Times Square and other New York Oddities by The Old Fogies

Almost every visitor to New York will find themselves in Times Square which is the main entertainment centre and tourist destination in Midtown Manhattan at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Americans with their natural modesty sometimes refer to Times Square as “the heart of The Great White Way”, “The Crossroads of the World” or “The Center of the Universe”. It is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, attracting an estimated 50 million visitors annually.

The location was originally known as Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters there. It is not really a square but made up of a couple of triangles. For decades, the square had reputation as a dangerous and seedy neighbourhood until the area was cleaned up in the 1990s. It now has a large police presence all around the clock.

Times Square is a neon wonderland with lots of billboards and advertisements all around the area. It attracts a strange assortment of street performers who dress up in a variety of costumes. For some reason there is a large section of red stairs which leads to nowhere and seems to function as seating where people watch the thousands of people walking past.

Nearby is a statue of George M. Cohan of Yankee Doodle Dandy fame. There are a number of attractions like the ABC’s Times Square Studios, where Good Morning America is broadcast live and plenty of bars, restaurants and retail outlets.

Times Square is one of those places that you feel that you should visit but as soon as you have been there, you think why did I bother !

Away from the craziness of Times Square, we thought we would point you towards some other attractions that were much more enjoyable.

Grand Central Terminal or Grand Central is one of the most famous railway stations in the United States, its distinctive architecture attracts over 20 million visitors a year excluding train and subway passengers. The enormous Main Concourse is the centre of Grand Central and is 275 ft (84 m) long by 120 ft (37 m) wide by 125 ft (38 m) high.

The concourse has an elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling created in 1912, it features various constellations. Underneath the Main Concourse is the The Dining Concourse which has seating and lounge areas, surrounded by restaurants. The terminal has 44 platforms which means the station is always busy but well worth visiting.

Lincoln Center  for the Performing Arts is a large complex of buildings in the Lincoln Square area of Manhattan, the complex is home to the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera.

Whilst many people come to the many events, we were fascinated by the Lincoln Center Revson fountain. The original Revson Fountain was built in 1964 and when it was first built, it was the most technologically advanced fountain ever constructed in New York. It was updated in 2009 and provides one of the best free shows in New York, the jets are individually controlled and can create vertical water explosions from 6 inches and 40 feet in height. We sat near the fountain mesmerised by the various complex routines for ages, eating a tasty ice cream and enjoying the surroundings.

Across from the Lincoln Center was Hippo Ballerina, part of an art installation by Danish sculptor Bjørn Okholm Skaarup.

Annoyances

Like any major city, New York has its fair share of annoyances although the large police presence in Manhattan dispels many of the myths of it being a dangerous destination.

Generally near to the main tourist areas are groups of people trying to sell you bus tours or other attractions, they generally take no for an answer but by the twentieth time it gets a little tedious. Occasionally people do try sell you CDs or other things but a firm no is usually all you need to get rid of their attention.

If you like wandering around the streets, there is some ‘Good News’ and ‘Bad News’. The good news is that you are unlikely to get lost, the city had a grid system that means as long as you know the avenue and street you can pinpoint where you are. The bad news is that the grid systems means that you are forever crossing the road at the crossing areas. This becomes slow and laborious especially on a hot day and if you do not wait for go sign beware, the NYPD do have regular clampdowns on jay walkers.

New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude and brusque, we noticed this more on public transport where the staff were often less than helpful. Generally staff in various establishments were the same as many other large cities, although it did help to have a sense of humour because New Yorkers do like a joke at times.

An example of New Yorker’s sense of humour was a occasion when Mrs Nice was adjusting my trousers at the back, three workmen on the sidewalk shouted out ‘Get a room’ leaving Mrs Nice with a bright red face from the embarrassment.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.