NYC: 5 Most Overrated and Underrated Attractions

Ah, New York City. The city that never sleeps. I spent a gorgeous five days there in the height of spring, having previously visited during the Christmas rush in 2012.

After these two trips, I feel there are definitely some overrated and underrated attractions in NYC. Here’s my two cents.

5 Most Overrated NYC Sites

1. Strawberry Fields

Okay, I’m going to specifically point to the Imagine mosaic. I get it, I totally get it. People want to pay homage to John Lennon. I love the Beatles as much as the next person, but when you go there and people are crammed around this tiny circle, swapping in and out for photos of themselves holding up a peace sign, I’m done. I’m even more done when I see a family forcing their screaming daughter into the circle. Methinks that’s not what John and Yoko were hoping for.

2. The Charging Bull

As I rounded the bowling green, ready to see the charging, golden bull, I was in for quite the surprise. I saw the waist of a bull. The face and the ass, however, were crowded by hordes of people photo swapping (this is my new tourist term). Pictures with the face of the bull, okay, I get it. Pictures of people holding their mouths up to the bull’s balls… come on people. Apparently, to see the bull in full effect, one must show up at the crack of dawn when Broadway is deserted.

3. Times Square

Times Square NYC Overrated

Controversial one here, I know. It’s the locale of the epic New Year ball drop. Many magic movie moments have taken place here. There was the beloved D-Day kiss. I get all that, but when I spend a near ten minutes traversing two city blocks, holding onto my friend for dear life so that we don’t get separated in the throngs of shoppers or run over by angry drivers (whom I completely sympathize with). If you’re going to visit it, and I know it’s a must on most people’s check lists, again, make this a first thing of the day, or later in the evening. If you happen to hit it right after the Broadway shows have let out – good luck.

4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I loved the movie. LOVED the movie. Posing for the “timeless” photo outside a tiny window, on the other hand, was not as romantic as I’d hoped. That and the rain. The rain didn’t help.

5. Empire State Building

Empire State NYC Underrated

Before you freak out at me, I’m not saying don’t go up a really tall building to get the view of NYC. Do, definitely do, but ask yourself if it really needs to be the Empire State Building? What if it were Rockefeller Center? Imagine, the line ups would be marginally less. Imagine you could get BOTH the Empire State Building (ESB) AND the Chrysler building in your pictures. Now, wouldn’t that be cool? Top of the Rock and the ESB are identical in cost, but if you are only going to do one, weigh up the pros and cons.

5 Most Underrated NYC sites

1. The Tenement Museum

Tenement NYC underrated

When most of us think about the stories of immigrants arriving to NYC, we think of Ellis Island. While an incredible museum, and worth the cost, didn’t you wonder what happened to them next? The Tenement Museum tells that story. They are guided tours, so be sure to book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. I’ve personally experienced both the Hard Times and Irish Outsiders tours, but you could go back to this place again and again and experience a completely unique story. I’m amazed at how few people either know about the Tenement Museum, or who actually put it on their list.

2. Prospect Park

I’m not saying don’t go to Central Park. Central Park is amazing, but if you’re looking for the park that locals go to, where real New Yorkers live, you can’t beat Prospect Park. I spent a glorious hour there walking, lying on the grass and just taking in the scenes. Families played softball with their kids, girls practiced yoga, and there were even a couple of guys searching the ground with metal detectors (made me want to throw down some coins). It’s the gentler, less busy way to feel you’ve escaped from the city. Diana Cranstoun does a great job of explaining the differences between Central and Prospect Park in her blog.

3. The Cloisters

Cloisters NYC underrated

Most people go to the Met and don’t realize that their ticket gets them free access to the Cloisters. Another set of people look at the Cloisters on the map and disregard it, knowing that it’ll take a half a day. And it will. Let’s not lie. But for a taste of medieval Europe, and a truly stunning walk leading up to it, I highly recommend. Tranquil, different and monumentally less busy than most other sites. It makes a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle, if only for a few hours. You can take the train to get there in a hurry, or the bus if you want to see how those in Upper Manhattan live.

4. Brooklyn

Brooklyn NYC underrated

If you watch Real Housewives of New York (I’m a sad, sad addict) you’ll have heard the Brooklyn bashing. Well, I’m here to tell you that it just isn’t so. I only got to spend a few hours strolling around the neighbourhoods, following our bridge walk, but it’s stunning. The less busy New York. Still great food, great sites, great shops, but without all the crazy foot traffic. If I were to live in NYC, I’d live in Brooklyn. Check out this guy’s blog for thirty different Brooklyn walking routes.

5. Washington Square Park 

I’ve seen this in a couple of t.v. shows, but never quite knew what it was. It’s a little off the main tourist trail, and a quick walk from East Village, but Washington Square Park is plain and simply cool. As I meandered through it, college grads were taking the classic jump shots in front of the arch, a lady was playing on a grand piano (on wheels) and kids were shrieking with joy as they chased one another. Around the corner is even a fenced doggy park if you’re needing a fur fix on your travels.


Hope this is helpful for those visiting NYC, especially those on a tight timeline. There’s no shortage of things to see and experience, so make the most of your precious time.

Happy Travel Tuesday.

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8 Responses to NYC: 5 Most Overrated and Underrated Attractions

  1. dianacranstoun June 3, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Great post. Thanks for the link!

  2. erikseide June 3, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    Really great article.. love the cloisters!

    • vscot848 June 3, 2014 at 10:57 am #

      Glad to hear that! Thanks for the feedback. Having visited NYC, is there anything you’d add to either of these lists?

      • erikseide June 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

        Way to many to count! I love St Johns Cathedral on the upper west side, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and food in harlem… for over rated I tend to think the high line, little italy, and walking over the brooklyn bridge.

        • vscot848 June 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

          Aha! I have a post coming in a couple of weeks of attractions that I thought were worth the hype. Personally, I find the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge worth the hype, but that’s just me. Thanks for your input!

  3. Nicole March 10, 2015 at 5:46 am #

    Agreed with most overrated being Empire State Building (like…the outside is pretty cool. The inside is crammed with tourists even with us waking up at 6 AM, and then you wind up on a freezing windy roof where there’s too much smog to actually see anything so…). Most underrated is totally the Sex Museum. It was better than any of the ‘sex museums’ in Europe. It’s like the most high class sex shop you can imagine, but with science and history and the best souvenirs. It doesn’t feel dirty literally OR figuratively, and it’s quiet and air-conditioned which is the highest bliss in a NYC summer.

    • Victoria Smith March 10, 2015 at 11:46 am #

      Interesting addition! I never visited the sex museum in NYC – something about visiting NYC with my MUm… David and I visited a similar museum in Paris and it was a riot. Will have to add it to the list the next time I go, thanks!


  1. The Cloisters – NYC | Diana Cranstoun - June 11, 2014

    […] Smith refers to The Cloisters as one of the underrated gems of New York, so please check out her blog for it and other […]

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