New York attractions: Times Square

Times Square is one of New York's best attractions. Find the top Broadway shows, things to do, restaurants and bars in and around Times Square.

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As city districts go, Times Square is a global legend, and rightfully so: The cinematic epicenter of NYC tourism and Broadway theater, it's a must-see New York attraction. Its fabled days of epic squalor are a distant memory, but there's still plenty of spectacle to appreciate. (Take our photo tour.) Check out our guide to Times Square to find out about this iconic New York attraction's past, present and future.

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  • Times Square of the past

    Photograph: William J. Roege

    How did Times Square become such an iconic New York attraction? Chief curator of the Museum of the City of New York, Sarah Henry, attributes part of the reason to a quirk of urban planning. MCNY's 2011 exhibit "The Greatest Grid" examined the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which proposed Manhattan's numbered grid—a relentlessly rectilinear system. As the plan was put into place, Broadway kept being granted a stay of execution, creating the only exception to the grid, and the bowtie intersections that are created yield non-planned public spaces. In this image of Times Square, showing Broadway and Seventh Avenue in 1923, note the New Yorkers sitting in the triangular plaza.

    Times Square of the past
  • Times Square of the past

    Photograph: courtesy New-York Historical Society

    One of the major reasons for the development and complexion of Times Square is that it became the home of the Broadway theater scene. "The fact that the industry that colonized the area is theater, which is inherently public, gives [Times Square] a very different feel to Herald Square," explains Henry. Broadway and 34th Street, she continues, "is also a bowtie intersection on the grid, but its neighborhood character was shaped differently by the retail that dominates there."

    New York's theater scene was originally clustered around Madison Square, but some intrepid entrepreneurs moved north in the late 19th century and more followed in the early 20th century, creating the epicenter of a very American form of entertainment.

    Pictured: Broadway at 42nd Street, circa 1898

    Times Square of the past
  • Times Square of the past

    Photograph: Albertype Co

    In 1904, the New York Times headquarters moved to 42nd Street at Broadway and Seventh Avenue, and Longacre Square was renamed Times Square. The new tenant helped cement the importance of the location to New Yorkers, Henry explains: "People would gather outside newspaper offices to find out what was going on." Even before the ticker debuted in 1928, the Times would put up big posters of the news in the first-floor window. Henry continues: "People clustered around to find out how the World Series is going, the big prize fights… and it becomes the place where world events get marked. The end of World War II is the most famous, but it happens over and over again. You saw it on 9/11. Photographs of people standing in Times Square, staring up at the ticker and now these giant jumbotrons. It’s one of these rare places where we experience things collectively and publicly."

    Pictured: Times Building, One Times Square, Times Square

    Times Square of the past
  • Times Square of the past

    Photograph: courtesy New-York Historical Society

    The New York Times is also responsible for Times Square’s most popular event. The party in 1904 to celebrate the newspaper’s new location, which included a huge fireworks finale, won New Yorkers' hearts so completely that the paper moved its New Year's Eve celebration from Trinity Church to Times Square. (Remember, these were the days when the Gray Lady was young and sprightly and did body shots out of dudes' belly buttons.)

    Pictured: Times Square New Year's Ball, circa 1907 (the year the ball drop was inaugurated).

    Times Square of the past
  • Photograph: Tama Starr and Edward Hayman, Doubleday, 1998, and courtesy Artkraft Strauss Archive

    Times Square is known for its more-is-everything approach to advertising. Perhaps the most iconic of all billboards is this smoke-billowing sign for Camel cigarettes. The 30-by-100-foot billboard featured a man holding a cigarette; his mouth formed an O, which produced gargantuan smoke rings every four second. Check out more fascinating Times Square signs.

  • Photograph: Alfred Eisenstaedt

    This photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt of V-J Day in Times Square was one of TONY's top 50 New York photographs. Editor-at-large Howard Halle writes: "The photo of an ecstatic sailor planting a big wet one on a comely nurse during the Victory over Japan Day celebration in Times Square is among the most famous images of World War II; it represented the country’s joy at ending the war and also New York’s good fortune in emerging unscathed from the conflict. Taken for Life magazine by photojournalistic heavyweight Alfred Eisenstaedt, the image has prompted endless speculation as to who the couple is, with any number of men and women coming forward to insist that they are the sailor or the nurse in question. None of the claims have been proven, which, far from diminishing the photo, have only burnished its legend."

  • Photograph: Sion Fullana

    Looking for a sailor of your own to snog? Drop by Times Square duing Fleet Week in May, when you're sure to find a crew on shore leave.

  • Photograph: Metropolitan Museum of Art, © Ted Croner

    Another selection from the best New York photographs, Times Square by Ted Croner. Halle explains "Croner studied with Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon and Lisette Model, but his most notable works seem to transform Weegee’s film noir vibe into a bold statement on velocity—as in this view of Times Square, in which the city that never sleeps appears to jump into warp drive."

  • Photograph: Grace Chu

    Art Takes Times Square

  • Photograph: Wendy Connett

    Starting on Sunday May 24, 2009, Broadway was closed to vehicular traffic between 42nd and 47th Streets (and in Herald Square between 33rd and 35th Streets), creating a pedestrian plaza in Times Square where once there was a hellish traffic hole of doom.

  • Photograph: Monkika Graff/UPI /La

    Since 1907, a sparkly sphere has been lowered in Times Square to ring in a new year. At a minute to midnight, the geodesic sphere (11,875 pounds, 12 feet across and covered with 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles and 32, 256 LEDs) begins its 70-foot drop, before confetti is released into the city sky.

    To engage in this unique form of holiday masochism, arrive by 2pm and be prepared to stay put: The main area (from 42nd Street to 47th Street) is usually packed by 3pm, and the rest fills up before 11pm. There’s also a limited amount of public restrooms in the area, and leaving to grab some food nearby means giving up your spot.

  • Photograph: Lindsay M Taylor

    The traditional New Year's Eve ball drop began in Times Square on December 31, 1907, when a 700-pound sphere made from wood and iron was lowered at midnight to ring in 1908.

    The light display from the countdown and ball-drop is simulated every 20 minutes year-round at the Times Square Visitor Center, where you can see 2007's Centennial Ball (pictured)—an 11,875-pound geodesic globe made from Waterford crystal and more than 32,000 LEDs.

     

  • Photograph: Lindsay M Taylor

    The 2007 Centennial Ball at the Times Square Visitor Center.

     

  • Photograph: Carol M. Highsmith; courtesy Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive

    One Times Square today.

  • Photograph: Lawrence Ferber

    In the 1910s, legendary opera singer Enrico Caruso was known to stand on the balcony of the Knickerbocker Hotel (1466 Broadway at 42nd Street), and croon to the masses below. His most memorable performance there was on November 11, 1918—Armistice Day—when crowds gathered in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War I. Capturing the spirit of the day, Caruso led them in a heartfelt rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The Neapolitan transplant didn’t forget his European roots, though. He then sang “Il Canto degli Italiani,” the Italian national anthem, and “La Marseillaise.”

  • Photo: Nick Himmel

    You'll find this grimy door at the eastern end of the shuttle platform at Times Square subway station. It once led to the cozy rear lobby and bar of one of the city’s premiere hotels, the Knickerbocker. Opened in 1905, it was the stomping ground of the city’s elite, and the alleged hot spot where an immigrant bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia first mixed together dry gin and vermouth to create the martini in 1912. While the fabled hotel itself has faded into memory, its beaux arts exterior is intact. During the ’40s and ’50s the building was home to Newsweek, and was later converted to lofts. Today, it’s simply called 6 Times Square.

     

     

  • Photograph: Rob Wilson

    The 42nd Street–Times Square subway station boasts a wealth of public art, part of the Arts for Transit program, with permanent works by five different artists—Jacob Lawrence, Roy Lichtenstein, Jack Beal, Toby Buonagurio and Jane Dickson. Look for Lichtenstein’s bright, comic-strip “Times Square Mural” inside the main entrance at 42nd Street and Broadway, on the mezzanine level. Take a gander at more of our favorite works of art on the subway.

    Pictured: "Times Square Mural" (2002), Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, 42nd Street-Times Square Subway Station.

  • Photograph: Fallon Chan, courtesy New-York Historical Society

    In 2011, the New-York Historical Society ran a public Times Square Photo Competition. A panel of judges chose this image titled "Watching over Broadway" by Fallon Chan. The image depicts a statue of George M. Cohan, one of Broadway's early leading lights, in the foreground with the Broadway sign a block away (Fallon used a telephoto lense) in the background. See the statue at the southern tip of Duffy Square (Between Seventh Ave and Broadway, and 46th and 47th Sts).

  • Photograph: courtesy of the Artist and Howard Greenberg Gallery

    In tandem with its London Street Photography show, the Museum of the City of New York is displaying a complimentary exhibit, City Scenes: Highlights of New York Street Photography (both through Dec 2, 2012). Among many shots of Times Square is this '70s street scene by Joel Meyerowitz—a pioneer in the use of color photography in art.

    Pictured: Joel Meyerowitz, West 46th Street, NYC, 1976

  • Photograph: Adam Pantozzi

    In what's become an annual event, Solstice in Times Square offers a free yoga class on the longest day of the year. Check out steamy photos (it was a scorcher!) from Solstice in Times Square 2012.

  • Photograph: Syd London

    On Saturday, October 15, 2011, Occupy Wall Street took their protest to Times Square. We can't help but love the image of a multitude of the great unwashed gathered under an advert that extols "that new person smell." Check out more photos from the Occupation Party action.

  • Photograph: Hisland7

    View south from the TKTS Booth in Times Square

  • Photograph: courtesy Theater Development Fund

    TKTS Booth in Times Square, 2003

  • Photograph: courtesy Theater Development Fund

    TKTS Booth in Times Square

  • David Rosenzweig

    Pictured: The view looking south down Broadway to Times Square from Ava Lounge

  • Every day for over ten years, Robert John Burck, or better known by his alias, the Naked Cowboy, has been standing in the center of Times Square, serenading mouthbreathers with original music, posing for photos and even marrying couples for the low price of $499. While it's easy to sneer, we applaud anything that reintroduces (partial) nudity to the crossroads of the world.

  • Times Square today

    Tourists and those with grand ambitions to see their name in lights should head to Hershey's Times Square (1593 Broadway at 48th St; 212-581-9100, hersheys.com), which offers the chance to make use of their outdoor scrolling marquee. Just ask a shop assistant and they'll direct you to the counter where you can display a message of your choosing in bright lettering for 15 minutes for only $1.95.

     

    Times Square today
  • Photograph: Jeff Liao

    Times Square, Seventh Avenue panoramic

  • Photograph: courtesy Mir

    Times Square is a receiving a face lift this fall. The streets will be made a lot flatter, to avoid tripping while you’re looking up at the bright lights. The re-model will hopefully make tourists and commuters lives a little bit easier.

    Pictured: Rendering of Times Square rennovation

Broadway shows

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 219 W 48th St, between Broadway and Eighth Ave
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Wed Dec 31
Buy tickets

Cabaret

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 254 W 54th St, between Broadway and Eighth Ave
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Sun Mar 29
Buy tickets

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 111 W 44th St, between Broadway and Sixth Ave
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Sat Mar 14
Buy tickets

You Can't Take It with You

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 220 W 48th St, between Broadway and Eighth Ave
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Sun Feb 22
More info
See more Broadway shows


Restaurants near Times Square

ABC Kitchen

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice
  1. ABC Carpet & Home, 35 E 18th St, between Broadway and Park Ave South, 10003
Make reservation

The NoMad

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 1170 Broadway, at 28th St
Make reservation

Eleven Madison Park

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 11 Madison Ave, at 24th St, 10010
Make reservation

Dirty French

  • Rated as: 3/5
  1. 180 Ludlow St, between E Houston and Stanton Sts, 10002
Make reservation
See all restaurants near Times Square

Bars near Times Square

Comedy Cellar

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 117 MacDougal St, between Bleecker and W 3rd Sts
More info

The Rum House

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 228 W 47th St, between Seventh and Eighth Aves, 10036
More info

Blue Note

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 131 W 3rd St, at Sixth Ave
More info

Rattle N Hum

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 14 E 33rd St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
More info
See all bars near Times Square

Shopping near Times Square

  1. Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair 89 E 42nd St, at Park Ave
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Wed Dec 24
More info

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park

  • Critics choice
  • Free
  1. Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Sixth Ave, between 40th and 42nd Sts
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Sun Jan 4
More info

Creeds Collective Holiday Pop-up

  • Critics choice
  • Free
  1. Creeds Collective Holiday Pop-Up 54 Crosby St , between Broome and Spring Sts
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Sun Dec 28
More info

Urban Zen Holiday Marketplace

  • Critics choice
  • Free
  1. Urban Zen Holiday Marketplace 711 Greenwich St, at Charles St, 10014
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Sun Jan 4
More info
See more shopping near Times Square

Hotels Near Times Square

414 Hotel

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 414 W 46th St, between Ninth and Tenth Aves, 10036
Book online

The London NYC

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  1. 151 W 54th St, between Sixth and Seventh Aves, 10019
Book online

Hotel Metro

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 45 W 35th St, between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 10001
Book online

Dream Hotel

  • Rated as: 2/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  1. 210 W 55th St, between Broadway and Seventh Ave
Book online
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