New York City can be overwhelming for a first-timer, especially when you throw in the hustle and chaos of Times Square. Here’s our pick of what to seek out, what to do and where to hang. If you’ve been to Times Square before, dig a little deeper, past the infamous square that’s actually a triangle.
It might be a stretch to get your mind out of a Blade Runner-inspired mindset when it comes to Times Square but it’ll happen pretty quickly should you choose to rest your head at The Knickerbocker. Built in 1906, this storied hotel has historical links to the lore and identities of New York: it was built by John Jacob Astor IV, has been claimed as the birthplace of the Martini cocktail and was the original home of the Maxfield Parrish mural Old King Cole. A recent relaunch returned the building to its original use after it closed as a hotel in 1920 and was turned into offices. With subtle lighting, a subdued palette and a quiet, calming ambience, The Knickerbocker is a refined five-star escape from the churn of Times Square, held at bay beyond the glass doors of the lobby. It’s a sign of things to come – the spacious rooms are not only finished in muted tones and luxurious finishes but also feature block-out blinds and double-glazed windows. Close the blinds and you’d never suspect you were in the centre of The City That Never Sleeps. Here, good old-fashioned service and considerate touches are the order of the day. The amenities in the marble bathroom are Gilchrist & Soames, there’s a charged tablet waiting in the room for use during your stay and, at turndown, hotel slippers materialise neatly by the bed.
Feeling peckish? Guests can swan down to Charlie Palmer at The Knick at almost any time of the day for contemporary American fare. It’s one of the chef’s several popular eponymous restaurants across the United States and, if you can’t face taking the lift to level four (no judgement), guests can order room service from the Charlie Palmer kitchen. If you’re after a more casual eat-and-run affair, Jake’s Coffee Roasters, on the ground floor, has it covered. For a breath of summer air, opt for an afternoon PicKnick basket at rooftop bar St Cloud. It’s the hotel’s crowning glory (no pun intended) and guests shouldn’t miss an opportunity to take in the stunning views and experience the exhilaration of the open-air Sky Pods perched high above Times Square.
6 Times Square, New York
Charlie Palmer at The Knick
Step out of the elevator and into Charlie Palmer at The Knick and you’d never know you were in a fine-dining restaurant four floors above the flashing lights and frenzy of Times Square. Plush upholstered furniture, a fabulously long marble bar and an air of quiet calm dominate the large, well-lit space partitioned by chain-metal curtains. A restrained colour palette keeps everything refined and tasteful, whether you’re there for brunch, lunch, dinner or drinks. Whatever mood you’re in, the menu has something to suit. Feel like fried chicken and a (Kobe beef) burger for dinner? Or perhaps a light kale Caesar salad and tomato bisque? A soufflé or crêpes for dessert? You’ll find these and other classic meals, plus a tempting list of cocktails.
Level 4, 6 Times Square, New York
The Mean Fiddler
The Mean Fiddler is a sports bar, karaoke joint and Irish pub – head here if a big game, American bar food or a night on the town are high on your list. The pub-style dining is great value and hits all the right notes, covering everything from shepherd’s pie and quesadillas to buffalo wings and Cobb salad. Stay on after dinner and exercise your vocal chords or hit the dance floor. Expect things to get rowdy: live music and DJs feature every night and the pub hosts one of the most popular happy hours around.
266 W 47th Street, New York
Havana Central, Times Square
Atmospheric lighting, palm trees, high ceilings and a signature orange-hued interior feature at all four Havana Central restaurants – and the one in Times Square is no exception (look out for the neon palm tree). Best for a fun and filling meal with family and friends, Havana Central’s Cuban cuisine is served up with happy hour from 4pm to 7pm during the week (the Mojito is a favourite) and live music on weekends. Try the housemade empanadas and a classic Cuban sandwich for lunch or drop by during dinnertime and order slow-roasted pork, shredded beef or garlic shrimp with a side of plantain chips or black bean soup.
151 W 46th Street, Midtown West
Tony’s Di Napoli
For family-style Italian right in the thick of Times Square, Tony’s Di Napoli is the place to go. It’s been around since 1959 and has a buzzing, atmospheric dining room with more than a touch of old-school charm. Every well-known Italian-American dish can be found on the menu – the portions are enormous and designed to serve two to three! There are more than a dozen starters, pastas and meat dishes on the menu, as well as several specialties and desserts. Popular dishes include the zucchini fritti, meatballs, chicken parmigiana and tiramisù. The wine list favours Italian drops, starting with an inexpensive prosecco and ending with a super-Tuscan magnum that will set you back a couple of hundred dollars.
147 W 43rd Street, New York
Hit the Square
There’s no seeing New York without a visit to Times Square. It consists of several blocks – none of which are actually squares – between W 42nd and W 47th streets in Midtown Manhattan. In Duffy Square (at the most northern end), you’ll find the famous TKTS booth, where you can buy discounted tickets for Broadway shows. The booth’s illuminated bright-red, grandstand-inspired roof is the perfect perch from which to people-watch, look out for buskers and street performers or wait for friends. You could easily spend half the day gawking and wandering through Times Square. Note: it’s wise to keep an eye out for errant selfie sticks.
It’s a completely different beast at night so make sure you experience the mesmerising lights in their full glory after the sun goes down, as well as the ever-changing displays of public art. These include the monthly Midnight Moment projects (which feature on Times Square’s electronic billboards), live reviews and original musicians at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill and other seasonal events from the Times Square Alliance. One to watch out for is the Kiss-In, which happens every five years on 14 August, when crowds gather to re-enact the now-famous image of a sailor kissing a nurse to celebrate the end of World War II.
Catch one of Broadway’s best-loved shows, from the long-running Phantom of the Opera at the Spanish-inspired Majestic Theater to Minskoff Theatre’s stunning production of The Lion King. If musicals aren’t your thing, there’s always Madame Tussauds, where you can walk among wax figures of A-list celebrities, world leaders and movie characters; check out the giant animatronic in the Kong: Skull Island experience; or bust the supernatural in the hyperreal world of Ghostbusters: Dimension.
Get out and about
Head over to Midtown’s popular Bryant Park for summer events and activities in and around The Lawn, including outdoor movie nights, social mahjong, pétanque, juggling, musical programs and tai chi. Or grab a packed lunch (there’s a handily located Wholefoods on 6th Avenue) and pull up a chair or stake your spot on the grass and join NYC’s office workers and picnickers.
It’s also worth popping in to see the spectacular interiors of the New York Public Library’s Beaux Arts-style Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which flanks the east side of the park.