Hidden Times Square: The Best Secret Spots in NYC's Theater District
Discover off-the-radar bars, bookshops, and more in New York’s iconic theater district.
Although it’s a New York City icon, Times Square has a long and storied history that not everyone knows about. But it’s not just the neon-lit neighborhood’s past that contains surprises; today’s Times Square plays host to a variety of destinations and attractions that the average passerby may never notice.
For a taste of the tucked-away treasures hidden among the fluorescent billboards, costumed characters, and Broadway theaters of Times Square, check out these 5 spots.
Considered one of the best (and only) dive bars in Times Square, Jimmy’s Corner offers a humble, boozy respite from the chain restaurants and fast food joints that pepper the area. Many bars don’t open until the evening, but Jimmy’s welcomes customers to enjoy a pint as early as 11:30am. Patrons will love sipping super-cheap pints and listening to jukebox tunes, surrounded by photographs of famed boxing matches (Jimmy’s was founded by a former boxing trainer).
Jimmy’s Corner is located at 140 West 44th Street.
Beloved by the theater-going set, the Drama Book Shop offers an exhaustive inventory of plays, musicals, monologue collections, and other theater-related books. Perusing the shelves, you’ll find everything from ancient Greek plays to the latest award-winning scripts. Visitors may come for the books, but they stay for the bookstore’s regular events, such as book signings and panel discussions with playwrights and industry professionals. What’s more, the shop has been around for 100 years — an impressive feat in a city, and neighborhood, where storefront turnover is high.
The Drama Book Shop is located at 250 West 40th Street.
Toy stores and hobby shops may be closing down faster and faster as brick-and-mortar retailers move online, but the Red Caboose still happily chugs along. Venture over to the store’s Midtown location to find a wide selection of old-school model trains, planes, ships, and even authentic miniature New York City subway cars. The store also stocks paints, glues, and other materials for devoted enthusiasts to customize and repair their collectibles. A souvenir from the Red Caboose may be just the gift for a loved one who already has a closet full of “I Love NY” t-shirts.
The Red Caboose is located at 23 West 45th Street.
Times Square is packed with tourists, yes, but the longtime locals who work and live in the neighborhood have claimed a few haunts of their own to evade even the most determined Instagrammers. Bar Centrale is one such refuge: located in a converted apartment above Joe Allen’s, Bar Centrale is a popular spot for Broadway performers seeking a much-needed post-show cocktail. It’s also very intimate, so reservations are recommended. The entrance to the bar is unmarked — if you see the large oak doors, you’re in the right place.
Bar Centrale is located at 324 West 46th Street.
Have you ever found yourself walking along 45th Street, only to hear a strange humming sound? If so, you’re not imagining things. Beneath a grate on Broadway lies a permanent sound installation by the late artist Max Neuhaus. Neuhaus wanted to create a piece that visitors could claim “as their own discovery,” according to a New York Times interview. Since 1977, it has emitted a subtle droning sound, commonplace enough to be disregarded among the din of construction and traffic noise.
Neuhaus’s sound installation is located on Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets.
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