9 Activities to Please, Please Avoid in Times Square

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”

Or vaguely sexualized Hello Kitties, the  disturbing Lady Liberties, any of  the scores of costumed creepers who roam Times Square via

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.

The only inappropriate touching here is done by you. via
The only inappropriate touching here is done by you. via

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

Or TGIFriday’s, Applebee’s, Sbarro, Red Lobster and the like. via

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“.
restaurantrowNYCThe 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!

I didn't make that up- every year on the summer solstice Times Square is blocked off for massive yoga classes!
I didn’t make that up- every year on the summer solstice Times Square is blocked off for massive yoga classes!

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.

Are the different colored M&Ms really worth the 500% mark up? I don’t get it! via

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

Do you really want to go to the epitome of tourist traps? via

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

need money for weed times square
I say don’t even give him a laugh, let alone $1 via

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!

9. Asking “Where is Times Square?” When You Are Clearly In Times Square
times square hailing cab

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)!

things to do in times square

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!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

13 thoughts on “9 Activities to Please, Please Avoid in Times Square

  1. Thanks for the great advice. If I’m ever lucky enough to get to New York I’ll keep it in mind. I do understand the frustration of locals who are going somewhere as opposed to just rubbernecking but I’m afraid I’d be guilty of #3 as I don’t know how you can see the sights if you just hurry through (and I live in a country town, we don’t hurry). Regarding #6 I have visited Mme Tussaud’s in London and enjoyed it but when my sister and I went to Sydney in 2012 we opted out of the wax museum there because it was a) too expensive for what it was, b) we’re not really into current celebs and couldn’t care less about seeing the Kardashians or whoever else is the latest fad. I’m sure there are way more interesting things to do in NYC too.

    1. Yes, I would definitely be guilty of #3 too! When New Yorkers go on holiday, do they walk everywhere at high speed? Judging by the number of Americans who stroll around my English city when I’ve got places to go in a hurry, I doubt it. 😉

  2. I had an ex take me to the Fridays in Times Square. I should’ve known then it wasn’t meant to be.

    When I went to Electric Zoo we stayed in Times Square, and I got a ton of attention in my costume. I should’ve embraced it and charged for looking at me. Dammit. Lost opportunity.

  3. Thanks for the advice! I am visiting NYC this August for a few days, and Times Square is on my list of places to visit. I actually tried without success to get an affordable hotel room near Times Square, but I ended up in Chinatown instead. I definitely will not visit any chain restaurants in NYC (except maybe Starbucks), because I want to visit the kinds of places they don’t have in Chicago. I even bought a guidebook for the city, but your blog is better than a guidebook. 🙂

  4. Haha, great post! The slow walking drives me nuts, especially when I’m rushing to get to equity. And don’t get me started on the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc. It actually blows my mind that people come all the way to NYC just to eat at strip mall joints. I’m a fan of the restaurants on 9th between 42nd and 57th.

  5. I am 100% Italian (1st-generation American, born & raised in Queens) and question the sanity of anyone eating at an Olive Garden anywhere…. I will happily share my mother’s recipe for the most delicious home-made meat-based spaghetti sauce you’ve ever tasted with anyone, for free. And PLEASE, to tourists everywhere: walk single-file, on the right, so people who need to get somewhere actually CAN get some where. (Same goes for if you’re visiting my current neck-of-the-woods, DC.) Blocking the whole damned sidewalk is just plain RUDE.

  6. LOVE this post! I very almost went to Olive Garden there purely because I’d heard American friends talk about it and I wanted to say I’d been there.

    I must disagree with you on the UCB though – I went there because I love comedy, and I didn’t have a reservation because I didn’t know months in advance that I’d be there. They treated me like an idiot, really badly. I dislike their attitude so much and it seems that my other NYC friends feel the same. Instead, I highly recommend Magnet Theater, which was hilarious and very very friendly.

  7. I LOVE THIS!!! I’m not originally from New York but my family is. I’ve lived here two summers now and I have to say.. TIMES SQUARE IS THE WORST! And nothing makes me more sad than when people visit New York and the only impression they get of this awesome, world-class city is Times Square. Thank you for this post – I’m glad someone finally said it!

  8. YES TO ALL OF THIS – I hate going down to Times Square (but sometimes it is necessary, especially when people visit). One thing that irks me more than anything too is people eating at chain restaurants when they visit NY (people who do not have the chain restaurants in their country/city are excused) because we have SOOO many restaurants in this lovely city, why settle for mediocre (yes, I am talking to you Olive Garden).
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer recently posted…Exploring the Chinese Food Scene in Flushing, QueensMy Profile

  9. Out of desperation I came close to working at the Times Square TGI Fridays. However TTDHM(thank god they didn’t hire me) Especially after my then roommates lurid tales of working there. One involved rats falling from a ceiling tile during construction, and another with unhappy tourists that She wasn’t perky or welcoming enough.

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