10 Actually Cool Things to Do in Times Square
Times Square may be located at the heart of the city, but it’s not exactly somewhere the average New Yorker seeks out. With the exception of seeing a show on Broadway and the occasional cab ride through midtown, many locals won’t set foot there unless they’re being forced to show out-of-town visitors around (we’ve all been there). But take note: New attractions, great food and exciting nightlife have moved into the neighborhood and brought with them a whole new scene to discover. Here are ten reasons you might want to give Times Square another chance.
1. Have a Taste of History on the St. Cloud Rooftop
St. Cloud is the historic rooftop bar above the Knickerbocker, a famous landmark that’s hidden in plain sight. The luxury hotel once had a private entrance directly connected to the 42nd Streetsubway station below—and you can still find it if you know where to look. The hotel has been home to a few famous New Yorkers, including John Jacob Astor IV (the hotel’s founder) and F. Scott Fitzgerald; it’s also rumored to be the first place to serve a martini—to a certain John D. Rockefeller. The rooftop overlooks the lights and crowds of Times Square and, yes, the barserves a really great martini.
6 Times Sq.; theknickerbocker.com
2. Catch a *Free* Broadway Performance
Every day during lunch, from noon to 2 p.m., and at happy hour, from 5 to 8 p.m., incredible musicians come to show off their talents at Broadway Plaza between 43rd and 44th streets. Brought to you by the Times Square Alliance, the performances include the “Broadway Buskers” series (where stage stars host unplugged sing-alongs) every Tuesday; live jazz every Thursday; and showstopping acoustic sets every day of the week. While you’re there, grab a bite to eat from Urbanspace Times Square Market or treat yourself to a cone from the Ice & Vice pop-up (we suggest the Coconut Horchata).
Broadway Plaza between 43rd and 44th sts.; timessquarenyc.org
3. Eat World-Class Ramen at Ichiran
Need an antidote to the tourist crowds? The Ichiran experience is based on achieving as little human interaction as possible. Diners help themselves to a retro-inspired “ramen focus booth”(you can fold the partition if you’re there with a companion…or not) before placing their order of tonkotsu ramen via personalized order form through a semiprivate bamboo wall, directly to the kitchen. Try adding the famous Original Spicy Red Sauce—the recipe is known by only four people—and top off your meal with a pour from the well-curated sake menu. Each ramen is guaranteed to be delivered to your booth within 15 seconds of its completion. Talk about efficiency.
152 W. 49th St.; ichiranusa.com
4. Make a Custom Pair of Jeans at Levi’s Tailor Shop
You may already own a well-loved pair of Levi’s, but did you know you can customize your own pair inside the Times Square flagship? Add custom buttons or back pockets to a fresh pair of 501s or add embroidery to the pocket of a denim shirt. The Tailor Shop’s digital kiosk has even more options to personalize tees, totes and sweatshirts with your name and favorite colors. Tip: Need an extra-special present for a baby shower or birthday? Emblazon the recipient’s name on a child- or adult-size jean jacket for a gift they won’t want to take off.
1535 Broadway; levis.com
5. Snag Discounted Broadway Seats with TKTS
Visitors and locals alike can appreciate the incredible theater district that calls Times Square home. The bright-red TKTS booth and risers overlooking Times Square are hard to miss at the intersection of Broadway and 47th. Stop by to purchase tickets up to 50% off as they become available in real time, or hop on the TKTS app to see availability before stopping by the booth. Tip: If you’re interested in seeing a play rather than a musical, plays have a special (and much shorter!) line at window one.
Broadway and 47th Street; tdf.org/tkts
6. Have a Slice of Classic New York Cheesecake at Junior’s
Yes, we know it’s a chain—but it’s also a New York institution for a reason. The family-owned deli and diner has evolved into a well-known Times Square staple, and it recently expanded with an additional location down the street at 49th and Broadway (presumably to keep up with the never-ending demand for comfort food). The newer location offers both takeout and dine-in options so you can enjoy a wide variety of guilty pleasures. Try the most popular slices (plain and strawberry) or pick a local favorite, such as a slice of devil’s food or red velvet. It’s worth it, we promise.
1626 Broadway and 1515 Broadway; juniorscheesecake.
7. Dive Deep into the National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey
Want to take a deep-sea trip without actually leaving the city? The National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey is a virtual experience that brings you under the Pacific Ocean without needing to come up for air. Part ocean education, part immersive entertainment, the experience was created by the visual-effects team behind Game of Thrones to bring you up close and personal with a 50-foot humpback whale, super-cute sea lions and a shark feeding frenzy (in 3-D, natch). The interactive exhibit is kid-friendly, but there’s also Sip ’n Seas on select Fridays and Sundays for adults who want to dodge a virtual whale while holding a glass of champagne.
226 W. 44th St.; natgeoencounter.com
8. Catch a Dinner Show at the Paradise Club
Brand-new to Times Square is the Paradise Club, the brainchild of Studio 54’s Ian Schrager and the team behind Brooklyn’s House of Yes. The modern-day cabaret and dinner theater has found its home on the seventh floor of the Times Square Edition. After each show, the space transforms into a wildly unique nightclub experience, featuring world-famous DJs like Mark Ronson, Q-Tip and Questlove. (FYI: Reservations are required and a top-notch dress code is suggested.)
20 Times Sq.; paradiseclubnyc.com
9. Take a Vacation (via Tiki Drinks) at the Polynesian
The Polynesian is only a few avenues away from the center of Times Square, but you’ll feel like you’re on another island entirely when you’re drinking out of a massive tiki mug. The modern tiki bar inside the Pod Times Square Hotel is a gathering place where groups can imbibe large-format drinks like the Hoist the Colors Punch, which features not one but five types of rum and is served in an actual treasure chest. While you’re there, check out the brand-new terrace that overlooks midtown.
400 W. 42nd St.; thepolynesiantiki.com
10. Feel Nostalgic at Bowlmor Lanes
We know that going to Times Square does not remind you of the bowling nights from your childhood—but it should. Bowlmor plays host to numerous locals-only bowling and social clubs that make us want to dust off our old bowling bag and reserve a lane. If you’re not much of a bowler, there’s still fun to be had: Stop by the bar before checking out the billiards table and full state-of-the-art arcade—it’s adults only after 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
222 W. 44th St.; bowlmor.com