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12 Things Tourists Must Never Do In New York

New York City is one of the top travel destinations in the world. With a population of nearly 8.6 million who all seem to walk around like Speedy Gonzales. It can seem quite overwhelming to explore the five unique boroughs when you first arrive in the city that never sleeps.

NYC Yellow taxi on crossing in a NYC street

Things To Know About New York Before Visiting!

There are so many articles on the things you must do, so this one focuses on what tourists should never do in the Big Apple. Hopefully helping you avoid some of the common tourist pitfalls and master the city like a pro!

Don’t spend money at Chain restaurants

Avoid big chain restaurants. You seriously didn’t travel that far to eat at Applebee’s, Mcdonalds, or the Olive Garden (the list is endless). New York is foodie central and home to some amazing restaurants and ethnic eats. Go forth and discover!

Sima in jumpsuit on grass in Central Park

For a scenic eat try the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, the only venue on the Manhattan lake where you can dine al fresco.

Wall of multi coloured hanging guitars
Beauty & Essex

How about heading to Lower East Side to Beauty & Essex? A walk through a pawn shop reveals the most happening restaurant and lounge serving creative American fare & cocktails.

Or step it up a notch or two with Michelin starred Junoon for the finest Indian cuisine in town.

inside abcV restaurant with white floor, white tables and white chairs.

Only in New York can you head to the most incredible vegetarian restaurant inside a carpet store. Jean Georges’ abcV serves up a delicious eclectic mix of brunch bowels, dosas, pancakes, juices and cocktails all day.

Flat lay of flowers in a vase, two drinks and knife and fork

And for the ultimate New York cheese fest (no, I’m not talking the dairy product) you have the multi-level 50s themed Ellen’s Stardust Diner. You’ll either love it or hate it.

photo of Ellen's Stardust restaurant New York City from balcony looking down at diners
Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Think singing waitstaff busting out broadway numbers and classic tunes all whilst you’re tucking into some typical American fayre. Honestly, don’t go looking for the best food, it’s more about the experience.

Don’t Travel Without Cash

photo of out side of Radio City music hall with yellow NYC taxi

New York still has a real old-fashioned element. Many restaurants and bars operate a cash only policy, so put away that debit card and smart phone. Cash tips are required practically everywhere you go. Make sure you’re carrying some single dollars: they’ll come in very handy with doormen, waiters and cabbies.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Manhattan

Remember that Manhattan is but one borough, and you have four more to discover. New York City really does have more to offer than just Times Square and the Empire State Building. If your trip allows the outer borough, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn is where you truly experience New York.

picture of a corner house on an outer borough

On limited time you can visit an area via a tour. A great one is the A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour. What better way than to work your way around Brooklyn, brushing up on its history and famous movie location all whilst eating pizza.

thick crust tomato and cheese pizza

Skip queues for the famous coal fired brick oven Neapolitan pizza at Grimaldi’s and the deep Sicilian style pizzas at L & B Spumoni Gardens.

Disclosure: I was gifted the tour and a guest on the Slice of Brooklyn Pizza tour.

Don’t make plans all over New York without considering travel time

Getting around New York can be time-consuming. Make days easy by planning things in the same neighbourhoods or the same side of town either West Side or East Side. Trust me your feet will thank you for it.

Sima in yellow jumpsuit beneath Blue, Red and Greem Wonder Wheel at Coney Island

Coney Island is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit. The tip of Manhattan is an iconic filming location and a summer hotspot with the beach and amusement park. It’s also included in the Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour. Makes sense to plan closeby locations together.

Don’t go shopping in Midtown or Soho

Virtually all the shops you’ll come across in these areas are the same as in any other city – so why bother? Weekends can also be overly crowded making it a nightmare to move let alone shop. If shopping really is your thing, instead hunt down independent boutiques in Nolita, the West Village or Lower East Side.

Woodbury Common Premium Outlet

And if it’s a bargain you’re after head right out to Woodbury Common Premium Outlet, located in Central Valley, New York.

Arial view of bags of shopping from Woodbury Common Premium Outlet

Buy a return bus ticket and in an hour and a half you’ll be knee deep in bargains with up to 65% and more off in over 200 stores.

Don’t go to the top of the Empire State Building

Why? Well think about it. If you’re stood on top of it, there is no way to capture the most iconic building of New York nestled amongst the other skyscrapers.

view of the Rockefeller Plaza looking up from the bottom with a white face statue with hands covering eyes

For that classic shot you need to head to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Plaza.

view from Top of The Rock looking south on Manhattan

Get there early to avoid the crowds. And I guarantee the views are great, in fact probably even better.

sima in white dress and sandals along side 50c viewing binocular admiring view of Empire State Building from Top of The Rock

Disclosure: I was gifted the New York CityPASS which helps gain free entry to over a 100 New York attractions.

Don’t pay for a circle line sightseeing cruise

view of Manhattan skyline on the Staten Island Ferry

If you really want to you can, but why when you can do something very similar for no cost at all. The Staten Island Ferry is a passenger ferry route operated by the New York City Department of Transportation. The ferry’s single route is 5.2 miles and takes you from Whitehall in Manhattan to St George on Staten Island in 25 minutes. Onboard enjoy a view of the Lower Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and the iconic Statue of Liberty. Best of all – It’s FREE!

Don’t miss Brooklyn Bridge

It’s the most famous way to get across the East River. Missing it is not an option. Brooklyn Bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, an icon of New York City it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

sima in green dress walking Brooklyn Bridge

Less than a mile long, it takes about 30 minutes cross. Well, that time does depend on how many times you stop for a photo op. If you head over at sunset you can view the Big Apple skyline transform into myriad twinkling lights.

Don’t eat only classic american fayre

Bagels, pizza, hot dogs and cheesecake are synonymous with New York and obviously a must to savor on a visit. Although be sure to try out the international food scene and seek out the ethnic neighbourhoods. Eat pasta in Little Italy, get your biryani fix on Curry Hill, your fill of moussaka in Astoria and chow down in Chinatown.

Japanese fish-shaped cake with green soft serve ice cream and sprinkles in front of yellow NYC taxi

If in Chinatown visit Taiyaki NYC, a small ice cream parlour which serves up traditional Japanese fish-shaped cakes stuffed with soft serve ice cream. Choices of flavours range from vanilla, chocolate, matcha and black sesame with add ons of red bean, mochi and more. Get that camera out, before it melts!

Don’t use your mobile in the 9/11 Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is an important place for those who want to pay respect to the lives lost in the events of 9/11.

view of visitors in the all white 9/11 museum

From the moment you step out of the Oculus shopping centre and enter Ground Zero it’s sobering walking up to the Memorial. The twin reflecting pools, include names of nearly 3000 victims’ inscribed on surrounding bronze panels. The country’s largest man-made waterfalls cascade down the sides of the original site of the Twin Towers. Entry to the Memorial is open to the public with no charge.

9/11 memorial with engraved names and water feature

There is a fee for the Memorial Museum or purchase a CityPASS for free entry. Remember one rule though – Leave your phone in your bag! The museum’s policy explicitly states that the use of cell mobiles for talking is prohibited in the original footprint of the North Tower.

Don’t Walk the High Line on A weekend

walking the high line and a piece of art in the greenery

The High line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear public park created on a historic disused railway track on Manhattan’s West side. It features lush horticulture, artworks, seasonal food vendors, and unique views of the Hudson River and New York City skyline.

black and white clock on the High Line numbers replaced with the word organization

Running from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues, it’s popular with both New Yorkers and tourists. To avoid jostling the crowds, the best time to appreciate this urban delight is on a weekday as early as possible.

Don’t forget to book tickets for The Vessel

New York City’s newest landmark created by British designer Thomas Heatherwick The Vessel is a sight to behold. The humongous copper beehive like structure sits proudly in the new neighbourhood development called Hudson Yards.

view of the bottom of the vessel looking up

The open series of staircases has been described by locals as a stairway to nowhere. Comprised of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, 2,500 steps, and 80 landings, it offers views of the city and the Hudson River.

view of sima looking up inside the vessel from inside showing a handful of 154 interconnecting bronze landing/steps

Tickets are free but and the slots do get booked up. You can book tickets up to two weeks ahead of time—new tickets for the coming weeks are made available at 8 a.m. everyday.


Have you been to New York? Would love to know some of the things you think tourists should never do. Let me know in the comments box below.



Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links whereby I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. Thanks as always for your support! See my disclosure policy here.


  • Binny Shah-Patel 29th July 2019 at 7:40 am

    LOVE this take on a guide to New York!!

  • Dylan Jones 30th July 2019 at 5:14 pm

    This a great take on visiting NYC! So many great things not to do there. I love visiting NYC and on every visit I feel like less of a tourist

    • the Curious Pixie 31st July 2019 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks so much Dylan, so pleased you enjoyed the read. I can’t wait to go back again!

  • OurWorldforYou 4th August 2019 at 4:08 pm

    There are some good tips here, it’s been quite a while since I’ve been to NYC, I’d love to see The Vessel.

    • the Curious Pixie 6th August 2019 at 11:42 am

      Thank you! New York is one of those places where there is always something new to see.

  • michelle brown 22nd October 2019 at 2:28 am

    Thanks so much for your suggestions! I plan on looking into some of these places while I’m living in NYC for a few months. The free activities will really help since I’m not working right now.

    Michelle |

    • Sima Sthanakiya 23rd October 2019 at 3:24 pm

      So glad you found it useful Michelle! An exciting move.

  • Neha 29th December 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Love these Sima! Agree on the Top of the rock- much better. Also Woodbury Common- that brings back lots of shopping memories.

    • Sima Sthanakiya 2nd January 2020 at 10:32 am

      We were so disappointed at the bar at the Top of the Rock – live and learn. I can’t wait to go back again!

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