With iconic landmarks galore, a melting pot of foods and cultures, and some of the most revered museums in the nation, The City That Never Sleeps finds itself on nine out of ten bucket lists. It’s the most heavily visited city across the US, welcoming close to 60 million faces annually from near and far, each in search of those greasy, 99c pizza slices (probably).
As a mainstay in popular culture, the Big Apple’s aura continues to grow - and therefore, so do the obnoxious crowds, inflating prices, and cliché scams. Sure, visit New York, but make sure to steer clear of the tourist traps.
10 Times Square
The fact of the matter is that Times Square is most visited haunt across the USA, with close enough to 330,000 people passing through the neon-lit, overcrowded, tourist-trap intersection on a daily basis. Is that obscene popularity a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it’s both. With such high foot traffic, there is never a shortage of local entertainment - street performers, costumed characters, the infamous Naked Cowboy, to name a few - and the atmosphere is always lively - sometimes too much so. Scammers are out in full force and it’ll take you 20 minutes just to cross from one side to the other.
What to see instead: Ditch times square altogether and head somewhere off-broadway to catch a show, or move west to the High Line.
9 Liberty Island
Sitting in the New York harbor, the iconic Statue of Liberty is synonymous with American freedom. It’s a symbol of the nation and for that exact reason, every Tom, Dick, and Harry wants to catch a glimpse of the 93m copper statue. In reality, though, half of those 93 meters are attributed to the massive platform beneath, meaning that Lady Liberty herself isn’t actually as impressive as first thought. Plus, a visit to Liberty Island is expensive and you’ll find yourself elbowing through the crowds in the peak months.
What to see instead: Hop on board the free Staten Island Ferry to catch a view of the statue from afar as well as sublime views of the Lower Manhattan skyline.
8 Empire State Building
Just like the Statue of Liberty before it, the Empire State Building is blessed with the curse of being a national icon. Thanks to its countless appearance in film and pop culture (Sleepless in Seattle, anyone?) the building's reputation has only continued to grow and grow. Of course, immense popularity comes hand in hand with hoards of obnoxious, selfie stick-welding tourists.
What to see instead: Head to the Top of the Rock. Not only are the crowds generally smaller but you can also squeeze the iconic Empire State into your photos as opposed to standing on top of it.
7 The Brooklyn Bridge
Linking New York’s two bustling boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the beauty of the revered Brooklyn Bridge can’t be argued. The bridge itself is as picturesque as any (take that, Golden Gate), while the views of Lower Manhattan are second to none. The main issue, like the other citywide icons, is the over-tourism. Thousands of tourists cross the bridge tails, often battling it out with local cyclists for space.
What to see instead: For equally impressive skyline views without the clusters of irritating tourists, stroll down the adjacent Manhattan Bridge.
6 Chelsea Market
Sitting near the southern entrance to the High Line, the infamous Chelsea Market is smack-bang in the middle of a tourist hotspot. While this does make it convenient to tick off both in a single afternoon, it also means that literally every other person shares the same idea. The market is aesthetic and the food offered is generally of top quality, however, it’s all overshadowed by the crowd - especially during the lunch hour.
What to see instead: It’s New York City! There is never a shortage of flea or farmers markets on hand. Take a stroll to the Union Square Green Market or The Annex / Hell's Kitchen Flea Market, just to name a couple.
This hipster Brooklyn suburb has quickly become the new ‘it’ locale. However, as quickly as it has become popular it has become overrated. A lot of the restaurants and cafes in the tourist hub are hiked up in price (that isn’t to say that they aren’t still impressive nonetheless), and it’s a little further out of the way than most people realize.
What to see instead: Stroll across the Manhattan Bridge (avoiding the subway altogether) and head a little further south to DUMBO. Here, iconic photos of the Bridge and Brownstones await
4 Any Big Bus tour
No matter which major city in the world you find yourself in, it’s all but guaranteed that there’ll be pestering salespeople trying to convince you that the best way to see the city is onboard a tourist-filled, closed-route, often poorly air-conditioned double-decker. Granted, there is a time and a place for this type of travel but that place is not New York.
What to see instead: The Big Apple is a metropolis that blossoms for anyone who chooses to explore it on foot - turn any corner and you’ll stumble across something new and interesting.
3 5th Avenue
Unless you’re rocking a bank balance that rivals that of Jeff Bezos, 5th Avenue is not the place for you. Ultra-lux shops like Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari are the like are dotted across the infamous street, each teasing passersby with their excessive price tags and snobbish customers.
What to see instead: If adding to your wardrobe is the aim of the game, less obnoxious alternatives are aplenty. Head to Columbus Circle on the southwest corner of Central Park or take a stroll through SoHo - you might even catch a glimpse of some famous faces.
2 Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
In the heart of the already-crowded Times Square, Madame Tussauds New York sees an incredible amount of foot traffic. Inevitably, a number of tourists get sucked in by the awkward wax version of Morgan Freeman, Zac Efron, or whoever it may be. Sure, it’s cool in a novelty sense, but Madame Tussauds is all over the world. Why waste your time on something you could do at home?
What to see instead: Literally any other museum. From the MET to the MOMA, the Natural History Museum and the Whitney, just to name a few, there is plenty of museums on offer that aren’t tacky, overpriced, and replicated in any other major city.
1 Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
In the same vein as Madame Tussauds, Ripley's Believe It or Not! markets itself as one of the best things to do in NYC. However, it’s also one of the best things to do in L.A., and Baltimore, and Toronto, and Niagara - you get the idea. For around $25 USD, travelers can learn a few fun facts that can be found in pretty much any city around the globe, or, better yet, online.
What to see instead: If its quirky, offbeat museums you’re after, New York isn’t limited in choice. Choose between the Museum of the American Gangster, the Sex Museum, and the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space.