New York City can be overwhelming for a first-timer, especially in Times Square, where the city’s renowned hustle and bustle is at its most chaotic. Got your heart set on a trip to the throbbing, neon-adorned heart of this metropolis? Here’s our pick of what to seek out, what to do and where to hang in thrilling Times Square.
You’ll be tempted to pretend you’re on the set of a futuristic Blade Runner-esque film while traipsing through Times Square but you’ll easily drop the act upon entry to The Knickerbocker. Built in 1906, this storied hotel has historical links to the lore and identities of New York City: 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. 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, easily held at bay beyond the glass doors of the lobby. It’s an ambience that you’ll find in every corner of the property – 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 blackout 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 Diptyques, 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 @ The Knick, on the ground floor, has it covered. For a breath of summer air, opt for an afternoon PicKnick basket at rooftop bar St Cloud Rooftop. 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 space perched high above Times Square.
6 Times Square, New York City
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 a BBQ pulled pork burger or prime beef tartare for dinner? Or perhaps a light kale salad with Asher bleu cheese with a New York cheesecake for dessert (when in Rome, and all that)? You’ll find these and other classic meals, plus a tempting list of cocktails.
Level 4, 6 Times Square, New York City
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 to-do list. The pub-style dining is great value and hits all the hearty notes, covering everything from pancakes and and burritos to pizza and stringy mac ’n’ cheese. Stay on after dinner and exercise your vocal chords or hit the dance floor. Expect things to get rowdy: live music and DJs regularly feature and the pub hosts one of the most popular happy hours around.
266 W 47th Street, New York City
Havana Central, Times Square
Towering indoor palms, high ceilings and a fun and bright interior feature at all four Havana Central restaurants, including the Times Square outpost (look out for the neon palm tree). Best for a fun and filling meal, Havana Central’s Cuban-influenced cuisine is served up with happy hour from 4pm to 7pm during the week (the Mojito is the obvious favourite) and live Latin music on Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights. Try the empanadas and a classic Cuban sandwich for lunch or drop by during dinnertime and order slow-roasted pork, braised beef or garlic shrimp with a side of plantain chips or black beans.
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 Meritage from Napa that’ll set you back USD$450 (AUD$655).
147 W 43rd Street, New York City
Hit the Square
Admit it: a trip to New York City wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Times Square. The square — which is actually a triangle — consists of several blocks 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 kill a few hours 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 Midnight Moment project, the world’s largest and longest-running digital art project which projects digital art into the square every evening between 11.57pm and 12am ), and other seasonal events from the Times Square Alliance.
Catch one of Broadway’s best-loved shows – from the energetic revenge tale of Chicago, the untouchable hit Hamilton or the tongue-in-cheek Book of Mormon, there’s always an exhilarating show to catch on the Great White Way. 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 beloved movie characters.
Get out and about
Head over to Midtown’s popular Bryant Park for summer events and activities in and around The Lawn, including yoga classes, chess matches, pétanque, ping pong clashes, outdoor movie nights 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.