Cliche tourist things to do in New York City and are they worth it? Pt. 1

New York is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, but are the sights that built this reputation really worth the effort? Over the last few years I’ve done them all, and seeing as I have an abiding interest in making sure people don’t waste their time, I thought I’d help you out. You can thank me later.

Note: this advice is written for the visiting tourist rather than the long-term expat. If you’re here for a while, you should do all of these once.

Rockefeller Plaza

This might be one of the few outdoor activities that’s best done in winter. The Plaza looks great in ice rink mode:In summer, it just looks like a food court:

That said, the Prometheus statue is more impressive in real life and it’s not like you have to pay for it.

Worth it? Yes. It’s iconic, and because it’s in midtown it’s probably not taking you too far out of your way anyway. 10 minutes will do it, though.

Staten Island Ferry

You do get some nice views of the Manhattan skyline for about five minutes, but do you really have anything to do in Staten Island? Unless you’re interested in getting some Italian, most people usually end up just getting back on the return ferry.

Also, if you’re using this ferry to get some shots of the Statue of Liberty, you’ll need a good camera lens, otherwise your pictures will end up looking like this:

Worth it? Probably not, you can get skyline views elsewhere. Definitely not if you’re also doing the Statue of Liberty and/or Ellis Island.

Times Square

You already know you won’t be having it to yourself, but do you really know just how packed Times Square gets? Every square inch of space is packed with tourists and panhandlers. You probably won’t mind if it’s your first time visiting and you wanna stop for pictures every 10 metres anyway, but after a while you get a bit over it.

If it is your first time, try visiting at night, when the lights have more of an impact. It’s still impressive during the day, but not the same:

Worth it? Yes. Crowds aside, it’s still spectacular. Try squeezing in a Broadway show too.

Wall St

What, really, are you coming here to do? The US Stock Exchange that you can’t go inside anymore? To get a picture of a Wall St street-sign? Punch a federal bail-out recipient in the face?

The ‘Bull’ statue is decent, but be prepared to share it:

Oh, and if you think you’re the first person to think of a hilarious picture with the bull’s testicles:

Worth it? Not really. It’s a business district. Unless you’re into watching a bunch of suits on their cell phones, don’t bother.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge doesn’t seem all that special when you consider Manhattan’s other similarly handsome bridges, with Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge and Queensboro Bridge on the east side alone.

But a walk across the the Brooklyn Bridge is a worthy activity. You get some great views of Manhattan and can finish it off with a stroll around DUMBO (District Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), one of Brooklyn’s nicest neighbourhoods:

Just make sure you stay in the pedestrian lane, unless you want to get yelled out by an irate cyclist.

Worth it? Definitely.

Museum of Natural History

This Museum’s glory is also its crux: it is massive.

Like the British Museum, there’s almost too much going on, and you could lose a whole day trying to see it all.

It has great exhibitions on a regular basis that are worth the extra coin, but maybe save it for a wet weather day.

Worth it? If you have the time, absolutely.


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