Hands down, this is the most frenetic part of New York City, a cacophony of flashing lights and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that many New Yorkers studiously avoid. Originally named after the New York Times (whose headquarters have since relocated nearby), the area has seen many changes since the first subway line, which included a 42nd Street station, opened in 1904. You won't find speakeasies and unsavory clubs around here nowadays; it's a vibrant, family-friendly destination, with a newly resurfaced pedestrianized stretch of Broadway with granite benches, and stadium seating behind discount-theater-ticket-seller TKTS, all under the glare of brand names like MTV and M&Ms. If you like sensory overload, the chaotic mix of huge underwear billboards, flashing digital displays, and on-location television broadcasts will give you your fix, while naked cowboys, seminude painted ladies, Elmo clones, fake Buddhist monks, and other street performers will shake you down—some quite
aggressively—for tips. The focus of the entertainment may have shifted over the years, but showtime is still the heart of New York's theater scene, and there are 40 Broadway theaters nearby. The Times Square Visitor Center is closed, but you can still learn about Broadway's history and architecture with a 90-minute walking tour ($30) of the area by Manhattan Walking Tours (www.manhattanwalkingtour.com); the guided Broadway Walking tour (daily at 9:30, 11:30, and 2; www.walkinbroadway.com) includes audio headsets and 30 stops, and leaves from the Actor's Chapel on West 49th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue.