Despite me and countless other New Yorkers telling you that it’s not worth it and how there are a million other things in NYC that are better to do, you’re probably still going to go to the mother-of-all-tourist-traps, Times Square. But to tell you the truth, I don’t blame you; you should do it at least once to see for yourself why New Yorkers despise it so much. So, my dear reader, since you’re going to be so willfully stubborn and venture into the pits of hell, at least allow me to show you how to survive your Times Square experience. Here is your Times Square survival guide.
1. Go at night.
If you’re insistent on going to Times Square, you might as well see it at its best, and nighttime is when you get the full dazzling effect of all the electronic billboards.
2. Don’t ever look amazed.
Have a mean mug on your face the whole time you’re at Times Square so you don’t look gullible.
3. Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know.
Don’t reply if anyone says anything to you because it’s a scam; you’re going to be wasting your money or your time. In a similar vein, don’t accept any item from anyone, especially the guys dressed up like “monks”.
4. Know where you’re going.
Don’t be the person who causes a bottleneck in pedestrian traffic flow because you stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to get your bearings.
5. Don’t try to take a direct route.
If your destination is along Broadway or 7th Avenue, it’s probably better for you to take 6th Avenue or 8th Avenue and then cross a side street to avoid the biggest, slowest-moving crowds. It seems convoluted, but you’ll be avoiding a headache.
6. Carry some cash.
If you want to take part in the normal Times Square stuff, like taking photos with costumed characters or having your caricature done, have about $40 cash in small bills.
7. Don’t eat the food.
It is overpriced and you can find better, more memorable food anywhere else in the city.
8. Don’t make Times Square your home base.
It’s a huge red flag that locals rarely live here. If you’re a tourist who is price-conscious or cares about having an authentic NYC experience, don’t stay in the hotels here. The prices are exuberant, and you’ll be a salmon swimming upstream everyday trying to get in or out of the area. Take it from someone who spent a summer working in the heart of Times Square: having to walk through Times Square on a daily basis will turn you into an easily irritable person.
9. Do your research.
If you’re going to go to Times Square, it’s in your best interest to know as much as you can about it so it won’t be a complete waste of your time. Here’s where I shamelessly plug my articles on the history of Times Square and on Times Square’s non-touristy attractions. Never hurts to be an informed traveler.
10. Don’t base your opinion of New York on Times Square.
If you take away anything from your Times Square experience, let it be this: Times Square is New York on steroids–overpacked, overpriced, and an overload on the senses. It’s a part of the city, but it doesn’t fairly represent it. So make sure you venture out of this technicolor tourist trap to see the parts of the city that locals actually like.
Hey! 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!