This post covers things to do in Times Square with sections on free and night activities, shopping, restaurants, and a Times Square map and self-guided walking tour. Below you will find lots of information about Times Square so you know about all the great happenings! Be sure to check out our Things to Do in NYC for more ideas.
Be sure to read our post on how to a great spot for New Year’s Eve.
TIP: Many popular attractions in or near Times Square, such as Top of the Rock and Madame Tussauds are included for free with all of the tourist discount passes as well as hop-on, hop-off bus ticket packages. Read our post comparing all the passes available to you.
So, Times Square is not really a square. What is technically Times Square is the four quarters created where 7th Ave. and Broadway intersects in Midtown Manhattan. However, most New Yorkers refer to the larger neighborhood as Times Square, which stretches north and south from 40th St. to roughly 52nd St. and east and west from 8th Ave to 6th Ave.
Times Square is easily accessible by multiple subways and buses. Use this Google map to get exact directions from your starting point to Times Square.
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One could spend hours in Times Square shopping, people watching and being amazed by the billboards. The ”crossroads of the world” as it is known, is jam-packed with free entertainers as well. Have a look yourself through this real-time webcam of 47th Street and Broadway.
In 2016, the city decided to make things a little less chaotic in Times Square and so they designated areas where you can see performers, where you can sit, and what path to take to get outta there when you’re ready to go. You can download what they call their “cheat sheet” or use this picture of it on the right. The zones go from 47th Street down to 42nd Street. Green is for relaxing as you watch the world go by. The blue lines are where you can find various performers and cartoon characters and purple are express walking lanes so you don’t have to weave your way through the crowds.
Participate in official Times Square Events
From very interesting and innovative public art projects to entertainment options for all ages, Times Square is a part outdoor art gallery and part funhouse. You can check their official website to see what is happening that day, that month and seasonally. Amazing things appear in Times Square – in 2012 a coordinated project for Yoko Ono’s conceptual art piece IMAGINE PEACE took place in Times Square.
Every night from 11:57 pm to midnight, you can witness the world’s largest digital art exhibition where the huge billboards in Times Square are synchronized resulting in three fabulous moments of the same whimsical imagery. Watch a short video of the synchronization. Check out our guide for things to do at night in NYC.
This is the quintessential thing to do in New York – for locals and visitor alike. Times Square is one of the best places to sit and watch the world rush past. Grab a seat in the pedestrian zone (Stop F in the tour below) or sit on the red TKTS steps. No matter where you sit, you’ll feel the NYC buzz of energy around you.
(Pictured left to right: Yoko Ono Imagine Peace project, Elmo, The Naked Cowboy, Gospel Choir)
Hug your favorite Cartoon Character
Say hi to the Statue of Liberty, hug Elmo, see Elsa alongside Mario and Minnie Mouse. Say thanks to the super-heroes who keep the world safe! Keep in mind that these performers are not working for the city. They are working on tips. If you want to have a good interaction with Sponge Bob, it’s best that you tip a buck.
See the Naked Cowboy
Dressed in only tighty-whities covering the rated -x parts, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat, Robert John Burck can be found in Times Square playing his country tunes and posing for photos with tourists. Forr the full story of how this simple dude from California became a New York icon, see our post The famous Naked Cowboy. (You can see him at Stop L on the self-guided tour below)
Hear a Gospel Choir
It’s free, it’s fun and it’s in Times Square. No need to travel to Harlem for a great Gospel Service. The Times Square Church is a lesser-known church that happens to have a fantastic choir. Find more information about it below. (Stop T on the self-guided tour below).
See the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert
It’s easy in New York to attend free TV show tapings, including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The show taping goes from around 5.30 pm to 7 pm. For information on how to get tickets click here. To learn about tickets for other popular shows like the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon or The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, check out our post with all the details you need to get a seat! Check out our guide for things to do at night in NYC.
TIP: For even more suggestions of things to do in the area and around the city, be sure to stop by official NYC Information Center in Times Square located on Broadway between 43rd and 44th Streets. You can get free guides, maps, brochures, coupons and discounts for hundreds of activities and sights in NYC. They have bilingual staff who can answer questions for you.
These fun, famous attractions are conveniently located in Times Square. These attractions are perfect for families and, at the same time, great for night owls since many of these options stay open until 10 pm or beyond!
Madame Tussauds 234 West 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! 234 West 42nd Street between 7th & 8th Avenues
National Geographic Ocean Odyssey 226 West 44th Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
OMEscape at Times Square 325 W 38th St. bet 8th and 9th Aves.
In addition to the top attractions listed in the section above which are all perfect for kids, there are other ways to entertain the youngins when they have had enough of grown-up time.
Gulliver’s Gate 216 W 44th Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
The New Victory Theater 209 W 42nd Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
Bryant Park 40th to 42nd Streets bet. 5th and 6th Aves.
For other ideas, see our extensive post: Things to do with Kids in New York City.
Cheap ($5-10 per person)
Inexpensive ($10-20 per person)
Moderate ($20-40 per person)
Expensive ($50 and above per person)
Dining on famous Restaurant Row – West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue
Restaurant Row is one block of over 20 restaurants that focus on the pre-Broadway show goers and post-show theater folk. Most of the restaurants are long-time, well-known establishments. For example, Barbetta Restaurant has been on this street for almost a century. Another long-time favorite, especially with theater people, is Joe Allen, a saloon-style eatery that’s been on the row since 1965. Restaurant Row is more than just historic restaurants. Its restaurants have great quality cuisine from around the world. You’ll find French, Brazilian, Japanese, Spanish, American, Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern, Italian, and even the unusual kosher Jewish-style Italian. In 1973, the street was officially named Restaurant Row and at the dedication, Mayor John Lindsey said, “Where else in the world, except possibly Paris, could you get 16 of the best restaurants collected in such a short strip of land?”
TIP: Many restaurants on Restaurant Row and surrounding streets offer pre-theater prix-fixe menus at reasonable prices and timed to get you to your show on time. Here are a few of the best deals:
Becco Founded by celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich, has a daily pasta tasting menu that’s innovative and filling. Their tasting menu is priced at $18.95 for lunch and an amazing $22.95 for dinner.
Le Rivage For theatergoers, you can get a pre-theater menu for $39 between 3 pm to 7:30 pm If you come after 7:30 pm it’s an even better deal. Prix fixe dinner is $29! Look on YELP and get a free glass of wine
Hourglass Tavern Prix-Fixe pre-theater dinner is 4-8 pm for just $23.95 with soup or salad, entrée and choice of dessert.
For more Restaurant Row listings and reviews, look here.
Times Square shops that kids love:
Click here for even more shops in the area.
Times Square is open 24 hours. There is never a time when you will find it quiet and empty. Many of the free activities listed above go on in the nighttime, like the Midnight Moment or the amazing people-watching place at night. Some of the top attractions listed above, like Madame Tussauds or Ripley’s Believe it or Not! stay open until at least 10 pm or beyond! Check out our guide for things to do at night in NYC.
Here are some other suggestions:
See a Broadway show
Relax at a rooftop bar
Take a Self-Guided Night Tour
Shop til you drop
See a comedy show
Check out our guide for things to do at night in NYC.
Note: You can also view this tour on our GPS-enabled audio tour app (though this tour currently has no audio).
This is an interactive map. Use your mouse to scroll around.
Click on the box in the upper right-hand corner for a larger version of the map.
Stop A – Times Tower (1905) + the Time Ball – One Times Square (corner of Broadway and 7th Avenue, West 42nd and West 43rd Street)
Times Square was originally known as Long Acre Square, and in the late 1800’s consisted of a large open space surrounded by drab apartments. The arrival of electricity and the subway system transformed the square. Adolph S. Ochs, owner and publisher of The New York Times from 1896 to 1935, opened Times Tower in 1905. It was the second tallest building in the city at the time, but only eight years later the Times outgrew the space and moved to a new location, not before beginning the New Year’s Eve Spectacular – a tradition that continues today. The building is topped by the time ball and has been mostly vacant since 1995, apart from a Walgreens on the two lower levels, and it generates more than $23 million a year in advertising revenue.
‘The Ball’ is a 12 feet (3.5 m) diameter sphere, weighing 11,875 pounds (5400 kg) and covered with a total of 2,688
Waterford Crystal triangles. It is capable of creating more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns and has been the ball since 2007 – the latest in a long series of redesigns since the ball was first dropped in 1908. The actual notion of a ball ‘dropping’ to signal the passage of time dates back to England’s Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833, where a ball would drop at one o’clock every afternoon to allow the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers.
An estimated one million people fill Times Square every New Year’s Eve, with millions more watching nationwide and over a billion throughout the world. The celebrations in Times Square feature star-studded musical performances, balloons and more than one ton of confetti. Revelers begin to gather in the late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, with prime viewing areas filling up quickly. Then at exactly 11:59 p.m. EST, the Ball makes its 60-second descent down the flagpole. There are no portable restrooms in Times Square during the celebration, no alcohol is permitted, there are no public food vendors and temperatures are often below freezing. Learn some tips on getting a good spot in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Stop B – Conde Nast Building at 4 Times Square (2000), (Broadway between West 42nd and 43rd streets)
If you recognize the building is because it has been the locale of action sequences in The Amazing Spider-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. This 809 ft (247 m) tall building is among the tallest in New York City and one of the finest examples of “green” energy saving skyscraper design in the United States. Environmentally friendly chillers, along with an insulating and shading curtain-wall ensure that the building does not need to be heated or cooled for the majority of the year. The headquarters of the Conde Nast magazine empire occupied much of the building before relocating to the new World Trade Center, Today, it’s current tenants include the major international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, H&M, SS & C Technologies, Inc. and NASDAQ MarketSite. The Nasdaq ticker graces the building’s lower level facade.
The building’s management company may also sound familiar: the Durst Organization. The Durst family is part of a closed circle of real estate owners who date back to the early 1900s and who still dominate Manhattan’s prime office space market. The organization is (as of 201)7) currently run by Douglas Durst, age 71. He is one of two brothers in the family. Robert Durst, the other brother is not involved in the family business. Rather, he has been the suspect of three unrelated murders: Kathleen McCormack Durst, his first wife, who disappeared in New York in 1982 (her body has never been found so there has never been an arrest made); Susan Berman, his good friend, who was murdered in California in 2000; and in 2001, he was suspected of killing and dismembering his neighbor in Texas Morris Black. He was convicted of dismembering Black, but acquitted of his murder. In 2017, Durst was put on trial for the killing of Susan Berman. As of this writing, the case is still being tried. All of this mayhem was captured in the acclaimed documentary The Jinx.
A hotel until 1920, after which it was turned into office space and was the home of Newsweek magazine from 1940 to 1959, it was converted back into a hotel in 2013. The building is in the Beaux-Arts style, constructed of red brick with terracotta details. It was built by John Jacob Astor the 4th. There is a rooftop bar, St. Cloud, with a great view of Times Square, so if you are thirsty or hungry, or just want to take in the view, head on up. For more Rooftop Bars, read our post 10 Rooftop Bars with Skyline Views of Manhattan and if you want great skyline views without the bar, see our post Best New York Skyline Views.
Stop D – The Environmentally Friendly Billboard – 3 Times Square (at 7th Avenue and 42nd Street)
Times Square’s first environmentally friendly billboard was lit up in 2008 and is powered by wind and solar energy. It’s 126 feet (38 m) wide and 47 feet (15 m) high and fitted with 64 solar panels and 16 wind turbines, some of which are visible from street level. By generating its own electricity the sign saves around $15,000 a month, and annually prevents 18 tons of carbon spewing into the atmosphere. There’s no backup energy source either, so after a few days without enough wind or sun, the billboard goes blank.
For a huge billboard that isn’t so concerned with environmental friendliness, check out Google’s Android billboard.
Stop E – Broadway Pedestrian Plaza – Times Square
One of the BEST people-watching locations in New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg transformed Times Square into a pedestrian plaza in 2009, in order to ease traffic congestion and cut down on pedestrian accidents. The trial was so successful that Times Square became a permanent pedestrian plaza in 2015. Take a seat and watch the world go rushing by!
Stop F – United States Armed Forces Recruiting Station
Situated on a small traffic island between Broadway and 7th Ave is the most famous recruiting station in the country. When it was first erected in 1946 it was a simple ”cottage style building” that was so small it didn’t even have a bathroom for the recruiters! In 1999, the current station building was created and is a state-of-the-art structure that resembles a three-dimensional U.S. flag. Its high-tech sleek design fits in seamlessly with the neon lights of Times Square. It is much more than just another flashy sight- this recruiting station receives over 1,000 applicants every year.
Stop G – Site of the former Paramount Theatre Broadway between West 43rd and 44th Street
This former illustrious stage and movie theater opened in 1926 with a film showing of the Paramount film, “God Gave Me Twenty Cents.”. During its 40 year run, the Paramount showcased some of the most famous and talented performers and movies of the day, including Frank Sinatra. The theater itself was magnificent in design, having been modeled after the Paris Opera House with white marble columns, red velvet drapes, a grand staircase, and an enormous crystal chandelier in the lobby. Despite its splendor, the theater fell victim to the times and closed in 1966. The auditorium was razed and converted into office space, and the once majestic entrance and lobby were gutted to make way for retail space. Today the ground floor of the former theater is the Times Square branch of the Hard Rock Café.
Stop H – One Astor Plaza (1972) – At 7th Avenue between West 44th and West 45 Sts.
A 745 ft (227 m) skyscraper completed in 1972, it is currently the headquarters for Viacom and houses the MTV Studios, Minskoff Theatre, Best Buy Theater and some retail outlets. The three MTV studios are used to record segments for MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and other affiliated networks.
This is also the location where one of the most famous photographs in NYC’s history was taken. The photo was taken as New Yorkers were celebrating the surrender of the Empire of Japan (Victory over Japan Day). A sailor passionately kisses a dental hygienist, Greta Friedman, who was at the time unknown to him.
Stop I – Location of Failed Times Square Bombing Attempt – Southeast corner of 45th and Broadway
In 2010, would-be bomber Faisal Shahzad parked an SUV filled with a crude propane bomb just outside of an entrance to the theater hosting the Lion King. Two street vendors, Lance Orton and Duane Jackson (read more on their story), noticed smoke coming from the car and called the police, who detonated the bomb.
Stop J – The Naked Cowboy, Topless Women, and Superheroes – Times Square
As it’s packed with tourists at most hours, Times Square is also popular with scammers, frauds, and tricksters who will try almost anything to separate tourists from their money. There are counterfeit goods for sale, as well as fraudulent show tickets, and passes to some of the most suspect comedy shows in town. Times Square also hosts topless women known as ‘desnudas’ and costumed characters who pose for photos in the hope of receiving tips. They sometimes resort to violence if not compensated, resulting in headlines like ‘Minnie Mouse and Hello Kitty get into a fight over tips’. However, there is definitely at least one exception – the famous Naked Cowboy. Dressed in only tighty-whities and a guitar, the well-buffed Robert John Burck struts his stuff while playing country tunes and posing for photos with passersby. The Naked Cowboy gladly accepts gratuities, but unlike his aggressive neighbors, Burck simply relies on the words TIPS written on his boots and the kindness of visitors.
Stop K – Billboards on Broadway
The advertising billboards that surround Times Square are called ‘spectaculars’ and comprise some of the most expensive outdoor advertising space on the planet. They raise approximately $23 million per year in revenue, with an average cost per spectacular of around $1.1 million to $4 million a year. It’s quite a bargain considering that advertising during the Super Bowl costs up to $3.8 million for 30 seconds. All those ‘spectaculars’ consume about 161 Megawatts, enough to power 161,000 average US homes, three times the power used by all of Sierra Leone, and twice the electricity used to power all the casinos in Las Vegas.
The Most Spectacular of the Spectaculars – Broadway from West 45th Street to West 46th Streets.
Opened late in 2014, the massive billboard spanning the entire block between West 45th Street and West 46th Street stands eight stories tall and is nearly as long as a football field. It’s also higher resolution than any television on the market.
Stop L – Palace Theater – West 47th Street and 7th Avenue
When it opened in 1913 it was the most famous vaudeville theater in the United States and every performer dreamed of playing the palace. If you landed a gig at the Palace you could say you finally “made it.” The ‘Who’s Who’ list of celebrities who have performed on the Palace stage, including Ethel Barrymore, Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Bette Midler, Shirley MacLaine and Diana Ross. In the late 1980’s, a 45-story DoubleTree hotel tower was built above the theater and now the theater facade is practically invisible behind an enormous wall of billboards. Only the marquee is visible.
Stop M – Duffy Square – Intersection of Broadway & 7th Ave at 47th Street
Francis Patrick Duffy (1871 to 1932) was a Canadian-American soldier, Roman Catholic priest, and military chaplain. He journeyed into the thick of battle to recover wounded soldiers and is the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the United States Army. He also conducted vital work in Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square and is honored by a statue on the island that carries his name.
The only Times Square statue honoring a Broadway legend, George M. Cohan was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, and producer. He wrote, composed, produced, and appeared in more than three dozen Broadway musicals and published more than 300 songs including the standards ‘Over There’, ‘Give My Regards to Broadway’, ‘The Yankee Doodle Boy’ and ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’. Known as ‘the man who owned Broadway’, he is considered the father of American musical comedy.
Stop N – TKTS Booth – Intersection of Broadway and 7th Ave at 47th Street
The TKTS booth in Times Square (read our full post here) offers same-day discount tickets to dozens of Broadway and off-Broadway shows, selling over 1.5 million last year. The matinee performances go on-sale from 10 am, while evening performances at either 2 pm and 3 pm depending on the day.
The shows with availability are listed via the TKTS Mobile App, and other TKTS booths are located in Brooklyn and at the South Street Seaport. Click here for more information. A word of warning – many of the so-called online discount sites offer tickets at prices higher than the original. For a full schedule of shows visit broadway.org.
Stop O – Hotel Edison (1931) – 228 West 47th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue
Built in 1931, Hotel Edison has room for 1,000 guests over 26 floors and is one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in New York with its curved edges, bold lines, and an interior that is both elegant and bold. When the hotel opened, the lights were famously turned on by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb.
Stop P – St. Malachy’s Catholic Church (1902) – 239 West 49th Street between Broadway & Eighth Avenue
By 1920, St. Malachy’s found itself in the heart of a burgeoning theater district and the traditional parishioners were joined by actors, dancers, musicians, craftsmen, and tourists. St. Malachy’s subsequently scheduled masses, confessions, and missions to accommodate the rigors of theater and nightclub schedules, and on opening nights, many in show business still light candles for the success of their shows.
Stop Q – Times Square Church – 237 West 51st Street, on the corner of Broadway
There is no need to go to Harlem or join a guided tour to hear great gospel music. The Times Square Church, a multi-denominational congregation, has regular sermons, services, and performances from gospel choirs. Volunteers from the congregation participate in over forty ministries around the world, ranging from feeding the homeless in New York City to staffing an orphanage in South Africa.
Stop R – Ed Sullivan Theater – Broadway between West 53rd and West 54th streets
This 13-story theater was built in the 1920s by Arthur Hammerstein. Opening night was November 30, 1927, and since then it has been a place for top-notch performances and talent to perform. The Central Broadcasting Network (CBS) bought the theater in 1935 and it was a radio broadcast station. With the invention and spread of television in the 1950s, CBS transformed the theater into a television studio. For the next 17 years, the theater was named CBS-TV Studio 50.
Then, in 1953 the most significant change to the theater occurred. CBS moved one of its lesser-known TV personalities from a show held at CBS’s Maxine Elliott Theater. that man, of course, was Ed Sullivan. Thus, the Ed Sullivan Show was born and would broadcast For the next 23 years, and be seen by millions of people across the nation. Perhaps the most famous moment in musical history took place in the Theater on February 9, 1964, when The Beatles made their United States television debut. Approximately 73 million viewers tuned in to watch the show.
In 1993, David Letterman began a 22 year run as the host of the wildly popular show, “Late Show”. In 2015 comedian Stephen Colbert took over the nightly slot and is carrying on Letterman’s “Late Show” legacy. Check out our post on getting tickets to see the Late Show.
If you have enjoyed this self-guided tour, here are nearby neighborhoods to check out either with one of our pay-what-you-like guided tours or our self-guided tours and audio tours: