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20 Surprising Things About Times Square Tourists Should Know

Whether you live in America, Canada, or on the other side of the globe there probably aren't many people who have never heard of Times Square in New York City. It's an iconic part of American culture and is seen on TV every year for the Ball Drop among other events. Times Square is visited by about 40 million people each and every year.

Times Square has many nicknames including “The Center of the Universe”, “The Crossroads of the World”, and more. It's one of the busiest areas in the world in terms of the amount of pedestrians that pass through. Over the years Times Square has changed quite a bit. From the name of the place to the type of establishments that are located there, someone who visited Times Square 50 years ago might not recognize it today.

You probably know some basics about Times Square, but chances are there are some interesting facts you probably didn't know. Unless you're a local to the area you may not know the original name of Times Square or that it was once an area that horses occupied.

Times Square has millions of visitors, lights, and dollars and remains to be an iconic space in New York City. It has an interesting history and to this day there are plenty of interesting people there and places to visit in the area. Check out these 20 things tourists need to know about Times Square so you'll be ready to go the next time you travel to the area.

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20 Name Change

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Believe it or not, Times Square hasn't always been called Times Square. It received its current name in 1904 after previously being named Longacre Square. The reason for the change was became the New York Times headquarters moved to the address of One Times Square that year and the square was named after the newspaper. At the time the paper's headquarters was named the Times Building which makes a bit more sense if you consider the name Times Square. Some people think Times Square was named that way because its a good place to go to pass the time or have a good time, but they would be incorrect (at least on the way it got its name).

19 One Times Square Is An Empty Moneymaker

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This tower was originally built to be the headquarters for The New York Times. They only stayed in the building for eight years and then moved to a new location at 229 W. 43rd St. One Times Square continued to be an iconic building mainly because of the New Year's Eve festivities including the ball drop. An electronic news ticker was added to the building in 1928 and One Times Square was sold to Lehman Brothers in 1995. The building is mostly empty but is used for advertising due to its prime location. Its traditional and electronic billboards generate more than $20 million each year.

18 It's Not Actually A Square

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Fans of geometry might not enjoy visiting Times Square because it's not actually a square. Technically it's a triangle or actually two triangles that are separated by Broadway. It's called a square in the traditional of a town square, but it's more of a bow tie shape. The northern triangle is referred to as Father Duffy Square after Chaplain Francis P. Duffy while the southern triangle doesn't have a proper name. Broadway runs through the square diagonally and the intersection helps create the bow tie shape. Don't be too concerned about the actual shape of the square or you might miss some interesting people and attractions.

17 Millions Gather To Watch The Ball Drop

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Watching the ball drop on television on New Year's Eve is certainly a spectacular sight, but it doesn't do justice to the size of the crowd that gathers in New York. While an estimated 100 million people watch around the world, an astounding 1 million people huddle up to catch a glimpse of the ball dropping in person. The New Year's Eve ball drop started at the end of 1907. While one million people gathering in one location sounds crazy, it's only about twice the amount of people that ravel through the area on a daily basis. A newer and more energy-efficient LED ball was added in 2008 to celebrate the 100th anniversary.

16 The Ball Didn't Drop During World War II

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The first New Year's Eve ball drop took place on December 31, 1907 and in 2008 the celebration included an homage to the 100th anniversary of the occasion. There were actually two years when the ball drop didn't occur. The ceremony was put on hiatus in 1942 and 1943 because there were lighting restrictions in place during World War II. During those years people still gathered to observe a moment of silence at midnight and sound trucks played chimes. In 1945 the largest crowd ever to gather in Times Square celebrated Victory over Japan Day when President Truman announced the Japanese surrender.

15 There's Only One Place To See It All

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If you want to check out Times Square in all its glory with 360-degree views, the only revolving restaurant you can do so at is called The View. The floor revolves 360 degrees every hour. This is a great place to be on New Year's Eve if you don't want to fight the crowds and deal with the cold. Dining here certainly isn't cheap and you'll definitely want to make a reservation. For example, a five-course dinner on New Year's Eve will set you back $600 per person and that's without adding any extras. That's not too bad if you choose to skip going out to eat a few times during the year.

14 Smoking Has Only Been Banned Recently

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For years you were free to enjoy a cigarette or cigar in Times Square, but new laws made smoking illegal in 2011. New York extended their outdoors smoking ban in February of that year and now you'll be fined $50 if you are caught smoking in the Times Square area. The law was signed into effect by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and smoking is now illegal in 1,700 parks in New York City as well as on 14 miles of public beaches and pedestrian plazas which Times Square is officially included in. The aim of the law was to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke with reducing litter as an added benefit.

13 You Can Stumble Into A Hidden Bar

The hidden bar known as Bar Centrale isn't much of a secret anymore thanks in part to the internet. The bar is located inside an unmarked townhouse which is on W. 46th Street. It's said to be frequented by celebrities, but that's hard to substantiate if you don't even know it exists. Nowadays the place isn't very secretive considering it has a website with the address and phone number available to all. The bar and lounge is said to be in converted apartment and frequent guests include Broadway stars who come in for a drink or meal after their shows.

12 It's Home To Many Characters

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There are certainly some interesting people roaming around Times Square. Actually they might not even consider themselves ordinary people because many of them dress up as superheroes. One of the most interesting and famous characters you'll find in Times Square is the Naked Cowboy. He isn't a superhero and he isn't naked, but he is a cowboy who plays the guitar in minimal attire. He wears white briefs, a cowboy hat, and cowboy boots and positions his car strategically so that he might appear naked from afar. He even ran for President of the United States in 2012 as a member of of the U.S. Tea Party.

11 The Famous Photograph

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You've likely seen that famous photograph of the U.S. Navy sailor supposedly grabbing and kissing a woman who was a stranger, wearing a white dress. That photograph took place on Victory over Japan Day or V-J Day in 1945. It was taken by a photographer named Alfred Eisenstaedt and the photo's official title is V- Day in Times Square although it can also be referred to as The Kiss or V-Day. The photo was published in Life magazine. Several men have claimed to the man in the photograph. A woman named Greta Zimmer Friedman was identified as the woman, although another woman named Edith Shain claimed to be her.

10 The NASDAQ Sign Holds A Record

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If you've ever been to Times Square you've surely seen the NASDAQ sign which is 37 feet high. That feat makes it the largest LED sign in the entire world. The seven-story sign is located at the NASDAQ MarketSite located at 4 Times Square on 43rd Street. Other notable signs in the area include the Toshiba billboard and the Coca-Cola sign. If you aren't into the stock market, the Nasdaq is the second-largest exchange and is second only to the New York Stock Exchange. NASDAQ was founded in 1971 when it stood for National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations.

9 Bright Lights Big City

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The lights in Times Square are so bright that they can actually be viewed from outer space. The area has 55 huge LED displays in addition to several smaller ones. It costs more than $9 million to keep all those lights on every year, or more than $25,000 per day. More than 160 megawatts are required each day to keep Times Square lit up. The lights make the area worth visiting both during the day and at night as it's quite a different experience during both of those times. There are large video screens but thankfully the first environmentally friendly billboard debuted in 2008.

8 It's Been The Backdrop For Many Movies And TV Shows

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You've probably seen at least one movie or TV series that was set in Times Square or the location at least played a prominent role. Some of the classic films to be set in Times Square include King Kong, The Seven Year Itch starring Marilyn Monroe which included the iconic shot of her dress blowing up, Annie, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Superman (who has at least one impersonator wandering around the Square). Times Square Studios is home to ABC's Good Morning America and MTV Studios is located in Times Square, as featured on the TV series TRL back in the day.

7 The Theatre District Plays A Prominent Role

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The New York City Theatre District is a major reason to visit Times Square. Most Broadway theaters are located there in addition to other types of theaters, hotels, and restaurants. While many people have taken in at least one show on Broadway, you might be surprised to learn that nearly 14 million people did so during the 2017-2018 season. That accounted for nearly $1.7 billion in gross revenue which was up from previous seasons. The Theatre District is also home to record labels, recording studios, Madame Tussauds New York, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium, and several other interesting attractions.

6 The Horse Carriage Industry Has A Rich History

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Before Times Square saw hundreds of thousands of pedestrians on a daily basis, the area was the center of the horse carriage industry in New York. City authorities named it Longacre Square which was later changed to Times Square. The original name paid tribute to Long Acre in London, the center of the horse and carriage trade there. The American Horse Exchange was operated out of Times Square by its owner William Henry Vanderbilt. Mr. Vanderbilt was the richest American from 1877 to 1885. He was an heir to his family fortune and the son of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt and inherited nearly $100 million.

5 It's Sometimes Can Be A Shady Area

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Times Square hasn't always been a family-friendly place to hang out. Thea area was once nicknamed the Thieves Lair and was seen as a low entertainment district. Cigar impresario Oscar Hammerstein I built the first theater on the square which was called the Olympia and Times Square was a place for adults to imbibe. Later on, from the 1960s through the 1990s, the Times Square area featured shady establishments including sex shops, go-go bars, adult theaters, and peep shows. Efforts to clean up the area were underway for many years. The area was also popular among pickpockets and others looking to take advantage of tourists.

4 It's Also Popular In Video Games

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Times Square hasn't only been featured in movies and television series. Video games like Grand Theft Auto IV have taken advantage of this iconic setting. That game recreated the Times Square area, calling it Liberty City. In addition to Liberty City being based on New York City, the video games series has also featured Vice City which is based on Miami and San Andreas based on California. Other video games to feature Times Square include Battlefield 3 which tasks the player with stopping an evil plot from a nuclear bomb going off in the location and the game Crysis 2 where aliens are attacking the area.

3 One Times Square Isn't The Only Important Number

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We know that One Times Square is a historic building that now makes money off of advertising, but there are other important numbers as well. 2 Times Square has also been known as Renaissance Hotel Times Square while 3 Times Square is also known as the Thomson Reuters Building and 4 Times Square is home to the Conde Nast Building. Other famous numbers include 6 Times Square or the Knickerbocker Building, 7 Times Square or the Times Square Tower, and 11 Times Square or the Times Square Plaza. 20 Times Square is located at 701 7th Ave and is under development.

2 It's Home To A Huge Yoga Class

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If you like getting a lot of one on one time with your yoga instructor this class might not work for you. Each year since 2002, a massive yoga event called Mind over Madness takes place in Times Square during the summer solstice. Up to 15,000 practitioners have come out to take part in this yoga event which was founded by Tim Tompkins. During the longest day of the year, yoga is used to help people find a sense of calm and stillness while the big city buzzes around them. There are many great studios in the area to practice yoga other days of the year.

1 It's Not All About Tourists

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While Times Square plays host to millions of tourists each year, there are several large corporations that do business there. Some of these companies maintain their headquarters there while others just have prominent offices. There are entertainment companies like MTV Networks, Nickelodeon, Six Flags Inc., Viacom, and The New York Times Company. There are financial corporations like Bain & Company, BMO Capital Markets, Ernst & Young, and Morgan Stanley as well as Barclays Capital which was formerly known as Lehman Brothers. All of these companies and more add up to businesses doing billions of dollars in Times Square each year.

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