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As an NYC tour guide, I’ve been showing tourists around Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens since 2017. Part of my job is clearing up common misconceptions about where to eat, which neighborhoods to avoid, and how to get the most out of a short stay in an expensive city. Here are a dozen of the most common misconceptions I encounter among visitors to New York City, plus a few insider secrets.

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The best Italian food is in Little Italy

linguine with white clam sauce from Don Peppe South Ozone Park Queens

Linguine with white clam sauce from Don Peppe | Photo: Brian Cicioni

Like many things in New York, some of the best Italian restaurants are in areas where tourists rarely venture out to. Queens, for example, has several local neighborhood gems that seem to always be full despite less than convenient locations. Whether it’s Don Peppe in South Ozone Park, Corona’s Park Side, or any of the upscale Italian restaurants along Cross Bay Blvd in Howard Beach, there are places that will feel much more exclusive and rewarding if you make an effort to venture out of Manhattan. Brooklyn and Staten Island have their own neighborhood gems as well, including Bamonte’s, Joe and Pat’s, and L & B Spumoni Gardens. If you decide to stay in Brooklyn, find your hotel right here.

A Broadway show will set you back $200

Springsteen on Broadway Walter Kerr Theatre

Springsteen on Broadway Walter Kerr Theatre | Photo: Brian Cicioni

While the hottest tickets in town usually cost a pretty petty, not every Broadway show is comparable to Hamilton or Springsteen on Broadway. Thanks to sites like CheapTickets and apps like TodayTix, you can attend Broadway shows for as little as $20 per person. TodayTix started in New York and offers tickets to dozens of different local events at any given time.

Times Square is the most exciting part of New York 

Times Square NYC

Times Square NYC by Brian Cicioni

While Times Square does give seemingly new meaning to the saying, “bright lights, big city,” locals see it as a place to change trains or catch a play. Most people who work near Times Square can’t afford to live there and are more likely to spend their leisure time elsewhere. There’s no harm seeing what all the fuss is about, but if you spend more than 10% of your time here, you are missing out on the real New York. Instead, check out some of the exciting neighborhoods in the outer boroughs like Astoria and Brooklyn Heights. or hop on the tram to Roosevelt Island. Subway cards accepted.

A ride on the State Island ferry counts as a visit to the “Forgotten Borough”

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry terminal | Photo: Brian Cicioni

There’s more to the “Forgotten Borough” than St. George Ferry Terminal. Many of the island’s tourist attractions are conveniently located along the SIR (Staten Island Railway), which means there’s really no reason to just turn around as soon as the next ferry back to Manhattan is available. Instead, check out some of SI’s museums, including the National Lighthouse Museum or the Sri Lankan Arts & Culture Museum (currently offering virtual tours). If you want to venture out to the end of the SIR line, check out The Conference House, one of NYC’s under-the-radar historic houses. If you’ve never tried Sri Lankan food, check out Lakruwana. They have a weekend buffet, which will give you the chance to try numerous dishes without breaking the bank.

The Bronx is dangerous

Welcome to the South Bronx

Welcome to the South Bronx | Photo: Brian Cicioni

Like the rest of the NYC boroughs, The Bronx is a series of neighborhoods. While the northern parts are more suburban and spread out, the South Bronx has a more gritty, urban feel. But that does not mean that you should avoid the only NYC borough that’s connected to the U.S. mainland. There are walking tours available if you are looking to dip your toes into the South Bronx, which has a lot of interesting hip-hop history and street art. Hundreds of tourists make the journey to 187th Street and Arthur Avenue for a taste of The Real Little Italy. There’s also the New England fishing village feel of City Island, which you can visit by bus from the end of the 6 line.

Queens is just where the airports are

Unisphere Flushing Meadows Corona Park Queens

Unisphere Flushing Meadows Corona Park Queens | Photo: Brian Cicioni

Thinking of Queens as the borough where you fly in and out of is probably the number one mistake tourists make when visiting New York. Chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern once said that if Queens were a separate city, it would be the world’s greatest food city. You can find some of the best food in New York along the elevated 7 train, and it’s far more affordable than what you’ll get in Manhattan. Queens also has several museums, including MoMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum, and the Queens County Farm Museum.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is the best way to experience Brooklyn

Welcome to Brooklyn

Welcome to Brooklyn | Photo: Brian Cicioni

Just like taking the Staten Island Ferry to St. George terminal does not constitute a proper visit to SI, walking across the famous Brooklyn Bridge does not equal a true Brooklyn experience. NYC’s most populous borough is home to some of New York’s most unique ethnic neighborhoods, quirky museums, and sought-after pizza pies and slices. Walking across the bridge is an essential Brooklyn experience, but so is riding the elevated Q train out to Coney Island or Brighton Beach, also known as “Little Odessa.”

The Hop-on Hop-off bus is the best way to see New York

Coney Island station Brooklyn

Coney Island station Brooklyn | Photo: Brian Cicioni

If you know nothing about the city and only have a few hours before your train pulls out of Penn Station, then the Hop-on Hop-off Bus is the best way to see New York. It will take you past 25 NYC landmarks, which you can snap pictures of to show your family and friends that you visited NYC. Assuming you have more than a few hours, skip the bus, save some money, and pick a subway line that stops along some of the city’s lesser-known attractions. There’s no boring subway line. It just depends on what you are into.

There’s only one Chinatown

Welcome to Flushing

Welcome to Flushing | Photo: Brian Cicioni

While Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown is still the most famous, it’s no longer the largest. And depending on where you are staying, Brooklyn’s Sunset Park or Flushing, Queens may be more convenient options. With more than 30,000 Chinese-born residents, Flushing is one of the fastest-growing Chinatowns in the world. It’s also easy to get to thanks to the 7 train and the Long Island Railroad. If you’re visiting on the weekend, get the LIRR City Ticket, which is only $4.50 each way (compared to $2.75 for a subway ride).

The best hotels are in Times Square

Williamsburg Hotel Brooklyn

Williamsburg Hotel Brooklyn | Photo: Brian Cicioni

If you’re arriving by bus, train, or flying into Newark, Midtown will likely be your first bite of The Big Apple. It’s tempting to get the nearest hotel to Penn Station or Port Authority and use that as a base for the duration of your trip. After all, most of the NYC subway lines intersect between Grand Central Station and Port Authority. But if you’re flying into LGA, you should consider staying in Long Island City, Queens, which is one subway stop from Brooklyn or Manhattan and has both chic and affordable lodging options. In Manhattan, consider Chelsea, Koreatown, or the Lower East Side, all of which have a more authentic feel and more affordable hotels.

Central Park is the city’s only must-see green space

Prospect Park Brooklyn

Prospect Park Brooklyn | Photo: Brian Cicioni

While locals love Central Park for many reasons, it’s not the only must-see green space in NYC. It’s not the largest either. That distinction goes to Pelham Bay Park, which is also the final stop on the 6 train. For many tourists, Central Park conjures up images of GhostbustersHome Alone 2, and When Harry Met Sally, but Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has the famous Unisphere, as well as remnants from two World’s Fairs. Don’t forget about Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, either.

New Yorkers are impatient and mean

Conti's Pastry Shoppe

Conti’s Pastry Shoppe by Brian Cicioni

It’s best to get right to the point when approaching a New Yorker, especially if it’s someone who was born and raised there. Clerks and wait staff will be polite IF you know what you want and don’t spend endless time deliberating whether you want to go for the round or square slice. As long as you don’t hold up lines or make people’s jobs more stressful than they already are, you’ll be safe in New York City, just like the AC/DC song.

Tagged: New York City

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Brian Cicioni
Brian is an NYC-based travel writer and tour guide. You can see his work at CheapTickets, Matador Network, and USA Today 10 Best. He also has his own blog, where you can find practical tips on what to see, where to eat, and how to explore major cities along public transit lines. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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