The most bustling portion of 42nd Street, between Times Square and Eighth Avenue, is in Midtown West, too
Roughly north of 34th Street, south of 57th, and west of Fifth Avenue, Midtown West is one of Manhattan’s most iconic neighborhoods. This is where you’ll find Times Square, Broadway theaters, and Bryant Park. Beyond the energy of those landmarks, simply strolling here is a walk through the New York that many people picture when they think of the city: Soaring skyscrapers looming above broad avenues, with yellow cabs looking for fares and sidewalks crowded with office workers and tourists. The most bustling portion of 42nd Street, between Times Square and Eighth Avenue, is in Midtown West, too. It has shed its unsavory past and now has a family-friendly atmosphere. If you want to make your home in the heart of the city, you’ll generally find residential buildings along the western edge of Midtown West, beginning around 8th Avenue, while hotels and office buildings dominate the eastern half of the neighborhood.
Among world cities, it is somewhat rare to have two distinct commercial centers, but New York has both the Financial District and Midtown. A number of factors explain the emergence of Midtown: First, as white-collar workers moved uptown, businesses followed them. Second, when New York’s economy expanded, it simply outgrew the warren of streets at the tip of the island. And the instant success of the current Grand Central Terminal in 1913 shifted commercial life to the north. While Grand Central is east of Midtown West, skyscrapers began to rise there, too, after it opened, with the 1920s an especially busy period of construction. Although that boom included the opening of a number of theaters, the beginning of the Theater District dates back even earlier, to the first years of the 20th century. The crossroads of the neighborhood, and the city, Times Square received its current name in 1904 when the New York Times moved its headquarters to what was previously known as Longacre Square.
One of Manhattan’s most famous shopping streets, Fifth Avenue forms the border between Midtown East and Midtown West. The prime shopping area of the avenue runs between 42nd and 59th streets. The stores are mostly flagships of international brands. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when Rockefeller Center’s tree is a decorated and illuminated beacon for shoppers, the atmosphere is especially bustling and festive. Times Square and the adjacent portion of 42nd Street have more stores, though many are focused on selling souvenirs to tourists. Dining in the neighborhood includes restaurants catering to office workers looking for lunch; both expense-account and budget options abound. The restaurants and bars of Midtown’s hotels are not just for visitors, as a number of them are popular with locals too. From roughly Eighth Avenue to the Hudson, you’ll find more neighborhood bars and casual spots.