How to Tour NYC and not be a Tourist

Everyone and their mother dreams of heading to New York City and experiencing the thrills, culture, and art of the Big Apple. However, if you read the last sentence and didn’t cringe, you might be heading into the fray unprepared. That’s because calling New York City “the Big Apple” is a faux pas. You don’t want to be caught dead using this affectionate nickname in front of a native; while you’re at it, you might as well wear an “I ♥ NY” shirt. Feeling a little nervous? Don’t worry, we’ve got you.


gourmet chef
Order up!

First off, don’t be one of those people who eat at fast food chains while traveling. New York is home to some of the most culturally diverse and gourmet food available. Try Restaurant Row on 46th Street. This poppin’ avenue features a variety of tasty cuisines and is home to some of the ritziest bars and lounges. Try Chinese, Italian or something entirely off the beaten path!

Lady Liberty

New York Statue of Liberty
Green-eyed beauty!

You’re an American, you have to witness her majesty standing high above the bay, offering foreigners a welcoming hello, but do it smart. Don’t do any of that awful touristy crap, like waiting in line and paying buckets of money to only catch a glimpse of her. Instead, board the free Staten Island Ferry and BYOB. Seriously, getting wasted and viewing the Statue of Liberty will be one of the most treasured experiences of your life.


New York City Subway
Better bring a pillow, those seats are not comfortable.

We were hoping this might be common knowledge, but locals have informed us otherwise. When you’re on the subway, folks, don’t stare at people. Stand in the center and file all the way in. Stand facing people in the seats and don’t hang onto a subway pole. Also, don’t bring your stroller in during rush hour, there won’t be room. Invest in a kangaroo pouch!

New York City Subway
Don’t you seriously feel like Batman is about to jump out from behind the train?!

There’s an app for that! Citymapper Transit Navigation is just one of the many great apps available for free, on both Android and Apple. Old fashioned? Use the NYC Subway Guide for an in-depth guide which goes into heavy detail regarding the structure and layout of NYC’s intricate subway system. Whatever you do, do NOT buy a paper map. This is a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist, and you don’t want that kind of attention.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building New York City
Any damsels in distress out there?

Even though we’re pretending you’re not, you’re still a tourist. You want to see the sights! Let’s just make sure you do it right. If your next stop is the Empire State Building, don’t take a cab and try to ride up to the 102nd floor. That’s an expensive waste of time. Instead, travel to the Top of the Rock or the One World Observatory. Both offer a superior experience to viewing the building, and don’t attract as much of a crowd! Win!

Everybody’s got a Mixtape

people on busy street
“All around me are familiar faces …”

Maybe you’re wondering why we’re so keen for you not to appear to be a tourist. Well, that question will answer itself if you don’t heed our advice. Scammers. These people thrive on tourist naivety and ignorance, and you do not want to fall victim to one of their schemes. Just remember, if some guy asks for your name, say “no, thank you” and keep walking. He wants to write it on a cd and then sign it, attempting to force you to buy it. It happens quickly and can be intimidating. Stand your ground and keep to yourself. Also, randos selling tickets on the streets? Scammers. AVOID.

Go International

Chinatown New York City
Whatever you do, do NOT ask for orange chicken.

Everyone’s heard of Chinatown and Little Italy, but what else is out there, and are these places worth visiting? The short answer: yes. These places feature a cutesy novelty and a carefully cultivated experience to their bigger relatives. Don’t just stop there, check out Koreatown, Little Brazil, Little Spain, Little Ukraine and even Little Syria. There’s just so much to do in NYC.

Times Square

Time's Square New York
We promise we won’t shop, We promise we won’t shop, We promise we won’t shop …

Resist the urge. Yes, the shopping might be appealing in Times Square, but remember they’re all big box stores you can find at home. Check out Times Square for a few hours at night (you have to see it at night), and then head out of that tourist trap. NYC is lined with unique boutiques and hipster shops sure to satisfy your shopaholic cravings.

Taxi, taxi!

Woman Hailing a Cab New York
Just pray … Really, really hard. Oh, and keep smiling.

So, you’re smart enough not to rent a car, good. That’s a start, but now we need to teach you how to hail a cab. Face oncoming traffic and raise your arm while staring into the eyes, through to the souls of the cab drivers. Pay attention to the lights on top of the cab—if the middle light is the only one that’s on, you’re good. If the middle plus the sides are on, the cabbie is off duty. No lights mean there’s already somebody in there. On-duty yellow cabs will take you anywhere in the five boroughs. Green cabs not allowed to pick up street hails in Manhattan below 110th St. on the west side, below 96th St. on the east side, or at either LaGuardia or JFK airports. Keep in mind ridesharing is cheaper and more convenient in NYC, use Uber, Lyft, Gett or Via.

Last Minute Tips

New York City
Okay, now that is gorgeous.
  • Wear comfortable shoes!
  • Do not stop on the sidewalk — move out of the way!
  • A single-file line on the right side of escalators!
  • Don’t fake a New York accent!
  • When referencing “the Bronx,” do not omit the “the.”
  • Travel to the outer boroughs, not just Manhattan!
  • Pickpockets are old news — snatch and grabs are the bandit’s new M-O.

Sacred, Unwritten Rule of NYC

New York City Street
Hey! We’re walkin’ here!

You might feel a bit ostracized in NYC, people keep to themselves and value their privacy. New Yorkers are aware they live in a gigantic city where the buildings are small and crowded. Opening a window is an invitation for hundreds of people to peer into your private life. This is why New Yorkers (in theory) respect each other’s privacy and harbor a culture of camaraderie. They’re not ignoring you, this is simply the way they display solidarity amongst their neighbors.

Ready to take your newfound skills to the test? Well, then let’s get you to New York City! It’s time for you to dance on a giant, floor piano or see the same building King Kong scaled in 1933. MDT is here to help you do just that! Give us a shout, we got you.