Once a seedy hubbub of illicit activity, and now the epicentre of New York’s thriving theatre district… Times Square is probably one of the most iconic places in the Big Apple. You can’t visit the city without checking it out, and with so many places to see in walking distance of Times Square, you can spend a whole day (or longer) in midtown soaking it all in.
Teeming with people, and ticket sellers beckoning the crowds under the flickering lights of the billboards you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into Bladerunner. And it’s true – NYC does feel like you’re living in a movie-set at times. There so much to see in and around Times Square, from big sights, to little known bars… so buckle up for a rundown!
Places to see in walking distance from Times Square…
Soak in Times Square
Times Square is a mad place – definitely get your touristy fill of it, by taking a selfie in front of the light-up American Flag, sitting on the steps with a hot dog from one of the street carts, or lounging on the new pink loungers with your pals for a few minutes to just take it all in and the weight off your feet! Don’t scrimp on your time – just let the city wash over you. On a sunny day, the red steps in Times Square will be open and they’re a great place to sit and watch the world go by.
It’s not as big as Central Park, but it’s only a few minutes walk from Times Square, and it’s a gorgeous place to sit and enjoy a coffee. In the summer, there are loads of free activities (like an outdoor cinema and yoga classes) and in the winter they set up a ‘winter village’ which is free to visit, and full of seasonal and festive shops to browse.
New York is jam-packed with public art, and you can’t move for accidentally stumbling across something amazing by someone famous. In Times Square itself is a little known sonic installation by Max Nehaus (a giant in the world of sound art and music). It might be hard at first to pick this one out, especially in hubbub of people and traffic in Times Square. It’s a rich harmonious sonic texture, reminiscent of bells ringing and to find it you’ll need to head over to the north side of the pedestrian island near 45th and 46th Street.
Just along the way is another iconic piece that might be a little more instagram friendly; Robin Indiana’s iconic LOVE sculpture. The typeset print became hugely famous when MoMA commissioned it for a Christmas card in 1965, and has remained so ever since. Whilst there’s a really famous one in Philadelphia this one is just around the corner from MoMA itself so easy to combine with some more in-depth art viewing – or to just see on its own!
This famous bakery is only a 5 minute walk from Times Square, and it’s home to some of the best cakes in the city. If you find yourself a little hungry after exploring the city… this is where you need to go to re-energise! Our favourite thing from Magnolia Bakery has to be the Banana pudding, especially if you can get it freshly made.
The Ride Tour
This is an amazing, interactive, and really unforgettable tour of the midtown that you really won’t be able to get anywhere else. It’s a bus tour, with comedian hosts, and a view out onto the streets of New York, which suddenly come alive with performers. You won’t be able to tell where the show ends and the city starts, which is pretty cool! You’ll see all the quintessential mid town sights, from Broadway to the Empire State Building, so this is definitely one to get in on. Tickets range from $69-79, but there are often discounts really last minute (but don’t tell anyone I told you so!).
Grand Central Station
Not just about trains, Grand Central Terminal is a smorgasbord of art, architecture, culture, history, shopping and food. It’s a place to soak up the rush of locals and tourists, which bridges a gap across time and space, and definitely somewhere to check out if you’re in the area. Tours run around the building, ranging from an App or an audio tour, to a full blown guided experience and we’d definitely recommend it as it’s such an interesting experience! (I’ve also got a list of 10 things to do near Grand Central Station, which we’d definitely recommend checking out for more detail).
Now I know a world of miniatures might not sound too cool, especially if you’re from England and you’ve been presented with those musty fusty miniature villages in your local town hall on a rainy day (if you’ve been spared this tell me your secrets!)
But, Gulliver’s Gate is honestly A-MA-ZING. You can lose hours gazing into the tiny windows, and looking at all the tiny scenes. It features more than 25 major world cities, and what’s more is that you can bring each place to life with use of a tiny key given to you on arrival. Definitely a little weird, but you could technically say you’ve been all over the world, whilst not straying too far from NYC – so it’s a win win.
If you’re a comic book fan, or you just fancy checking out an authentic American comic book store, Midtown Comics won’t disappoint. It’s tiny, but packed full of character and history. If you’re even remotely interested in fantasy genres or superheros… this place will amaze you.
Catch a broadway show
Pretty much all the Broadway musical theatres are within walking distance from Times Square. You can buy your tickets online before you even arrive in the city (there are some good deals to be had!) or you can buy them in Times Square itself from the Tickets stand. If you’ve really got your heart set on seeing a particular musical – we always recommend booking ahead of your trip – as you’ll probably end up with better seats. Which are our favourites? Chicago, Frozen, Hamilton & Wicked are all solid choices!
A totally touristy thing to do, but if you’ve never been in before, M&M world is definitely worth a visit as you’ll have never seen so much candy and chocolate in your life! It’s like visiting a real-life Willy Wonka factory.
The NBC Studios
If you’re lucky and you head there before 11am, you might catch a glimpse of the guest-stars or music acts through the studio windows. They do offer a paid tour, but you can see inside from street level and catch glimpses of the studio and the celebrities for free. So it just depends on how much you love NBC!
You’ve probably seen this sculpture on people’s instagram pages, it’s one of the most ‘instagrammable’ sculpture in the city, and it’s only a 10 minute walk (maybe less if you time the lights right!) from Times Square. It’s worth making the walk up there to snap a photo yourself! This is the most photo-worthy places to see in walking distance of Times Square for sure!
Top of the Rock Observatory
One of the only places to get a great view of New York with the Empire State Building actually in it. With panoramic views, gorgeous art-deco design, and a lobby to die for, this is a definite must-see for tourists and locals alike!