Junior’s is another prime example of how hype can really get totally out of control. Here’s a secret: you’ll be hard pressed to find New Yorkers who eat here. The ones who do may possibly have been dragged along by eager out of town friends. It’s a cute place. The food is fair. Most people go to Junior’s for the cheesecake, though, so let’s talk about that. You will find reviews where people definitively declare that Junior’s serves real New York cheesecake. Well, yes, I would expect that it would. It isn’t bad. However, is it nirvana inducing? No. Is it so extraordinarily special that you need to go out of your way for it? Not really. Can you find cheesecake that is just as good somewhere else? Sorry to say, but yes, you can. Here’s another secret: just about every little diner and restaurant in New York that has cheesecake on their menu will also be serving the real New York version, and ten to one, you might like it more than Junior’s.
4 Greenwich Village
At one time, the Village meant quirky shops, vibrant cafes filled with intelligent, interesting people, music venues that showcased up and coming talent and quaint tree-lined streets. That was before a private university took over a huge chunk of the area and demolished some historic buildings, the small businesses were priced out and replaced with generic stores you could find in Peoria, and the starving artists, writers and actors couldn’t afford the rent and moved away. It’s visually beautiful, but it’s no longer the center of creativity and counterculture that it once was. Pockets of brilliance do exist – the Village Halloween Parade, for instance, is sheer magic – but it’s waning, and what is left is struggling to survive. Sadly, obnoxious college students and bank branches outnumber the Edward Hoppers and Love Saves the Day shops by a considerable margin. There’s a 7-11 on St. Mark’s Place now, for crying out loud.
3 Guggenheim Museum
The exterior of the Guggenheim, by Frank Lloyd Wright, is well worth seeing. The interior? Well, that depends. The Guggenheim has a small permanent collection, but the exhibits in the main building change, which means you might be in for something completely sublime or totally gawdawful. It’s really not worth $18 unless you’re actively interested in whatever is currently showing in the rotunda.
2 Dylan’s Candy Bar
It’s hard not to like a candy store, but there’s no reason to trek across town for this one. It’s overpriced, it’s glutted with tourists, and you can find the same exact products elsewhere. A good alternative is the candy shop in Toys R’ Us in Times Square, which is done up to resemble the board from the children’s game Candyland; another is FAO Schweetz at the FAO Schwarz toy store.
1 The Empire State Building
Here’s how your visit to the ESB works: you go through a long, miserable queue, during which time you’re forced to listen to relentless sales pitches for audio tours and other add-ons. You’re forced to pose for a photo you really don’t want to take, and then you’re shoved onto a small elevator and discharged at the observation deck area. Said observation area resembles a cage. It’s really not all that fun, and it’s a far cry from that scene in Sleepless in Seattle. The views are spectacular, let’s be fair. However, anyone in the know will tell you that if you go to Top of the Rock – just about 15 blocks north of the Empire State Building – you will have views that are just as nice, and a really, really good photo op of the Empire State Building itself, in a much classier, more amiable environment.