I’ve written about Times Square quite a bit since working for a travel company. I knew it was a favorite for New York City student tours and that whether you love it or hate it, it’s kind of a must for first time visitors to the city. New York City has always been a favorite choice for students, so we’ve included Times Square in a lot of itineraries over the years. And, of course, when we travel to the city – familiarizing our travel professionals with the attractions you want to see, we tend to include this bustling, famous intersection. We all simply have to decide for ourselves what we think of the crazy, brilliant, crowded, unique Times Square.
And truthfully, most students do love it. I was beyond both high school and college when I visited the first time, and still I loved it. But some things surprised me. First of all, since I’d seen it on so many itineraries as an attraction in and of itself, I didn’t realize quite how often we would zip through or by it during our NYC visit. I should have expected that though. Times Square is the convergence of so many streets and the location for so many favorite NYC attractions that you’ll almost definitely end up there at some point in your visit whether you plan for it or not.
One of the many ways I’ve written about Times Square is to list its stores and museums as well as its fame as the hub of the theater district. We found ourselves in Times Square several times on our recent visit. We ate there, toured its fun – sometimes whacky – museums, returned to it for the evening’s broadway show, and even waved to our families on Times Square web cams. If you have Broadway on your list, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Virgin Records, the Hershey Store, and so many other sights popular to students, you’ll find yourself in the busy intersection as well.
Something I did expect and which did not disappoint, was the lights. I was overwhelmed by the mass of billboards, colors, information, and sights towering over us in each direction. They were fascinating by day and somewhat breathtaking at night. I was also struck by how many people crowded the sidewalks at any given time of the day. And I was amazed by the variety of stores, restaurant, and entertainment just in this little corner of the world.
Still, my favorite part, by far, was something I hadn’t known about before. It was fairly new when I was there – built temporarily about a year before and only recently made permanent. I felt a part of history somehow, experiencing it so soon after its creation, especially since I could imagine it being a famous part of Times Square for years to come.
Once as crowded with vehicles as with people, Times Square now has a section only for people. It’s a pretty pedestrian plaza, and I loved it. We learned from local business managers that the plaza began on a trial basis and nearby establishment owners weren’t sure how the change would affect their business. The city wondered how it would affect the overall flow of traffic. Since the plaza is permanent now, apparently most concerned decided the plaza was a good idea.
And I heartily agree. I found it a perfect meeting place for groups. Students on educational travel tours can spread out to shop and enjoy the sights for a couple of hours and meet again at the simple chairs and tables on the plaza or perhaps by the ticket center or the bleachers. I could imagine grabbing coffee and a snack and just sitting in the plaza for people-watching or to escape from the world by getting lost in its crowds. I like to gain perspective by the ocean or under sturdy trees, but the Times Square plaza could be a great place for perspective as well, right in the midst of a world that’s busy and eclectic and one exciting sight after another.
The Times Square plaza has made this landmark intersection even more wonderful and inviting than before. It’s one of several efforts I noticed by this amazing city to open its arms to visitors and provide a safe and friendly place for them to be. Hopefully you’ll visit when you are there as well. And, like me, it will be one more reason to fall in love with New York.