Thanks for visiting Free Tours by Foot New York!
This post covers things to do in Times Square including free and night activities, shopping, restaurants, a Times Square map, and a self-guided walking tour.
We will show you the best attractions as well as provide tips on how to get discounts on tickets for Broadway shows.
Let’s dig in.
TIP: Many popular attractions in or near Times Square, such as Top of the Rock and Madame Tussauds are included for free with all of the tourist discount passes as well as hop-on-hop-off bus ticket packages.
Read our post comparing all the passes available to you.
Times Square is not really a square. What is technically Times Square is the four quarters created where 7th Ave. and Broadway intersects in Midtown Manhattan.
However, most New Yorkers refer to the larger neighborhood as Times Square, which stretches north and south from 40th St. to roughly 52nd St. and east and west from 8th Ave to 6th Ave.
Times Square is easily accessible by multiple subways and buses. Use this Google map to get exact directions from your starting point to Times Square.
| By Subway:
|| By Bus:
TIP: If you are considering a hop-on-hop-off bus to transport you around or to get an overview of NYC, then keep in mind that just about every company and tour stops in Times Square.
One could spend hours in Times Square shopping, people watching and being amazed by the billboards.
The ”crossroads of the world” as it is known, is jam-packed with free entertainers as well. See for yourself via their real-time webcam!
In 2016, the city decided to make things a little less chaotic in Times Square by designating certain areas for specific activities.
See their cheat sheet (pictured on the right) to see the zones.
From innovative public art projects to entertainment options for all ages, check their website to see what is happening that day, that month and seasonally.
Amazing things appear in Times Square – in 2012 a coordinated project for Yoko Ono’s conceptual art piece IMAGINE PEACE took place in Times Square.
Every night from 11:57 pm to midnight, you can witness the world’s largest digital art exhibition where the huge billboards in Times Square are synchronized resulting in three fabulous moments of the same whimsical imagery.
Times Square is one of the best places to sit and watch the world rush past.
Grab a seat in the pedestrian zone or sit on the famous red TKTS steps. (By the way, TKTS sells discount Broadway tickets, so check it out!
(Pictured left to right: Yoko Ono Imagine Peace project, Elmo, The Naked Cowboy, Gospel Choir)
Say hi to the Statue of Liberty, hug Elmo, say thanks to the super-heroes who keep the world safe!
Keep in mind that these performers are not working for the city. They are working on tips.
Dressed in only tighty-whities covering the rated -x parts, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat, Robert John Burck can be found in Times Square playing his country tunes and posing for photos with tourists.
For the full story of how this simple dude from California became a New York icon, see our post about the famous Naked Cowboy.
It’s free, it’s fun and it’s in Times Square. No need to travel to Harlem for a great Gospel Service.
The Times Square Church is a lesser-known church that happens to have a fantastic choir.
It’s located at 234 West 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Aves. Find more information about it below.
NYC has lots of free TV tapings, including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The show taping goes from around 5.30 pm to 7 pm. For information on how to get tickets, click here.
TIP: For even more suggestions of things to do in the area and around the city, be sure to stop by official NYC Information Center in Times Square located on Broadway between 43rd and 44th Streets.
Also, check out our guide to things to do at night in NYC.
TIP: Several of the attractions listed below are included free with the purchase of most NYC tourist discount passes as well as several bus company combo tickets.
Check out our extensive post, Tourist Attractions in NYC.
234 W 42nd St between 7th and 8th Aves.
The world-famous wax figure attraction has over 200 wax figures of famous musicians, A-list stars, sports legends, world leaders and more.
The Marvel Super Hero 4D ultra-sensory superheroes film is fantastic. (Superhero fans, take a look at our free self-guided tour to Superhero Locations in NYC.)
See our post on Madame Tussauds to find discounts on tickets.
TIP: Consider buying a value package that combines admission to Madame Tussauds with a Big Bus Night Tour. Read our post on New York Bus Tours to see more information.
234 West 42nd Street between 7th & 8th Avenues
More than 500 real artifacts, wildly fun interactive experiences, and twenty themed galleries of strange and fascinating things in this interactive museum.
Find out about getting discounts and deals on tickets here.
226 West 44th Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
Using photo-real animation with giant projection screens and immersive sound, your simulated ocean voyage will feel real.
This is a great activity for families with children as there is a great deal of interactive technology including touch screens, holograms, and games involving ocean conservation/research.
This is also a good activity for night owls since it is open late (until 10:30 pm Sunday – Thursday and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays).
Find out about prices, hours and more at their website.
325 W 38th St. bet 8th and 9th Aves.
Escape rooms feature hi-tech machines including laser security systems to recreate the environment of the theme you choose.
OMEscape is great for groups of friends, families and some themes that are appropriate for kids as well. According to YELP and TripAdvisor, it’s a 5-star activity.
You can book a slot during their open hours which are 11 am-11 pm every day. It is a bit pricey, at about $31 per person. For more information visit their website.
In addition to the attractions listed above, here are a few other ways to keep your kids entertained in Times Square.
216 W 44th Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
The 50,000-square-foot exhibition has incredibly detailed miniature models of cities and countries of the world with iconic sites from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
See a wee Buckingham Palace, a mini Grand Central (pictured on right), and a tiny Taj Mahal.
They even have moving cars, trains, planes, and boats! For an additional fee, you can have a miniature 3d print of yourself that you can place anywhere in Gulliver’s world!
Find out the details on their website.
209 W 42nd Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
In the heart of Times Square is the New Victory, New York City’s first and only full-time performing arts theater for kids and families. Performances are appropriate for kids 1 1/2 years old and up to 12 years old.
They have a full show calendar with a rotating array of plays, circus acts, dancing, puppets, and more. You can filter your search by age or date.
In the lobby, kids can engage with props from the current show. They also offer workshops teaching performance skills from puppetry to circus arts to hip hop.
It’s an affordable and unique experience that your kids aren’t likely to forget. Check their website for more information.
40th to 42nd Streets bet. 5th and 6th Aves.
Located just one block from Times Square is Bryant Park, an oasis of green in the heart of Midtown.
Not only is there a full range of activities for people of all ages throughout the year, but they also have special children’s activities.
In the warmer months, your kids can visit the outdoor “Reading Room” or watch StoryTime, a free hour of music, stories, and jokes.
The park also has two ping-pong tables, board games and other activities that are fun for any age. There is also an old-fashioned carousel open all year for $3 per ride.
In winter, the family can go ice-skating. Admission to the rink is free, and you can rent skates at a reasonable price. Read our post on Ice Skating in New York City for details.
For other ideas, see our extensive post on Things to do with Kids in New York City.
Some of the top attractions listed above, like Madame Tussauds or Ripley’s Believe it or Not! stay open until 10 pm or beyond!
Below are some more things to do at night. For more ideas, see our post about things to do at night in NYC.
With dozens of theaters with box-office hits to smaller, high-quality shows, there are so many choices.
Don’t be put off by the cost of tickets. You can find discounted tickets if you know where to look.
Here are some ways to save on Broadway tickets:
Bowlmor Times Square has 48 bowling lanes, an arcade, billiards, and lounge areas. It’s uniquely-themed bowling lounges, depicting specific places and times in the history of NYC.
You can bowl, dine, and chill out in a ‘speakeasy’, Chinatown, Central Park, or Coney Island without leaving Times Square.
It is located at 222 W. 44th St bet 8th Ave and Broadway and is open Sundays to Thursdays from 2:00 pm – 12:00 am and Friday/Saturday 2:00 pm – 2:00 am.
Times Square has several lounges and bars where you can take in great views of the lights on Broadway.
To find out about other rooftop bars near Times Square and throughout the city, see our post Rooftop Bars with great skyline views.
If you want to skip the drink and just enjoy the view, see our post, Best New York Skyline Views.
We offer pay-what-you-like night tours that include Times Square.
Times Square is the place to take care of all the shopping you want to do but can’t squeeze into your days of sightseeing.
So many shops in Times Square are open every night until at least 10 pm, with some staying open as late as Midnight or even 1 am!
Check the official Times Square website for the list of over 100 stores and find out who’s open late.
200 West 40th Street bet. 7th and 8th Avenues
Midtown Comics is a comic book and toy marketplace and it is open late! This colorful store is fun to visit even if you aren’t a huge comics fan.
Comic book lovers can buy new releases and find vintage issues. They also sell graphic novels, sci-fi books, and collectibles.
Their hours are Mon-Sat 8 am to Midnight and Sunday Noon – 8 pm. See their website for more information.
TIP: Superhero fans should take a look at our free self-guided Superhero tour to visit many sites from your favorite superhero movies!
Carolines at 1626 Broadway at 49th Street is a legendary comedy club is where performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, and Rosie O’Donnell got their start.
Broadway Comedy Club at 318 West 53rd Street features at least four nationally known headliners for a performance that lasts from 90 minutes to two hours.
LOL Times Square is a casual comedy club offers a variety of lineups and even has a family option since as we know, New York-style comedy can be a bit raunchy at times.
TIP: Always check on Groupon for deals to comedy clubs, or lots of other types of entertainment.
Also, see our post on Stretching Your Dollar at the Best NYC Comedy Clubs.
For more great things to do after the sun goes down, check out our guide for things to do at night in NYC.
Times Square has so many dining options we recommend some of the best places below.
A highlight for ‘one-stop shopping’ is City Kitchen, a huge food market located at 8th Ave. and 44th Street. It’s open daily from 6:30 am-9 pm. It’s affordable and the space has ample seating. Food choices include affordable burgers, sushi, ramen noodles, tacos, and middle-eastern food. Save room for dessert and get one of the best doughnuts in NYC at Dough.
Here are other good choices at different price ranges:
Cheap ($5-10 per person)
Inexpensive ($10-20 per person)
Moderate ($20-40 per person)
Expensive ($50 and above per person)
Dining on Famous Restaurant Row – West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue
Restaurant Row is one block of over 20 restaurants that focus on the pre-Broadway show goers and post-show theater folk. Most of the restaurants are long-time, well-known establishments.
You’ll find French, Brazilian, Japanese, Spanish, American, Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern, Italian, and even the unusual kosher Jewish-style Italian.
TIP: Many restaurants on Restaurant Row and surrounding streets offer pre-theater prix-fixe menus at reasonable prices and timed to get you to your show on time. Here are a few of the best deals:
Becco Founded by celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich, has a daily pasta tasting menu that’s innovative and filling. Their tasting menu is priced at $18.95 for lunch and an amazing $22.95 for dinner.
Le Rivage For theatergoers, you can get a pre-theater menu for $39 between 3 pm to 7:30 pm If you come after 7:30 pm it’s an even better deal. Prix fixe dinner is $29! Look on YELP and get a free glass of wine
Hourglass Tavern Prix-Fixe pre-theater dinner is 4-8 pm for just $23.95 with soup or salad, entrée, and choice of dessert.
For more Restaurant Row listings and reviews, look here.
Stores in Times Square stay open quite late. Most are open until 10 pm, and many open until midnight!
Times Square shops that kids love:
Click here for even more shops in the area.
TIP: You can also view this tour on our GPS-enabled audio tour app (though this tour currently has no audio).
This is an interactive map. Use your mouse to scroll around.
Click on the box in the upper right-hand corner for a larger version of the map.
Stop A – Times Tower (1905) + the Time Ball – One Times Square (corner of Broadway and 7th Avenue, West 42nd and West 43rd Street)
The arrival of electricity and the subway system transformed the square. Adolph S. Ochs, owner and publisher of The New York Times from 1896 to 1935, opened Times Tower in 1905.
It was the second tallest building in the city at the time, but only eight years later the Times outgrew the space and moved to a new location, not before beginning the New Year’s Eve Spectacular – a tradition that continues today.
The building is topped by the time ball and has been mostly vacant since 1995, apart from a Walgreens on the two lower levels, and it generates more than $23 million a year in advertising revenue.
‘The Ball’ is a 12 feet (3.5 m) diameter sphere, weighing 11,875 pounds (5400 kg) and covered with a total of 2,688
Waterford Crystal triangles. It is capable of creating more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns and has been the ball since 2007 – the latest in a long series of redesigns since the ball was first dropped in 1908.
The actual notion of a ball ‘dropping’ to signal the passage of time dates back to England’s Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833, where a ball would drop at one o’clock every afternoon to allow the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers.
An estimated one million people fill Times Square every New Year’s Eve, with millions more watching nationwide and over a billion throughout the world.
The celebrations in Times Square feature star-studded musical performances, balloons and more than one ton of confetti. Revelers begin to gather in the late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, with prime viewing areas filling up quickly.
Then at exactly 11:59 p.m. EST, the Ball makes its 60-second descent down the flagpole.
There are no portable restrooms in Times Square during the celebration, no alcohol is permitted, there are no public food vendors and temperatures are often below freezing. Learn some tips on getting a good spot in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Stop B – Conde Nast Building at 4 Times Square (2000), (Broadway between West 42nd and 43rd streets)
This building has appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. (See our free self-guided Superhero tour to visit many sites from your favorite superhero movies!)
This 809 ft (247 m) tall building is among the tallest in New York City and one of the finest examples of “green” energy-saving skyscraper design in the United States.
Environmentally friendly chillers, along with an insulating and shading curtain-wall ensure that the building does not need to be heated or cooled for the majority of the year.
The headquarters of the Conde Nast magazine empire occupied much of the building before relocating to the new World Trade Center.
Today, it’s current tenants include the major international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, H&M, SS & C Technologies, Inc. and NASDAQ MarketSite. The Nasdaq ticker graces the building’s lower level facade.
The building’s management company may also sound familiar: the Durst Organization. The Durst family is part of a closed circle of real estate owners who date back to the early 1900s and who still dominate Manhattan’s prime office space market.
The organization is (as of 2017) currently run by Douglas Durst, age 71. He is one of two brothers in the family. Robert Durst, the other brother is not involved in the family business. Rather, he has been the suspect of three unrelated murders.
A hotel until 1920, after which it was turned into office space and was the home of Newsweek magazine from 1940 to 1959, it was converted back into a hotel in 2013.
The building is in the Beaux-Arts style, constructed of red brick with terracotta details. It was built by John Jacob Astor the 4th.
There is a rooftop bar, St. Cloud, with a great view of Times Square, so if you are thirsty or hungry, or just want to take in the view, head on up.
Stop D – The Environmentally Friendly Billboard – 3 Times Square (at 7th Avenue and 42nd Street)
It’s 126 feet (38 m) wide and 47 feet (15 m) high and fitted with 64 solar panels and 16 wind turbines, some of which are visible from street level.
By generating its own electricity the sign saves around $15,000 a month, and annually prevents 18 tons of carbon-spewing into the atmosphere.
Stop E – Broadway Pedestrian Plaza – Times Square
One of the BEST people-watching locations in New York City. In 2009, Times Square was transformed into a pedestrian plaza ease traffic congestion and cut down on pedestrian accidents.
This is a great place to sit down and watch the world go rushing by!
Stop F – The United States Armed Forces Recruiting Station
Situated on a small traffic island between Broadway and 7th Ave is the most famous recruiting station in the country.
When it was first erected in 1946 it was a simple ”cottage style building” that was so small it didn’t even have a bathroom for the recruiters!
In 1999, the current station building was created and is a state-of-the-art structure that resembles a three-dimensional U.S. flag.
Its high-tech sleek design fits in seamlessly with the neon lights of Times Square. It is much more than just another flashy sight- this recruiting station receives over 1,000 applicants every year.
Stop G – Site of the former Paramount Theatre Broadway between West 43rd and 44th Street
This former illustrious stage and movie theater opened in 1926 with a film showing of the Paramount film, “God Gave Me Twenty Cents”.
During its 40-year run, the Paramount showcased some of the most famous and talented performers and movies of the day, including Frank Sinatra.
The theater itself was magnificent in design, having been modeled after the Paris Opera House with white marble columns, red velvet drapes, a grand staircase, and an enormous crystal chandelier in the lobby.
Despite its splendor, the theater fell victim to the times and closed in 1966. The auditorium was razed and converted into office space, and the once majestic entrance and lobby were gutted to make way for retail space.
Today the ground floor of the former theater is the Times Square branch of the Hard Rock Café.
Stop H – One Astor Plaza (1972) – At 7th Avenue between West 44th and West 45 Sts.
A 745 ft (227 m) skyscraper completed in 1972, it is currently the headquarters for Viacom and houses the MTV Studios, Minskoff Theatre, Best Buy Theater, and some retail outlets.
The three MTV studios are used to record segments for MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and other affiliated networks.
This is also the location where one of the most famous photographs in NYC’s history was taken. The photo was taken as New Yorkers were celebrating the surrender of the Empire of Japan (Victory over Japan Day).
Stop I – Location of Failed Times Square Bombing Attempt – Southeast corner of 45th and Broadway
In 2010, would-be bomber Faisal Shahzad parked an SUV filled with a crude propane bomb just outside of an entrance to the theater hosting the Lion King.
Stop J – The Naked Cowboy, Topless Women, and Superheroes – Times Square
There are counterfeit goods for sale, as well as fraudulent show tickets, and passes to some of the most suspect comedy shows in town.
Times Square also hosts topless women known as ‘desnudas’ and costumed characters who pose for photos in the hope of receiving tips.
However, there is an exception – the famous Naked Cowboy. Dressed in only tighty-whities and a guitar, Robert John Burck struts his stuff while playing country tunes and posing for photos with passersby.
The Naked Cowboy gladly accepts gratuities, but unlike his aggressive neighbors, Burck simply relies on the words TIPS written on his boots and the kindness of visitors.
Stop K – Billboards on Broadway
The advertising billboards that surround Times Square are called ‘spectaculars’ and comprise some of the most expensive outdoor advertising space on the planet.
They raise approximately $23 million per year in revenue, with an average cost per spectacular of around $1.1 million to $4 million a year.
It’s quite a bargain considering that advertising during the Super Bowl costs up to $3.8 million for 30 seconds.
All those ‘spectaculars’ consume about 161 Megawatts, enough to power 161,000 average US homes, three times the power used by all of Sierra Leone, and twice the electricity used to power all the casinos in Las Vegas.
The Most Spectacular of the Spectaculars – Broadway from West 45th Street to West 46th Streets.
Opened late in 2014, the massive billboard spanning the entire block between West 45th Street and West 46th Street stands eight stories tall and is nearly as long as a football field. It’s also higher resolution than any television on the market.
Stop L – Palace Theater – West 47th Street and 7th Avenue
When it opened in 1913 it was the most famous vaudeville theater in the United States and every performer dreamed of playing the palace. If you landed a gig at the Palace you could say you finally “made it.”
The ‘Who’s Who’ list of celebrities who have performed on the Palace stage, including Ethel Barrymore, Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Bette Midler, Shirley MacLaine and Diana Ross.
In the late 1980s, a 45-story DoubleTree hotel tower was built above the theater and now the theater facade is practically invisible behind an enormous wall of billboards. Only the marquee is visible.
Stop M – Duffy Square – Intersection of Broadway & 7th Ave at 47th Street
He journeyed into the thick of battle to recover wounded soldiers and is the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the United States Army.
He also conducted vital work in Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square and is honored by a statue on the island that carries his name.
The only Times Square statue honoring a Broadway legend, George M. Cohan was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, and producer.
He wrote, composed, produced, and appeared in more than three dozen Broadway musicals and published more than 300 songs including the standards ‘Over There’, ‘Give My Regards to Broadway’, ‘The Yankee Doodle Boy’ and ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’.
Known as ‘the man who owned Broadway’, he is considered the father of American musical comedy.
Stop N – TKTS Booth – Intersection of Broadway and 7th Ave at 47th Street
The TKTS booth sells same-day discount Broadway show tickets.
The shows with availability are listed via the TKTS Mobile App, and other TKTS booths are located in NYC.
If you want to save money on a show, read our post on how to get discount Broadway tickets.
Stop O – Hotel Edison (1931) – 228 West 47th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue
Built in 1931, Hotel Edison has room for 1,000 guests over 26 floors and is one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in New York with its curved edges, bold lines, and an interior that is both elegant and bold.
When the hotel opened, the lights were famously turned on by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb.
Stop P – St. Malachy’s Catholic Church (1902) – 239 West 49th Street between Broadway & Eighth Avenue
By 1920, St. Malachy’s found itself in the heart of a burgeoning theater district and the traditional parishioners were joined by actors, dancers, musicians, craftsmen, and tourists.
St. Malachy’s subsequently scheduled masses, confessions, and missions to accommodate the rigors of theater and nightclub schedules, and on opening nights, many in show business still light candles for the success of their shows.
Stop Q – Times Square Church – 237 West 51st Street, on the corner of Broadway
There is no need to go to Harlem or join a guided tour to hear great gospel music. The Times Square Church, a multi-denominational congregation, has regular sermons, services, and performances from gospel choirs.
Volunteers from the congregation participate in over forty ministries around the world, ranging from feeding the homeless in New York City to staffing an orphanage in South Africa.
Stop R – Ed Sullivan Theater – Broadway between West 53rd and West 54th streets
This 13-story theater was built in the 1920s by Arthur Hammerstein. Opening night was November 30, 1927, and since then it has been a place for top-notch performances and talent to perform.
The Central Broadcasting Network (CBS) bought the theater in 1935 and it was a radio broadcast station. With the invention and spread of television in the 1950s, CBS transformed the theater into a television studio. For the next 17 years, the theater was named CBS-TV Studio 50.
Then, in 1953 the most significant change to the theater occurred. CBS moved one of its lesser-known TV personalities from a show held at CBS’s Maxine Elliott Theater. That man, of course, was Ed Sullivan.
Thus, the Ed Sullivan Show was born and would broadcast For the next 23 years, and be seen by millions of people across the nation.
Perhaps the most famous moment in musical history took place in the Theater on February 9, 1964, when The Beatles made their United States television debut. Approximately 73 million viewers tuned in to watch the show.
In 1993, David Letterman began a 22 year run as the host of the wildly popular show, “Late Show”.
In 2015 comedian Stephen Colbert took over the nightly slot and is carrying on Letterman’s “Late Show” legacy.
Check out our post on getting tickets to see the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
If you have enjoyed this self-guided tour, here are nearby neighborhoods to check out either with one of our pay-what-you-like guided tours or our self-guided tours and audio tours: