I spent several years working in the heart of Times Square. I became super familiar with the Crossroads of the World and its inhabitants. These days I’m happily like most New Yorkers – I avoid Times Square as much as possible. But, as a theater lover, I’ll never stay away too long.
Last time I was in the area, I decided to swallow my pride, take out my camera and look like a tourist, to snap some pictures of Times Squares biggest clichés.
1. Costumed Characters
Costumed characters now swarm the area from 42nd to 50th Street, haggling for photo ops and taking advantage of little children’s temper tantrums. They’ll demand $5 for any photo, and if you take a picture with more than one character, expect to fork that amount to each one. Anyone can put on a costume and do this in Times Square, their costumes are always dirty, they’re never entertaining or nice…the practice makes actual performers pretty mad…Say NO THANK YOU and save your money for Disney Land!!
2. Lady Liberties
Every time I’ve seen a peak behind the mask, these “ladies” were men. Which is fine, but the full mask and flowing robes are a little creepy. But as the costumed characters of Times Square go, they are my favorites. At least they are on theme and not violating any copyright laws. If you *must* fall for a photo opt, pick them. At least they include props (a crown and a torch) in the $5 photo.
3. Caricature Artists
You can sit in the middle of Times Square are giant crowds seethe around you and have a generic picture of you sketched! I don’t recommend this activity as something to do in NYC…but if it gets you really excited – go for it.
4. Jesus Freaks
Times Square gets about 400,000 visitors every day. People like to take advantage of that kind of audience. You will always find at least a couple people in the area who want to save your soul.
5. CD Scammers
These guys are one of the more aggressive, notorious scams still ongoing in NYC. They’ll hand you a CD as if it’s a freebie and then chase you down, yelling that you owe them money for the CD you just “took”. Don’t engage with them, even if they’re rude to you as they’re known to be. Just hand the CD back if you took it and walk away. Please, don’t give them money!
6. Broadway Show Promoters
Because of CD and other scammers, people are wary to take anything they are handed in Times Square. But there are good things being handed out as well! Many Broadway shows have promoters on the streets handing out fliers with show discounts. So if you’re looking to see a show, talk to them and they can hook you up always faster and sometimes better than TXTS! The musical Chicago is known for hiring professional dancers who wear red tights, hand out fliers, and occasionally bust out a Fosse-esque dance move.
7. Giant School Groups with Chaperons
They walk really slow, take a lot of pictures, and generally wear seasonally inappropriate clothing. Generally, they’re seeing a show like CATS and having dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. They make me nostalgic- I came to NYC on a school trip when I was 13 too.
8. Hot Dog Vendors
The most New York cliché way to buy a New York cliché snack – a pretzel, a hot dog, or street meat. If you want real food, take a short walk to 9th Avenue. If you want something healthy, Green Symphony on 43rd between 7th and 8th is a wonderful little health food store. Time it right and you’ll catch Broadway performers on rehearsal breaks there.
Check back tomorrow for 8 more Times Square clichés!