Ah, New York City. Tourists, tourists, as far as the eye can see. So many, in fact, that in midtown the traffic cops hold safety tape and giant nets in front of pedestrians so they don’t flood the crosswalks and cause massive gridlock. This is especially fun for those of us who work here and have places to be and people to see and extremely busy and important things to do, like shop for gifts during our lunch hour.
But we don’t hate you, tourists. Sure, we’re brusque, and we’re harried, and we push you and tell you to hurry it up when you’re ordering your soup and attempting to chat with the cashier who probably wants to kill you in a much more real way than I do. The fact is, we love our city and we want every visitor to love it just as much. And that’s why our hearts break (releasing a rage hormone into our bloodstreams) when we see you guys wasting your time and money at overrated, unpleasant tourist traps just because the guidebooks say so! Do yourselves a favor and skip these five worst offenders. By Nina Pajak.
Okay, I get it. You want to see where that famous tree comes to sit every December. Let me save you some time: it’s gigantic, mobbed by people taking photographs, and it’s covered in garish, colored lights. And the other 11 months of the year? The ice rink is expensive and overcrowded, the surrounding neighborhood is all bidness, and the stores are ones that can be found in any mall across America (do you really need to pay more to support J. Crew’s midtown rent?). For skating, try the free rink in Bryant Park, just a few minutes south. It’s ten times more charming. Columbus Circle is both architecturally beautiful and park-adjacent, and the shopping in the East ($) or West ($$$) Village is really what you came here to sample.
I like to refer to this neighborhood as “the duodenal ulcer of Manhattan.” Yes, okay, perhaps at one point in time there was a miracle on 34th street. Today, your best shot at a miracle would be avoiding stepping in a fresh loogie on the sidewalk while simultaneously evading pick-pocketers without losing one of your children. Unless you are dazzled by designer imposter handbag wholesalers and hordes of strangers, I promise that there is nothing for you here. There’s a reason they sing “remember me to Herald Square.” It’s ’cause they’ve left.
Hansom cab rides around Central Park
I’ve got one word for you: manure. That’s what the streets smell like all around the park, and that’s all you’re going to smell during your “romantic” ride, cozied up with your honey under a community-use blanket, being pulled by a horse who probably wishes he were dead, if you believe horses can conceive of life and death. It’s overpriced and cheesy, and kind of boring, too. If you don’t want to walk around the park (which you really ought to do), how about taking a pedicab instead? It’s basically a rickshaw attached to a bicycle being ridden by a maniac whose sense of invincibility would make a taxi driver blush. But it would be exciting and fun and cheap, and you’ll definitely wind up with a story to take home with you.
South Street Seaport
You know that mall near your house? Not the nice one, the other one. The one where all the stores seem really sad and you can’t even bring yourself to buy a Diet Coke from Ranch1. The one where everyone around you looks like they just stepped out of a travel safety procedure video? That’s this place, except they also sell souvenir key chains and are conveniently located near several restaurants where you can look out on the water while enjoying a subpar frozen margarita and listening to the sounds of miserable children screaming at their parents. Skip the trap, but don’t skip the scene—the waterfront, the park, and the views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are all quite wonderful—don’t let an obnoxious strip mall deter you from those sights.
Anything to eat, see or buy in Times Square (except for the shows)
I can’t tell you not to visit Times Square. It’s unlike any place you’ll ever see (unless you’ve been to Tokyo), and it’s an important part of what makes New York, New York. However, I strongly advise that you look but don’t touch. Did you really schlep your whole family to this incredible city to eat dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company? Do you honestly believe there is something unbelievable in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not “museum”? And you can’t possibly think that miniature New York license plate with your name on it is worth $5.50. You’re better than that! In all five boroughs, we’ve got more outrageous food and exceptional galleries and real museums and unique shops than you could hope to experience in a lifetime of visits.
Now go, enjoy the real pleasures that New York has to offer and see why we love this place so much. I trust I won’t be running into you on my lunch hour tomorrow. Check out our picks for the best creative NYC sightseeing.