This is true enough, as other than the Broadway shows, the entirety of Times Square is now devoted to serving the millions of visitors to New York City. But still, ignore the haters, as Times Square is just as much a part of the New York City experience as anywhere else.
Times Square is especially fun for tourists when the crowds are somewhat less than usual, as is the case in January. On our trip last weekend, the weather cooperated too. Here’s a glimpse into what I and my 20-year-old twins did over a couple of days in midtown Manhattan, mostly starting out from our hotel at Grand Central Terminal.
Technically, Nintendo World is closer to Rockefeller Center than Times Square but it’s only a few blocks away, at between 5th and 6th Avenues at 48th Street so I’m counting it.
Nintendo geeks should definitely stop in. The store is two floors, with the downstairs being mostly devoted to games and tourist swag, such as themed clothing, while upstairs are plushies and clothing exclusive to the store. For students of history, there’s a display of all the Nintendo consoles throughout the years, and there’s also a Gameboy on display that survived an explosion in Iraq. (Yes, it still works.)
Overall, it’s a valuable stop. The one warning I have is that it’s not as big as you’d expect. The good news to that is it means you can be out within under an hour, though probably full of bags of swag. I bought an exclusive Detective Pikachu hoodie there once but, alas, this time they were sold out of a Pokemon Sword & Shield hoodie that my son wanted.
Yes, yes, I know Disney is omnipresent. But we like Disney stuff. Even if you’re not going to buy anything, go into this store to ride the escalator to the second floor. Theme music is piped into the area and the walls are decorated with a warm-colored mural that includes many familiar Disney items. It’s basically a short immersive experience all on its own.
And, yes, they have exclusive merchandise. (See: Manhattan Mickey.) More importantly, I found a Leia Rebel Princess shirt I’d not seen elsewhere, leggings with nearly all the Disney cats (including the Aristocats), and, inevitably for us, a new backpack that was $20 with a $50 purchase. (Oh, yes, we spent over that.)
If you love Disney, stop in. It’s a nice-size store that covers a great many of the Disney properties.
The first time I visited the Hershey store in Times Square, about a decade ago, it was crowded, contained basically only candy I could buy cheaper elsewhere, and I turned around and left almost immediately.
This version much more fun. Not only can you buy baked goods and ice cream from their cafe areas, but the store is also filled with all types of candy that can be personalized. We stumbled into the store on National Hot Chocolate Day, which meant it was “buy one, get one free” which was a pleasure. I imagine, however, the more crowded it gets, the less fun it is. And, yes, it’s expensive. I paid $7.50 for two hot chocolates, even with the promotion.
Just around the corner from the Hershey store is Ichiran, part of a Japanese chain of ramen stores. Ichiran has two stores in Manhattan. Never having been to Japan and never having been to a place based on how ramen is served in Japan, I was fascinated by how it’s done and completely satisfied with my meal too.
When you walk into the restaurant, a helpful greeter hands you two menus and walks you to a booth with wooden screens on both sides. (Those screens can be folded back for those dining with others.) Fill out the menu by custom-ordering the ramen, press a button when finished, and someone comes to retrieve the menus from the other side. In a few minutes, the food arrives. I loved my pork ramen. I went basic with it, just pork, ramen, and broth, but you can add spicy sauce and other mix-ins. My son added the spicy sauce. He liked it but, be warned, it’s spicy.
Yes, there is a Hamilton store with all sorts of excellent merchandise, just across from the Richard Rodgers theater where the show is still running. It opens at noon and contains t-shirts and sweatshirts for men and women, plus backpacks, jewelry based on what the Schuyler sisters wear in the play, magnets, and mugs. I would say these are priced somewhat higher than most similar items—t-shirts are $40—but if you love the show, this a store that deserves a visit.
Technically, this is not Times Square but it is a quick walk down 42nd Street to 6th Avenue from Times Square and it’s just across the street from Bryant Park, which is also a fun place to stop in Manhattan, any time of the year. (We walked through a festival that featured a small skating rink at the park.)
Kinokuniya’s first floor is devoted to the types of books you’d find in any bookstore, with a special section on New York City. But the second floor is devoted to manga, both in English and the original Japanese. There’s also a terrific cafe with a fine selection of Japanese foods.
Bonus for stationery nerds: there’s a whole basement level with various gift items, pens, and stationery.
Tourist Times Square: Fun!
In summary, much can be found in the few blocks in and around Times Square, enough for a full, fun day for tourists and definitely for our party of three. I also give an honorable mention to Ray’s Pizza, just across from Hershey’s Chocolate World, where excellent slices can be found at very low costs, meaning cheaper than a Hot Cocoa at Chocolate World.
And I didn’t even mention Midtown Comics….