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Avoiding Tourist Traps: What Not to Do in NYC

tourists in new york

New York City, with its vibrant energy, towering skyscrapers, and endless cultural attractions, is a magnet for visitors from around the globe. However, the city’s popularity also means it’s ripe with tourist traps, from overpriced attractions to common street scams. In this guide, we’ll explore what not to do in NYC, offering tips on avoiding these pitfalls while suggesting enriching alternatives that let you experience the city like a local.

Common Tourist Scams and How to Recognize Them

travel scams
Beware of characters in costumes around Times Square who may want a tip for photos, aggressive ticket sellers for bus tours or attractions, and fake monks soliciting donations. A rule of thumb to avoid scams is to politely decline unsolicited offers and to purchase tickets from official venues or websites. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Central Park Tips and Hidden Gems

central park
Central Park is certainly one of NYC’s most famous landmarks, offering an expansive green oasis amidst the urban jungle. However, the park can become quite crowded, especially around popular spots like Bethesda Terrace and the Central Park Zoo. To avoid the throngs of tourists, explore the lesser-known areas such as the Conservatory Garden, a peaceful and beautifully manicured section in the northeast corner of the park, or the Ramble, a tranquil woodland area perfect for a quiet stroll. For a unique perspective, consider renting a rowboat at the Loeb Boathouse or visiting during off-peak hours in the early morning or late afternoon.

While exploring Central Park, steer clear of the pedicab rides. Although they might seem better than horse and carriage rides—which often involve poorly treated horses—the pedicabs can be an expensive trap. Pedicab drivers frequently approach tourists, enticing them into rides that can cost anywhere from $5 to $11 per minute. Walking is often faster and certainly more economical. If large crowds aren’t your thing, it might be best to explore other areas of the city instead.

Overrated Attractions and Alternatives Off the Beaten Path

While NYC’s iconic landmarks are a must-see, they can sometimes be overcrowded and overpriced. For instance, instead of braving the crowds at the Empire State Building, why not visit the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center or the Edge at Hudson Yards for a different yet spectacular view of the city skyline? 

And while the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) are NYC’s most famous for a reason, you can also consider the less crowded but equally fascinating Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum or the New Museum for a dose of contemporary art.

Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Pricey Tourist Activities

a large building with a clock on a bridge a group of people standing in front of a store a man and a woman standing in front of a building

New York City doesn’t have to drain your wallet. There are plenty of budget-friendly alternatives to expensive tourist activities, especially when it comes to exploring the city’s diverse culinary scene. Instead of dining at high-end restaurants, why not join one of our food tours? We at Like A Local Tours offers a variety of public tours such as our Chelsea Market, High Line, and Hudson Yards Food Tour; we also have our Immigrant NYC Food Tour on the Lower East Side that showcases the authentic and diverse flavors of NYC’s neighborhoods and many more. These tours offer a unique and affordable way to taste the city’s best dishes while learning about New York’s rich cultural history.

Safety Reminders for Crowded Tourist Areas
NYC is generally safe, but like any major city, it’s important to stay alert in crowded tourist areas. Keep your belongings secure, be wary of pickpockets, and avoid flaunting expensive jewelry. Always have a plan for where you’re going, and keep an eye on your surroundings.

Visiting New York City is an unforgettable experience, but falling into tourist traps can be frustrating and expensive. By staying informed and seeking out alternatives, you can avoid common scams, explore off-the-beaten-path gems, enjoy budget-friendly activities, and stay safe in crowded spots. Remember, the best way to experience NYC is not by checking off every major attraction but by immersing yourself in the city’s diverse cultures and neighborhoods. Whether it’s joining a local food tour or simply wandering the streets of a new neighborhood, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the Big Apple like a local.