to this shop. Cupcakes themselves are overplayed, but more curious still is the devotion to an early ‘00s TV show.
New York has quite a bit of TV tourism. Friends is another iconic show set in the city, and every year, fans of the show still visit landmarks around the city. You can see the apartment block near Cherry Street, or see if you can find the location they used for Central Perk. Nonetheless, there are probably other things you can see and do.
7 Harsh truth: Manhattan Has Sold Out
Manhattan is still the go-to locale in NYC, but many of its iconic neighborhoods have been undergoing change in recent years. Its once-famous Chinatown has seen gentrification and skyrocketing rents, which has forced many authentic businesses to close or to find a new location.
The same is true in Greenwich Village. Long the go-to for starving artists and other creatives in the city, rents here have skyrocketed, leaving the penniless looking elsewhere in the 5 boroughs. While the history is still here, the sense of the genuine is fading fast amid gentrification efforts. The same is true in other parts of Manhattan as well.
6 Harsh truth: Not the Friendliest City
New York has developed a reputation among travelers, and it’s that the locals aren’t exactly the friendliest bunch ever. Maybe it’s all those line-ups, the cold and snowy winters, the terrible traffic, or sky-high rents, but NYC locals often seem like they’re a little harried.
That said, there are still many friendly and helpful people in the Big Apple. The overall atmosphere, however, isn’t the most welcoming. If you want somewhere you can feel a bit more relaxed and at home, the city that never sleeps probably isn’t the right choice for you. There are many other locations around the US with a warmer atmosphere.
5 Visit anyway because: It’s An Experience
New York City is overrated. Does that mean you should never go there? Absolutely not! There’s no reason to strike the Big Apple from your bucket list forever. As much as it’s overrated, setting realistic expectations can help you enjoy your trip there and avoid common tourist traps.
Why should you consider NYC if it’s so overrated? Simply put, there’s no place on Earth like it. The city that never sleeps has a magnetic, frenetic energy that’s easy to get swept up in. You can even do the touristy things we just listed off, and still have a great time. Knowing what to expect helps.
4 Visit anyway because: The Food Is Still Amazing
Despite the invasion of chain restaurants and the line-ups for the trendiest spots, the food scene in NYC is still nothing short of amazing. You just need to know where to go. You might want to check out the latest place reviewers are raving about, or you can check out some of the locals’ tried-and-true favorites.
You might want to explore somewhere like Chinatown in Queens. Unlike Manhattan’s hollowed-out Chinatown, this neighborhood in Queens still boasts tons of authentic spots to grab a great meal. Keep your ear to the ground and find out what the locals love in any of the 5 boroughs.
3 Visit anyway because: Central Park Isn’t The Only Green Space
NYC is a huge, sprawling metropolis, densely packed with millions of people. Central Park is certainly its largest green space, but it is most definitely not the only park or green space in the 5 boroughs.
Take a look around and check out some of the other parks around. You can ride the waterfront from Manhattan, across the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn, and check out some of the green spaces on the other side of the water. Several other parks are located in Manhattan, like Bryant Park at 42nd and 6th Avenue. You just need to know where to look.
2 Visit anyway because: The History
Perhaps another major draw for anyone planning to visit NYC is the sheer amount of history here. The Big Apple has long been a central hub for just about every industry in America. As one of the country’s foremost centers of culture, you almost can’t skip it.
From historical buildings to ghost stories, from museums to speakeasies and theaters, NYC has it all. Almost every building you walk into has a story to tell. No matter which historical era you’re interested in, you’ll find something here. As much as NYC is a bustling, modern metropolis, it hasn’t forgotten its roots.
1 Visit anyway because: There’s An Alternative To Everything
Many of New York’s attractions are relatively overrated. But just because one attraction has landed on this list doesn’t mean you should cross it off. In fact, there are also many alternatives to the “overrated” in NYC. If you don’t want to go to the Empire State Building, try the Top of the Rock instead.
Want to see a musical? You can hit a show off-Broadway for a similar experience. Explore Brooklyn outside of Williamsburg, or head over to Queens for an entirely different experience. There are so many choices here, it’s easy to get off the beaten path.
References: Travel + Leisure, Fulltimeexplorer.com, Frommer’s