New York is a city that, for the most part, lives up to the hype. The bagels, the pizza, even the tap water—all are justly celebrated. But for every cheap, delicious slice, there's also a well-tread experience that doesn't deliver. Here's our list of what to skip on a trip to the Big Apple, and what to do instead.
The things we've shared here shouldn't surprise—even a list of overrated things in New York is overrated. But as oft-repeated as much of this advice is, it's still sound. Avoid the crowds (as best you can) and get an alternate view of the City that Never Sleeps.
1. Times Square
Sometimes you have to go to Times Square. Sometimes you are going to the theater. Sometimes you are visiting a midtown office building. Sometimes you are walking from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the Central Branch of the New York Public Library. Sometimes, you just have to take a picture for your Instagram. We get it. But get a good squint at all those lights and then get out of there.
For a better sense of New York City's public spaces, try Union Square instead. (Its particularly delightful greenmarket is on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Browse the stalls and pick up some much-beloved treats like ostrich jerky from Roaming Acres Ostrich, sachets from Lavender on the Bay, and honey and jams from Berkshire Berries. You are just like a real New Yorker now.)
2. The Empire State Building
You've seen King Kong—all three of them. You love An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle. The Empire State Building means something to you. Great! But why go up it when you can see it from someplace else? Try the Top of the Rock instead—it's got equally delightful views of the city, a slightly less oppressive crowd, and—best of all—the panorama includes the Empire State.
Maybe you have seen Girls? Maybe you have a cousin or a niece who drinks PBR? Maybe you have spent your whole life listening to Jay-Z songs? While Brooklyn is definitely worth the trip across the East River, Williamsburg—for all you may have heard of it—isn't its most representative quarter (though we'll admit its restaurants can't be beat). Try Fort Greene instead—a historically diverse neighborhood full of delightful local restaurants and businesses (check out Greenlight Bookstore), and tree-shaded brownstones.
Okay, Hamilton isn't overrated; it's just too difficult to get a ticket. If your luck runs out (Hamilton also offers a "Ham4Ham" $10 ticket lottery, replete with special performances), try something at the Public Theater, where Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical originally premiered, instead.
5. Magnolia Cupcakes
People are still going to Magnolia Cupcakes! It has been 11 years since Sex and the City ended. (And 10 years since the SNL video short "Lazy Sunday.") Let the cupcake trend finally die, and indulge in a superior dessert: pie. Try Brooklyn's Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which features specials like Bourbon Pear Crumble or Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan, instead.
We'll admit they sound appealing in the abstract, but there's nothing alluring about the line of people still gathering outside of pastry chef Dominique Ansel's bakery every morning. Why wait when the city has so many spectacular donut alternatives? Try the Donut Plant, Peter Pan Donuts, or Dough instead. New York (the country, even) is in a donut golden age.
7. Statue of Liberty
Bring me your tired, your poor, your hungry ... Lady Liberty, an inspiring symbol and ogle-worthy work of colossal statuary, actually isn't that fun to visit. While peering out from her crown is pretty cool, the long wait to get up there isn't. Try Ellis Island, the next stop on the Statue Cruise's ferry. Your tired, poor, hungry, and historically inclined still get a great view of the Statue from the water, and get a lot more besides: a look back at all those immigrants (from which 40 percent of U.S. citizens can trace their lineage) "yearning to breathe free."