CNN named Times Square in 2011 as one big tourist trap and this is a fact as not only is there so much electronic and digital billboards lining the area around it and the theater district beside it, but it has tons of odd characters like the naked cowboy and naked cowgirl and other odd wannabees impersonating a famous someone or movie character and will happily pose with you for a picture or two and charging $ 2 to $ 5 per photo. Eerily similar to Hollywood boulevard in Los Angeles he he he.
Unique Suggestions you can just take a selfie with yourself and avoid posing with these unique characters (but i did and is guilty as charged he he he)
I left NYC on December 30th, the day before New Year's Eve, so I wasn't there to see the madness in Times Square. But I did read a couple of accounts of people who waited to see the ball drop at midnight and it sounded like they were insane. What about the experience could possibly compel people to stand in freezing cold weather for a period of time in excess of 12 hours without access to bathroom facilities and a limited ability to eat and drink because you are standing outside in excess of 12 hours? There are reports of people wearing Depends (ewww!) to avoid losing their spots in the penned in areas.
Fun Alternatives Watch it on TV!
Times Square is nothing but where Broadway converges with 7th Avenue. It is a huge spectacle of lights and action, but nothing is really going on here. Nothing except tourists bumping into other tourists. New Yorkers avoid Times Square at all costs if possible. By all means, don't eat here...especially at the national chains. You didn't come to NYC to eat at the Olive Garden, did you???
Unique Suggestions Go see a taping of the Letterman show. Stand on line at the TKTS booth to get discounted tickets to a Broadway show. If you have young children, check out the Toys R Us (but be ready for the crowds).
Fun Alternatives For fun people watching and a more authentic NY experience (where NYers actually go to meet and hang out) go to Union Square.
I did it for 2008-2009 and DON'T recommend it. It's a nightmare. If you want to actually see anything you have to get to Times Square by 2pm. That's 2 o'clock in the afternoon to see a show at 11:30pm. If you leave you cannot get back in to your spot, you have to go back to the horrendous lines, which were up by 58th St. when I went.
If it's cold you'll be a popsicle and you can't get stuff to drink either since you're not allowed to get out. If you need to pee, well, there's no bathroom.
I got to Times Square around 6pm, was sent up to 58th St. then put in a pen like cattle. The police were rude douches and even though there were empty pen up ahead they wouldn't let us move - you actually get closed up in these pens made of police barricade gates. Then we just stood there in 0 degree Farenheit staring at the plain buildings. Eventually we left.
I saw NY's Eve in Times Square as 1 of the 10 things NOT to do before you die and I agree.
Unique Suggestions If you must go, dress warmly! Wear heating pads inside your gloves and shoes. Take ear muffs and whatever else is necessary to stay warm. If you want to see anything get there by 2pm. You can try to take some water with you but security will probably make you throw it out. You can't take a backpack with you.
Go to the bathroom before you go to Times Square and drink nothing after peeing because if you must get out of your pen to go to the bathroom you won't be let back in.
If you really want to be in the area go to one of the little bars that don't charge cover (there are some Irish bars there). Be ready to be on your feet for many hours at a time, including walking many blocks to get to an open subway station as the ones around Times Square are closed for security reasons.
Fun Alternatives The alternative is doing anything else. Go to a house party as clubs and restaurants in NYC on New Year's Eve are mostly tourist traps too.
So many first time visitors to New York make plans to visit Times Square almost as soon as they unpack their suitcases. My question is why? These days it really has very little to recommend it. The restaurants are designed to pull in the tourists to eat lacklustre food at inflated prices in what are often franchise operations (TGI Fridays, Olive Garden, Applebees etc.). Why visit New York with its wealth of unique eateries and end up in a McDonalds?
The stores are also making the most of their location. The electronics shops are notorious for ripping off tourists - attractive signs in the windows belie the fact that the goods on sale are often old stock, grey imports or highly overpriced. If you want good advice and discount prices, go to J&R (http://www.jr.com/) or B&H (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/) both of which offer excellent service.
So what do you get to see? Well, IMO, a lot of other tourists milling about wondering what on earth all the fuss is about! Some of the longest lines are at the hop on, hop off bus stops where masses of sight seers are trying to get back on the bus and out of there! It's almost impossible to walk down the street for the numbers of people there, the effect at night is not much better - the lights are garish and overpowering and the crowds are still there! The one thing you won't see is local people - very sensibly, they avoid this place like the plague!
Unique Suggestions Before I start sounding too curmudgeonly, there are at least three things to do that could make a visit to Times Square worthwhile:
1) Put your name up in lights at Hershey's. We did this for my son on his 21st Birthday. While my wife and daughter kept him occupied, I went into Hershey's, paid my $4.95 and, within 5 minutes, a happy birthday message to him was up in Times Square for all to see. The effect on him was magical!
2) The webcam outside of TGI Friday's. I know, very touristy but a lovely way to keep in touch with someone you've left at home! Make sure you take your mobile phone with you then call them and tell them to log on to: http://www.camvista.com/usa/ec/newyork.php3 where they'll be able to see you waving at them!
3) Not all the restaurants in the vicinity are parts of a chain. We were taken to the Mont Blanc (http://www.montblancrestaurant.com/) at 315 W 48th Street and had a wondeful "Business Lunch" for $16.50 in their lovely garden.
Iconic and a must see, this I cannot disagree with. What I will recommend is not eating at any establishment in this area. For good restaurants, head downtown.
Now, if money is no object, and you enjoy overpriced, frankly horrible food, eat at the restaurants in midtown and the upper west side.
One note of clarification, steakhouses are an entirely seperate matter. Most of these are actually quiet good.
Still, as a rule of thumb, eat and go out downtown.
All for the tourists. TS is busy and very active with a lot of fast food and flashing lights. Very cool, but keep track of yourself and know where you are.
Unique Suggestions Walk off the main drag and look for some different places to eat other than Applebees, Dallas BBQ, and McDonalds. So many good places to eat, hunt down the smaller places.
Fun Alternatives Go to the smaller pubs.
Times Square is the no.1 tourist trap in NYC. Many tour buses make stops here and their countless passengers will rush out for their photo opportunity with what little times given to explore the area. So, you have to be a bit patient to get that nice photo of the buildings without someone's face taking over the shot.
The restaurants & souvenirs here are also more expensive so you're better off walking somewhere else for better prices (and better quality). The Restaurant Row (between 8th & 9th Ave) and diners with decent prices are only a few minutes away from Times Square.
Unique Suggestions The Theaters of Broadway are located near Times Square so it will be a good idea to catch a show or take some photographs and eat/shop somewhere else. I was overwhelmed by the many people there so I didn't really want to hang around the area.
For the Hard Rock Cafe fans, you can purchase your T-shirts, pins & other memorabilia at their store & restaurant at the corner of W 43rd & 7th Ave.
Times Square is one of those places that you just have to see, and then you don't need to go back there. New Yorkers hate the place, it is owercrowded by tourists, but still you have to see it once. It is an impressive site in it own weird way.
I know this is a tourist trap, but you've got to see it at least once. After seeing so many New Year countdowns and shots of it on TV and in movies, you've got to see it once. It's a lot like Las Vegas-sensory overload. Didn't buy or eat anything in the area, just went to look for maybe 15 minutes. That's all that's needed really.
NYC in general is a tourist trap! But that’s the beauty of it all. The best places in NYC, like Times Square, South Street Seaport, WTC… they are all tourist traps, but I bet you that you will go see them anyways :) Enjoy all those tourist traps, they are usually lots of fun! –even for the locals like myself.
Your first trip to Times Square, especially if at night (like mine was), hits you head on. From 9 or 10 blocks away you can see the light emenating from the area. Loud, noisy and colourful. Even the Midtown South Precinct of the NYPD, based in the square, have a neon sign on their station. Same goes for the entrances to the Times Square subway station (in striking contrast to stations encountered uptown and in the Bronx).
Unique Suggestions Times Square can be a nice experience. There are plenty of cops around and it is a safe place. However you are still in New York, and as safe as the city rightly claims to be, people still get caught out. Keep wallets/cash in a front pocket or inside pocket of a coat. Also, as is the case in many cities, tourists will be targeted by homeless people looking for a few dollars, people trying to sell them CD's, people looking for money for charities etc. Many of these people are, quite simply put, ***ters. If you want to avoid these people, walk quickly and confidently, like you have some place to be, the same way any New Yorker walks.
Fun Alternatives Don't avoid Times Square at any cost, it is a great place, just be aware!!