Sure, we've got lots of ideas for things to do in New York City -- whether you want to know local's favorite attractions, some of New York City's most popular attractions, or even some great family-friendly picks. But today, we're focused on what you should not do in New York City. Learn from our mistakes and know how to avoid some of New York City's common tourist pitfalls so you can be sure to have the very best trip possible!
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Directions
It can be really easy to get lost in New York City -- or walk several blocks in the wrong direction before you realize you've gone the wrong way. Take solace in the fact that this is true even for people who have lived here a long time, so don't expect to instantly know exactly where you are and never get lost or turned around.
The good news is that you're rarely alone in New York City, and New Yorkers are much more friendly than you think. Although they're not known for saying hi on the street or making eye contact while walking around, that's really just how you cope with living in a city with over 8 million other people. If you're lost or confused, most locals would be happy to help you -- just ask. Folks pushing baby strollers and walking dogs are great people to ask because they likely live nearby, but most people will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Don't Stand in the Middle of the Sidewalk
One of the things New Yorkers find most aggravating about living in such a popular tourist destination is groups of visitors blocking the sidewalk. We don't mind that you want to get your bearings or stare up at our fantastic skyscrapers or even people watch, but please step to the side so that folks trying to get to work, home or elsewhere can use the sidewalk without having to maneuver around you and your traveling companions.
Don't Lean on the Subway Poles
If you're riding the subway and lean on one of the poles instead of holding it with your hand, you make it so no one else can hold onto it. Use your hand to hold onto the pole and make room for others to grab on so they don't get hurt. We know you don't want to get the germs on your hands, but that's what hand sanitizer is for (you have some in your bag, right?) and other people don't want to fall over when the train is moving because you're hogging the pole.
Watch Now: Riding the Subway in New York City
Don't Try to Skip Your Fare in the Subway
It might seem tempting to jump over the turnstiles at the subway entrance -- especially in the stations where there's no one stationed at the booth -- but don't do it. The fine for fare jumping is $100, so it's not worth saving $2.75. There have even been some fare-jumpers who have found themselves spending the night in jail: despite the free accommodations, it would be no way to spend a night of your vacation.
Don't Dress Like a Tourist
Just about anything goes in New York City -- that's part of the joy of living (and visiting) this exciting city. That said, dressing like a tourist might get you treated like one, so consider packing simple, smart clothes for your visit and you'll find yourself feeling like a real New Yorker in no time. That means no sweatpants, no socks with your sandals, no white sneakers, and you can probably save wearing your new "I Heart NY" hat until you're back home. Think jeans, anything black, and, of course, shoes that you can walk comfortably in (this is not the time to try out a new pair of shoes!)
Don't Fall Victim to a Scam
Although most New Yorkers are nice and helpful (see #1) there are always folks looking to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists (and locals!)
One common scam is that a well-dressed man will approach you and tell you that he lost his wallet (or left it in his office) and he needs money for the train home. Just because he's dressed in a fancy suit doesn't mean he's not trying to take advantage of you!
Playing shell and card games on the street is basically giving away your money -- even if someone appears to be winning, most of the time that person is in on the scam.
Use common sense and always know where your wallet is, particularly when you're in a crowded situation.
Don't Eat at a Chain Restaurant You Have at Home
We get it -- sometimes you want something comforting and familiar and Applebees (or TGIFridays) reminds you of home. But New York City is home to some of the world's best restaurants and foods, with options at every price point, so there's no reason to have a meal at a restaurant you could just as easily enjoy once you're back home.
It can also be overwhelming to pick out a restaurant, but we've got lots of dining advice to help make it easier:
- Must-eat NYC foods - Don't miss out on these classic NYC delicacies.
- Best breakfasts in NYC - Get your day started right at one of these spots.
- Best pizza in NYC - Great places for pizza all over town.
- Best delis in NYC - Pastrami on rye, please!
- Where to eat in Times Square - No tourist traps!
- Best cheap eats - Dine well on a budget.
New York City even has some of its own "chain" restaurants that are well worth trying, including Shake Shack and Blue Smoke.
Don't Forget Manhattan Is an Island
Amidst all of Midtown's skyscrapers, it can be easy to forget that Manhattan is an island, surrounded by the Hudson River, the East River, and the New York Harbor. One of the best ways to get an overview of New York City is on a sightseeing cruise -- try one of the full-island cruises that circumnavigate Manhattan and give you a chance to see just how large and diverse the cityscape is!
Another great aspect of the sightseeing cruises in NYC is that you get a close-up view (and great photo op) in front of the Statue of Liberty. For families visiting with school-age kids, two speedboat rides, The Beast and The Shark, combine the thrill of an amusement with a sightseeing cruise.
Don't Mistake Times Square for the Real New York
Sure, Times Square is unlike anything you've ever seen. And millions of visitors every year agree. The neighborhood is actually a great home base for visitors who want to see Broadway shows and has lots of hotels and great transportation, but Times Square is just one neighborhood of many in New York City and it's a shame for your entire NYC experience to happen there.
Make sure your visit to New York City includes exploring some other areas of town -- the easy-to-get-lost-in streets of Greenwich Village are a great place to spend an afternoon exploring, the Upper West Side is both historic and residential (and home to some great museums as well!) or even head to Brooklyn for a taste of where many New Yorkers actually live.