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Times Square - A Local Perspective

Brooklyn, NY
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Times Square - A Local Perspective

As far as many visitors to NYC are concerned, Times Square is the center of all the action. It is the place that is convenient to everything. Simply, it is the place to be. Should you stay here....well, that depends on your own tastes.

I go back to the days when Times Square was a seedy area of porno theaters and peep shows. Lots of drugs seemed to change hands. It was where teens went for fake IDs. Prostitutes plied their trade, and normal folks stayed away. And then, the area changed. The sex trade was forced out and Disney muscled their way in. Times Square became a place where hotels sprung up and the tourists replaced the prostitutes. And yet, normal New Yorkers still stayed away.

Times Square does have its advantages. The lights after dark are spectacular. You can walk to many different wonderful locations like Grand Central, Central Park and Macys. And, the subway connections are great. There are now lots of places to sit outdoors in the area. You can see a show and walk home. For those who like the bright lights and the hustle and bustle, this may be a great place to stay.

But, the area has its disadvantages as well. First, since its Disneyfication, it seems to lack some authenticity as a NY neighborhood. If you want to go out and have a drink with the locals, you will not find them here. New Yorkers will come in for a show, or maybe to work, but then we retreat to our own neighborhoods or head elsewhere in the City. The food scene [other than Virgils] is mediocre at best, and is comprised of mainly fast food and chain restaurants. The area is mercilessly crowded both day and night.

Should you stay here? Well, I guess the first question is whether you got a great deal on a hotel. But, for those who like a more quiet place to stay, other areas include Downtown and Greenwhich Village. For those who want a more authentic neighborhood, places like Soho, the Upper West Side and Park Slope come to mind. Of course, the choice is yours.

Remember, wherever you do end up staying, there is no such thing as a hotel that is "near everything", and the real key is being near a subway.

New York City, New...
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1. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

Agree with a lot but not all you say Mel. Locals are too quick to diss the area for dining/restaurants but Hell's Kitchen, just west of Times Square, has loads of decent dining options and there are even some good places on the side streets east and west of Broadway. Is it the best food NYC has to offer? No, but some is just fine.

The other thing that's changed is Times Square now DOES have some decent shopping. Where it used to be just tacky souvenir shops, there are now ouposts of a bunch of good stores from Sephora and Levi's to a Daffy's.

But the real issue is this notion of it being the center of things or people wanting to be "in the thick of it" (that phrase really rubs me the wrong way for some reason). The only thing Times Square is the center of are:

theater

bright lights

hoards of tourists

It is geographically central and does, as you point out, have lots of subway lines running through it. But it is not the center of anything but theater and tourist trade.

But the fact remains there's a heavy concentration of hotels there and many of the other areas that locals and some visitors find preferable, like the village, have very few hotels.

Monza, Italy
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2. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

Interesting review from a New Yorker...For a tourist,conscious of the lack of authenticity of the place,but hypnotized by the lights and the crowd...it's something like the place every visit of the Big Apple has to start from,or at least be a not-to be-missed spot...I often compare TS,maybe I'm totally wrong,with Piccadilly Circus in London...but I rarely stop for more than five minutes in PC,I keep strolling along Regent Street...in TS I can sit and watch people and lights for an hour!

New York City, New...
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3. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

I agree with the Picadilly Circus analogy. Every major city seems to have at least one big tourist mecca. What I wonder is what was NYC's before Times Square was so popular and tourist friendly? Was it Herald Square? Rockefeller Center? Or didn't we have one?

New York City, New...
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4. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

On my recent trip to TS (last week), I realized what an "area" it has become. At the moment there are tables/chairs out forming public plazas, some road traffic is rerouted, etc., making it seem like a say, 5 block open attraction, not really part of the regular street life of NY. Definitely the "disneyfication" aspect (feels like I should buy a ticket to get it.

Of course, this is fine for tourists, TS more or less just "plopped there" for their entertainment. Just another example of the Bloomberg/Burden Approach to Urban Development ™.

I think locals forget that it is the intent of NYC current government to cater to tourists, not "regular" (middle class) residents.

Kirkcaldy, United...
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5. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

Great view of the area I would say.

Being a Tourist I had to visit and it is lovely at night time with all the lights. What did I do last time I was up here? Buy Presents and eat a fast food meal. So I agree it is pretty touristy.

On another note about the prostitution side of things - is their an area where they tend to hang around now (not that I am looking for any when I return to the lovely city next week :-))? Some people said they could be found around the port authority area, others said above 70th street at 5th ave. didn't know if there was a "red light" area like most cities have.

Quebec
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6. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

It makes me think of downtown disney with dirt. SHopping, poor eating and way too many people.

Boston
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7. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

It might be everything said and everything not said but personally I wouldn't stay any place else, we love the madness and the activity that goes on in Times Sq late into the nights.

Yes it might cost a bit more and yes the restaurants are more the tourist type but, as all have said the subways are easy to use and easy to navigate to other parts of the city. There might not be one best area to stay in but TS is central Mahattan.

Toronto, Canada
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8. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

Very interesting. A couple of questions:

How long has it been since Disney "muscled their way in"?

If it has been a fairly short time, and improvements are fairly recent, could this be part of the reason why locals on the NYC forum are so quick to dismiss tourists wanting to stay in Times Square area; perhaps they haven't been there since it's "new and improved"?

I find it interesting that many suggest a "5 minute walk through" is enough. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing since so many people obviously have no clue as to everything NYC has to offer and how widespread it is (ie more than Manhattan). This feedback has helped this "newbie" take a second look at other areas of the city to stay and explore :) so just want to be clear this is a question prompted by curiosity, not criticism!

Manchester, United...
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9. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

There is also a difference between staying there and passing through.

For me , its FAR too busy and crowded with not much there for me personally hence I avoid the area as much as possible.

I did enjoy ESPN Zone however when that was there

Toronto, Canada
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10. Re: Times Square - A Local Perspective

LMV - you are so right. I had never thought about it before this forum, but I wouldn't relish having to struggle against crowds every time I wanted to come and go from the hotel I was staying at :(