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    Times Square in New York: how to experience the myth of Broadway

    Who I am
    Martí Micolau
    @martímicolau
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    Who among us can say that we have never seen any pictures of Times Square, even without knowing it? The news, artistic photographs (does Alfred Eisenstaedt's "VJ Day in Times Square" tell you anything?), Commercials of all kinds, cinema scenes (from Vanilla Sky to Spider Man to Birdman), videos on Youtube and all the new and old media that want to portray the chaotic, excessive, modern and hyper-technological spirit of the Big Apple in an effective setting ... they choose Times Square.



    And how to blame him? Times Square a New York it is the real soul from which the energy of Manhattan is released, the luminous and emblematic core of one of the most dynamic and restless American cities. In this article I would like to introduce you to the history of this place and give you some advice on what to see in Times Square and what to do.

    Index

    • How to reach us
    • What is Times Square?
    • A Brief History of Times Square
    • Broadway show tips
    • What to see in Times Square
      • Attractions and things to do for free
      • Attractions and things to do for a fee
    • New Years Eve in Times Square
    • Where to shop in Times Square? Shops for all tastes
    • Where to eat?
    • Where to sleep in the area?

    How to reach us


    When they mention Times Square, New Yorkers are technically referring more to a cluster of blocks, if not a proper Midtown neighborhood. On paper, the area covers the streets from 40th St to 53th St and extends west to east between 8th Ave and 6th Ave, extending its radius from the hub of the Theater District. If instead we refer to Times Square understood as "square", we will have to revise our concept of "square": contrary to what one might think, Times Square it is not really a square as we Europeans might understand it, but a crossroads, the intersection where the Broadway intersects with the 7th Ave. The central part of Times Square (between 42th and 47th) was recently closed to car traffic and is now completely pedestrian.



    Getting near the fateful intersection with the main Metro lines is simple. The lines that arrive near Times Square are: red, yellow, blue, purple, gray and orange. The reference stations are:

    • Times Square – 42 St Station (red, purple, yellow, gray)
    • 49 St Station (yellow)
    • 42 St – Port Authority Bus Terminal (blu)
    • 47-50 Streets Rockefeller Center Station (Orange)

    What is Times Square?

    Times Square is one of the main tourist attractions in New York: you will not meet anyone who has gone to Manhattan and has given up on visiting it even just in passing, apart from the most snobbish visitors who did not want to be absorbed in the exorbitant eddy of tourists that flock to this intersection every day. Here you will surely find the buskers more singular (the Naked Cowboy has now become a real institution, but it is not the only one), museums and curious attractions, trendy clubs and shops and the legendary Broadway theaters with i musical more in vogue.

    At the same time Times Square is striking for one peculiarity above all: the incredible and dazzling concentration of lights of the signs and mega-screens that pile up dizzily one on top of the other on the facades and on top of the buildings and skyscrapers that stand out around the "square". If after sunset, walking through the streets of Manhattan, you arrive in this area, you will notice it immediately; a strong glow and the noise of the city chaos will almost stun you.


    In this open space in New York, so rich in charm and history, in the hypnotic and engaging bombardment of sounds, lights and noises, as anticipated, much of the show business: we are in the heart of the Theater District, in which over 39 historic theaters the genre of American musical. And today this little piece of Midtown is its undisputed world capital.


    No photograph can do justice to the feeling you experience firsthand. In short, Times Square it is not to be missed if you are wondering what to do in New York.

    A Brief History of Times Square

    With all due respect to those who snub Times Square for its tourist overexposure, it is good to say that much of New York history and culture has passed through this intersection: for this reason, even if the area is now prey to the most widespread commercial chains, a hit and run can always be worthwhile even if you only have one day to visit New York.

    This area has always been associated with entertainment world, rich since the early twentieth century of bars, clubs, theaters and music halls. Here was born the myth of Broadway, the great tradition of American musical theater, but not only: in fact, near Times Square, theAmerican song industry with its famous protagonists: Irvin Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and many others.

    Precisely in these alleys, the musical houses of the time sold their songs, which were made to listen to customers in small rooms or cubicles that were not soundproofed. From the cacophony produced by the simultaneous execution came the famous nickname of Tin Pan Alley, "road of the tin pans“, A denomination that soon became synonymous with the American song industry.


    Visiting Times Square, letting yourself be struck by its neon lights and his skyscrapers (and the same feeling is also experienced in other areas of Manhattan) the words of George Gershwin come to mind, who described his beloved city as follows:

    "[...] a skyscraper is both the triumph of the machine and an extraordinary emotional experience, almost breathtaking: not only its height, but also its mass and proportions are the result of an emotion, as well as a calculation"


    At the time (the 20s and 30s), musicals and the song industry were deeply linked: if you want to fully enjoy spirit of Times Square I therefore recommend that you go and see one of the shows on Broadway.

    Broadway show tips

    Have you decided to follow my advice but you don't know which of the many shows to choose? Meanwhile, get an idea with our article on Broadway musicals. I would opt for Phantom of the Opera, Lloyd Webber's masterpiece that broke all records in Broadway history (it has been on the bill since 1986!). Only 2 recommendations in this regard:

    1. Due to the long lines, you may want to book your Broadway tickets in advance.
    2. if your english is a bit rusty take a look at the plot before entering.

    If you want to save something on ticket prices, go to the red steps of theTKTS office in the middle of the intersection (Duffy Square): you might find some offers! If you are not really the musical type, there is an alternative for you too. You can always breathe the magical air of Broadway at Stradust Diner, where professional singers in the role of waiters will cheer you up between courses with their performances.

    What to see in Times Square

    The first thing to see in Times Square is Times Square itself: the description I made above may give you a faint idea, but as I said to really understand what it feels like, you just have to immerse yourself in this atmosphere! Keep in mind that getting there during the day is not the same as doing it at night, at the time of day when the lights of the signs create a day effect even when the sun has set for a while.

    In addition, one of the activities, if we can call them that, more fun in Times Square is the "people watching“: Stop at one point of this endless bustle (for example the red stairs of TKTS) and observe the immense variety of people crossing this intersection. If you need a list of things to do in Times Square, here you are served. I made a division between free and paid things: you just have to take note!

    Attractions and things to do for free

    Meet Naked Cowboy… and the others

    Look for the Naked Cowboy, in the world Robert John Burck, a very well-trained fifty-year-old Californian. Hard not to notice: he wanders in his briefs playing country songs on his guitar between the 44th and 45th. Bring a hat and cowboy boots: you can take a picture with him or, if you like, touch his butt (leaving a small offering, of course).

    The naked cowboy isn't the only eclectic character in Times Square: you can meet them too cartoon characters Disney, Hello Kitty, Elmo, Spongebob, Spiderman, Batman, the Statue of Liberty and so on and so forth. It is not uncommon for these characters to become protagonists of quarrels and skirmishes (more or less planned), and they could also good-naturedly annoy you while walking. If you feel in the mood, you can take a picture of us together, for a small donation.

    The hypnotic show of the Midnight Moment

    Wait 23.57 to attend the Midnight Moment. For 3 minutes, until midnight, you will see the largest digital art performance in the world, synchronized on various large screens in Times Square.

    The statues of Duffy Square

    Go in Duffy square, the northern triangle of Times Square, in fact the only confined space that can be defined as a "square" in this large intersection. How to recognize it? In addition to the presence of red stairways of TKTS, by the presence of two statues: one dedicated to the priest and military chaplain Francis P. Duffy – hero of the First World War - and the other to the famous actor and theater producer George M. Cohan.

    Relax in the greenery of Bryant Park

    Okay, it's not Central Park, but Bryant Park allows you to relax and disconnect a bit from the skyscrapers and the bombardment of lights of Times Square. We are on the edge of the neighborhood as it is understood, between 42th St and 40th St. In addition to tourists, here you will also find many students on break from study, coming from the adjacent New York Public Library.

    The Kiss in Times Square ("VJ Day in Times Square")

     

    Reach this spot to kiss like the sailor and nurse did famous photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, taken during the celebrations for the US victory over Japan in World War II.

    Gospel a Times Square

    You want to attend a Sunday gospel service but don't have time to go to Harlem? At 10 in the morning you reach the Times Square Church at 237 West 51st Street, on the corner of Broadway, just outside the confines of the Times Square neighborhood (and therefore not as crowded as you might think).

    Attractions and things to do for a fee

    Madame Tussauds

    Il Madame Tussauds museum it hosts over 200 wax statues of famous people spread over 5 floors: an almost unique opportunity for take a selfie with personality live or die from all over the world. In the wax guest list stand out Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Johnny Depp, Woody Allen, Samuel L. Jackson, Julia Roberts, Leonardo di Caprio, Pope Francis, Lincoln, President Trump, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra and a large number of superheroes. A truly disturbing realism! If you want to know more about prices and schedules, read our article dedicated to Madame Tussauds New York.

    Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square

    Even this interactive "museum" for young and old is truly sui generis: the New York collection of bizarre objects and strange memorabilia (it is called "odditorium"Not surprisingly) of the cartoonist, illustrator and collector Robert ripley it is not the only one on American soil but it is certainly one of the historical ones, being dated 1939. "Believe It or Not!" is the famous motto of the collector: if you like unusual or impossible attractions in "chamber of wonders" style, go there without putting time in between, as it is the largest Ripley's collection in all of the United States (over 500 objects). If, on the other hand, you have limited time and little interest in these things, skip it without too much guilt: it's not the best attraction in New York. It is located at 234 West 42nd St, between 7th Ave and 8th Ave.

    • Prices: About 25 euros
    • Opening Hours: every day of the year from 10 am to 23 pm (Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 1 am)
    • Where to buy tickets: su Viator

    Gulliver's Gate

    Much more interesting and recently inaugurated, the Gulliver's Gate it is a marvel for the eyes. If you like miniature reconstructions you shouldn't miss this exhibition, which to us Italians may perhaps remind us of Rimini's “Italy in Miniature”. But, you know, Americans love to do everything big, even the small things: Gulliver's Gate collects fantastic, highly detailed miniatures of monuments and landscapes from all over the world (North and South America, Europe, Asia, Middle East) for a total of 967 monuments, 102 bridges and 233 cars (the numbers are stated on the official website). You will find this unique attraction at 216 W 44th St.

    • Prezzi: 22 euro approximately
    • Opening Hours: every day of the year from 10 to 20
    • Where to buy tickets: su Viator

    National Geographic Ocean Odyssey

    The ocean is not that far from Times Square, but there National Geographic Ocean Odyssey was created to give a totally different perspective from the one you can have looking out on the beach in front of Coney Island. Opened in 2017, this attraction gives adults and children the opportunity to immerse themselves in the ocean through a digital interactive experience, making incredible and hyper-realistic encounters with marine fauna. Thanks to sophisticated technologies (holograms, 3D projections, touch-screens, interactive games) children can have fun and learn something about underwater nature, with the educational approach and exceptional aesthetics typical of National Geographic. The address is 226 West 44th Street, a stone's throw from Gulliver's Gate.

    • Prices: About 31 euros
    • Timetables: every day of the year from 10am to 21pm (Friday and Saturday until 22pm)
    • Where to buy tickets: su Viator
    How to save? If you want to visit one of these Times Square attractions, before buying tickets at full price, check that they are not included in one of the New York passes available with our ComparaPass!

    Rooftop Bar a Times Square

    Get on a Rooftop Bar in downtown New York it is a classy whim that many wish to take off during a holiday in these parts. In fact, this point on the list could also have been among the free activities, as technically most of these places have neither an entrance ticket nor the obligation to consume ... however it is not a bad idea to sip a cocktail while enjoying the panorama of Broadway lights from a rooftop terrace of a hotel in the heart of Midtown! In the Times Square area the most famous is the St. Cloud at Knickerbocker Hotel (6 Times Square), but noteworthy are theHaven rooftop (132 W 47th St) e il Top of the Strand (33 W 37th St, a bit more off-center, but overlooking the Empire State Building).

    New Years Eve in Times Square

     

    Another privileged moment to fully enjoy the Times Square atmosphere is thelast day of the year: the unmissable New Year's Eve in New York is not such if you do not go to see the famous sphere that falls from the top of one of the symbolic skyscrapers of the square.

    From the early afternoon around a million people a year fills Times Square to see the spectacle of the New Year's Eve celebration: concerts by international stars, the usual plays of light with waste of electricity and the famous choreographic staging with tons of confetti and balloons are planned. Everyone expects that at 11.59 drops “The Ball” from the top of One Time Square: definitely a unique emotion, how cold!

    Where to shop in Times Square? Shops for all tastes

    Since Times Square is a very touristy area, it is necessary to pay some attention, especially to the Shopping. In the area you will find many shops that sell goods, above all electronics: beware of making purchases of this type in these parts, it does not suit you! As for clothing, the presence of important brands and shops such as H&M  (4 Times Square), Forever 21  (1540 Broadway), Levi’s Times Square (1501 Broadway), Gap (1466 Broadway) e Superdry (729 7th Ave).

    Children and adults who have remained somewhat children should not get lost in the world for anything Disney’s Store (1540 Broadway), the shop M & M's World (for a feast of colored sugared almonds) e Midtown Comics (200 West 40th St, near 7th Ave), while the ladies and gentlemen write down the address of Sephora (200 W 42nd St).

    Where to eat?

    From the point of view of Catering Times Square is mostly dotted with chains (Starbucks, Hard Rock Café, Bubba Gump Shrimp & Co. etc ...), so it doesn't offer unique or particularly interesting experiences (at least if you don't like this type of place). However, not all chains are of low quality: just think of Shake Shack (691 8th Ave) which has excellent ratings despite its touristy location.

    Of course there are also more famous restaurants at higher prices, especially on the Restaurant Row (46th St between 8th and 9th Ave). The most famous in the area are Carmine's (200 West 44th St tra 7th e 8th Ave) e Beak (355 W 46th St) for those who want to try Italian cuisine in America, Toloache (251 W 50th St) for Mexican lovers e Virgil (152 West 44th St) for those who appreciate barbecue cooking. More expensive is the American cuisine revisited in a contemporary key than Aureole (135 W 42nd St).

    Where to sleep in the area?

     

    In the vicinity of the square you will also find many hotels. Choosing an accommodation in this area certainly has its advantages (for example the proximity to various attractions and the facilities in terms of transport and connections) and, if you book well in advance, real opportunities can happen to you.

    If you look for a accommodation for the night in the area I suggest you take a look at the link below, where you will find our advice on accommodation in Times Square and the Theater District. If you have not found anything that satisfies you, you can inquire about apartments in New York, which can represent a valid alternative to the hotel.

    Where to sleep in Times Square

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