Formerly called Longacre Square, Times Square owes its current name to a building that was built there to serve as the headquarters of the New York Times. This square is one of the most famous tourist spots in the world 🌎 and represents the symbol of Manhattan’s glamor and shine. Thematic stores and giant screens that are always advertising make the delight of all visitors. The lights, the colours, the noise, the number of people and cars passing and beeping 🚗 are the best example of the essence of New York. Even more than the Statue of Liberty, Times Square is undoubtedly the city’s postcard!
With around 39 million visitors a year, Times Square is considered the most visited tourist spot in the world, and it is in this triangular square that the intersection of two of New York’s most important avenues is located: Broadway and 7th Avenue. It hasn’t always lived in glorious times, but nowadays it is the stage for several shows, stores and one of the favorite places for brands to advertise their products on giant screens.
Until the end of 1899, the place where Times Square is nowadays located was nothing more than open land far from the most populated areas of New York. Adolph Ochs, editor and former owner of the well-knowned American newspaper 📰 New York Times, chose this area to build his business headquarters – a 25-floor building on the south of the square (the tallest building in the city at that time!). Many dubbed him crazy for building the headquarters in this area but the truth is that in April 1904, this intersection of Broadway and 7th avenue, previously known as “The Longacre” (name given by the British colonists) was renamed to Times Square. The Times Building (the headquarters of the New York Times) is located in One Times Square and is one of the most important buildings in the square because it’s at its top that the ball falls since 1907 on New Year’s Eve ✨. At the time, the region started to develop and the city’s theaters moved almost all (43 in total) to the region which ended up becoming synonymous with entertainment, mainly musical theater.
However, at the end of 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crash 💥 triggered a devastating economic crisis in the United States. Times Square was badly affected by this crisis as the various unemployed people went there with signs of protest and job search. There were many who were so desperate for jobs that they accepted $1 a week. The area started to improve little by little, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected in 1933, was one of the biggest guilty. He was responsible for placing most of the luminous posters and screens that, today, delight the visitors.
Although the region began to grow in the 1970s, Times Square was one of the areas with the most crime 🔫 in the city, drugs and pornography. The area was socially and economically degraded until the 1980s when Mayor David Dinkins started an economic revitalization program. Street policing has been increased and pornography stores have all been closed. Since then, the region has only evolved… several buildings started to be built, lots of brands started to open themed stores, the giant screens were all replaced by new high-tech ones and the theaters were renovated. Currently, all Times Square buildings are required to install illuminated signs for advertising purposes. Just for the sake of curiosity, an ad on one of the giant screens costs anything between 1 million and 5 million a year (just some coins!).
New Year’s Eve celebration 🎆
The tradition of the crystal ball falling on top of One Times Square began on December 31, 1907 and continues today to attract thousands of people to the Square each New Year. The ball falls about 43 meters during the last 60 seconds of the year. Six different balls have been built since 1907 and the current one is 4 meters in diameter, 32,256 efficient LED lamps 💡 and weighs 5400kg. It’s so heavy because it has 2,688 triangular panels of Waterford crystals capable of producing a billion colors and design combinations.
One of the best and most privileged views for the New Year’s Eve event is the one from the Marriot Marquis hotel, with the night usually costing $3,200 per person 🛏️!
Attractions and Shops
In Times Square, all buildings are required to have giant screens to display advertising. Toshiba’s billboard (under the clock and the ball that drops in the New Year) is one of the most famous. In addition to this, there are others that are also known: the one from Coca Cola (above the red stairs of TKTS), the NASDAQ one, Samsung (above that of Coca Cola) and the interactive of Forever 21. This last panel from time to time projects people on the street (it’s an opportunity to appear on a giant screen in Times Square! – what a dream but it didn’t happen for me). In the buildings behind the luminous panels are the studios and offices of many of the entertainment industry giants. There are, for example, the studios of the American television network ABC, those of MTV and Virgin Records.
From clothing stores 👚 to chocolate shops 🍫, souvenir shops and Christmas goods, the number and diversity of stores in Times Square is monumental and most deserve a quick visit. I highlighted here my top 5 stores in Times Square: Line Friends, Disney Store, Hershey’s Chocolate World, M&M’s World and Christmas in New York. It’s obvious that most of these stores are frequented more by tourists than by residents and due to the central location the prices are well inflated.
There are so many incredible places to visit in Times Square that, to make it easier, I chose to create a map where I marked all the points I consider relevant.
Events and Exhibitions
Times Square has an organization that develops projects related to different types of art, such as sculpture or music, and these projects are then displayed next to the billboards. You can see here which project will be in presentation on the dates of your trip.
Times Square is really the center of the world! Obviously, I only know a little more than a dozen countries, but visiting Times Square is so incredible. For now I can say without a doubt that it is my favorite place. It has everything you can expect: color, music, noise, shops, restaurants, lots of people, lots of cars and taxis 🚕,… it even has a touch of magic. It seems that we have left reality and are transported to a parallel environment. It’s not easy at all to explain this feeling!
We arrived in New York around 17.00h, we went to the hotel to left our bags and then we left immediately to start exploring. First of all, we stopped by the Grand Terminal Station which is also amazing and reminds me a lot of the Madagascar and Friends with Benefits movies. Right after a very quick dinner break, we headed to Times Square and that’s when hearts started to beat faster. Traveling to New York has always been a dream of mine, but as it isn’t at all an economic trip I hadn’t managed to do it (read here the whole story about how the trip was provided). When I got to Times Square I felt like I had a dream come true.
The amount of lights that came from the giant screens is brutal! So big and intense that left the eyes very sensitive and it’s hard to take pictures with your eyes open! Not to mention the fact that there are so maaaaaaaany people 🧑🤝🧑🧑🤝🧑🧑🤝🧑🧑🤝🧑 that it’s difficult to find an angle where twenty me plus thousand people wouldn’t appear in the photograph.
We strolled through the various attractions in Times Square for about two hours but then we were so tired 😴 that we decided to return to the hotel to rest. With the time difference between Portugal and the United States combined with an 8-hour flight, we were awake for more than 24 hours! I guess it’s obvious that during the trip I ended up returning there several times because most of the restaurants we chose for dinner were nearby.
⁉️ Curiosity: Times Square was the scene of one of the most famous photographs in the world, published by Alfred Eisenstaedt in “Life” magazine in 1945, which shows a sailor and a nurse kissing each other to celebrate the end of World War II.
Traveling to New York, the city that never sleeps, is spectacular for itself ❤️. And then there is Times Square… the tourist spot that most easily characterizes the life of a New Yorker. The old glamor of Broadway and its theaters live closely with the modern fun and excitement of the city.
I really hope this post has helped you to understand the essence, the history and all the points worth visiting in Times Square. If you still don’t follow the blog on instagram, click here where I share all the new publications, curiosities and tips.
You can read all posts about New York here.