There's the Times Square you know, full of blazing billboards, selfie sticks, and costumed characters. Then there's the less familiar one, beyond the lights, in the overlooked nooks and crannies.Less
Most passengers fast-walking between the N/R/Q/W corridor and the S platform likely blow right past handmade ceramic reliefs by the Bronx-based Toby Buonagurio. Thirty-five artworks grace the hallway, frenetic street scenes rendered in clay and adorned with splashes of bright glaze.
In addition to a secret, clandestine entrance that once connected to the subway below—now inaccessible—this Beaux Arts hotel has a rooftop bar that feels like a step back in time. Carefully restored copper lions' heads frame the pigeon-eye view.
This space debuted in 1912 as a theatrical venue called the EltingeIn. In 1998, the entire building was loaded up on hydraulic jacks and moved 170 feet down the block. Gazing up, you can still spy ornate sphinxes on the ceiling and a dreamy painting of women dancing with gauzy scarves. The escalator offers a close-up view.
Once the Gospel Tabernacle Church, this joint is now a cathedral of sauce, cheese, and crust, complete with chandeliers, an octagonal stained-glass ceiling, and a balcony.
A pedestrian island in the middle of Times Square emits a strange (and purposeful) humming noise, the work of artist Max Neuhaus—with no signage or notification to let you know it's there.
Hiding in plain sight is you’ll find a 28-foot map that plots the locations of 40 professional Broadway theaters in granite and stainless steel, a cartographic memorial to composers, lyricists, and playwrights—Rodgers, Sondheim, Wilson, and more—who have theaters named for them.
Above the facade of a former landmark shoe store is a cast of stone actors frozen in pantomime. The statues debuted in 1929, representing drama, musical comedy, opera, and motion pictures, with the figures modeled on leading ladies of the day, including Ethel Barrymore, far left, in the role of Ophelia from Hamlet, in sharp contrast to the expressionless mannequins in the windows below.
It's hard to see today, but Times Square was once a music capital. Jon Baltimore spent his childhood, in the 1970s, helping out in his dad’s repair shop and apprenticing with Robert Giardinelli, a craftsman who restored instruments on 46th Street for four decades. Baltimore eventually opened his own business in Giardinelli’s old shop, and you can drop in to marvel at walls of saxophones, a full organ, or a centuries-old bassoon.
In the middle of the bustle you'll find an oasis, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, whose deep blue, French Gothic nave is speckled with golden stars. During Sunday mass, the church clouds with incense, earning it the nickname "Smoky Mary’s."
Eating in Times Square doesn't have to be snacks at the deli or a chain restaurant. This delectable, no-frills Cuban eatery offers heaping portions at low cost. Try the sopa de mondongo con patita (tripe soup with pig feet).