When I first went to Times Square in 1988, it was a seedy place. You didn’t hang around there long. It was, in some ways, reminiscent of (but worse than) Kings Cross 20 years ago.
Many cities around the world have a place or two for tourists to congregate, by day or by night. London has Piccadilly and Leicester Square; Paris has the Eiffel Tower; Berlin has the Brandenburg Gate; Tokyo has Shubuya and Shinjuku; for Manhattan, it’s Times Square.
Times Square, which isn’t actually a square, is where 7th Avenue, Broadway, and 45th Street intersect. All three roads are full of tourists flocking to the Square. The roads are packed with cars and taxis although parts of Broadway have been pedestrianised, probably because the sheer quantity of people would inevitably result in accidents.
There are many theatres around the Square. As a result, you see ticket booths everywhere. People are also trying to sell you tickets for the theatre or a comedy night. They may have been ticket touts but they could easily have been official ticket sellers. Out of curiosity, I asked the price of the cheapest ticket. The price was $70 (£53)! They know that people want to see a Broadway show. I did later learn from someone that, having found tickets expensive for the Lincoln Center (the leading performing art centre in NY), he just rocked up at the last minute and got a very reasonably priced ticket. So perhaps the sellers around Times Square are simply charging tourist prices.
After visiting Times Square, I walked passed the building that to me still encapsulates Manhattan – the Empire State Building. Just off 5th Avenue, it still stands stoically monumental despite having been eclipsed by many taller buildings.
When I returned to my Airbnb, I told my hosts that I had gone to Times Square. They said they hadn’t been there for years! I wondered why they didn’t want to join thousands of tourists on the brightly lit congested streets.