New York: Expectations vs Reality


New York is, for most of us I think, a total bucket list destination. It’s a cultural staple. It’s not a place where things are “shot”, it’s THE place where shows and movies and theatre come alive. It’s Broadway, baby. It’s where you grow up, where you move to after college, where you turn 40, where you meet the love of your life in some meet-cute in Central Park.It’s New York. And it’s the dream.

So naturally, we all have a few ideas of what that dream might be like in real life. And as with anything, the reality doesn’t always quite meet the expectations.

Here were a few of my New York expectations and the reality as I found it:

Expectation: Everyone will be dressed like a model in designer clothes.


Reality: Seriously, like half of them are.

Ok, maybe not half and certainly not all in designer clothes. But there was a certain effort put into being styled and an absolute ability to own any style you fancy. I dug it HARD and came home desperate to be a little more bold about my own looks.

Expectation: The subway is a raucous place full of misfits and oddities.


Reality: Seriously, like half of the time it is.

Those shots in movies and on tv of people dancing, storytelling for money, singing, and generally performing on the subway hold true. That really happens on a pretty frequent basis. But the rest of the time it’s mostly just regular people listening to music, reading a book, or scanning the other passengers with a bored expression on their faces.

We certainly saw some individuals who were sleeping or had seemingly permanently set up shop in a subway car (can you blame them?), and there were a few incidents that made us uncomfortable, but we didn’t witness anything too terribly taboo going on.

Expectation: There’s pizza and bagel shops everywhere, on every corner.


Reality: Yup. That, and halal trucks.

It's heavenly, quite frankly. And the pizza and bagels of other places can't even hold a candle to the New York stuff!

Expectation: New Yorkers are brisk and rude.


Reality: No way.

People kept to themselves mostly, but almost everyone was friendly when spoken to or approached. People returned smiles, moved out of your way, didn’t holler if you stopped where you shouldn’t (for the most part). I mean, you’ll get a few rude folks everywhere, but I didn’t feel New York was teeming with them, not by any stretch.

Expectation: It’s crazy expensive to visit.


Reality: Kinda, but not really and not necessarily.

Granted, I think New York would be a tough place to visit on a super strict budget. But I found that we could manage reasonably on about $150 USD a day (including lodgings). Obviously that number could swing wildly depending on your activities, food preferences, alcohol intake, and choice of accommodations.

A ton of what's worth seeing in New York is free - you just need two working legs and some energy!

If you want to see a full budget breakdown for my week in New York, let me know in the comments.

Expectation: Everything is crowded all of the time.


Reality: Nah, just the peak times and the city centre.

Skip taking the subway during rush hour to avoid massively crowded trains. Avoid Broadway and Times Square basically always, but especially in the early evenings before and after shows (unless you’re going to one, of course!). And avoid Upper Manhattan sightseeing during the lunch hour when the business crowd is thronging into restaurants and ploughing down sidewalks.

The rest of the time you’ll find it’s just the normal busy of a big city!

Expectation: People sing, dance, twirl, and generally have the time of their lives, all of the time.


Reality: Ok, maybe I didn’t really expect that one ;-) but it certainly crossed my mind. And who could blame me!?

So did New York live up to my expectations? In some really wonderful ways, yes. And in some really wonderful ways, no :) Guess that’s all a girl could really ask for, right!?

Did you have any different experiences or reality clashes when you visited??

PS. The Best Time of Day for Visiting the Empire State Building