A visit to New York City wouldn’t be complete without checking out Times Square. This city landmark is an exciting hub of entertainment, restaurants, and shops, and it provides all kinds of sightseeing and people-watching. Plus, it’s open 24/7, so there is always something to do in Times Square, New York.
During the day, you can enjoy shopping for souvenirs and high-end items, as well as saying hi to the cast of characters and performers outside. After nightfall, the area becomes one of the best places to go in NYC, thanks to all the evening activities in Times Square.
We always make a point to visit this part of Manhattan whenever we visit the Big Apple since it seems like there is something new to discover each time.
Of course, Times Square can be a dizzying array of sights, sounds, and people, so if you’re not sure what to do here, I’ve got you covered. I’m sharing the top 10 activities and attractions in Times Square so no matter when you’re visiting or who you’re with, you’ll have a great time.
1. See a Broadway show, something to do in Times Square at night
Times Square is also home to the Theatre District, so seeing a Broadway show is one of the best things to do here.
There are dozens of Broadway theaters, and while you can’t go wrong with any of them, some of the top-rated ones are the New Amsterdam Theatre, Lyceum Theatre, and Belasco Theatre. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Times Square at night, consider seeing a play or musical.
You’ll find all kinds of shows to suit any mood, from family-friendly productions and romantic musicals to classic Broadway plays. We’ve seen Aladdin, Chicago, The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, and Wicked, and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Broadway features some of the best actors, set designers, composers, and costumers, so it’s quite a treat.
You can find show tickets here, although if you’re not picky about what you want to see, I recommend checking out the TKTS Pavilion at the Red Stairs, which sells discount Broadway tickets. You can’t always choose the show, but they’re all amazing, so you won’t regret it!
2. Madame Tussauds, a fun thing to do in Times Square as a family
If you’re looking for a fun place in Times Square that appeals to all ages, I recommend Madame Tussauds. This famous wax museum is a fun place to go in NYC with kids, although it’s also a hit with teens and adults.
Madame Tussauds New York has over 200 hyper-realistic wax figures depicting celebrities, politicians, athletes, and fictional characters. The museum is designed with several different galleries and rooms, each focusing on a different scene. This means you can step into the action and take incredible photos that will trick your friends.
Visit Barack Obama in the Oval Office, sit next to Jimmy Fallon on the set of his TV show, and rub elbows with Jennifer Aniston on the red carpet. You’ll also find lots of superheroes and fictional favorites like Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and E.T.
After walking through the wax galleries, check out the museum’s 4D movie based on the Marvel Universe, or try the 7D shooter game that simulates a killer clown invasion on Coney Island.
Visiting Madame Tussauds is a great thing to do in Times Square with family, so if you want to go, I suggest getting your ticket in advance here. Admission is also included in the New York Pass, one of the best tourist passes in NYC.
3. M&M’s World, Disney Store, and other shops in Times Square
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can’t miss a visit to M&M’s World, one of the top attractions in Times Square. This M&M’s-themed store is full of apparel, accessories, toys, and of course, candy. You can even design your own M&Ms with personalized messages or images.
Across the street, you’ll find Hershey’s Chocolate World, one of the best chocolate shops in the city. Here, you can indulge in all kinds of Hershey’s candies, including the iconic Hershey’s chocolate bar, Reese’s cups, Hershey’s Kisses, KitKats, and more.
The Disney Store is another cool place in Times Square to visit with kids. The shop has everything from Disney princess dresses to Marvel action figures, as well as Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic merch.
If you’re more of a sports fan, check out Grand Slam New York, which specializes in Yankees jerseys and gifts. You can get other NYC-themed items here, like clothing and trinkets, so it’s a good place to stop if you want to pick up some souvenirs for the family.
Of course, a shopping trip in Times Square wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Line Friends to see the cute characters and pick up some gifts. There are also several popular clothing stores in the area, including Levi’s, Superdry, Gap, Express, and H&M.
4. Have fun with the Times Square characters and street performers
While shopping and sightseeing in Times Square, you’ll run into all kinds of costumed characters from movies, cartoons, and video games. These friendly faces delight kids and adults alike, and it’s not uncommon to see people posing with these characters for photos.
Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty, Elmo, and Spider-Man are just a few of the characters you’ll see, so keep an eye out for your favorite. Greeting these characters is a fun thing to do in Times Square, and if you take a picture with them, don’t forget to tip a dollar or two!
In addition to the cartoon characters, there are many street performers in the Times Square area. Some are more famous than others, like the Naked Cowboy, who plays his guitar while wearing just cowboy boots, a hat, and undies. He’s been performing here for over 20 years, so he’s a must-see in Times Square.
Other artists and street performers include break dancers, amateur bands, acrobats, and musicians. They perform day and night, so there is always something cool to see while walking through the area.
5. Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square, a famous thing to do in Times Square
If you’re visiting New York City during Christmas time, then don’t miss New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The Times Square Ball Drop is a tradition dating back to 1907 that attracts over a million people each year.
As tourists gather in Times Square, the energy here gets more vibrant and celebratory. Around 6 pm, they begin to raise the famous Times Square Ball, a sparkling sphere with thousands of Waterford Crystals and tens of thousands of LED lights.
Times Square is also the site of the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcast, hosted by Ryan Seacrest. The event includes celebrity appearances and musical performances and is watched by millions of people across the country.
As everyone counts the seconds until midnight, the illuminated ball descends from its pole atop One Times Square. At the stroke of midnight, everyone cheers and applauds, couples kiss, and confetti falls over the crowd. It’s one of the best things to do in Times Square, and something you’ll never forget.
6. Visit the Red Stairs, another popular thing to do in Times Square, NYC
If you stop by the TKTS Pavilion that I mentioned earlier, you’ll see the iconic Red Stairs, one of the coolest places in Times Square.
These glass stairs are in Duffy Square at 47th Street and rise 16 feet over the sidewalk. It’s the perfect spot to take a rest and get an amazing view of Times Square’s iconic landscape of electronic billboards, attractions, and shops. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best free things to do in NYC.
The steps can accommodate about 1,500 people at one time, although there are rarely more than a couple of dozen visitors. At night, the stairs glow ruby red, creating a beautiful, illuminated monument. In fact, the stairs have become a symbol of Times Square’s cultural significance as a top tourist attraction.
Even if you’re just passing by, it’s worth checking out the vantage point from the Red Stairs, as it’s one of the best Times Square landmarks.
7. Eat at Bubba Gump and other restaurants in Times Square
With all the walking you’ll do in Times Square, you’re going to want something to eat to help you recharge. Fortunately, there are lots of great places in Times Square to grab a bite to eat, like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, a famous seafood restaurant based on the movie Forrest Gump.
If you don’t like fish or seafood, check out Ellen’s Stardust Diner at 51st and Broadway. Here, you can order all kinds of typical diner food and all-day breakfast. What makes this venue stand out is its retro 1950s aesthetic and singing waitstaff, dubbed The Stardusters. Also, the diner shares its location with the Iridium jazz club, one of the top live music venues in Times Square.
I recommend City Kitchen, a food court at 44th Street and 8th Avenue for families or those traveling with picky eaters. Planet Hollywood is the perfect place to eat before or after enjoying a show, while the Hard Rock Café serves casual American food with a rock ‘n’ roll twist.
Finally, Los Tacos No. 1 has some of the best tacos in the city and delicious aguas frescas. For dessert, you can’t pass up a visit to Junior’s for a slice of NY-style cheesecake, one of the must-try foods in NYC.
8. Enjoy the Times Square Midnight Moment, an iconic thing to do in Times Square
As I mentioned, Times Square comes to life after dark, and it’s worth staying up late to see the Times Square Midnight Moment. This nightly showcase of digital art spans over 90 electronic billboards from 41st to 49th Streets. The show begins at 11:57 p.m. and goes until midnight.
This art show is one of the coolest attractions in Times Square, and the largest digital art showcase in a public location. The displayed works change every month and feature contemporary artists from New York, the United States, and all around the globe.
Depending on when you visit, you’ll see multi-media video pieces, scenic backdrops, or animated vignettes accompanied by musical compositions. Some of these works are artistic studies while others seek to make a social or political statement.
It’s a short show, but the Midnight Moment is a great way to take in some art, especially if you don’t have enough time to visit one of New York City’s best museums.
9. Experience RISE NY, another great thing to do in Times Square, New York
Among all the fun things to do in Times Square, one of the most family-friendly is RISE NY. This interactive attraction simulates a flight over New York’s most iconic landmarks.
The experience starts with a documentary, followed by a soaring adventure over the Manhattan skyline. RISE NY has a “flying theater” with mobile seats that suspend you 30 feet in the air as well as mist sprayers, wind machines, and aromas to create an immersive experience. The attraction has a 40-foot projection dome, similar to an IMAX theater, to give you the sense of flying over the Big Apple.
RISE NY also has a series of galleries that focus on NYC’s impact on pop culture, fashion, and more. It’s a great alternative to a sightseeing tour, especially if you’re traveling with young kids or older family members. So, if you want to go, I recommend getting your ticket in advance here or with the New York Pass.
While RISE NY is one of the most unique things to do in Times Square, I recommend taking a New York helicopter tour if it’s within your budget. Nothing beats the feeling of flying over the city in a real helicopter, and there are several great options available, like this doors-off flight.
We took that sightseeing flight over Manhattan, and it was well worth it. Not only did we get to sightsee over Times Square, but we also captured awesome photos of Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and other famous landmarks from above.
10. Grab drinks at St. Cloud and other rooftop bars in Times Square
Finally, I recommend ending your visit in Times Square with a refreshing drink at a rooftop bar. Some of the best rooftop bars in New York City are right in this entertainment district, so you don’t have to go far.
For example, Magic Hour on the 18th floor of Moxy Times Square is a whimsical venue with flowers, fairy lights, and twinkling crystals. Here, you can take in the views of the Empire State Building and Theatre District while sipping on a signature cocktail.
I also recommend Bar 54, especially if you want amazing sunset views. It’s on the 54th floor of the Hyatt Centric Times Square, so you can see the sun glinting off the Chrysler Building while enjoying specialty drinks and gourmet bar food.
Another great rooftop bar is St. Cloud, located atop the Knickerbocker Hotel. This upscale bar has indoor and outdoor areas, private balconies, and a cigar lounge overlooking the busy streets of Times Square.
Also, while it’s not a rooftop bar, I’d also add The Rum House to this list. This popular bar/lounge features live jazz music and a classic speakeasy vibe. This place is known for its old-fashioned rum and rum cocktails, although it also serves beer, wine, and bar snacks.
Whichever bar you choose, grabbing drinks after a day of sightseeing or a night at the theater is one of the best things for couples to do in Times Square.
Best hotels in Times Square
There are lots of things to see in Times Square, so if you’re thinking of staying in this area overnight, here are some of the best hotels. You can find more accommodation options in our guide on where to stay in NYC.
- Knickerbocker Hotel – Besides being the home of the St. Cloud rooftop bar, this famous hotel has a gym and pet-friendly rooms.
- New York Marriott Marquis – This hotel is close to Radio City Music Hall and has a lounge and two terraces overlooking the area. Other amenities include three restaurants, a gym, and parking.
- Westin New York at Times Square – The modern rooms at this hotel offer beautiful views of Times Square, and guests can enjoy the on-site cocktail bar and fitness center.
- LUMA Hotel Times Square – This is a friendly and contemporary accommodation with a bar, lots of in-room amenities, continental breakfast, and an excellent location by the flagship Macy’s store.
That’s it for the top attractions in Times Square! I hope you found some interesting places to go in Times Square the next time you’re in the Big Apple.
Of course, if you have any questions or you’d like to share your experience, you can leave me a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you! Until then, have a wonderful trip!