By Adam Guy
I confess! I’m one of those people who LOVES Times Square. The chaos. The billboards. The horns honking. The pickpockets. Even scary-ish people dressed as Elmo. Bring it on, I say! Many of you may not feel the same way. I understand… kind of. Admittedly, I’m quite the extrovert. I get energy from other people’s energy, so Times Square is like my nuclear reactor.
But I think a case can be made that Times Square can be fun for everyone, even those who prefer time to themselves. Here are four reasons to love Times Square (and one that should make you run the other way):
1. The energy!
The crowds can be immense, especially right before or after a Broadway show. It’s a sea of people headed in all directions, dazzled by the lights, soaking in the city. And there’s a buzz… like this is the place to be, like something magical is happening all the time. To me, it’s electric. My favorite spot to enjoy this beautiful madness is on the red steps above the TKTS booth at the top of Times Square. You can just sit for hours and watch all the kinetic energy fire all around you. NOW, this is not your scene, introverts. BUT you will love this… Sunday morning 5:30am. Times Square is a dead zone like that scene with Tom Cruise in the movie Vanilla Sky. There is a beauty and stillness in the near silence amid the flickering billboards and empty streets. Try it at least once. I bet you’ll love it.
2. Broadway theaters and TKTS
40 of the 41 Broadway Theaters are in Times Square. That’s a lot of creativity and atmosphere in one small space! Nowhere else in the world do this many theaters exist in such a small area. And before a show, you can feel the excitement and anticipation from the people heading to their theater. The TKTS booth sits at the center, providing day-of steeply discounted tickets to many productions. Who doesn’t love a discount?
3. The Midnight Moment
Most people have NO idea this happens. Every night at 11:57pm, all the billboards in Times Square take a break from running ads. For three minutes they all display the work of contemporary artists until the stroke of midnight when they resume their regular scheduled programming. It’s been going on since 2012. The Midnight Moment is the world's largest and longest-running digital public art program.
4. The Characters
Nobody wants to be harassed by people dressed as Elmos or men handing out fake music CDs. But you have to admit, they all provide quite a lot of color to the Times Square scene. There’s the Naked Cowboy, Naked Grandma, street performers, vendors, and heaps of tourists from all over the planet. The whole could be studied in human behavior classes. You see joy, arguments, fear, awe, confusion, surprise, and just about every kind of human interaction possible. Avoid the scams, but enjoy the characters. It’s free entertainment!
And the one reason you should LOATHE Times Square…
1. Chain restaurants
Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Applebee’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, McDonald’s, Taco Bell… Maybe these are the only places that can afford the rent in Times Square, but these are not exceptional dining establishments… AND they are well more expensive than their sister locations around the country.
Let’s call it a Times Square tax. I say avoid these places like the plague. Walk the extra block to a local place. There are restaurants everywhere. From Times Square specifically, walk west 2 blocks to 9th Ave. to Hell’s Kitchen. The word “kitchen” is in the name! There are about 50 restaurants for all budgets in that area alone. Not being snarky… just helpful… promise!
I give tours of Times Square. I do! There’s so much great history and great stories. Maybe we can tour it or another great neighborhood in the city. Learn more at I Know A Guy NYC Tours. Then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can figure out the best adventure for your family or group. I give private full and half day neighborhood walking tours. They are fun, personal, and always just with me (and my bad jokes.)
Many have experienced a tour with me. See what they had to say about it on TripAdvisor. People also hire me to build itineraries for them. Contact me if you need help with yours.
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Thanks for reading this blog! If you would like to chat about your upcoming trip and possible tour ideas, please contact me at email@example.com. I'm quite friendly!
© All photos by Adam Guy