“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.”
The urge to break into song is undeniable here, even if you don't have a gig at Carnegie Hall. Marquees lining Broadway from 42nd to 54th bring show tunes to mind, and Times Square may have you humming Auld Lang Syne months before New Year's Eve. The illuminated ball drop has heralded calendar changes in Times Square since 1908, but the neighborhood has changed around it. Blinking jumbotrons and digital stock tickers line Broadway's Great White Way, and family-friendly 42nd St. attractions like Madame Tussaud's and Ripley's Believe It or Not! help draw 39 million visitors annually to the area. Times Square underwear ads and underwear-clad singing Naked Cowboy are distant echoes of Midtown West's seedy Midnight Cowboy days in the 1970s, when hustlers and porn palaces greeted new arrivals around the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Smoking is among the many vices now banned in Times Square, and city planners are rebranding neighboring Hell's Kitchen as Clinton to make it seem less intimidating to Javits Convention Center visitors. But gentlemen's-club memorabilia still surfaces at Hell's Kitchen's Flea Market, and native New Yorker Lady Gaga keeps trying to shock seen-it-all Midtowners at Madison Square Garden. Think you can do better? Koreatown karaoke bars are standing by.