When headhunter Mila Kunis tried so desperately to sell New York to LA-bred Justin Timberlake in the 2011 smash hit “Friends with Benefits”, the small-city lad, who claimed he had a penchant for ‘open spaces’, was adamantly against the idea of moving into a metropolitan city. After hawking several landmarks in the Big Apple, Kunis finally dragged Timberlake to Midtown Manhattan, home to arguably the most visited tourist attraction in the world – Times Square – as the last straw.
Times Square, originally known as Longacre Square in the 19th century, was once home to a blooming carriage industry. Today the square spans between West 42nd Street and West 47th Street, is considered among the top 10 things to do in NYC and is second only to the Las Vegas strip in terms of annual visitor numbers. When the first billboard came up in 1996 advertising Cup Noodles, as a means to compensate for flailing rentals, little was expected to become of Times Square. But when I picked up a chicken-rice combo from a food truck and settled myself down on the red steps, located smack in the middle of the square, only then did I realize the place was swarming with people. Hundreds of people lined up at the TKTS booth in anticipation to pick up tickets for Broadway shows, people were cramming onto the red steps next to me and pictures were being clicked everywhere.
A slight gaze upwards and you begin to realize the popularity of the district is far beyond one’s imagination. With spectacular billboards, time-based video screens and wallscapes adorning the surrounding buildings, some as much as 8 stories high, I started to realize why Times Square is second only to the deserts of Nevada. The neon advertisements, popular Hollywood celebrities and Broadway shows advertised in larger than life created a unique vibe that transcended visitors to a whole new level of euphoria. The magnetic feel and energy of the place, while being a ‘nobody’ lost in the crowd, was so intense that the absence of human communication was not missed. Instead, I felt content and elated as I watched time lapse by.
If you have the patience to stand in queues, or like me you purchased the tickets online, a short walk off Times Square you reach Broadway which is arguably the greatest theatrical experience you will ever have.
And may I recommend the most recommended popular Broadway show for all you first-timers – “The Phantom of the Opera”.