Let’s get right into it, shall we?
1. Cab Rides: The fares are now way over-priced and the traffic is still congested as ever (they charge by the minute, whether you’re stuck in halting traffic or not.) Subway rides http://www.mta.info/nyct/maps/submap.htm are cheaper AND faster to take (and environmentally cleaner,) familiarize yourself with the subway map before you arrive…however, if your destination is less than 20 blocks away – walk! Walking in NYC is one of the BEST experiences you’ll have since there’s so much to see. It’s the best way to “see” the city. You can walk through famous neighborhoods, try different sidewalk cafes, shop at the little boutiques, or catch a famous celeb or two.
2. Touristy Tours: Forget them, all you need is a good map and a pair of comfortable sneakers. Most tours stick you on a hot red bus and show you “destinations” that you can’t enjoy because YOU’RE ON A HOT RED BUS. It’s overpriced too for what’s essentially a crowded bus ride. For the same price you can enjoy a nice lunch in Little Italy, China Town, or Soho (which by the way are the neighborhoods these tours usually take you through.) Also, ask a New Yorker where to go to catch some NY culture. I can’t tell you how many times I arrive at the World Trade Center and see tourists trying to look at ground zero through some construction fencing. I walk up to them and say, “Hey, there’s a great memorial at the Church across the street for free and right over here is the NEW Tribute WTC Visitor Center (they require a donation). The looks of gratitude makes it worth telling. http://www.tributewtc.org/visitorinfo/index.php
3. Comedy Clubs: Don’t visit them in Times Square unless the comedians are “professionals” that you recognize as being funny (Chris Rock, Mon’Nique, Kat Williams, etc.,) then it’s worth it. Usually however, it’s an overpriced experience with several drink minimums, and the comedians are so-so funny (they are after-all “up-and-coming” for a reason.) What I would recommend is the UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) Theater on 26th Street. The UCB is where established acts (Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Mike Myers) try out new material every now and then, and Amy Poehler is a regular there as well. The comedians at the UCB usually end up as the newbies debuting on SNL. Best part? The tickets are about $8 and they have $2 beers all night. http://newyork.ucbtheatre.com/
4. Restaurants in the Theater District: Why…just why? They are the same EXACT chains (Olive Garden, Planet Hollywood, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesdays, T.G.I.Fridays, etc.,) in everycity U.S.A. only double the price and triple the long lines. The Restaurants that are not chains are also inflated in the Theater District – walk down to the 30th and 20th streets for enjoyable meals at half of the TD prices. For great cocktails and impeccable cuisine try Graffiti http://www.graffitinyc.com/on the East-side or the Rocking Horse Cafe http://www.rockinghorsecafe.com/ on the West.
5. The Empire State Building: What a waste of valuable NYC time! My best analogy is – you know those amusement park rides where you and mobs of people wait 2 hours for a 2 minute ride? Visiting the Empire State Building is something like that, but not as fun. True – the view is great, but you’ll be in no mood to see it by the time you get there. Here’s the gist: You’ll wait in no fewer than five separate lines (the sidewalk line, the lobby elevator line, the ticket purchase line, the second elevator line, and the line to get off the elevator and onto the observation deck.) While you wait, you’ll endure aggressive up-sells for an express ticket (a lame “3-D ride over the city,” a picture of your own infuriated face superimposed on a green-screen version of the skyline, etc.) Oh wait, then you’ll wait in no fewer than three additional lines to get back downstairs, getting herded through a gift shop on your way. Hands down, one of the worst tourism experiences in any city, anywhere.
6. Vendor Carts: Just pass these by. You do not have the time to scout and find the best Vendor Carts in NYC (there are some) so just “walk on by” no matter how good the food smells. Dirty-water dogs (hot dogs) are estimated to sit in re-used liquids for about 48 hrs. The quality of meats are always the lowest grades (beef, chicken, etc.,) and stay away from those “roasted nuts” carts too. They are nothing more than sugar-coated rocks (you may actually crack a tooth.) Try a New York Deli (again, not in the Theater District) and grab a roast beef on rye, ham and swiss, or just a plain NY bagel with a schmear of cream cheese. Add a strong coffee or some pop for the same price as any hot dog from any vendor cart. Your stomach will Thank You!
7. Century 21: Do not shop here unless you love paying regular to high prices for “dated” clothing. To put it simply, Century 21 is a ZOO and it is filled to capacity with animals more than merchandise. Famous for its discounts on designer clothes (which means that angora sweater will cost you $300 instead of $399) is packed to the walls with tourists, aggression, and bad energy. Walk in here and be forewarned: You will be elbowed. You will be barked at. You will be lectured on obscure store policies. And you will wait in lines of such slowness, disorganization, and hostility that they would test the goodwill of a Franciscan monk. Better to shop at Lord and Taylor http://www.lordandtaylor.com/store.cfm?&ckey=US&lang=eng The flagship department store on Fifth Avenue and 38th Street is an elegant alternative to big-city retail madness. Its hushed, dignified interior always seems impeccably neat, the sales staff is leaps and bounds less pushy than the clerks at Bloomie’s or Bergdorf’s, and the cosmetics counters are well staffed and crowd-free. Even if the store is not actually full of “Ladies Who Lunch” anymore (browsing for gloves and hat pins) the old-school atmosphere can make you believe that a civilized shopping experience can still be had in New York. Hospitality plays a big role at Lord and Taylor (the store sets out chairs for early-bird shoppers and the retail day still begins every morning with a piped-in rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”) and the staff really know their crafts. Locals in the know make a beeline for the dress floor (on four) whenever a wedding invitation drops (a high-end cocktail dress or evening gown can be had for about $175.) You can find me in the Men’s section at Christmas time getting suede gloves or my zany signature wool scarves at 40-50% off.
8. Drinks: Do NOT accept drinks from anyone at the club/bar in NYC (or anywhere for that matter). Sure, he or she may be HOT, but is she or he a hot criminal too? You never know. Date-rape drugs are back on the rise in the U.S., with many cases in NYC. Now, accepting a drink from someone, but served by a bartender that you can “see” pour a drink for you - well then, that may be fine. But don’t be one of these people (I actually know a few) that accepts drinks just because you’re too broke – or worse – too cheap to buy your own. A drink invitation does NOT mean “you can use me to pay for your drinks.” What it does mean is “I’d like to talk to you, are you interested?” If you are not interested (because of their looks, stature, ethnicity, whatever,) then by all means do not lead someone on just to get drinks – it cheapens your character. When my lady friends ask me what’s the best, safest way to handle the “may I buy you a drink” question, I always suggest: If you are not at all interested, simply say, “No, thank you.” This way the message is clear. If you are unsure whether you are interested or not, say “Maybe later, but we can talk for a bit now, how are you?” After some conversation, if you find yourself not interested say, “Well, it was nice talking to you _______, I’m going to go back to my girlfriends now. Take care.” If you find yourself to be interested (after some conversation) then say, “Let’s have that drink.” But by all means do not get inebriated and lose your “good” sense. And as always, make sure you can “see” who is making/pouring your drinks.
And there you have it, 8 Things NOT to do in NYC. Don’t forget to re-read my 8 Things to do in NYC for FREE