Times Square Beyond the Bright Lights: What to See When Your Done With the Tourist Traps

I went into this week really wanting to like Times Square. Broadway just reopened in NYC, so I figured that it would be the perfect time to see if I could have a Times Square experience that defied the typical New Yorker convention to avoid the area at all costs. Although I found some interesting things, I wouldn’t say that they are enough to outweigh Times Square overall being a neon nightmare. But if you’re looking for non-touristy things to do at Times Square once you’ve exhausted all the tourist traps, check out any of the following:

Times Square Subway Station Art

When you arrive at Times Square (via subway, I presume), don’t be in such a rush to leave the train station. Yes, the Times Square station just as gritty and dirty as the other 471 subway stations in NYC, and architecturally it’s not much of a looker, but there are actually several art installations within the station that are worth taking a look at. See if you can spot all 67 mosaic figures that make up The Revelers by Jane Dickson or the 35 ceramic slabs by Toby Buonagurio that are also in various corridors throughout the station. Not to mention, there is the Times Square Mural by Roy Lichtenstein, another mosaic called Losing My Marbles by Lisa Dinhofer, and the spot-on poem called “A Commuter’s Lament” by Norman B. Colps. And when you’re done looking at the art, make sure to check out the artists who frequently share their musical talents near the Times Square mural.

Father Duffy Square

Poor Father Francis P. Duffy. The man survived the battlefields of the Spanish-American War and World War I only for his statue to be perpetually overlooked by tourists in the technicolor hell that is Times Square. When you pay his statue a visit, scan the nearby QR code to hear him tell his story. Unlike the unfortunate Father Duffy, George Cohen, aka “the man who owns Broadway,” must be in heaven. The entertainer’s statue stands just to the south of Father Duffy’s near the corner of Broadway and 45th street, engraved with the names of some of his greatest hits, such as “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “Over There.” But wait! Don’t leave Father Duffy Square yet. Look down at the sidewalk behind the George Cohen statue, where you’ll find the Spotlight on Broadway map, an artistic take on the locations of nearly every Broadway theater from 40th Street to 66th Street. That’s a lot packed into one block.

The Times Square Hum

Walk over to the subway grates near the corner of 45th Street. Hear anything? It’s not obvious but the hum you’re hearing is a sound art installation playing underneath your feet. The artist Max Neuhaus wouldn’t have been pleased that I’m telling you about this piece and where to find it, as he wanted people to surreptitiously encounter the hum. I’m sure a more artsy person would interpret this piece as finding the calm within the chaos of Times Square. But to be honest, it’s probably not going to blow your mind if and when you hear it.

Architecture Worth Stopping in the Center of the Sidewalk to See

Times Square isn’t reknown for its architecture, but if you can see past the blinding lights, you might notice a few buildings worth gazing at. The Knickerbocker Hotel, the Paramount Building, the New Amsterdam Theatre, and the Lyceum Theatre will catch your eye if you like intricate flourishes. Additionally, the former I. Miller Shoe Store at 1552 Broadway is also interesting to look at because of its statues dedicated to famous female Broadway stars.

Shops that Aren’t Big Brand Superstores

Times Square is mid-tier shopping mecca — if you’re able to put up with the crowds. But if you’re looking for unique shopping experiences that you won’t find in Anytown, USA, check out The Drama Book Shop, Kinokuniya Book Store, or Midtown Comics. (It’s just a coincidence that these are all book stores, but book stores are the best kind of stores.🤷🏾‍♀️)

The Midnight Moment

Times Square is better to experience at night but it’s at its best at 11:57pm. From 11:57pm to midnight, all 75 or so billboards in the area display a massive digital art piece. If there’s one thing worth doing at Times Square (besides seeing a Broadway show), this is it. Note that the art on display during the Midnight Moment changes each month so you may want to experience this more than once.

That’s the end of my list of non-touristy things to do in Times Square. I’ll admit that some of these things aren’t knock-your-socks off thrilling, but it does show that there’s more to Times Square than tourist traps.

Locals, would you add anything else to this list? Share your Times Square non-touristy things to do in the comment section.

But before you go, if you like what I do here at Shiloh in the City and want to continue getting to know New York’s history, culture, and things to do with me, sign up for my email list and follow me on social media. Thanks for reading!

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