It is impossible to visit New York without passing through Times Square! This famous square is an integral part of New York and its history, and an emblematic site with an extraordinary atmosphere.
That's why it's one of the first places you should go to see when you arrive in the city – no matter what time your plane lands! 😉
What to do in TIMES SQUARE ?
Times Square is one of the busiest squares in the world. The place is in perpetual effervescence day and night, and it is here that you will best realise that New York is a city that never sleeps!
I propose to discover right now in this article all the things you can see & do in Times Square.
Note that it is also possible to discover this place during a guided tour. Most of the guided tours in the city include this square in their program because of its importance and notoriety.
Other tours (which last about 2 hours) focus exclusively on Times Square and Broadway, which is just around the corner. Having a local guide with you will give you a deeper insight into the history and secrets of the square and the city. And your guide will be able to share his good tips and advice for the rest of your stay – that's always worth taking 🙂
ADMIRE THE ILLUMINATED SIGNS AND NEON LIGHTS
It's impossible to overlook the giant billboards in Times Square! These giant screens that cover the façades of the buildings have, for the most part, been bought by large companies for a period of 10 to 12 years. They continuously broadcast their advertisements: for plays, shows, TV series or various products (make-up, cars...).
The rental price is about 2.5 million dollars for one month!
In Times Square you will find the biggest screen in the world: 27 m high x 100 m wide. Not that big, right... ? 😂
MEET THE FAMOUS CHARACTERS OF THE SQUARE
Many of the characters in Times Square are dressed as superheroes (Spiderman, Captain America...). They will approach you and offer to have you take a picture with them – for a tip of course!
If you take a picture with one of these characters, know that a tip is mandatory since 2016. You have to give 2 or 3 dollars if you do take a picture. Actually, the more characters are present in the picture, the higher the tip you have to give! Of course, they don’t tell you that before taking the picture... But know that it is now mandatory!
The most famous is the cowboy in white kangaroo briefs, the "Naked Cow Boy". He is always there singing, in summer and in winter, with his (also white) hat, his cowboy boots and his guitar.
PLAY THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Don't hesitate to snap away at the square with your camera or your smartphone. Take pictures of the advertising screens (the photos at dusk are sublime), the ABC television studios, the MTV studios, the New York Police Department, etc. Also take pictures of the New Yorkers and don’t forget selfies.
Go and stand on the red stairs of Times Square. These 27 steps, built in 2008, form the roof of the TKTS box office (which sells tickets for Broadway shows). If you sit on them, you will be 5 metres high, which will give you a nice view of Times Square.
As an aside, did you know that the show "Good Morning America" is set in Times Square?
Also note that if you buy $10 worth of merchandise in the American Eagle shop, you can have your picture taken on the top floor of the shop. This photo will then appear 15 minutes later on the screens outside the shop. It will be your little moment of glory in Times Square 😉
Most of the restaurants in Times Square are themed restaurants such as ‘Planet Hollywood’ at 1540 Broadway, New York or the ‘Hard Rock Café’.
You can eat salads, fries, burgers or sandwiches.
If you are in the mood for seafood and fish dishes, head to the "Bubba Gump", inspired by the film Forrest Gump (address: 1501 Broadway – New York).
You can also buy food to go from a food-truck or even opt for a romantic meal at a chic restaurant such as "Le Bernardin" (French cuisine) or "R Lounge" (American cuisine). Unless you're more into Italian food, in which case opt for La Masseria.
There are many branded shops in Times Square. Some of them are true attractions (for young and old alike) and are not to be missed, such as the "M&M's Store", the "Disney Store" and the "Levi's Store".
For clothes, you have H&M, Gap, American Eagle Outfitters and Forever 21. And as for beauty products, you can go to Sephora or Mac.
There are also many souvenir shops in the square, including the Grand Slam shop where you can buy the famous "I love NY" t-shirts.
ENJOY THE VIEW OF TIMES SQUARE FROM THE TOP
At the panoramic bar of the Marriott Hotel (48th floor), The View, you can enjoy a nice view of the whole square, but also of the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center and the Hudson River. Indeed, the bar turns on itself and it takes an hour to go all the way round! Just the time to savour an amazing cocktail.
The prices are rather expensive, but it's well worth it! Don't forget to make your reservations before you go to New York though!
Go see a musical in Broadway
Of course, you can also get tickets for more recent productions such as 'Wicked', 'Frozen' or 'Diana'.
There are no subtitles, but the show will remain in your memory even if you don't understand English very well.
While you're there, take a look at the oldest theatre in the area, the New Amsterdam. It was founded in 1902!
Visit the museums
In Times Square, you can visit some museums like “Madame Tussaud” with its 200 wax statues, or the “Ripley's Believe It or Not!” with its collection of weird and wacky objects.
The “Discovery Times Square Museum” is also a place you’ve got to visit. Located in the former “New York Times Building”, it houses interesting temporary exhibitions of culture, art and history.
ATTEND THE NEW YEAR'S EVE CELEBRATION
If you're in New York on December 31st, you should of course head to Times Square to see the New Year.
The square is packed tight: a million people wait for the countdown while watching on a screen the celebrations in other countries around the world. A concert is organised and a few minutes before midnight, a big ball, the "Waterford Crystal", is hoisted on the roof of the building located at One Times Square (which was the former offices of the New York Times Magazine). This ball drops down at midnight.
The experience is just incredible... And the event is broadcast live on television and watched by millions.
What you need to knwo about Times Square
- Every day, about 365,000 people pass through Times Square.
- Every December 31st, one million people gather there. 2 million people were present to welcome the new millennium – year 2000.
- Times Square is a non-smoking area. You risk a $50 fine if you are caught (about £38).
- Many movie scenes have been shot in Times Square: Spider-Man, I am a Legend, Men in Black... A series, The Deuce, is even centred on the transformation of this square between the 70s and 80s.
- Since 2009, a large part of the square is now a pedestrian zone.
History of Times Square
Times Square, now one of the most famous squares in the world, was in the late 19th century a popular place for horse hires. It was then called "Longacre Square". The square did not take its current name until 1904 when the famous newspaper "The New York Times" set up its offices in a tower at 1 Times Square (the Times Building).
By the 1920s, Times Square was a lively district known for its theatres, music halls and hotels. It was also an advertising paradise. The first advertisement was posted on the wall of a bank (at the corner of 46th Street and Broadway). Afterwards, the biggest brands jostled for advertising space.
However, from the 1950s until the 1990s, Times Square went through a dark period. The square became a place of debauchery, prostitution and delinquency. But the new mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, decided to make it one of the most dynamic districts in the city. A successful gamble!
With its year-round events and large gatherings, Times Square has become one of the most famous squares in the world and one of the most frequented. It is also nicknamed the "Crossroads of the world."
How to get to Times Square ?
Times Square is open all the time. The square is located at the heart of New York City, between 42nd Street and Broadway, in the Manhattan area (west of Midtown).
The exact address is "W 46th St & Broadway Ave, New York, NY 10036".
The easiest way to get there is by taking the underground. Several lines stop in the area: R, N, W, Q and 1, 2, 3 and 7. You can get off at either Times Square – 42nd Street or Times Square – 49th St.
You can also stop at the Port Authority station and walk to Times Square.
You have reached the end of this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful! 😊