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20 Epic Things to Do in Times Square (Perfect for First Time Visitors)

Movie Locations New York City

If you’re looking for things to do in Times Square, you’ve come to the right place. Having been a tourist in the Big Apple at one point, I can understand the appeal Times Square holds for someone who has yet to experience it. The bright lights, complete chaos and people from all over the world gather in Midtown to see what the all the fuss is about.

Times Square is intriguing, I’ll give you that. To be frank, Times Square can be quite overwhelming and tends to cater to a heavily touristy crowd. The influence of Hollywood has contributed to an overly romanticized perception of Times Square. In fact, a lot of locals try to avoid the area whenever possible. Most of the folks I take here end up telling me they expected something different (ha!).

With that said, visiting Times Square is a non-negotiable for first-time visitors. Here’s some of the best things to in Times Square to help you make the most of your visit!

Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (10 Best Neighborhoods +3 to Avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s my favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.

Getting to NYC from airport Times Square New Years Eve

Tips for Exploring Times Square

  • Avoid people in costumes: The folks dressed up in character costumes can be rather aggressive. They try to pull people in for photos and then demand payment, avoid getting caught up in the schemed by diverting eye contact.
  • Visit Times Square at night: Times Square swells with tourists all hours of the day, but especially at night. While you’ll find yourself sympathizing with sardines in no time flat, seeing the bright lights in person at night is non-negotiable. Also, brace yourself for whiffs of marijuana, it comes with the territory.
  • Expect crowds: New York City averages more than 63 million visitors per year, and the holidays are the busiest season. There’s a lot of people wanting to see the same attractions, eat at the same restaurants and do the same things as you. Be patient and start your days early if at all possible!

Best Things to Do in Times Square

Table of Contents: Times Square Activities

Red Steps Times Square, NYC

Snag a Photo on the Iconic Red Steps

Website: TKTS Ticket Booth
Address: Broadway at, W 47th St, New York, NY 10036

When you’re in Times Square thinking to yourself, hmm, where should I take a selfie? I want you to do yourself a favor and head to the TKTS ticket booth. The booth sells discount tickets to Broadway shows, but the back of the building has been transformed into the iconic red staircase and visiting has quickly become one of the most popular things to do in Times Square. 

From the stairs you have a direct and often unobstructed view of all the flashing lights and flocks of people. It’s no surprise why folks from all around the world have used the staircase as their own personal viewpoint. Snapping a photo on the red stairs is one of the best things to do in Times Square. If you come at night, the stairs illuminate and add another layer of fun to your picture!

Los Tacos No. 1

Get Tacos at Los Tacos No.1

Website: Los Tacos No.1
Address: 229 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036

One of the top spots in Times Square is Los Tacos No. 1, a renowned taqueria founded by Tijuana and California natives who aimed to bring authentic Mexican flavor to Manhattan. Despite the initial shock of $5 per taco, the juicy and tender meat quickly justifies the price, making it a must-try in Times Square. With a simple menu honoring traditional flavors, even my Mexican in-laws agree – it’s one of the best things to do in the area!

Drama Book Shop

Visit the Drama Book Shop

Website: Drama Book Shop
Address: 266 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

The Drama Bookshop has long been a staple of New York City’s theater scene. In fact over the course of its 100+ year history it’s been an invaluable resource to some of Broadway’s greats. One of the best things to do in Times Square is getting lost in the magic of the Drama Book Shop.

The beloved bookstore is popular to the casual fan largely due to Lin-Manuel Miranda purchasing it in 2020. Miranda, along with other Broadway peers, used the basement of the previous location to rehearse “In the Heights.” The musical that went on to win multiple awards and help launch Miranda to stardom. 

Regardless if you’re visiting because you’re a bookworm or just a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda, swinging by this charming bookstore is one of the best things to do in Times Square.

M&M World, Times Square in NYC

Customize Your Own Chocolate at M&M’s World

Website: M&M’s World NYC
Address: 1600 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

For a fun Times Square experience, check out M&M’s World and create your own customized candy. This interactive three-story store offers a range of goodies, from apparel to chocolate personalized with your face. It’s not only a memorable activity in Times Square, especially for kids, but also a fantastic spot to pick up unique souvenirs.

watching a broadway show in Times Square

Catch a Broadway Show

No trip to NYC is complete without checking out a Broadway show! The amount of effort that goes into a single show is impressive to say the least. I have yet to leave a show feeling like it wasn’t worth it, which is why this is one of those non-negotiable things to do in Times Square. 

There are 41 official Broadway theaters in NYC and at any given time, more than half of them are putting on shows. This means there’s plenty of plays and showtimes to choose from. Admittedly, Broadway Shows can be so dang expensive, but the experience is one of the most memorable things to do in Times Square. Here’s a few ways you can save a few bucks on a Broadway show:

A lot of shows offer lotteries, in which they’ll sell very discounted tickets to randomly selected winners. These are good to enter if you’re staying in New York or live close by. You might have to enter multiple times and it’s hard to buy plane tickets around “possibly” winning the lottery.

Another way to save a few bucks is to purchase a solo ticket. These are seats left in between groups that the theater sells at a discounted rate to fill as many seats as possible. Catching a Broadway show is one of the best things to do in Times Square, you won’t want to miss it.

Bibble & Sip NYC

Grab a Cream Puff From Bibble & Sip

Website: Bible & Sip
Address: 253 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019

Trained in French confectionery and inspired by Asian flavors, everything Bibble & Sip has to offer is worth a try. The desserts they serve are decorated playfully and are so cute! If you’re anything like me you’ll have a hard time picking just one treat to take home.

However, the cream puff stands out from the rest of the desserts and swinging by for a puff warrants a spot on our list of best things to do in Times Square. The cream puffs are made out of the most delicious dough with an airy texture. As for the cream (the star of the show) no words will do the flavors justice.

Further reading: Curious what else we recommend for sweet-toothed New Yorkers? Check out 15 Irresistible New York City Desserts Worth Pausing a Diet Over.

Hersheys World Times Square, NYC

Enjoy a Treat From Hershey’s Chocolate World

Website: Hershey’s Chocolate World
Address: 20 Times Square, 701 7th Ave, New York, NY 10036

Similar to M&M’s world, Hershey’s Chocolate World is 7,800 square feet of pure chocolate bliss. Can you name a chocolate bar more iconic than Hershey’s? I think not! The chocolate is reminiscent of childhood memories (and the only acceptable brand when roasting marshmallows).

One of the best things to do in Times Square is unleashing your inner child in Hershey’s Chocolate World. Enjoy delicious, warm treats like s’mores, cookies and cupcakes or delectable frozen goods like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Milkshakes. This is one of the best attractions in Times Square, especially if you have kids. And with the feature of customizing your own candy bar wrapper, it’s a great spot to pick up souvenirs, too!

Visit Yankee’s Clubhouse

Website: Yankee’s Clubhouse
Address: 245 W 42nd St SP1, New York, NY 10036

If you’re traveling with a sports fan one of the best things to do in Times Square is to swing by the Yankee’s Clubhouse. It’s a store with an outstanding amount of New York Yankee’s gear where the whole family can get something unique. Maybe a Yankee’s cap for mom, jerseys for the kids and a beer mug for dad. If you’re in the market for a souvenir there’s no better place to be.

Also, visiting the Yankee’s Clubhouse is one of the best things to do in Times Square since the Yankees have hit a streak of playoff appearances in recent years. There’s commemorative buttons and even patches on some of the clothing that may be hard to find elsewhere.

Ten Thousand Coffee Things to Do Times Square

Grab a Coffee From Ten Thousand Coffee

Website: Ten Thousand Coffee
Address: 1410 Broadway Unit 105, New York, NY 10018

Although Ten Thousand Coffee is new to the Big Apple, they hold their own among the best coffee shops in New York City. The Australian-based cafe derives its name from the 10,000 hour rule, which states that 10,000 hours of practice leads to expertise. After the first sip of coffee I can attest, they’ve put well over 10,000 hours of practice into their coffee.

If you’re looking for things to do in Times Square, swing by and try the Einspänner and an Espresso Cream Latte. They are two of the dreamiest cups of coffee at this cafe. They’re thick and foamy, but mixed in with the coffee make for the perfect (surprisingly not too sweet) caffeinated drink.

Things to Do Times Square
Image Courtesy Urbanspace

Check Out Urbanspace (Food Hall)

Website: Urbanspace
Address: 152 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019
Market Hours: Monday- Friday | 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM

New York City has no shortage of great restaurants and delicious food, the tricky part can be narrowing down your options. Fortunately Urbanspace is a food hall filled to the brim with a variety of different eateries and about a 10 minute walk from the heart of Times Square.

Therefore one of the best things to do in Times Square is to head to Urbanspace for a bite. The best part is all 15 restaurants offer diverse options from one another. You can grab fried chicken from one place and ramen from another. Even the two people in your party who can never agree will find something good to eat.

I highly recommend trying Roberta’s Pizza, my husband swears it’s the best pizza in NYC (bold claim, I know!). The dining hall also offers a full bar and popular NYC spots like Seamore’s and Partners Coffee. Having so many flavorful options all under one roof, it’s no surprise Urbanspace has made its way on a list of things to do in Times Square.

Junior's Cheesecake in Times Square, NYC

Grab a Slice of Cheesecake from Junior’s

Website: Junior’s Cheesecake
Address: 1515 Broadway, New York, NY 10036

The same way you can’t go to Philly without trying a cheesesteak, you can’t come to New York and not try some cheesecake. Opening up shop in 1950, Junior’s Cheesecake is one of the most famous New York institutions. Their diner-style restaurants feels extra cozy and makes for one of the best things to do in Times Square.

You can enjoy a single slice at a table or take a whole pie home, and there are endless options of cheesecakes to choose from. I tend to gravitate towards anything with chocolate, while my husband sticks to the classics. All this to say — it’s hard to go wrong!

Visiting Junior’s Cheesecake is one of those bucket-list things to do in Times Square that you’ll be talking about well after your trip. It becomes even more memorable the later you visit, it’s open until 1AM!

Things to Do Times Square
Image Courtesy Open Table | Magic Hour Rooftop

Take in the Views From a Rooftop Bar

Have you heard the saying “squashed like sardines?”, well I’m pretty sure they were referring to Times Square when creating it. Taking in the lights from the ground, shoulder to shoulder with strangers can get chaotic and overwhelming. Luckily for us the lights are just as bright sitting on a rooftop bar with epic views.

So one of the best things to do in Times Square is to step away from the chaos and find some high ground to enjoy the scenery (with a a cocktail in hand, of course). Here is a short list of great options we recommend to friends and family whenever they’re in town and looking for things to do in Times Square!

Best things to do in New York City at Night

Sign Up for a Show Recording

If you’re looking for more unique things to do in Times Square consider being part of a live audience for a TV taping. Most shows available are late-night talk shows and the guest on the show change nightly. That’s why you can do this hundreds of times and have a different experience after every show.

The amount of work that goes into producing a single episode is astounding and seeing the hosts and celebrities up close is surreal.

Your job is the easy one, clap when the staff say to clap! My recommendation is the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The guy is a sure-fire entertainer and the live band (The Roots) play between breaks setting a lively atmosphere in the small studio.

*Jimmy Fallon films at the Rockefeller Center which is only a 10-minute walk from Times Square.

Margaritaville Statue of Liberty best happy hour Times Square
Image Courtesy Margaritaville

Sing Along to Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville

Website: Margaritaville
Address: 560 7th Ave, New York, NY 10018

Whether you’re a Jimmy Buffet fan or not, Margaritaville is an experience and a half. Seriously — there is a two-story replica of the Statue of Liberty raising a margarita (I’ll drink to that). Margaritaville is resort that has a hotel, restaurants and bars. Although you might not be staying there stopping by is still one of the best things to do in Times Square.

There are 5 different spots to grab a bite at Margaritaville, including its namesake restaurant and 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar. Expect classic American foods as well as plentiful adult beverages in a setting that can make you forget you’re in New York City. Plus the joint plays Jimmy Buffet on its speakers which isn’t a bad thing either.

Shopping in Times Square, NYC

Shop Your Way Through Times Square

If you made it to NYC and realized you forgot to pack something, don’t worry — just swipe your subway card and head over to Times Square. No seriously, Times Square has everything!

The heart of Times Square is essentially made up of three major components; giant TV screens, restaurants and shops. You can’t walk more than a few steps before making it to the next store, so it only makes sense to add shopping to our list of things to do in Times Square.

You’ll find global brands that sell clothing, jewelry, and so much more lining the neighborhood.

Here is a short list of stores you can find in Times Square:

  • Old Navy
  • Sephora
  • Swarovski
  • Levi’s
  • American Eagle
  • Disney Store
  • H&M
  • GAP
  • Forever 21
  • A bajillion souvenir shops

Living in New York City

People-Watch at Times Square

With over 50 million visitors annually, you can bet your bottom dollar Times Square has seen it all. People come from all over the world to experience the bright lights in person. Most locals avoid the neighborhood likes it’s the plague, but I will admit one of the best things to do in Times Square is to find a (safe) spot and just people watch for a few minutes.

You’ll hear languages that are completely unbeknownst to you and you’ll see folks in different seasons of life enamored by the massive screens. You quickly realize how small you are in the grand scheme of things and can’t help but feel a little intrigued. So if people-watching is right up your alley, consider swinging by and partaking in one of the most popular things to do in Times Square.

Grab a Bite at R Lounge at The Renaissance

Website: R Lounge at The Renaissance
Address: 714 7th Ave, New York, NY 10036

Undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Times Square is to enjoy the views from R Lounge at The Renaissance Hotel. The ritzy lounge is located at the north end of Times Square so the bustling streets unfurl at your feet.

The menu offers an array of casual eats like pretzels, burgers and even grilled cheese. Cocktails will cost you around $19 which is (unfortunately) typical for the city. Don’t let the price tag deter you though, enjoying the panoramic views is one of the best things to do in Times Square.

If you’re curious to know what all the hoopla is about reservations are easy to make online. My suggestion is to make reservations for sunset.

Madam Tussaud's, Times Square NYC

Take a Picture With Your Favorite Celebrity at Madame Tussades

Website: Madame Tussades
Address: 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

While encountering celebrities in NYC is common, there’s an unspoken rule to respect their privacy. For a chance to snap a picture with your favorite star, consider visiting Madame Tussauds in Times Square. With ticket prices ranging from $40-$80, you’ll have access to nine floors of realistic wax figures and over 80,000 sq. feet of interactive fun – a must-do in Times Square, so grab your tickets in advance.

Here is a short list (covering just a fraction) of the life-like celebrities you’ll find at Madame Tussades in Times Square:

  • The Avengers
  • The Royal Family
  • Taylor Swift
  • Selena Gomez
  • Indiana Jones
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • The Kardashians
  • Former presidents

Times Square, New York City

When You’re Done, Explore the Areas Nearby

While Times Square is one of the most visited attractions in the world, people quickly realize it’s a tad over-romanticized and — dare I say — overrated (shocker, I know). That’s not to say it’s not worth the trip, because it’s too iconic of a place to be skipped and everyone should see it (in person) at least once.

With that said, Times Square is conveniently located in Midtown and within walking distance to other epic NYC sites so here is a quick list of things to do near Times Square.

Things to Do Near Times Square:
  • Bryant Park & New York Public Library: 5 minute walk from Times Square
  • Rockefeller Center: 10 minute walk from Times Square
  • Grand Central Terminal: 10 minute walk from Times Square
  • 5th Ave: 15 minute walk from Times Square
  • Empire State Building: 15 minute walk from Times Square

Times Square Attractions (Post Summary)

In summary, these are the things to do in Times Square:

  1. Grab a bite from R Lounge
  2. Eat at Los. Tacos No. 1
  3. Customize your own chocolate at M&M’s World
  4. Visit Madame Tussades
  5. Check out a Broadway Show
  6. Enjoy a treat from Hershey’s Chocolate World
  7. Grab a souvenir at Yankee’s Clubhouse
  8. Visit the Raising Cane’s flagship location
  9. Sip on cloud coffee from Ten Thousand Coffee
  10. Eat your way through Urbanspace
  11. Try Junior’s Cheesecake 
  12. Check out views from a rooftop bar
  13. Grab a cream puff from Bibble & Sip 
  14. Partake in a live show taping
  15. Get lost in the Drama Book Shop
  16. Grab a bite at Margaritaville 
  17. Shop your way through Times Square
  18. Snag a photo on the iconic red steps 
  19. People Watch 
  20. Explore near Times Square 

Frequently Asked Questions: Things to Do in Times Square
What is Times Square best known for?

Times Square, is renowned for its dazzling lights, towering billboards, and vibrant atmosphere. Serving as the epicenter of New York City’s Theater District, it draws visitors from around the world with its iconic Broadway theaters and the unforgettable New Year’s Eve ball drop celebration. This bustling hub encapsulates the city’s energy, entertainment, and cultural allure.

Is it worth visiting Times Square?

Times Square is worth visiting for its electrifying atmosphere, iconic Broadway theaters showcasing world-class performances, and the mesmerizing display of lights and billboards that make it a symbol of New York City’s vibrant energy and entertainment. Whether day or night, the dynamic and bustling ambiance of Times Square offers a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors.

Why do tourists love Times Square?

Tourists love visiting Times Square for its captivating blend of dazzling lights, iconic theaters featuring Broadway shows, and the palpable excitement of one of the world’s most famous entertainment hubs. The vibrant atmosphere, diverse shopping options, and the chance to witness cultural events make Times Square a must-visit destination, offering a quintessential New York City experience.

Is it safe to walk around Time Square?

Times Square has a significant police presence and extensive security measures in place, making it generally safe for visitors. The area’s popularity and constant foot traffic contribute to a well-monitored environment, ensuring a secure experience for those exploring this iconic New York City destination.

More on Midtown

Times Square Happy Hours: 10 Tempting Happy Hours in Times Square 
Rockefeller Center: 10 Festive Things to Do at the Rockefeller Center at Christmas
New Years Eve in Times Square: 2023 Guide to Celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square (Is it Worth it?)

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Mouthwatering Bagels in NYC: 15 BEST Bagels in New York City
Unbelievable Brunch Spots in NYC: 18 Prime Brunch Spots in New York City Worth the (Inevitable) Wait

Did you know you’re a short subway ride away from Central Park?

After you finish exploring all the fun things to do in Times Square, hop on the train and continue the adventure!

And there you have it, our list of things to do in Times Square! Let us know if you think we missed anything.