Top 10: What to Avoid in New York City

As the de facto world capital – of business, media, finance, you name it – and a city with close to 8.2 million people in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, New York City is a monster. The orbit of the Big Apple extends far beyond the boroughs, however, and includes close to 20 million people in commuter suburbs and towns in Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, vast parts of New Jersey, Connecticut and beyond. Without question, New York City is The Hub. Few cold stats illustrate just how busy Gotham is but this one comes close: 33% of all daily mass transit passengers in the United States of America live in the tri-state New York City metropolitan area.

Times Square TKTS line – Photo credit

Manhattan is at the heart of it all, of course, and with 27,395 people per square km – a figure that reflects residents only and not mobs of commuters and tourists – serves up some inherent snags for potential visitors. From transport snafus to latent tourist traps, our top 10 what to avoid in the Big Apple could save you a headache or two.

10. Times Square

Times Square proves that many of New York City’s icons are not worth the time and effort. Bad chain restaurants, colossal billboards, neon glare, theme shops, buskers and traffic do not a cultural gem make. Avoid, avoid, avoid at all costs, even for a photo op (buy a postcard from a shop in Greenwich or the East Village if you must).

Where to stay outside of Times Square: The Carlyle A Rosewood Hotel New York

9. Pedicabs

Cycle rickshaws are a blight on the cityscape and an expensive waste. In clement weather, your two feet are the best way to get around Manhattan. Otherwise, take the subway like locals do – it works and is remarkably affordable and effective.

8. Meatpacking District Nightlife

It had buzz back in the day but the allure has been lost and the product packaged and commoditized like a Disney-takeover. For slightly less pretentious nightlife without the requisite wait-times and guest list humiliations, go to Brooklyn (Boerum Hill, Williamsburg et al.) or the Lower East Side. Heck, even a Hell’s Kitchen dive bar is better.

Where to stay outside of the Meatpacking District: Morgans Hotel New York

7. Broadway Musicals

TKTS provides a good service – discounts on show tickets – but the lineups at Duffy Square, Times Square and the South Street Seaport teem with generic, fanny-pack tourists who came all the way from the Corn Belt to see Phantom or Chicago. Fine but what about a play, Broadway, Off-Broadway or otherwise? Opera, ballet, jazz, contemporary dance, classical music – there is too much culture in the city to focus solely on showtunes. Pick up The New Yorker and leaf through the “Goings On About Town” section.

6. Little Italy

Little Italy’s heyday was a long time ago. The area is tiny now and not at all like the epic scene in The Godfather Part II where Don Fanucci slithers through a street festa only to meet his maker at the hands of Vito Corleone. No, the Little Italy New York City greenhorns want is a fantasy. Besides, the best pizza, cannoli and zeppola is in Staten Island and The Bronx. Newsflash: the real Little Italy enclaves are not in Manhattan.

5. Canal Street Shopfronts

Bootleg DVDs and video games, counterfeit brand-name watches and cheap schmatta. Why waste your time? Go to a museum or art gallery!

4. Carriage Ride in Central Park

Two words: rip-off and fuhgeddaboudit. Central Park is worth a visit but on foot. Sappy carriage rides are so Jennifer Aniston rom-com.

3. Empire State Building

The wait is ridiculous and then, once you get to the top, the view is meh. For less hassle, you can see the skyline from other crow’s nests. Go to the Rainbow Room at the Rockefeller Center for a cocktail (have a Manhattan) – when it re-opens that is.

2. Hot Dog Carts

If you like the obvious irony and kitsch of a NYC hot dog, go for it. But if you like to eat well, put the frank down. Consult the online Vendy Awards to see what other kind of street food is out there. A hot new fleet of food trucks in the city make dirty water hot dogs look like, well, dirty water hot dogs.

1. Newark Liberty International Airport

No matter how you get in to New York City – JFK, LaGuardia, Grand Central, by car, by bus – stress is inevitable. Unless you can afford to helicopter in from your estate in Rye, your nerves will fray (and even then…). Nowhere more so, however, than Newark Liberty International Airport. A headline from a recent Wall Street Journal report: “40 of the 100 Most-Delayed Flights in the Country Begin or End in Newark, N.J.” Ouch!

Despite the best efforts of Mayor Cory Booker, there was little reason to visit Newark before. Now sadly even less. Do whatever you can to avoid Liberty International. Re-route!

New York City Guide

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