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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

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

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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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It may seem like craft beer festivals are a dime a dozen these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re all created equal. Certain craft celebrations still separate themselves from a crowded field in ways that make them not just a fun diversion if you happen to be in the area, but bucket list-worthy attractions any beer lover should consider planning a whole trip around. When you’re putting your 2020 calendar together,* keep these 9 exceptional beer gatherings in mind.

*Dates and prices are approximated based on 2019 data, so keep tabs on the relevant websites for updates.

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Extreme Beer Festival: Boston, MA

(Late January, early February: $75–$100)

Beer Advocate has been hosting this celebration of boundary-pushing brews (each brewery is tasked with creating an “extreme beer”) since 2003, and given how many boundaries have been pushed since that time, it’s no wonder this Boston fest continues to be one of the most interesting annual looks into where the industry is going.

Bonus: Yes, it’s touristy to have a drink at Boston’s Bull & Finch, the bar that inspired Cheers, but if you like beer and you’re in Boston, don’t you also kind of have to pay homage to Norm?

WakeFest Invitational: Miami, FL

(Mid February: $60-$350)

Standout Miami brewer J. Wakefield has evolved its anniversary celebration into quite the event, drawing 120 breweries from around the nation who reliably put their best foams forward at this popular shindig. Expect to taste plenty of rare, sought-after suds, fill up at a sea of food trucks, dance like no one’s watching (if that’s how you roll) and have a generally fantastic time.

Bonus: For most of the country, Miami weather in February doesn’t require much of a sales pitch.

Savor: Washington, DC

(May: $135–$175)

The food quality at beer festivals can vary (which is why you often see attendees subsisting on a pretzel necklace), but there’s nothing to worry about with Savor, which feels more like something out of a Top Chef episode than a typical beer fest. The 90-plus breweries in attendance work up specific food pairings for their beers on offer: think barrel-aged stouts with coconut-chocolate macaroons and fruited sours with curry squash samosas. You won’t leave hungry.

Bonus: DC has plenty of tourism opportunities that other cities simply do not: The Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial, the chance to yell at your congressman … The possibilities are endless!

beer

Firestone Walker Invitational: Paso Robles, CA

(June: $90–$200)

2020 will be the ninth iteration of this Paso Robles event from industry heavy hitters Firestone Walker, which draws in some of the biggest worldwide names in brewing among the event’s 50 entrants, not to mention an always impressive lineup of brews from the hosts themselves. If the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in brewing with a little live music providing the soundtrack sounds appealing, this is for you.

Bonus: If your beverage interests aren’t limited to beer, you’re smack in the heart of wine country.

Green City: Brooklyn, NY

(June: $100-$300)

Arguably no brewery in the country has distinguished itself in the recent East Coast IPA boom the way Other Half has, so it’s no surprise the festival they throw in Brooklyn in celebration of all things hoppy has emerged as a must-do. More than 70 breweries participate, and if you have people in your party who aren’t necessarily hopheads, fear not, as they also have other styles on offer. There’s also professional wrestling. And a pig roast. Truly something for everyone!

Bonus: The outer boroughs are home to NYC’s best beer gardens. Read all about them here.

Modern Times Festival of Dankness: San Diego, CA

(August: $50)

While the East Coast has attracted much of the IPA notoriety in recent years, beer drinkers shouldn’t forget their roots, and the industry-sweeping influence the West Coast IPA wrought on contemporary beer palates. So get yourself to San Diego for this celebration of the preeminent beer style in one of America’s preeminent beer cities, with a festival lineup that can hang with absolutely anyone.

Bonus: Need some grub to wash down those suds? The fest location in Waterfront Park is just a stone’s throw from the buzzy Little Italy Food Hall, featuring six food stations and an outdoor patio.

The Great Taste of the Midwest: Madison, WI

(August: $60)

Along with GABF, Great Taste is one of the country’s OG beer festivals (having debuted just one year later in 1983) and it’s aged like a fine wine. Or barrel-aged stout, to be more on-topic. The lakeside location in Madison is gorgeous in late-summer and the 190-plus Midwest breweries in attendance represent some of the industry’s best—no wonder tickets sells out in a hurry. If you struck out, it’s worth noting that local bars run all kinds of exciting tap takeovers and other events the night before on “Great Taste Eve,” so you can still have yourself a fine time.

Bonus: Few American states understand beer drinking with the depth that Wisconsin does. If you don’t make reckless bratwurst and cheese curd consumption a part of your visit, you’re doing it wrong.

Great American Beer FestivalDenver, CO

(Sept 24–26: $85 per session; $70 for Brewers Association members)

The granddaddy of all beer festivals is truly an experience every beer lover should have at least once, and having started in 1982, it predates many of its attendees and competitors at this point. The sheer scope of the Denver event remains unparalleled (nearly 10,000 different beers entered in 2019), and the level of interaction and access you can have with the brewers is also second to none. Make a weekend of it and make use of the GABF app—with so many beers to try it’s likely that your memory of what you tasted will be a little hazy by that third day.

Bonus: Tack a hike onto the end of your trip to mitigate some of the health aftereffects from your weekend of revelry.

Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers: Chicago

(November: $85)

Barrel-aged beer has become one of the singular objects of beer geek obsession in recent years, and FOBAB (as it’s typically abbreviated) has become the preeminent celebration of them since debuting in 2003. The Chicago event has grown to feature hundreds of breweries tapping rare and unique beers that’ve spent time developing additional character in bourbon barrels, wine barrels, rum barrels—you name it, they’re trying it. It’s a coveted ticket, so be sure to keep an eye on the website for the 2020 release date.

Bonus: If things break right you might catch a Bears, Bulls, or Blackhawks game while you’re in town. If they don’t, you might catch a flight cancelled in a fall snowstorm. Live on the edge!

Tagged: Food & drink

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch

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