Saturday, February 28, 2015

What to avoid in NYC

As lovely and exciting as New York City is, there are places to avoid at all costs. Not because of danger; New York is one of the safest cities in the country. Because of mobs. And New York does mobs like no other city. The secrets are timing…something tourists never seem to figure out, and avoiding scams designed to draw the tourist in.

Rush hour is the worst time to try to move both around Manhattan and between the boroughs. All the bridges and tunnels are jammed. Surprisingly, most taxis change shifts at 5:00 p.m. and those off duty signs can be awfully frustrating.  Even if you are lucky enough to grab a cab, you will move at a snail’s pace. From 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. and from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m., public transportation is often so crowded you can barely breathe.  So schedule your time so that you are eating during these times or walking leisurely without pressure to arrive at a destination.

The Empire State Building, the magical landmark seen in so many postcards and photo albums, can become your absolute worst nightmare if visited at the wrong time.  Try arriving after 5:00 p.m. There is a security line, a ticket line and an elevator line. It’s not uncommon to wait three hours to get to the Empire State Observatory. If evening is inconvenient, get an express pass at Empire State Building NYC, and you skip ALL the lines! Even if you don’t splurge for the VIP pass, you will save time (and one line) by buying your tickets on line.

Most tourists visit Times Square at one time or another. Many of the restaurants are expensive tourist traps and mediocre at best. If you have theatre tickets and MUST eat in the neighborhood, try Becco, Orso, Sushi Zen, Oceana, Virgil’s or Le Bernardin. Avoid all the tourist centric restaurants like a plague. Even if you have children in tow, Dave and Busters, Ruby Foo’s, Sardi’s, Smiley’s, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday’s, Chili’s, T.G.I.F, MARS, Jekyll and Hyde, and Hard Rock CafĂ© are horrible restaurants and will only disappoint. As for shopping, skip all small electronics stores, all stores in Times Square including the souvenir shops, and any store that advertises, “going out of business, ” or 50% to 90% off.  Also skip Madame Tussaud’s, a poor excuse of a museum and absolutely not worth the price.

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island can also have exhaustingly long lines. The only way to avoid these lines is to arrive early. And make sure to buy your tickets in advance.

Never play card games with anyone and don’t buy knock-offs on Canal Street. First, it is illegal, second, the items (handbags, watches) are poorly made and break the first time you use them. And skip riding in a pedicab because they are slow, dangerous and expensive.