This article was originally featured on the website Hilton Mom Voyage.
By Lisa Grabelle
The lights, the sights, the people, the WOW! They call it “The Crossroads of the World,” “The Hub of America.” There is simply nothing like it. It’s the most pulsating, exciting spot you’ve ever seen — New York City’s Times Square, and it’s great for families!
My gang had a fabulous visit. Here is our guide to the perfect family day in the heart of the Big Apple, vibrant Times Square. Contrary to many misconceptions, Times Square abounds with plenty of kid-appropriate activities…both day and night! Surrounded by 40 Broadway theaters, people dressed in outlandish costumes, a world-famous Naked Cowboy (he’s not really naked) and tourists from all over the world, Times Square (the area between 40th and 53rd Streets and 6th and 9th Avenues) is the quintessential New York City experience that my family will never forget!
GOOD MORNING, TIMES SQUARE!
If you are planning on visiting Times Square with your family, seeing a Broadway show should be at the top of your list. And if you have not purchased your tickets in advance, my best suggestion is to start your day by stopping by TKTS. They almost always have a great selection of discount tickets to fabulous Broadway shows.
As an added bonus, a visit to TKTS offers your kids the perfect bird’s-eye view of all the Times Square action. My girls loved grabbing a seat atop the stadium-like seating wall behind the TKTS booth and checking out the one-of-a-kind scene: flashing digital displays, ads adorning the entire sides of buildings, the set of Good Morning America, and, of course, mobs of fascinating people. It’s a show in itself!
Having Broadway show tickets in our pockets, we wandered through the “mega-stores” that line Times Square and explored the over-the-top experience shops such as the always-sparkly and animated Disney Store and the bright and colorful (and yummy) M&M Store. If shopping is not your family’s thing, perhaps you’d like to visit the oddities and curiosities of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! or see all your family’s favorite celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.
AFTERNOON ON BROADWAY
Then it was lunchtime…Broadway style! My gang totally loved the retro-styled Ellen’s Stardust Diner.
How amazingly cool to have servers who are the talented stage and screen stars of tomorrow — vocalists, dancers and performers! We loved watching our waitress belt out Let It Go while serving us our tasty lunch. The huge menu is delightfully family-friendly with something for everyone. Of course, we made sure to leave room for dessert! We went all out, sampling their signature milkshakes and sharing a tremendous piece of their freshly baked cakes. Ellen’s Stardust Diner was a hit!
Now get ready to see some of today’s stars on the great stages of Broadway! There are plenty of spectacular, family-friendly productions to choose from such as Wicked, The Lion King, Matilda and Aladdin. For us, the choice was easy. My older daughter has been obsessed with Phantom of the Opera for a while, playing the movie and soundtrack so often at home that we ALL know all the lyrics! So, as the ultimate surprise treat we got tickets to see Phantom, the longest running show on Broadway. With the grand historic Majestic Theatre setting the stage for our magical Phantom experience, the show did not disappoint. We all loved the amazingly talented cast and the impressive, elaborate set which included an ominous swinging chandelier and a stage full of dry ice to create the dreamy underworld where the Phantom dwells. My daughters gave it 5 stars!
THINGS TO DO IN TIMES SQUARE AT NIGHT
There is nothing like Times Square at night!
Start your evening by dining at any one of the many fun restaurants in Times Square or venture a few blocks further to discover other amazing NYC restaurants. We did and found a winner: Añejo, a Hell’s Kitchen Mexican restaurant with plenty of inventive tapas and a warm, festive atmosphere. The food was delish! And they were more than happy to prepare simplified versions of their menu for our girls. And for parents, you can sample their unique adults-only specialty cocktails.
Could anything possibly top off our amazing day? Yup! The most entertaining ride of our life, very simply called The Ride! It’s a show on wheels, or as The Ride’s website says: “Part Tour. Part Show. Total Entertainment.” There’s nothing quite like it (even my “seen-it-all” NYC uncle agreed)!
We hopped onto a multi-million dollar tour bus decked out with coliseum-style seating, floor-to-glass windows, over 3,000 LED lights, plasma TVs and were greeted by our hosts, two hilarious improv comedians who kept us laughing, all while telling us about many of the city’s iconic landmarks. As we drove through the city suddenly New York literally became a stage! Various performers emerged from the crowded streets to surprise us with a dance or song or magic. You should have seen my girls’ faces the first time a performer approached the bus and began to talk to us directly through the bus’ mega-sound system. The Ride kept all of us guessing as to which people on the street were “in” on it and who just spontaneously decided to join in on the fun. Everyone on the bus participated, and my girls even won prizes by answering trivia questions!
WHERE TO STAY IN TIMES SQUARE
We found a gem in Times Square. Hilton Times Square is a relaxing oasis in the midst of the bustling chaos of Times Square. Conveniently located less than a block from the Port Authority bus station and the center of Times Square, this hotel is perfectly situated for tourists wanting to be in the heart of the city and the middle of the theater district.
What a day! What a night! What a city! Grab your kids and see why NYC is fondly called “the city that never sleeps!” Sure you’ll have to navigate throngs of people and a few unsavory characters, but the experience of being in THE most exciting place in the world is a memory as large as the Big Apple itself!
You may also enjoy:
Planning a Day at the Met in New York
Best New York Restaurants for Kids
Exploring New York With Kids for the First Time
Fun Things To Do in New York City with Teenagers
Read about all of our family vacations to NYC
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
A few of the activities mentioned in the article and meals Lisa received were complimentary or discounted so she could share her experiences with you, however all opinions are her own.