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What to Do in Times Square, Theatre District & Rockefeller Center

October 22, 2014 - by City Guide
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Times Square is always a must-see for first time Manhattan adventurers, and can be an overwhelming and exhilarating experience. Huge billboards of fashion icons and bright advertisements can distract even a New Yorker trying to make his or her way through the dense crowds of people looking skyward.

In the past, Times Square was notorious as the city's seedy underside. But now when you think of Times Square, think again -- its spirit and style have changed dramatically since the mid '90s. It is still the heart of the city and the crossroads where commerce meets the performing arts, but the crime rate has plummeted, the sidewalks are among the cleanest in the city, and more and more "legitimate" business are moving in every day. If it weren't for all the enormous, dazzling "supersigns," the "zipper" flashing the latest news, the dense displays of head- and taillights, and the constant flow of 1.5 million pedestrians, you might not recognize it at all.

What hasn't changed is the entertainment: as always, the ways to amuse and delight yourself are endless. All of the "Great White Way" lies within the boundaries of Times Square; with 39 theatres (many of which are landmarked), it is home to the highest concentration of showplaces in the world.

To the north (and a block or two east) is Rockefeller Center, between Fifth & Seventh Avenues and 49th & 51st Streets. The most famous building in this area is GE Building ("30 Rock"), which is home to NBC's New York studios, where "Saturday Night Live," "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon," and the "Today" show are taped. It's also where you'll find the NBC Experience/Studio Tour and Top of the Rock, the refurbished observation deck that re-opened in 2005 after being closed for 20 years.

Nearby on Sixth Avenue is the "showplace of the nation," Radio City Music Hall, home of the Rockettes, the Mighty Wurlitzer, the annual Christmas Spectacular, and various concerts and performances. Tours are offered seven days a week from 11am to 3pm.

Sometimes referred to as the "Street of Diamonds," the Diamond District (47th Street from Fifth to Sixth Aves.) is jammed with individual stores and exchanges, their windows ablaze with shimmering diamonds and other fine gems. Imagine one store with more than two million items of fine jewelry and diamonds -- this is that store, with an unparalleled selection of styles in every conceivable price range, from the most modest to the most grand. A great deal is not hard to find; in fact, store owners are often seen roaming up and down the street, ensuring that their prices can't be beat.

Also situated in the neighborhood are museums, including the world-class collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), plus the American Folk Art Museum, the International Center of Photography, the Museum of Arts & Design, the Paley Center for Media, and the famed "main branch" (the Humanities and Social Sciences Library) of the New York Public Library.

Dining in Times Square/Theatre District quick links: B.B. King Blues Club & Grill; Bobby Van's; Capizzi Pizzeria & Wine Bar; Da Rosina (Italian); Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House; Guantanamera (Cuban); Guy's American Kitchen & Bar; Hard Rock Cafe; HB BurgerHeartland Brewery & Chophouse; La Masseria (Italian); Patsy's (Italian).

New to the Theater District dining scene is the sprawling, elegant URBO Loft, which offers a Pre-Theater menu.

Nightife in Times Square/Theatre District quick links: B.B. King Blues Club & Grill.

in Times Square/Theatre District quick links: The HBO Shop (sm); H&S Art Gallery; M&M's World New York; Midtown ComicsShoe Parlor; Toys"R"Us Times Square.

Sightseeing in Times Square/Theatre District quick links: Bike and Roll NYC; Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises; CitySights NY (double-decker bus tours); Discovery Times Square; Gray Line SightseeingMadame Tussauds Wax Museum; Radio City Music Hall; Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium; Top of the Rock Observation Deck

For a complete list of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway shows, click here.

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