Rookie mistakes in New York City – and how best to avoid them.

I love New York. And I love being a tourist in New York City. After all, there are loads of things to do and places to see that you know from TV and movies or have read about… so take your time to explore them all. But be careful not to waste time and money.

I have already talked about my Top 5 Things to do in New York City a few weeks back, so this time I want to share the other side of the coin. Things that are not worth spending any money on.

Obviously this is my personal opinion and might not reflect yours in the slightest, but this does not stop me from sharing my thoughts, to help you prepare for NYC … for a New York trip to remember.

Our first trip to New York was our honeymoon. Needless to say it was all meant to be extra special and romantic.

We had an amazing time and made memories to last a life time.

But we also made a few silly mistakes.

Think of all those movies set in New York. I am sure you can come up with quite a few that feature a romantic tour through Central Park, in a horse drawn carriage. Preferably in the snow, however snow wasn’t an option in May… so a sunny afternoon it was instead.

What looks like the ultimate romantic tour in the movies is in fact a rather dull mass tourist event. We paid $50 for the short tour (we could have gone one up and take the long trip at an even higher price, luckily we didn’t).

All carriages go exactly the same route and just follow one another. So you don’t really get an exclusive and private experience… instead it feels a bit like being at a fun fair.

Yes you see Central Park, but nothing beyond the beaten track and certainly nothing you wouldn’t see just walking (or hiring a bike or Segway instead).

In terms of rookie mistake, we went one further, by going for the restaurant recommendation as seen on the hotel’s TV advertising. In hindsight, I have no idea why we ever thought that could be a good idea… we never ever … but what shall I say. We were on holiday… our honeymoon to be precise… and were planning to do it all and have the true American experience. So off we went to ‘Famous Dave’, located bang on Times Square. Not quite sure what Dave is famous for… certainly not his food. Mediocre fast food at terribly inflated prices (well it is Times Square after all, so what would you expect).

Another thing I would not spend money on again is going up the Freedom Tower (or One World Trade Center, as it is officially called). From the outside the Freedom Tower is stunning. Having seen it in various stages of building work during our previous visits, last year we decided to actually go up to the viewing platform. As we pre-booked our tickets, we timed it to coincide with sunset, for spectacular views of the skyline. We’ve been up the Empire State Building twice before, so were looking forward to seeing the skyline from a different angle this time.

Unfortunately the Freedom Tower did not quite deliver.

Firstly the tickets were horrendously expensive and we ended up paying $112 for the two of us.

Once up all is set to squeeze even more money out of you. You can spend money getting an audio tour, talking you through the sights.

You spend a fortune on a simple bottle of water.

In between you try and get a spot by the window to actually see the skyline (after all, that is what we came for). Big disadvantage (compared to the Empire State Building), you are behind glass at all times. So taking photos is a little tricky, as you have to be very close to the glass to avoid having reflections on all your photographs. Therefore having marks and fingerprints on your photos instead…. Total Win / Win (not).

And whilst we were able to enjoy the sunset, it happened to be on the wrong side (ok not the fault of the Freedom Tower obviously, I should have consulted a map before imagining things)… so instead of that stunning view of the sun setting over the skyline, the sun actually set over the bay. Still pretty, but not quite what we had in mind.

Even so… with the Freedom Tower being right down in lower Manhattan, the view is very different. You feel very detached from the skyline and you cannot see Central Park at all. So nothing compared to the views you get up the Empire State Building, where you are basically right in the middle of it all. Don’t get me wrong. If this is the first time you see the skyline from above, the view is still nice… just not as breathtaking as it is from the Empire State Building.

But despite all the praise, the Empire State Building also made it onto my list of mistakes not to make again. Don’t get me wrong. Going up the Empire State Building isn’t a mistake at all. Instead I find it well worth and am sure I will go again… it did make it onto my ‘Top 5 tips for New York City’ list after all… but I would not spend money on the additional ticket to go right up to the top to the 102nd floor. Enjoy the view from the 86th floor instead (where you are out in the open, not behind glass) and spend the extra money on a little treat somewhere else).

So tell me. Any rookie mistakes and confessions to share?

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  1. Top 5 things to do in New York City – Travel for a Living

    […] Well, obviously we made our fare share of rookie mistakes as well, so read on to avoid the same traps. […]

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