Welcome to New York. Whether a first-time traveler or a returner to Big Apple, there is one part of the city that is simply unavoidable: Times Square.
This historic hotspot is an inevitable hub and has been an iconic part of the city for decades — despite its many ups and downs. In the early 1900s, theaters began to move into the midtown area from their former, less prestigious downtown spaces. As posh hotels began to pop up around the theater district, industry began to blossom as well. However, the Great Depression hit Midtown extremely hard and these glittering theaters were transformed into grimier and more explicit attractions.
It took almost half a century for the area to truly begin to be rehabilitated. Through World War II, the family-oriented era of the 1950s, the chaotic 1960s and turbulent 1970s, Times Square ebbed and flowed within an overall negative framework. In the 1980s, it was actually commercialization that helped to rehabilitate the area. The now-iconic signage in Midtown was part of a strategy to create brand recognition and make the area at least appear to be more family-friendly. These blocks in Midtown now welcome around 50 million visitors every year, allowing people to enjoy shops, theater, and excitement from Hudson Yards on the west to the Westgate NYC Hotel steps away from Grand Central Station on the east.
One of the biggest draws to Midtown for locals and visitors alike is the theater. Broadway is experiencing a bit of a renaissance at the moment, due in part to explosive crossover hits like Hamilton that appeal to those not normally interested in musicals. With so many great options, it can be tough to figure out where to begin: Broadway.com is a great resource, and cheaper or last-minute tickets can be found on trusted sites like TodayTix. As an added bonus, great hotel deals can put guests just a few blocks from the heart of the action.
Late-night talk shows are also maintaining great cultural popularity. New York is home to studios where Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers and Jimmy Fallon all film. There is a variety of strategies for securing tickets to these events and each is a little bit different. Most are built on a lottery system. If there is a free night in the itinerary for a trip to NYC, this could be the best time to enter the ticket lottery.
There are countless great places to grab a bite to eat in Manhattan, and Midtown is no exception. There are plenty of quick-service and casual sit-down places that welcome walk-in guests, but for the more intentional diner there are some wonderful culinary experiences to be had that might require a bit more planning. Perhaps the most famous hotspot that even the newest visitor would be familiar with is the Oyster Bar located inside Grand Central Station. The Oyster Bar has been operating on a similar timeline to Times Square: their doors first opened in 1913. Through the city’s ups and downs, the spot has persisted as an iconic dining option. Thankfully, Midtown is also home to fantastic Italian, French, and Asian options, too.
Museum or Attraction
This centralized part of the city is also home to quite a few museums. The Morgan Library and Museum, left from JP Morgan himself, is home to a formerly private collection that is now open to the public and is located right in the heart of Times Square (between 36th and 37th). For younger visitors, the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museum makes a fun afternoon, and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum is another popular attraction for kids and teenagers.
Some of the retail outlets in Times Square are attractions in and of themselves. The M&M Store and the Disney Store are both establishments that were uniquely designed for their New York homes.
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Lastly, one of the best activities in Midtown (and Times Square specifically — the “crossroads of the world”) is to just sit back and watch the hustle and bustle go by. There are too many people-watching opportunities in the city to even name, but with costumed characters and other gimmicks around every corner, there’s never a shortage. Midtown Manhattan welcomes people from across the world, and there’s truly something for everyone.
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