Things To Do In Times Square And How To Avoid Scams

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo:  Photo: Ernie Rizzo©2016

The biggest mistake tourists make in Time Square is throwing away their money to scams. This article will offer some sound advice to help keep your trip to Times Square safe and fun. All tourists visiting New York City usually place Times Square at the top of their list of places to see. Outside of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and World Trade Center, Times Square is the most googled place of interest in New York City. The coverage that Times Square receives in culture from television and film fuels a worldwide fascination with those bright Broadway lights, colorful neon signs, and lively streets.

There is so much going on in Times Square. The action-packed streets of Times Square jammed with hundreds of street hustlers, tourists, business people, vendors, police, loud sounds, bright lights will be completely overwhelming for anyone who has never been to New York City. It will also be one of the most awesome, jaw-dropping experiences of your life. Believe me, you won’t be the only one there with your mouth wide open while your body spins in circles trying to take it all in. However, take a breath, and listen to some words of advice from a writer who was born in Manhattan General Hospital and has lived in New York for over 50 years.

So how does one survive a visit to Times Square in the safest fashion? The answer is very simple, be careful how you spend your money. We are not telling you not to spend any money during your NYC trip. I am just suggesting that you don’t send much money in Times Square. There are so many more places in New York City that you can spend your money and immerse yourself in real New York City culture as opposed to the tourist traps in Times Square.

Number One Tourist Trap In Times Square

Elmo is not your friend! Well, at least in Times Square Elmo is not your friend. Neither is Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Spiderman, Ironman, the list goes on and on. Times Square features hundreds of characters in costumes looking to hustle tourists for money. It is one of the most embarrassing spectacles in Time Square. It got to a point two years ago when the city had to jump in and begin to regulate the characters. The New York City Parks Department set up certain zones in Times Square that forced the characters to stay within specific boundaries so it would stop them from dominating the entire section of Times Square. It has helped, but so many of them still ignore the regulations.

The characters that circle Times Square are hired by companies that push the characters to hustle hard. They will come right up to you and drop into a pose mode as if they are offering a free photo opportunity. If you bite, and have your friend or family member take a photo, the character will then hold up a card that says tip please $20. Yes, that’s right they will instantly ask for a twenty dollars tip and will not leave you alone unless you hand it over.  I have seen some of the characters actually take off their masks and demand the money verbally. It’s not a fun scene, so try to avoid these characters and save your money. I was taking a picture of Minnie Mouse for this story when it quickly turned bad. The character did not like that I was taking a picture of her without doing the whole tourist pose thing. She took off her mask and gave me a bone-chilling stare. And it was all beautifully captured on film. See below…..

What To Do In Times Square

Minnie Mouse Taking Off Her Head – Photo: Ernie Rizzo©2016

What To Do In Times Square

Minnie Mouse unveiled – Photo: Ernie Joe Rizzo©2016

If you do want to take a photo with one, well don’t waste your time with a Mickey Mouse that you can find in every Disney Store around the world, go for an original Times Square character like the Naked Cowboy. He was the first character to start trolling Times Square and he actually is a very nice person to take a photograph with. In simple terms, the Naked Cowboy is a product of Times Square, although he was not the first. The first came at Midnight many years ago. Avoid the singing cowgirl, she is just a copy of an original idea.

Things To Do In Times Square

The Naked Cowboy – Photo: Ernie Rizzo ©2016

Tourists take pictures with these characters because they want shots of themselves in Times Square to share with family and friends. However, Times Square itself is one giant photographic opportunity. Instead of wasting your time paying money to a character, use the bright lights, neon signs, buildings and everything Times Square has to offer you. At the far northern corner of Times Square is a staircase that you can climb and take the most breathtaking shots of Times Square from all angles. Times Square offers some of the most exciting backdrops to take photos. Many New York City Police officers will take photos with tourists. Some will say no if their Sargent is around, but I have seen many people take photos with these great police officers.

Buy some sugar-coated roasted cashews or peanuts from a street vendor. They are awesome and cheap. When you buy the cashews, ask if you can take a picture next to the vendor or just take a picture in front of him and the cart. They don’t mind, especially if you just bought some peanuts from them. That’s an authentic picture, that’s New York City! That’s one of the places you spend your money in Times Square. So the first lesson in what to do in Times Square and mistakes to avoid is ignoring the fake characters, take photos of what is real, a don’t pass on the sugar-coated roasted nuts.

Things To Do In Times Square

Elmo in Times Square – Photo: Ernie Rizzo ©2016

Things To Do In Times Square

Not the greatest Hulk Costume you will ever see. Photo – Ernie Rizzo ©

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: Ernie Rizzo©2016

Things To Do In Times Square And Scams To Avoid: Tours

Second to the characters in Times Square that are trying to hustle you for money, will be the people trying to offer you great deals on a NYC tour bus. They walk around with pamphlets and as soon as you show you are interested they will start the hard sell. Before you know it, you are forking over huge amounts of money for a 90-minute tour of New York City on a London Style tour bus.  Please understand these are private companies that often utilize names that make them sound like they are official New York City tour buses. If you want to ride a bus in New York City, ride a genuine New York City MTA bus. New York City buses and subways cost $2.75 a ride. That is ten to twenty times cheaper than what you will pay for a ride on a tour bus. Riding an MTA subway or bus is a great experience. Furthermore, if you’re going to be in New York City for a few days, our advice is to get an unlimited 7 day Metro Card. It only cost thirty-two dollars and you can ride the subways or buses as many times as you want up to midnight every day.

The NYC subway system is massive as it connects all of Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. If you want to see all of Broadway, just hop on any of the NYC MTA Broadway bus lines. If you want to see uptown, take the M104 bus which operates from Times Square to 129 Street. With an unlimited card, you can hop on and off every time you see something interesting. Remember, this is NYC, there is something interesting on every street.  If you want to head downtown, take the M55 which will take you all the way down to the South Ferry. Buses run uptown, downtown and crosstown. There is an MTA bus map at the end of the article that you can download for help. While the MTA buses are a much better alternative to the Times Square tourist buses, our strongest recommendation for seeing the rest of the city is doing it on foot. If you have already bought tickets to a tour bus, then make sure you sit on the top where you can get a much better view. If you are going to spend the money on one of those busses, you might as well do it right.

Things To Do In Times Square: Food

New York City has some of the best restaurants in the world, so choosing a place to eat in Times Square like the MacDonalds or even the Hard Rock Cafe is a foolish tourist choice. Why eat in a generic corporate restaurant with lousy food when the city offers so many choices. If you are going to choose a restaurant with a real New York feel that is family oriented and not too expensive compared to some other New York restaurants, we would recommend Carmine’s Italian Restaurant at 200 W 44th St in Times Square. It’s a great place, especially if you have a large party. If you want to grab a nice Cuban sandwich, there is a small place called Margon at 136W 46th street which is right in the heart of Times Square. Grab a sandwich and climb to the top of the steps at the TKTS Tickets Booth at Times Square and eat like a real New Yorker. If you want to eat in one of the best places in New York City and don’t mind expensive, walk about five blocks north to 55th street and try to get a table at Le Bernardin. It is one of New York’s most famous restaurants. 

Things To Do In Times Square And Scams To Avoid

Saftey Tips

Like any large city, tourist need to be careful with their money in large crowds. What sets Times Square apart is the ability for a pickpocket or any type of criminal to steal something and disappear into a sea of people while getting away very quickly. Keep your money safe in a zippered pocket. Don’t carry anything with valuables that can be ripped out of your hands quickly. When entering Times Square have just a little cash that you can get to quickly without exposing a wallet of a purse. Be alert at all times and watch each other’s backs. Don’t be intimidated or scared, just be careful. It’s an amazing and wonderful place, but don’t make your self a target by carelessly holding onto a purse dangling from one finger or flashing a stack of twenty-dollar bills around. Whatever you do, don’t stand in the middle of Times Square and count your money. 

Final Thoughts on Things To Do In Times Square

If you have any other questions about Times Square or New York City, send me an email. I will get back to you and try to answer any of your questions. Times Square is such a small part of a city that has so much to offer. If you have time make sure you visit Times Square at night when the lights of the neon signs light up the sidewalk a lit stadium. It’s all very breathtaking and will serve as a memory you will never forget.  

More pictures from Things To Do In Times Square

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Things To Do In Times Square

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Things To Do In Times Square

Photo: BigCityReview.com © 2018 All Rights Reserved

 

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