Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Times Square, NYC

  • Published 2022/11/04

You haven’t been to New York without visiting Times Square.

Times Square is the unofficial center of New York City and is a central commercial and tourist hub.

It’s where 42nd Street, Seventh Avenue, and Broadway meet, making it one of the busiest intersections in the country.

Your idea of New York is probably what you see in movies: full of tourists and lit with gigantic billboards.

That’s Times Square for you.

Named Longacre Square initially, it was renamed when the New York Times moved to its headquarters in the Times Building (now One Times Square) in 1904.

The image of present Times Square is far from what it was in the 19th century when it became the center of New York’s horse carriage industry and, later, as a red-light district.

Today, it’s known as “the Crossroads of the World,” where people from different parts meet.

Here are the best things to do in Times Square, New York City:

See a Show on Broadway

View of Broadway at night

Andrey Bayda /

Your trip to New York won’t be complete without seeing a show on Broadway.

Broadway is a road that covers an entire district along with 41 theaters.

The main Broadway Theatre on 53rd Street is what you might imagine as Broadway.

The theater popularized musicals such as the Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Cats, and many more.

Poster of musical shows at Broadway

Sean Pavone /

You can get same-day tickets and even tickets for the next day’s matinee at discounted prices at TKTS booths in Times Square, Lincoln Center, and Lower Manhattan.

If you’re looking for more experimental and intimate shows, try Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway, which have a smaller seating capacity.

If seeing a Broadway show is on your bucket list, this is your time to tick that off.

Broadway building at night

Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take the “Broadway’s Beginnings” Walking Tour

People at Broadway

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If you’re a newbie theater fan, this walking tour is the perfect way to get introduced to the Broadway World.

Broadway’s Beginnings Tours explores the 41 theaters on the southern end of the Broadway theater district.

The 1-hour-45-minute tour starts at 41st between 7th and 8th Avenues and ends in Times Square at 44th Street.

Travel back to Broadway’s early days and learn about the difference between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway.

People exploring Broadway

Andrey Bayda /

The tour guides are professional actors or stage managers who will share first-hand experiences working in theaters.

You’ll know how they mount productions and hear stories about what happens backstage.

Join the “Broadway’s Beginnings” tour and learn everything about Broadway.

Grab a Slice at Joe’s Pizza

Signage of Joe’s Pizza

Xackery Irving /

Nothing is more New York than having a slice of the famous New York-style pizza.

Located on Broadway in the heart of Times Square, Joe’s Pizza has become an institution since 1975.

If you see flocks of people standing in front of a shop, they’re probably lining up for a slice.

The line can be intimidating, but don’t get discouraged as the queue moves fast.

Interior of Joe’s Pizza

KKArv /

The store has limited seats, so expect to stand up if you want a bite of their famous pizza.

The pizzas are thin-crust and huge; fold them up and eat them New York-style.

Try their Margherita and Pepperoni, though Caprese is one of the crowd-favorites.

You can’t say you’ve been to New York without trying Joe’s Pizza.

Get Cookies at Schmackary’s

Located on West 45th Street around the theater district, Schmackary’s offers over 75 cookie flavors that every cookie monster will love.

Zachary “Schmackary” Schmahl opened his cookie shop in his 400-square-foot apartment before moving to its present location one year later.

Zachary’s idea was to create something different other than the chocolate chip cookies that New York City is known for.

More than 75 flavors later, Schmackary’s has become one of the go-to cookie spots in the city.

They have a rotating menu of classic and seasonal flavors that you shouldn’t miss.

Some of the favorites are the sweet and savory Maple Bacon, the classic Cookies N’ Cream, and the colorful Funfetti.

Get your cookie fix at Schmackary’s before catching a Broadway show.

Watch the People at Bryant Park

People enjoying the day at Bryant Park

Carlos Neto /

Times Square’s chaos can be too much for a first-timer, so a quiet day hanging out at Bryant Park might be in the cards.

The 9.6-acre open space was originally a graveyard for the poor until they moved the bodies to Wards Island in 1840.

It was turned into a park in 1847 and was unofficially named “Reservoir Square.”

It underwent renovations and was renamed Bryant Park in honor of the New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant.

Tables and chairs at Bryant Park

Eo naya /

Today, Bryant Park is a favorite hangout spot for people who want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

You can see its well-maintained lawns and watch people passing by.

There are restaurants, seasonal shops, and open-air concerts in the summer.

Water fountain at Bryant Park

Resul Muslu /

Tour the Museum of Modern Art

Exterior of the Museum of Modern Art

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Located on West 53rd Street, the Museum of Modern Art is one of the world’s most famous museums of modern art.

It draws over a million visitors annually, making it a New York must-see.

It features modern and contemporary art from the likes of Picasso and Monet.

MoMA comprises six curatorial departments: Painting and Sculpture, Drawing and Prints, Architecture and Design, Film, Photography, and Media and Performance.

Interior of the Museum of Modern Art

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It has one of the most extensive collections of film stills worldwide.

MoMA houses some of the most essential artwork in history, such as Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans and Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Join a tour of the Museum of Modern Art and see one of the best collections of contemporary art.

Exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art

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Get a 360-Degree View of New York City on Top of the Rock

View of New York skyscrapers from Top of the Rock

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Located on Rockefeller Plaza, Top of the Rock is an observation deck on top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza that will give you unobstructed views of the New York skyline.

There are three observation decks on the building’s 7th, 69th, and 70th floors.

High-speed elevators will take you from the ground floor to the top in under a minute.

People admiring the view from Top of the Rock

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At 70 stories high, the Rock’s panoramic views will give you a different perspective of the city’s skyscrapers.

It’s a perfect photo-op spot, so snap some pics.

Spot the Empire State Building and Central Park from 260 meters above the ground.

Entrance to Top of the Rock

mikecphoto /

Hop on the Ride Bus Theater

Ply the busy streets of New York on a custom-built theater bus with the Ride.

The 90-minute interactive tour will bring you to Midtown Manhattan and Times Square on a double-decker bus with floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

It’s the best way to go people-watching!

You can watch street shows and get fun facts from the hosts onboard.

Drive to over ten neighborhoods and see more than 50 landmarks while comfortably seated in a theater-like configuration.

The Ride Bus Theater tour starts and ends at Patrick’s Restaurant on West 42nd Street.

Climb the Empire State Building

Exterior of the Empire State Building

ruigsantos /

The Empire State Building is arguably New York’s most famous landmark.

Located on West 34th Street, the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper has become the city’s symbol since it opened in 1931.

The building has three observatories on the 80th, 86th, and 102nd floors, where you can see the famous New York skyline.

There are two types of access for visitors.

Binoculars on Empire State Building's main deck

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The Main Deck access includes the viewing deck on the 80th floor and the exhibits on the 2nd and 86th floors.

Meanwhile, the Top Deck access includes all three floors and the viewing deck on the 102nd floor.

Some tickets let you visit twice in one day—in the morning and at night—if you want different views of the city.

Climb the Empire State Building and see New York landmarks from 1,200 feet above the ground.

Observation deck in the Empire State Building

Antonio Gravante /

Go Skating at the Rink in Rockefeller Center

Night scene at Rockefeller Center's rink

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One of the most iconic activities in New York is skating at the Rockefeller Center.

Skating on The Rink has become a winter tradition among New Yorkers and tourists.

You may have even seen it in movies!

A General Admission ticket secures your spot on the ice on your selected date.

Memberships are also offered for an all-season pass, a locker, and event priority access.

Skating on Rockefeller Center's ice rink

aiyoshi597 /

You can even book lessons if you’re a beginner skater.

The rink becomes a roller skate park called Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace during warmer months.

There are themed nights and special performances that will take you back to the 70s.

The Rockefeller Center Rink is a year-round skating park for the young and the young at heart.

Aerial view of Rockefeller Center's rink

T photography /

Design Your Own M&Ms at M&M’s World New York

Exterior of M&M’s World New York

NYC Russ /

Located in the heart of Broadway, M&M’s World New York is every chocolate lover’s dream destination.

The 25,000-square-foot store has endless supplies of M&M’s chocolates, merchandise, and New York-themed M&M’s products on all three floors.

Choose from 16 colors and customize your M&M’s with the Personalized Printer.

Lady LIberty M&M sculpture in M&M’s World New York

MarinaMonroe /

Print a message or a photo of your chocolate and take it home as a souvenir.

M&M’s characters walk around the store, so this is your chance to meet your favorite and have your photos taken.

If you’re a big M&M fan, M&M’s World New York is a must-see.

Colorful M&M dispenser in M&M’s World New York

Gregorio Koji /

Grab Drinks at St. Cloud Rooftop

St. Cloud Rooftop is Knickerbocker Hotel’s luxury rooftop bar that overlooks Times Square.

The bar is at 6 Times Square and has stylish indoor and outdoor seating options for a romantic date night.

It has an excellent cocktail menu, craft beers, and an upscale small plate menu that changes every season.

Try the Mezcal Express or Miss Pavlova while munching on Marinated Mixed Olives.

You can enjoy a wide selection of wines by the glass and pair them with cheese and charcuterie.

Here’s a fun fact.

St Cloud Rooftop Bar donates $5 to the Save the Children Foundation for every drink purchased!

See the Drawings of the Street Artists of Times Square

A Street Artist at Times Square

Alena Veasey /

If you’re looking for a unique souvenir to remind you of your trip, let the street artists of Times Square make your caricature.

From 11:00 p.m., you’ll usually see artists with foldable stands and chairs on the east side of Seventh Avenue.

Each artist has a different style, so check out their work before committing to a sit-down.

A girl posing for a sketch at Times Square

emin kuliyev /

Forget the “I love NYC” shirts and get a fun sketch of yourself instead.

You can even ask your artist to superimpose your face on your favorite character’s body.

You’ll have a one-of-a-kind souvenir to take home in a few minutes.

A person holding a Street Artist sketch

emin kuliyev /

Watch Times Square Light Up during Midnight Moment

Bright billboard during Midnight Moment

Seribisognaesserlo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You may know Times Square because of its famous billboards, but they display more than the usual advertisements.

Midnight Moment is a digital public art program where Times Square billboards show digital artwork every night from 11:57 p.m. until 12:00 a.m.

The show has gone on since 2012 and has given artists a massive platform, with millions of tourists anticipating the display.

Times Square’s busy intersection becomes a giant outdoor gallery with artworks synchronized on over 90 electronic billboards.

Stay up late for the Midnight Moment.

Take Photos at One Times Square

2022 sign on One Times Square

Xackery Irving /

One Times Square is one of the most-photographed buildings in New York, thanks to the many billboards on its façade.

Cyrus L. W. Eidlitz designed the 25-story neo-Gothic style building in 1904 as the headquarters of The New York Times.

It’s famous for the annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, which traces its roots to 1904 when the Times newspaper moved its headquarters to the building.

View of One Times Square at night

pisaphotography /

To mark the move, the Times held a New Year’s Eve event on December 31, 1904, with a fireworks display on the building’s roof.

In 1908, editor Adolf Ochs used a lit ball dropped from a flagpole to mark the New Year.

Ball drop celebration at One Times Square

Ryan Rahman /

Final Thoughts

Times Square is a melting pot of cultures from all over the world.

You may know it from movies as a busy intersection with gigantic billboards flashing all day.

However, there’s more to it than just pedestrians and tourists on foot.

Try the best things to do in Times Square and discover what’s in store!

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