The heart of New York City in so many ways, this neon-lit district is the Las Vegas of Manhattan. For nearly twenty years, apart from Broadway shows, the area was almost unbearable owing to the seedy inhabitants and shops. No more.
Originally developed in the 1830s by the wealthy Astor family as a nose-in-the-air neighborhood, the current name came into being when the New York Times established itself there in 1906. When the subways made it to 42nd Street, the city’s theater producers moved from lower Manhattan, filling 76 theaters by 1928.
During WWII families could visit a show, have a bite to eat, and return home without worry. That’s true again, thanks to an extensive rejuvenation effort that began in the 1990s. The crowds are still there, thicker than even normally crowded Manhattan. But for both the natives and visitors there are theaters, restaurants, shops, and much more.
Disney moved in, as did Toy “R” Us where kids can enjoy the indoor Ferris wheel ride. Virgin Megastore is nearby for the teens who get bored. There’s a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (similar to the one in San Francisco or London), along with an eccentric Hershey Store.
For those who want to take in a Broadway show – but don’t want to pay the $100 or more (for some), there’s TKTS at 47th Street. This outdoor booth sells last-minute seats to a dozen shows at discounts of 25-50%. Availability is varied and the line is long, but obviously many find it worth the wait.
The police patrol the area heavily and seeing their retro/futuristic station is one of the many worthwhile sights along with the speed chess players and street performers. Be prepared to hear a song whether you like it or not!
Dining opportunities are ample and run the gamut from Burger King to Planet Hollywood to an upscale Italian dinner at Cara Mia. There’s even Brazilian fare at Brazil Grill on 47th and 8th Avenue, where the steak is to die for. BB King, the R & B guitarist has gotten into the act with an eponymous eaterie of his own.
Even during the day, there are lots to see and do. Good Morning America broadcasts weekdays from the ABC Times Square Studios and the hosts often interview people on the street. They also host live bands and solo performers for segments on the show.
New York’s famous clothing designers make their living not far away and you’ll often see workers hauling racks of clothing to and fro. Not something you’ll see in every major city, it helps to create some of New York’s special ambiance.
Even the non-famous names make for an interesting visit, as there are dozens of jazz clubs, bars, and other serving venues around. The street vendors, too, offer edible food and interesting gifts to take back home.
Not far away are Rockefeller Center, the CBS Building, and a host of other architectural marvels that make for worthwhile daytime sightseeing.
Be sure to make time to just stand (someplace you won’t be crushed!) and take in the huge sign at One Times Square. That’s the location (now) from which the illuminated ball is dropped on New Year’s Eve. A tradition since the NY Times opened its building around the corner in 1906/1907, the air is brisk and the crowd lively.