Times Square is at the top of every tourist’s bucket list for a good reason. 

Even as a somewhat jaded New Yorker, I get why people love all the lights and chaos of it.

There’s something kind of magical about the energy in the area, especially at night.

But despite the magic, most locals hate it because it’s always packed with slow walking tourists and aggressive buskers in Disney costumes. 

Compared to most locals, I’ve spent an insane amount of time in this part of the city. 

I spent seven years working for a theatrical company in Times Square and over a decade going to see Broadway shows multiple times a week so I’ve become a bit fed up with the area. 

Because of the massive amount of time I’ve spent there over the years, I’ve become known as a bit of a Times Square expert amongst my friends.

I’m always getting texts or calls asking for advice on where to go when they find themselves in midtown.

I know all the best happy hour spots, the most delicious places to eat, and all shortcuts to get around the massive amounts of slow walking tourists who drive locals crazy. 

Below you’ll find a guide to all the best things to do in Times Square with ideas that both tourists and locals will love. 

Just remember, while you’re there, walk quickly and with a purpose if you’re trying to fit in with locals. 

And if you want to take your time to enjoy the magic of Times Square, please just step to the side and leave room for the locals who are rushing to get to work (trust me, they’ll appreciate it).


1. Catch a Broadway Show

As a self-proclaimed Broadway nerd, seeing a show is always at the top of my to-do list any time I’m in New York.

I can still remember seeing my first official Broadway show (Wicked) with my mom for my 16th birthday. It was a surprise trip and my very first time in the city that I’d been longing to call home. 

Since then, I’ve easily seen over 700 Broadway shows. Sometimes I would see two or three shows a week!

I believe no trip to NYC is complete without catching at least one show. To me, it’s a major part of the Times Square experience. 

If you want any recommendations, please hit me up. I’m always delighted to chat about shows.



2. Take an Epic Photo

Times Square is an iconic area that is the perfect background for any social media posts.

Truthfully, the next time I’m in the city I’m really looking forward to staging a little photo shoot in the area.

If you shoot late at night once all the crowds die down, you can get some pretty epic shots. 

Some popular places to get the perfect photo include the big red steps, 42nd Street, and the neon American flag between 42nd and 43rd.

When you’re done, tag me to show me your favorite photo!



3. Enjoy a Delicious Meal

When I was working in Times Square, I quickly learned which spots were the best for a delicious and not overpriced meal. 

There are plenty within walking distance of the area, including an entire street nicknamed “restaurant row” that has lots of yummy options.

Avoid the tourist traps like Olive Garden and Applebees, and head to one of these delicious local joints:



4. Check Out Madame Tussauds

Okay, obviously this one is pretty touristy, but it can be fun for locals too (especially after happy hour).

If you haven’t heard of Madame Tussauds, here’s the deal.

It’s basically a museum with a collection of somewhat realistic wax figurines of historical figures and celebrities.

Even though it sounds dull, it can be a lot of fun to take selfies with some of the more realistic ones. Who knows, you may even trick friends into thinking you met a celeb while visiting the city. 



5. Take a Walking Tour

The best way to see Times Square without missing a thing is to join a walking tour. 

There are plenty of specialized options, including one that features all the theaters in the area (obviously it’s my favorite tour).




Check out some of these popular Times Square based walking tours!


6. Hit Up Happy Hour

Working in Times Square for seven years has given me a thorough go-to list of the best after-work happy hours in the area. 

I used to always go out with my co-workers before seeing shows for work, since we’d normally have a few hours to kill between office hours and curtain. 

These are some of our favorite spots to grab drinks before catching a Broadway show:



7. Relax in Bryant Park

Technically, Bryant Park is just outside of Times Square, but it’s easily one of my favorite midtown parks to hang out in and just a few blocks away from all the action.

During the holidays they have a big Christmas market with tons of delicious food stalls, shopping, and ice skating.

In the summer, they have free concerts and movies, plus chess, a mobile library, bocce, and a carousel.

You’ll also want to grab a bite on Bryant Park Grill’s patio during the warmer months. It’s absolutely delightful!

If you want a more affordable option, you can also grab goodies from the Whole Foods across the street and have a little park picnic. 



8. Grab a Drink

One of my favorite things to do after catching a show is grabbing drinks with friends nearby.

Times Square has tons of overpriced touristy spots, but these are a few gems that I love hitting up anytime I’m in the area:



9. Eat Some Street Food

Okay, so I’m not really a fan of the basic pretzel and hot dog stands that most tourists imagine when they think of New York street food. 

I’d skip those basic and typically overly dry eats in favor of one of these delicious food trucks and carts:



10. Wander Around the MoMA

The MoMA is one of my favorite midtown spots to spend a few hours wandering around. 

They’ve got works by Dali, Van Gogh (including Starry Night), and Picasso, plus are always featuring new installations.

They also have a beautiful courtyard that you can hang out in.

One of my favorite ones was a feature they did on Tim Burton a few years ago. I ended up going to see it twice because I loved it so much!

Technically, this is another one of those spots that’s just a few blocks outside of Times Square.

Local’s Tip: For a real treat, make a reservation at The Modern, the museum’s restaurant which has two Michelin stars.



11. Check Out 30 Rock

While you’re in the area, head over to Rockefeller Center to check out the historic plaza where they shoot The Today Show. 

You can also sign up for The Tour at NBC Studios to learn all about the building’s history while seeing TV studios where they film shows like SNL, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and The Late Show with Seth Meyers. 

My mom and I did the tour on our first visit to the city and absolutely loved it.

If you want to be a part of the studio audience for one of NBC’s shows check out their official page for entry details. You’ll absolutely want to plan on entering early for tickets.

I’ve been to tapings for SNL and The Tonight Show and both were an absolute blast! 



12. Catch a Show Taping

While we’re talking about attending a taping, let’s talk about some of the other shows that you can also catch while in midtown. 

Besides the NBC shows above, you can also apply for tickets to be in the audience of one of these top shows:



13. Go a Ride

The Ride is a custom-built theater bus, so you’ll get to experience the best of Times Square and the surrounding neighborhoods from the comfort of your seat.

The entire experience is 75 minutes and is basically a show and tour in one. 

The tour guides are humorous and the “encounters” with locals are amusing yet a tad cheesy. 

This is a fun option for families or if the weather isn’t ideal for walking around.



14. See an Off-Broadway Show

Besides being well-known for Broadway shows, there are some pretty decent productions running off-Broadway.

Some shows can be a bit hit or miss, but it’s worth checking to see what’s running. 

These are the theaters you’ll want to check into:



15. Indulge at the Hershey Store

Do you love chocolate?

If you answered yes, then you’ll be in heaven when you step into the Hershey’s Chocolate World.

They’ve got every type of Hershey candy imaginable, a rainbow of M&M colors to choose from, bakery treats, milkshakes, and s’mores.

If you really want to show your love for Hershey’s, you can even indulge in a shopping spree in their retail section. 

Parents, fair warning, your kids will want one of everything!



16. Laugh at a Comedy Show

New York is home to some of the best comedians around, so you’ll likely catch at least one or two solid acts and maybe even a celeb if you’re lucky. 

When I worked in Times Square, I’d always walk by Caroline’s to see who they were promoting. They get a brilliant mix of famous performers like Tracy Morgan, Michael Che and Dave Chappelle.

The space is fairly small, so acts sell out quickly. You’ll absolutely want to book your tickets early here.



17. Wander Around Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Even though it’s a bit of a tourist trap, Ripley’s Believe it or Not will definitely leave you with some random knowledge that could come in handy at trivia night.

The exhibits ranged from strange and creepy to fun and interesting. I couldn’t believe the shrunken heads were actually actual heads.



18. Go Shopping

New York City is one of the most fashionable cities on the planet. It would be a crime not to do at least a bit of shopping while you’re in town.

Times Square has plenty of popular stores that stay open later than normal, making it a simple place to pick up necessary items. 

Their late night hours have saved me multiple times when I needed to upgrade a work outfit for a last-minute date or opening night. 

For a complete list of stores and hours, head to Times Square’s official website.



19. Listen to Some Live Music

If you aren’t into show tunes and dancing showgirls, don’t worry I’ve got you covered with these live music venues in Times Square:



20. Complete an Escape Room

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the massive crowds of people in Times Square?

Get away from the chaos for a while by heading to one of Omscape’s escape rooms. 

You can choose from a variety of creative scenarios to escape from, plus they have laser tag!



21. Relax at a Wine Bar

One of my favorite pre-show rituals was to find a relaxing wine bar to unwind in between work and showtime.

Times Square doesn’t have a ton of options that fit that description, so it took me a bit of searching to find my go-to spots. 

This list will save you time and give you the perfect spot to unwind with a glass of vino:



22. Hang at a Piano Bar

One of my favorite late night activities is to hit up a piano bar.

Inside you’ll find catchy tunes, fabulous singing, and an upbeat crowd.

Honestly, what’s not to love?

If you’re looking for fun late night tunes, head to one of these midtown spots:



23. Catch a Show at Radio City

Radio City Music Hall is an iconic venue that’s known around the world for its high kicking dancers, The Rockettes.

If you’re in town, during the holiday season it’s a major crime to miss out on their holiday show. It’s something everyone should witness at least once—even jaded locals.

Don’t worry, if you’re in town during the rest of the year, this gorgeous art deco venue also hosts several high-profile concerts and events, including my favorite The Tony Awards.



24. Check Out the Midnight Moment

Since NYC is the “city that never sleeps”, it only makes sense that they’d have the world’s largest and longest running art show at midnight known as “The Midnight Moment”.

From 11:57 until midnight, you can stand in the middle of Times Square and stare at the electronic billboards in front of you, flashing digital artwork from around the world.

I love catching the show after a night of theater and drinks. It’s the perfect way to end a long day in the city.



25. Go Ice Skating

If you’re visiting during the holidays, ice skating at Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park is a must.

You’ll feel like you’re in the movies as you spot the New York landmarks near either one of these famous rinks.

Fair warning, the lines get really long, so be ready for a bit of a wait. I like going in the mornings or late nights when the crowds have thinned out.



26. Celebrate NYE

Times Square is broadcast around the world every New Year, making it one of the most well known spots in the city for tourists.

If you want to be the ultimate tourist, you can plan to spend hours waiting around Times Square to watch the iconic Swarovski crystal ball drop at midnight. 

People will arrive that morning and spend all day standing in pens waiting for midnight. Once you’re in the pen you cannot leave–just think about it, you can’t even pop out to go to the bathroom or get food. 

If you want to see the ball drop from somewhere a bit warmer, you can pay crazy amounts of money for reservations at midtown tourist traps like Olive Garden or Applebees, or really splurge and reserve a hotel room with a view of the ball.

Honestly, the only way I’d ever do NYE in Times Square is if I was on a VIP list or if a friend paid for a hotel room.

But hey, you only live once. If it’s on your bucket list to stand outside and maybe be on TV during the ball drop then good luck to you!



27. Belt Out Some Tunes

After seeing a musical on Broadway I always get the urge to do a bit of belting of my own.

Thankfully, midtown has plenty of late-night karaoke spots to choose from. These are some of my go-tos:



28. Grab a Late Bite

Once you’ve worked up an appetite singing, you’re gonna wait for some solid late night eats.

These are some of my favorite midtown places to grab a bite after a night out:



29. Wander Around the Spy Museum

You’ll love visiting Spyscape if you’ve always dreamed of being the next 007.

It’s a whole museum dedicated to the history of espionage 

I had an absolute blast when I went a few years ago. They even have a series of interactive games where you can test your strengths as a spy, including a laser room!

It’s easily a few hours of educational fun perfect for everyone.



30. Go Bowling

Bowlmor Lanes is a spot I recommend to all my friends looking for something fun and non-touristy in midtown.

The food and drinks are solid, the staff are cool to deal with, and the interior is beautiful.

Besides bowling, they also have an arcade and billiards, so your group will be entertained for hours.



31. Read by a Waterfall

When I worked in Times Square one of my favorite things to do on my lunch break was to grab a sandwich and find a spot to read for an hour.

Over the years I found a few really solid spots, but the places I found the most relaxing were the little corners I’d found that had waterfalls. 

My go-to waterfall was conveniently located right behind my office building between 48th and 49th streets midway between 6th and 7th Avenues. 

It’s more than just your typical waterfall because it has a plexiglass walkway through the falls. Tourists love taking photos in front of it, so it made for some great people watching on my breaks. 



32. Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

One thing I love most about NYC is the endless food options, especially for dessert.

After a stressful day at the office, I’d treat myself to something sweet from one of these midtown spots:



33. Watch the World Go By on the Red Steps

Are you sick and tired of walking around NYC?

Take a break on Duffy Square’s famous Red Steps. They’re in the perfect spot to do some people watching or to take some prime selfies with Times Square featured in the background. 

If you’re debating getting last minute discounted tickets to a Broadway show, you can hop in line to buy from TKTS, which is right under the staircase.



34. Take a Short Cut

Locals hate Times Square, because of the massive amounts of tourists milling around with no regard for the New York walking pace. 

We get irritated quickly when we can’t get around large groups standing on the sidewalk, but thankfully the city’s built in some little alleyways in Times Square to help locals and quick walking tourists get around faster.

The best one is 6 ½ Avenue and runs from West 51st to West 57th between 6th and 7th Avenues.

There’s also Shubert Alley which runs from 44th to 45th between 8th Avenue and Broadway.



35. Hang on a Rooftop

One of the best ways to take in the epic view of NYC at night is to relax with a cocktail on one of these popular rooftops:



36. Take Part in a Trivia Night

I always thought trivia nights sounded geeky until my friend and I accidentally joined in on one during an after-work happy hour.

Turns out they’re a ton of fun—and you typically get a free shot or drink as a prize. We did particularly well that night because there was a whole Broadway themed category and we were the only theater fanatics playing. Let’s just say we got multiple free shots that night and the next morning was a tad rough.

If you want to try your hand at trivia and potentially win some free booze, check out on these spots:

Local’s Tip: Check their website to see which night they are hosting their trivia night!



37. Catch a Movie

I know some people roll their eyes at catching a film while on vacation, but it can be the perfect way to unwind after a long day of walking around.

Times Square has two beautiful movie theaters on 42nd Street, so you’re almost always guaranteed to catch something good playing.

Normally both the AMC and Regal E-Walk Theater’s last showing happens around 11 pm, making it the perfect after-dinner activity. 



38. Get a Caricature Drawn

Typically, I’m pretty annoyed by most of the buskers and people selling cheap souvenirs in Times Square, especially the pushy characters that won’t leave you alone for a picture then demand outrageous payments.

However, the artists drawing caricatures are one of the few street vendors that I enjoy walking by in midtown. They’re polite, and typically very talented.

I highly suggest supporting one of these artists when you see them, especially if you want a souvenir that’s easy to pack.

After all, who doesn’t want a goofy self portrait to hang somewhere at home?

I guarantee it’ll make you smile every time you see it.



39. Go Swing Dancing

Most of you’re probably thinking, “who knows how to swing dance these days?”

I totally agree, it’s kind of a lost art form at this point. Unless you’re over a certain age or have a background in dance, you’ve probably never even attempted swing dancing.

Luckily that’s where Swing46 comes in to teach you some killer moves.

They’re a jazz and supper club that offers free dancing lessons. You just have to pay a cover fee to dance the night away.



40. Go to Brunch

Whoever invented brunch has to be one of my favorite people ever.

There’s nothing better than sleeping in then indulging in some delicious brunch items with either coffee or mimosas (depending on how hungover you are from the night before).

These are some of my go-to spots when I want to grab brunch in midtown before a matinee:


things to do in times square NYC 2

Final Thoughts

Not going to lie, even though Times Square isn’t my favorite part of the city, I’m quite excited to go back to some spots above on my next visit.

I can’t wait to grab cookies at Schmackary’s, cheesecake at Junior’s, happy hour drinks at Iron Bar, and especially to be back in a Broadway theater (shocker, right?).

Let me know in the comments below what you’re most looking forward to checking out when you’re in Times Square!


While you’re in town, check out some of these tours and popular destinations!

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