If you are vacationing in NYC, you will visit Times Square. It is, after all, the #1 most popular tourist destination in the world. New Yorkers understand that you have to go. You must experience it for yourself: the sensory over load of lights, the smothered sidewalks where any concept of personal space is laughable. We understand but you should understand there is a very real chance we will lose all respect for you. It doesn’t have to be that way though!
Times Square Activities No Self-Respecting New Yorker Would Be Caught Dead Doing
Why You Should Avoid Them and Better Things To Do in Times Square
1. Taking a Photograph with “Elmo”
These are not legit entertainers. They are just people who buy costumes and stand on the street aggressively trying to get you to pose for a picture and demanding tips. Some will even inappropriately touch you! This is NYC, not Disney Land or Sesame Place. There’s no originality, I’ve never seen one with a clean costume. They just give street performers a bad name.
If you have to take a picture, get one with the Naked Cowboy. Sure he’ll demand a tip but he’s legitimately licensed, original, and an only in New York icon.
2. Eating at Olive Garden
I will question the sanity of anyone who eats at Olive Garden in Times Square. You’re in one of the world’s most culinary cities and you choose to eat the mediocre food that’s available at every strip mall in America? It’s a new definition of insanity! I won’t tell you to go way downtown to Little Italy instead. No. Just one block away you will find “Restaurant Row“.
The block of 46th Street between 8th and 9th avenues is filled with dozens of fine dining options you can only find in New York. Your heart is set on Italian food? Still no excuse- my go-to pizza place Bella Vita is also a reasonably priced and reasonably classy Italian Restaurant. It’s on 43rd between Broadway and 8th Avenue.
3. Walking At a Snail’s Pace
New York cliché: locals walk fast. There is nothing we hate more than trying to wade our way through Times Square. Tourists move so slow! They block the whole sidewalk! This is worse than being behind a herd of cattle! We’d make more progress if you were all clogging up the streets doing yoga!
4. Shopping in Times Square
Ok, you get a free pass on this one if you’re international and American stores are a novelty to you. However, if there is a Forever 21 and American Eagle (all the stores in Times Square are chains) in your mall back home, don’t waste your precious time in New York shopping at them! If you love shopping, check out The Market on Bleecker Street.
This is an amazing only in New York shopping space- local designers selling reasonably priced clothing and jewelry.
Also, can someone explain M&M’s World to me? I know tourists love it, love it so much I can’t even tell you not to go. But I will tell you locals think it’s insane, and a genius accomplishment of the Mars Company, that you will spend $20 on a bag of candy would could buy for $4 at the drugstore across the street.
5. Buying Tickets to a Comedy Show
I wrote a whole post about the people who sell comedy tickets in Times Square, it occasionally still gets a nasty comment from one of the sellers. The thing is, you can just do so much better than any of the show’s they’re offering. If you want to see a comedy show, check out the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, the renown breeding place for SNL performers. Ticket’s are pretty cheap, there are no drink minimums, I can’t guarantee you’ll laugh but at least you won’t feel like you we scammed.
6. Visiting Madame Tussaud’s
You want to see art? Go to the MOMA or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You want to see celebrities? There are plenty on Broadway- you can currently see Zach Braff performing in Bullets over Broadway and both Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams in Cabaret. If you do all those things and still want to go to Madame Tussaud’s, well, I won’t ever understand you, but at least I’ll respect you (mostly).
7. Giving Any Guys with a Sign Like this the Validation of a Laugh
Maybe this deserved a chuckle 8 years ago when the first guy did it. (Even then I’m not sure, but at least it was his idea.) These days when you walk through Times Square you’ll see at least a dozen guys holding signs like this! How can there be that many? Holding this sign is lucrative. Ludicrous is what locals say. None of them deserve money for making you laugh, all they did was copy someone else’s idea. Don’t be the stupid tourist who keeps this crop of guys all over Broadway.
8. Falling Prey to Obvious Scams
Don’t take a CD from any one handing you one on the street. He’ll try to make you buy it.
Don’t donate money to people claiming it’s for the homeless, “Your donation will help feel a homeless family tonight.” They sound convincing and look like they are from an organization. Let me (and Inside Edition) convince you they absolutely keep it for themselves.
Now if you see a bunch of attractive 20-somethings smiling and handing out free snacks (or even free metro cards) while wearing branded t-shirts (or bathrobes)- this is legit! Times Square is a prime site for guerilla promotions like this- I know because I’ve worked a handful!
Working in Times Square my first summer in NYC, it was amazing how many people asked me this question. While we were standing in the thick of it! “Times Square” is an area, it is not a specific location. If you are on Broadway or 7th Avenue between 42nd to 50th Street, you are 100% in Times Square. If you are surrounded by huge glowing billboards, take them as a sure sign (pun intended)!
I used to visit Times Square every day- I’ve worked several jobs in the area (the above photo is me heading to work at the Jekyll & Hyde Club). What about you, when was the last time you went? Poll: is Times Square the best or THE WORST? + Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my 9!