You've seen it on TV and you've heard about it all your life, but to actually visit Times Square
is to view it in a whole new context. It is loud, it is huge, there are zillions of people, and even when the shops are the same as the ones you have at home…they look and feel completely different in this crazy place.
When you arrive the first thing that you'll notice is that there are a ridiculous number of, well, to put it kindly, junk shops. But they carry fun, NYC-themed junk that only non-natives are able to appreciate! Every five feet you'll find another shop hawking "I Love NY" shirts, postcards of all sorts, and much more to satisfy even the heartiest touristic appetite. Here you'll also find loads of electronic shops, each promising you a better deal than the next. But our advice in this case is just to be aware that many of these shops can’t offer you better prices than a P.C. Richards or a Best Buy, and often your goods won't come with a sound warranty! So just be careful when you're browsing.
The other thing that you'll find of great note here is the mega-stores. Everything about Times Square is big, the crowds, the jumbo-screens, the decorations…and these stores are no exception. If you have kids, or you still like to foster the little kid inside you, Toys R Us
is a must see. There's a huge carousel inside this giant toy mecca that is just so over the top, it's fabulous! Also essential for dessert lovers and kids alike are the Hershey's Times Square Store
, Dale and Thomas Popcorn
, and M&M's World! And of course, one should never forget the world of Hello Kitty that recently became fully accessible to us New Yorkers. The Sanrio Store
features Hello Kitty and all her friends…and obviously tons of pink and stuffed animals!
There are also some things for the boys, because we all know if we drag them into Hello Kitty land they're going to demand a little time for themselves! In that case, there's a giant Modell's Sporting Goods
store, the surfer's paradise Quiksilver
, the skater's paradise Element, preppy clothing purveyors Original Penguin, and a very plus-sized Forever 21
(with the new Disney Store soon to follow) in the old home of the epic Virgin Megastore.
The other musical staple of Times Square is a veritable NYC institution, Colony Music
. Colony is known for carrying tons of sheet music, tons of records, and for its staffers' motto "You hum the tune, we tell you the title." Old school, faded celebrity headshots and retro concert posters line the walls, so you get the full vibe of the Times Square of yester-years. Even the outside of the store seems to recall the old "Tin Can Alley" days of this area, so you should really be sure to check it out for a bit of nostalgia, and to foster the musician inside of you!
It's not all trinkets, nibbles, and music though…there are also a number of fine clothing stores where one can do a bit of unusual shopping. For example, Muji
is a Japanese import that specializes in clean lines for the clothing, and a basic color palette that would suit anyone's tastes. The store sells everything from bedding and bath linens, to home décor items, to lingerie, handbags, luggage and clothing! And it all carries with it a certain no-nonsense sensibility that everyone will be able to appreciate. There's also Charles Tyrwhitt
, a classic London-based shirt-maker whose only American outpost is in New York City. There are tons of different styles which you can get in every color imaginable, and the cufflink section is to die for (if you're a man who loves cufflinks)!
Times Square shopping also specializes in the unusual. For sure, there aren’t too many places in the world where you'll find giant chocolate shops that share space with Broadway theaters
, zany theme restaurants, and the more unusual shops like the International Center of Photography Store
. This is a noteworthy museum shop not-to-be-missed—a tiny gem of a store where you can get unusual art books and interesting, fun gifts like pinhole photography kits and photo-realistic place mats. And then there's one of our personal favorite shops, An American Craftsman, which is a gallery style store where buyers can browse knick knacks and house wares that are all hand made by American artisans instead of the usual "mass-produced in overseas factories" nonsense. The shop is located in the Sheraton Hotel where there's also a high-end sister space called the Craft Museum Gallery, which specializes in more custom orders. The wares in both these shops range from the functional (oak-wood rocking chairs) to the whimsical (hand-blown glass vases) to the unusual (found-object sculptures).
This area of town literally has every area of shopping covered, even shops for the vertically gifted, like Rochester Big and Tall
, a store which specializes in extra long pants and jackets.
And of course, because a number of TV networks call Times Square their home, it's essential to stop by the MTV Store
, right by MTV studios where thousands of screaming fans used to stand outside cheering for the celebs on the now-defunct TRL. There's also an ABC Store
just in case you love your favorite primetime TV shows enough to want some memorabilia or T-Shirts that feature them!
If you get hungry after all of this shopping business, you should totally stop by ESPN Zone
where you can play loads of video games while
eating and drinking—which is really cool. There's also about a zillion sports games on the TV at any given time so if you're not into gaming, you'll definitely be into watching the game. And, again, for those with little ones, Mars 2112
is where just about every native NYC kid wanted to have their birthday party when they were younger. The space-themed restaurant is visually stimulating, and again really cool.
So there you have it, a rundown of the must-see, although most of it is already so large it couldn't possibly be missed. Just make sure you don't forget to stop off and see a Broadway
production on your way through the shops!