This blog post was updated on August 17, 2018.

How to Survive Times Square in New York City, Flickr: Mark Heard

Bright Lights in the Big City!


You’ve seen it in Usher’s music video, in countless episodes of Sex and the City and in a number of popular films. It is one of the tourist attractions that is high on a visitors list of things to do in New York City. The city that never sleeps definitely gets its name from the glitzy and glamorous lights and billboard advertisements in Times Square. (Except for the 2003 Northeast Blackout.) Since everyone loves Times Square, it can be hectic to enjoy alone time with this New York icon. With a few helpful travel tips, you’ll be able to enjoy with the crowds instead of fighting against them the next time you’ve booked flights to New York.

Avoid Broadway: Though it is difficult to avoid the major intersection where many famous spots are, Broadway is the most congested area of Times Square. Most people forget the Times Square neighborhood extends beyond 42nd street and Broadway. Look for notable landmarks beyond the center square, like the M&Ms world a few streets up or even Rockefeller Center, which is extremely close by. Enjoy a bird’s eye view at The View Lounge at the Marriott Marquis on 45th street and enjoy Times Square without the crowds.

Step aside to take photographs: The sights around Times Square create lots of picture perfect moments, yet when everyone wants to stop and snap, it could cause chaos. Some tourists are in a rush to make a Broadway show while others may be simply strolling to enjoy the day. There is nothing more frustrating than someone stopping in the middle of pedestrian traffic to take a picture or two. Remain courteous and step to the side to take a photograph or find a spot away from moving crowds to take a picture. Even if it takes a little longer, everyone will appreciate this gesture.

Expect crowds: Be a smart and savvy New Yorker and realize the inevitable: you will face crowds at any time of the day. High peak tourist hours include any date that ends with day. The only time that traffic is slower, but still apparent is in the middle of the night. Saturday nights at 2 a.m. can be interesting when you’re catching the late night owls looking for a midnight snack after a long night of happy hours. Your best bet is to start early or late on a weekday if you want a little more room to enjoy Times Square.

Shop around beyond the Square: Remember how expensive an Eiffel Tower figurine was at the gift shop in Paris, or how you tried to buy wooden clogs on the main square in Amsterdam? The same goes for souvenir shopping in Times Square: it is very expensive. When you find inexpensive stores, you might give up quality of your goods, which is frustrating as well. Venture out to other avenues and shop around a few stores to compare prices. Consider shopping for official New York goods at the tourist centers for something made in New York.

Simply enjoy Times Square!
You can hate it or love it, but there is nothing like the area of Times Square. Don’t get frustrated with heat sweats from crowds, expensive hot dog vendors or the lack of a little peace and quiet. Expect and enjoy the madness of this unique and popular tourist attraction; it’s an experience within itself. When all is said and done, you’ll be able to say you were in the center of the greatest city in the world.

Photo: Mark Heard

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