Flying West across the time zone for a little over 14 hours, we landed in JFK International late in the evening bruised, battered and severely jet lagged. I took the AirTrain to the stylish Upper East Side Bentley Hotel which was situated a few blocks from the third most visited attraction in the world, Central Park. That night it was a clichéd New York hot dog, iced tea to wash it down and Netflix as I tried to shake off the 8 hours I’d gained during the journey. Scheduled for a quick stop in the Big Apple before I headed to Boston, my itinerary was chartered out to maximize the little time I had. The next morning, after a quick stroll through Central Park and a typical touristy selfie with Wall Street’s infamous bull, I decided to head towards midtown Manhattan.
When headhunter Mila Kunis tried so desperately to sell New York to LA-bred Justin Timberlake in the 2011romantic comedy ‘Friends with Benefits’, Timberlake, who claimed he had a penchant for ‘open spaces’ was adamant against the idea of moving into a metropolitan city. After hawking several USPs of the Big Apple, Kunis finally dragged Timberlake to arguably the second most visited tourist attraction in the world – Times Square!
Times Square, once known as Longacre Square was home to a blooming carriage industry in the early 19th century. Today, the square spans between West 42nd Street and West 47th Street, is the site for the iconic New Year ball drop and is regularly considered among the top 10 things to do in New York City. Second only to Las Vegas in terms of visitor numbers, when the first billboard came up in 1996, advertising Cup Noodles to compensate for flailing rentals, little was expected to become of Times Square. But when I picked up my chicken-rice combo from a food truck and sat myself down on the prominent red stairs, only then did I recognize Times Square for what it truly was. With spectacular billboards, time-based video screens, wallscapes adorning the surrounding buildings, and neon ads advertising Broadway shows, Times Square creates a unique euphoric feeling that transcends weary travelers’ emotions and puts a smile on every face. The magnetic vibe and energy of Times Square, buzzing with thousands of locals and visitors, makes even a ‘nobody’ lost in the crowd feel like they are a part of something. The absence of human communication is not missed. In that very moment, I felt elated and content just watching the world pass by. Time stood still.
Right next to the red stairs, and perhaps the best spot in NY for tickets, are the TKTS booths where hundreds of people queue up every day in anticipation of tickets for concerts, events and even Broadway shows. If you have the patience to stand in long lines, or are lazy (read: smart) enough to pick up the tickets online, then a stone’s throw from the square is another must-visit attraction the city has to offer – Broadway! Since this was my first time to a theatre, I decided to play safe and opt for the most recommended and highly rated “The Phantom of the Opera”. Three hours later, I walked out dumbstruck and amazed by the sheer elegance of the show. The next day I went back to watch ‘Wicked’.
Timberlake was sold the instance Kunis brought him to Times Square. So was I.