Photo via Richard BURGER/Flickr
One of the true marks of a New Yorker is an aversion to Times Square, where slow-walking out-of-towners clog sidewalks, costumed characters try to hug you for tips, and overpriced suburban chains like Olive Garden and Applebees abound. But a few bright spots exist amid the touristy madness and Broadway shows, and they’re worth a visit if you happen to be in the area, if not a specific trip (seriously, avoid Times Square at all costs if you can).
Dave & Buster’s via Tess Dixon/Flickr
1. Dave & Buster’s
234 West 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues
This Dallas-based arcade chain is by far the best part of Times Square’s mall-ification, offering up a casino-sized room full of classic arcade games like Skee-ball, air hockey, whack-a-mole, Dance Dance Revolution, Frogger, and Super Mario Kart, . Though Dave & Busters does offer a full-service restaurant, the quality is about par for the course for Times Square (i.e., overpriced and underwhelming), so skip the food, stick with the drinks and games, and try to avoid this place on weekends, when you’ll be stuck with a cover charge in exchange for overwhelming crowds.
Photo via Gulliver’s Gate
2. Gulliver’s Gate
216 West 44th Street between Shubert Aly and 8th Avenue
Perfect for globe-trotting fans of miniatures and Jonathan Swift, this relatively new addition to Times Square (it opened in May) boasts 50,000 square feet of tiny replicated world landmarks. Everything from One World Trade Center to the Taj Mahal to Santorini to Brazil’s Iguazu Falls to London’s Abbey Road, Beatles included, has been miniaturized, though seeing the teensy landmarks is only half the fun—the 600-plus artists who contributed to the exhibition managed to sneak in all sorts of fun details, like tourists photographing the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, Spider-Man on the Brooklyn Bridge, a working airport, and a tiny former President Obama hidden somewhere in the Middle East. Visitors can interact with the displays using RFID sensor-equipped keys, and can even purchase miniaturized versions of their own selves using a 3-D scan.
3. Jimmy’s Corner
140 West 44th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue
Hidden amid the Disney Stores and M&M Worlds is this gem of a dive bar, which has been serving cheap beers to stagehands and business folks alike for the last four decades. Owner Jimmy Glenn was once a professional boxer, and he’s outfitted the bar’s walls with signed photos, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia dedicated to his former craft. Brews run as low as $3 here, a far cry from the high-priced tourist traps a little closer to Broadway, plus there’s a stellar jukebox and diverse crowd. Do note that Jimmy’s can fill up quick after work, for obvious reasons, so try to grab a barstool before 6 p.m. on a weekday if you can.
Lillie’s via Jazz Guy/Flickr
4. Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
249 West 49th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue
In keeping with its Victorian theme, this impeccably-decorated gastropub serves up British-inspired eats like chicken pot pies, cucumber sandwiches, and fish and chips, in addition to more American fare like cheeseburgers and chips and guac, plus there’s a full-service bar. But folks flock here more for the atmosphere than the food—Lillie’s is outfitted with a slew of antique portraits, cameos, and even stained glass windows, temporarily transporting you out of Times Square and into a mansion befitting a Brontë sister.
5. The Red Caboose
23 West 45th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues
Though it might sit slightly outside the Times Square borders, this long-standing basement hobby shop is one of the neighborhood’s best highlights, featuring tons of model train kits and subway cars for enthusiasts. The shop, which has been open since 1970, sells plenty of high-end, rare and vintage models, and they’ll even make custom-built cars and figures for you for a price. You can also score tiny planes, military vehicles, and even predatory drones, if that’s your thing.
Midtown Comics; photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
6. Midtown Comics
200 West 40th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues
Midtown Comics has a number of locations in the city, but the Times Square flagship is the OG spot, and it’s basically a comic-book-and-toy emporium. You can find vintage back issues, new release titles, graphic novels, sci-fi literature, and all sorts of colorful collectibles here, making it a fun place to browse even if you’re not much of a comic connoisseur. They’ve also got a robust online store, should you fail to find what you’re looking for, though the sheer breadth of wares here should yield you something if you dig hard enough.
7. Russian Vodka Room
265 West 52nd Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue
Located a few blocks north of Times Square proper, this unassuming vodka bar features a full list of regular and infused vodkas, along with a selection of Russian brews and bites like borscht, blini and caviar, pelmeni (Russian meat dumplings) and smoked fish. There’s often live music, plus there’s a decent happy hour, should you desire a cheap infused vodka shot before 7 p.m. on a weekday.
Photo courtesy of National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey
8. National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey
226 West 44th Street between Shubert Aly and 8th Avenue
This immersive “underwater” attraction made its way to Times Square just last year, boasting 60,000 square feet worth of virtual-reality sealife you can interact with as if you’d been dropped to the bottom of the ocean. Unlike an aquarium, none of the fish are real, which is a bonus for animal activists, but holograms, projection screens, and other high-tech 3-D innovations make it seem like you’re walking through sea. Highlights include a kelp forest maze, interactive sea lions, and water flowing under foot, and while tickets are pricey, a portion of the proceeds go toward ocean conservation, so you’ll do a good deed in exchange for the undersea adventure.
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Tags : Dave & Buster’s, gulliver's gate, Jimmy’s Corner, Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, Midtown Comics, National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey, Russian Vodka Room, The Red Caboose, Times Square