“As for New York City, it is a place apart. There is not its match in any other country in the world.”
– Pearl S. Buck
After a romantic city break to Venice with my husband early in 2019, I spent the Whitsun weekend in Paris with one of my female friends from Holland. In summer I went to Hamburg with 10 Swiss friends and I spoiled myself with one more city trip with another Dutch friend in 2019: New York City. You will understand that with so many holidays in one year, a girl has to watch her spending, so we did New York City very low budget (you can read all about it in this NYC blogpost), which worked out brilliantly.
For all my city trips, I always list 10 things that you should NOT do. So, here they are: 10 things NOT to do in New York City. I provide you with the reasons why and I offer you great alternatives! Enjoy your read.
- Do NOT buy a New York Pass, a New York City Explorer Pass or a City Pass of New York simply because they offer all kinds of discounts or because everyone tells you you should do so. I think it makes much more sense to look at what you want to do in New York first and see if one of these passes will be profitable for you. In our case they weren’t. The risk of looking at the passes first is that you get greedy. You see so many cool activities, museums and sightseeing options that you feel you have to it all. Well, you haven’t. It is also really great to be in a city and to feel the vibes of it and not just tick off boxes on a list. Not everyone thinks alike though, so you may want to compare the three and see which one works best for you!
- Do NOT go to Ellis Island when you have a tight schedule for your visit. Ellis Island offers a beautiful and very large museum on immigration. This attracts many visitors from both Europe (many immigrants came from the old world) and America (many American families have got European roots). This means that the museum is not just very large, but also very busy. We spent half a day on Ellis Island and have seen a lot, but by no means everything. For all of you interested in the history of the immigration, but on a tight schedule: have a look at the film that is shown in the Immigration Museum here. You will have a taste of Ellis Island without having to go there. By the way, when you take the Staten Island Ferry to Liberty Island, you will pass Ellis Island and this will at least give you a good view on the outside of the museum.
- Do NOT skip church on Sunday (even if you’d hardly ever or never go to church), because going to church will give you the opportunity to listen to a gospel choir performing for real (and not just performing for the tourists paying for some kind of tour). A great place to do so is the Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn. They offer 3 services each Sunday, so you can always find one that suits your time schedule. Click here to get an impression of both the church and choir.
- Do NOT go to Central Park without any kind of plan what you want to see. The park is huge and there is so much to do that it is easy to feel lost (literally and figuratively). You may want to see the famous boats and the boats house at The Lake or enjoy the beauty of the conservatory or get on top of Belvedere Castle to have a fabulous view over the park. Maybe you are a Beatles fan and you want to go to the strawberry fields or you are a Shakespeare lover and you want to visit his statue and the garden full of beautiful plants and flowers mentioned in his works and those who he had in his own private garden in Stratford-upon-Avon…The choice is enormous, so please plan ahead!
- Do NOT order a whole pastrami sandwich at Katz’s unless you are very hungry, an enormous meat-fan (or both) or someone who simply eats more than average. The portions are huge, not so much the sandwich, but the pastrami filling certainly is!
We have witnessed many sandwiches eaten only half or less and I think that is a waste of food. Since meat consumption isn’t that good for the environment, the least you can do is order as much as you can eat and not more. Oh, and since we are into things you shouldn’t do. Please, do NOT try to imitate Meg Ryan when you are having lunch there. That would be very embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
- Do NOT forget to dress in layers. We had summerly temperatures, but were happy with our jackets on the boat to Liberty Island, put them on later in the day and sometimes even in the underground, since temperatures vary extremely in the underground stations and trains. Women at a certain age may feel they have spontaneously hit the menopause by the heat flushes you can experience when using the underground. Be warned and be prepared!
- Do NOT go to the Tenement Museum if you prefer exploring a museum on your own or if you are someone who finds it hard to make choices. This museum, which aims at bringing immigrant and migrant experiences alive by tours through original apartments, can only be visited with a guided tour and the choice of interesting tours is quite a large one. FYI: the Tenement Museum is NOT included in any of the city passes mentioned in point 1.
- Do NOT hesitate to ask for help. The New Yorkers are very friendly and helpful. We have had a lady telling us how to get to the best donut place close to 5th avenue plus spontaneously sharing all her favourite bakeries with us as well. We had plenty of people helping us with information about the underground (see also point 9) and personnel everywhere is ever so friendly and helpful. Mind you, sometimes overly so for European standards, which can be charming or irritating. That’s up to you!
- Do NOT despair if you do not understand how the underground works exactly. We had troubles buying a 7-day metro card at the machine, since you have to type in your postal code. Not your real one of course, but it took a while till we got the information that you should type in 00000. Well, now you know. You should also know that several trains follow the same line, but do not all stop at the same stations. That can be confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty soon.
- Do NOT forget to bring your walking shoes, because you will walk a lot in NYC (it is called the BIG Apple for a reason). Walking offers you the possibility to explore and feel the vibes of a city. Walking 5th avenue is great for a lot of (window) shopping, the Trump tower with its famous waterfall, St Patrick’s (a neo-gothic cathedral amidst skyscrapers) and the central library, full of beautiful rooms, cards, globes and books. Little Italy is an excellent choice for a walk when you are into good coffee, Italian delicatessen and Italian Gelato.Chinatown, especially when you walk far enough to leave the touristic part of it behind you, will give you a very Asian feeling.Brooklyn and the famous Brooklyn Bridge are fabulous too (good to do on Sunday and combine it with your gospel choir experience). And don’t forget the financial district with Wall Street, the Bull (do NOT try to get a photo with just you on it, unless you are into long waiting for that rare opportunity) and the 911 memorial and 911 museum.Another not to be missed walk is the High Line plus the Vessel. The High Line was once a rail track but went out of use in 1980. In 2009, they transformed a 1.45-mile-long strip into a unique park. You find wildflowers, greens and art while enjoying superb views of New York’s skyline on the way. When you decide to walk in Central Park (cycling there is a cool option too), you will understand that this is a lot of walking, knowing how huge Central Park is.As you can read, lot of fabulous walks to do in NYC and as you will understand it also great to bring your walking shoes with you!
I hope I have inspired you with lots of things to do and NOT to do in New York. And you know what?
“In New York it seems like there’s no Monday or Saturday or Sunday.
The town is always moving. The vibe is great.”
– Thierry Henry
Thank you for visiting NYC with me and, when you have been to NYC in real life too, please share with us what you think one should do or should NOT do in that moving city with this great vibe.
- Tickets for Ellis Island can be booked here.
- Tickets for the Tenement museum can be booked here.
- Information about Tabernacle Church can be found here.
- We have made extensive use of a 7-day metro card.
Travel tips from the budget blog post and more links:
- New York also offers great roof top bars, something I would certainly do! The roof top bars we visited were The View (360° view, very fast and fascinating lifts and close to Times Square – after 8 pm prices go up), 23o fifth (XXL with a beautiful view on the Empire State Building – happy hour between 4-7 pm on weekdays) and The Standard (almost at the end of High Line – even the toilets are worth a visit there).
- We went to see a musical and bought our last minute musical tickets via TKTS.
- Check out Central Park. We thought it was so cool (and for free), that we went there twice!
- When you are into museums, you might like to know that the Guggenheim offers reduced entrance fees on Saturday and the 911 museum can be visited for free on Tuesday.
- Both the High Line and Vessel are free of charge. Make sure to book your time-slot for the Vessel though.
- The NYC public library is an amazing place for book lovers and offers free tours each day.