Times Square is considered by many to be the crossroads of the world.
It is, more literally, the crossroads of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. The two thoroughfares cross each other at 44th street, with Broadway diagonally connecting Manhattan’s Upper West Side to its Lower East Side. Whether you’ve been there or not, everyone knows the storied site as the venue for the New Year’s Eve ball drop, and who among us has never seen the famous kiss photo from V-Day? These are just mere suggestions, however, of the rich history of Times Square.
Times Square was once called Long Acre Square, and thus it remained until the New York Times moved there from its downtown headquarters in 1904. The Times built on a triangular parcel of land between Seventh Avenue and Broadway at 42nd Street.
The building was designed to imitate Giotto’s tower in Florence and rose to a spectacular height of 25 stories which, when including its massive subterranean pressroom, would have made it the tallest ever built at the time. In the 1960s the building’s ornate terra cotta and limestone façade were removed, stripping it to its steel skeleton in order to install a smooth, white marble skin. Soon, though, this façade would virtually disappear behind advertising signs and video screens.
When the Times moved in, the surrounding area quickly became the heart of the city, with dozens of theaters and elegant hotels cropping up. Some of the more notable additions were the Ziegfeld Follies, Tin Pan Alley, vaudeville theaters, cinemas, restaurants – like Lindy’s, the eminent cheesecake spot – and eventually, in decades to come, sex shops and arcades that featured a different kind of cheesecake.
The history of Times Square has had its ups and downs, but currently it is indisputably enjoying a period of serious “up.”
Today there are countless Times Square attractions, including the world’s largest video display screen – which stands eight stories tall and is almost the length of a football field.
After you’ve stood mesmerized by the variety and size of the many Times Square video, you’ll begin to notice all the other attractions that are unique to Times Square. You can pose for a photo with your favorite cartoon character – like Woody from Toy Story or Minnie Mouse – or with any of the various “desnudas” – bare-breasted ladies painted with images of the American flag and other iconic designs (they work for tips, so don’t be caught off guard).
After the photo shoot, head over to the TKTS Half-Price Ticket Booth to see which Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are offering discounted tickets. Then, get a coffee or a snack, grab a seat and take in the panoramic vista of so much humanity, technology and energy.
A Times Square map shows a few city blocks adjacent to the Broadway Theater District, Restaurant Row (46th Street) and the Diamond District, but it could never capture the sheer vitality of the place.
Any visit to New York City simply must include a stop in Times Square: a place to gather, celebrate and commune with the extraordinary energy that makes New York City the center of the universe.