Slicing boldly across Manhattan, 42nd Street is one of the city’s most iconic roads. It stretches from the United Nations on the East River all the way to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and Circle Line Cruises on the Hudson. And in between? A funhouse of entertainment, food, music, and all the lively fun you’d expect from the very core of the Big Apple.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (234 W. 42nd St. at Seventh Ave.)
Start with the bizarre (a throwback to Times Square’s sordid past as a haven for nudie theaters and dirty bookshops) at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, where 20 themed galleries of oddities await you across two floors. Interactive exhibits will challenge and expand your mind, while the collection of curiosities ranges from prized (Ted Williams’ signed baseball bat) to peculiar (Ted Williams’ hair). The collections are open 365 days a year beginning at 9 a.m., and remain open until at least 11 p.m. daily, making it easier than ever to get your fill of this fun “freak show.”
Madame Tussauds (234 W. 42nd St. at Seventh Ave.)
Spend enough time in Times Square, and it’s likely you’ll spot a star – or at least someone who looks a lot like one. But for a truly peerless photo op with the bold-faced names, there’s no place quite like Madame Tussauds. The famed wax museum features dozens of famous figures – er, wax likenesses thereof, incredibly life-like in photos – and encourages guests to cozy up to the stars. Hop a seat on the back of ET’s bike, pose stoically alongside Abraham Lincoln, or croon a reggae tune with Bob Marley; they’re all inside, along with many more.
Planet Hollywood (1540 Broadway at W. 45th St.)
In the heart of Times Square, the set of so many famous scenes, it’s easy to feel like a celebrity (and often, to spot a celebrity, as well). Want to increase your odds of a close encounter? Book a table at Planet Hollywood, where memorabilia from The Terminator and The Hunger Games compete with a reliably excellent menu of hunger-crushing fare for your attention. And even if you don’t get to rub shoulders with the glitterati, you’ll dine on elevated American classics like Kobe beef sliders and four-cheese mac’n’cheese and leave sufficiently satisfied to see more of the Times Square sights.
Dave & Buster’s (234 W. 42nd St. at Seventh Ave.)
When the streets of New York are rainy, chilly, or simply too crowded, Dave & Busters is a perfect escape. This rambunctious, adult-oriented funhouse is the arcade your 13-year-old self always imagined: every conceivable game, from skeeball and billiards to Temple Run and Dizzy Chicken, plus a craving-friendly menu of bar food favorites and a cocktail list that includes boozy snowcones. Load up your “player’s card” with credits or have it all with an affordable “Eat & Play Combo,” and forget about the Times Square crowds at this year-round indoor carnival.
B.B. King Blues Club & Grill (237 W. 42nd St. at Seventh Ave.)
Once you’ve had your fill of oddities and games, you’ll likely want “A Little Night Music.” Step into B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, an all-purpose venue that’s home to live performances virtually every evening (and, yes, some mornings, too – but more on that in a minute). A frequent stop for nationally renowned cover bands, as well as talented originals, you’ll hear everything from Motown to jazz to rock and roll. Unless you plan to visit on a Saturday morning for its famed 12 noon Beatles Brunch, or a Sunday morning for Gospel Brunch with the Harlem Gospel Choir and an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Chevy’s (259 W. 42nd St. at Eighth Ave.)
Somewhere in all of this excitement, you’re going to need a meal, and finding affordable dining in the heart of Midtown can be daunting. That’s why we love Chevys, where happy hour is actually six hours long and the kitchen is open from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. daily. Think of Chevys as the great neighborhood bar you always wanted around the corner, just in the middle of New York City: $5.99 domestic drafts, well drinks, and wines from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. daily, perfect with its menu of Bar Munchies or a heartier plate (shrimp and crab quesadilla or mesquite-grilled tacos, anyone?).
Frames Bowling Lounge (550 Ninth Ave. at 42nd St., 212.268.6909)
Still searching for more action – perhaps before catching a bus to your next destination? The Port Authority Bus Terminal is home to an unexpected treat: Frames Bowling Lounge, complete with private VIP lanes, billiards tables, a ping-pong area with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs for on-lookers, and even a dance lounge. This posh spot is ideal for group gatherings, especially if some of your crew is coming in from out of state, and with several bars scattered throughout the massive space, it’s also a great last hit before you board a bus to wherever you’re headed next.
Carlo’s Bakery (825 Eighth Ave. at W. 42nd St.)
Steps from Times Square, satisfy a sweet tooth at Carlo’s Bakery, an off shoot of the Hoboken, New Jersey original across the Hudson River, which is owned and operated by the cast of TLC’s hit show Cake Boss. Star Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro, Jr. is often on site, decorating the gorgeous and delicious confections that made his family’s bakery among the most famous in the country, and the shop sells everything from grab-and-go goodies to elegant, multi-tiered custom cakes, baked to order in eye-popping colors and mouthwatering flavors. It’s been a long day of trekking up and down 42nd Street, and you’ve earned it!