There’s nothing more sure to please, at least when it comes to your first meal of the day in the Theater District, than a visit to Amy’s Bread on 9th Avenue. The bakery has become a New York City institution, its locations around multiplying around the borough. Amy’s Bread’s coffee is fresh and tasty and they offer a daily rotation of morning muffins ranging from apple crumb to mixed berry bran. You can also treat yourself to their special breakfast choices like the Bread & Breakfast Basket (mini pastries and rolls). Or maybe you’ll be intrigued by the Country Breakfast (two country buttermilk biscuits with butter and jam).
The almost obscene abundance of commercialized eateries in the area may get you queasy. From the stylized McDonald’s on 42nd Street to Chevy’s and BB King’s, the first ever TGIF on the north side – they all vie for the tourists’ attention. Skip them all… but if you are thinking fast-food route, make your way over to Los Tacos No. 1. The Mexican spot in Chelsea Market offers straightforward street food with four types of tacos (steak, chicken, pork and cactus) and five types of quesadillas (all the above with an additional fried quesadilla option). The secret to the eatery’s success are corn tortillas that Los Tacos uses, made fresh on premises.
Why live in Theater District if you don’t plan to personally inspect the seemingly endless array of landmark theaters? Consider starting your explorations of more than 30 theaters in the area by visiting the Al Hirschfeld Theater, an old-timer that opened in 1924. Continue with a visit to New Amsterdam Theatre, Broadway’s oldest continuing functional theater, and the original home of the Lion King. Your next stop could be the Booth Theater, which opened in 1913 and still features a Venetian-Renaissance facade. One of the most famous theatres is the Winter Garden, which opened in 1896. Its claim to fame is not its glorious age, but rather the fact that the theater is the home of “Cats," the longest running show on Broadway. You can’t pass by Richard Rogers Theater, the stage where “Hamilton" puts its magic on. Finally, there’s the St. James Theatre, which gave Broadway so many shows, from "The Producers" to "Hello, Dolly" to "Something Rotten!" You will probably recognize this place for being the setting for the Oscar-winning movie “Birdman.” Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and actor Michael Keaton filmed the entire movie, over a span of 30 days, at the St. James.
The first impression of this NYC neighborhood is its Disney-fied atmosphere, reflected in the district’s three major attractions. The first is Madame Toussauds wax museum. The gigantic hand that reaches out from above the entrance subconsciously, although maybe not overly subtly, lures you in. Toussauds’ has become a major tourist attraction. Right next door is the Ripley’s Believe or Not Odditorium, a favorite amongst families. Finally, there’s Discovery Times Square, merely a block away. The rotating exhibition hall has offered numerous special and limited engagements throughout the year. In the past, the museum held interactive exhibitions for Marvel's Avengers, the Titanic (which was one of the most popular as it featured rescued artifacts), Star Trek, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Star Wars.
This is the big leagues for theater lovers. In the Theater District, performing arts take precedence over anything else. This is exactly why you should make a trip to The Drama Bookshop. The bookstore specializes in plays and acting theory books — it stocks around 8,000 plays! You can also browse posters of former plays, and props from former shows. The bookshop is a source of knowledge for thousands of acting students, theater professional and artists. And there’s a 50-seat theater — the Arthur Seelen Theater — right below the bookstore. The theater gained fame for allowing Lin-Manuel Miranda to rehearse his Tony Award-winning ‘In the Heights” in 2002, a mere six years before the play’s success.
Your pre-theater dinner will be a very special one… in a neighborhood where the short list of world-known restaurants includes Mario Batali’s Esca or Sardi’s (this is where the celebrities have their caricatures on the wall and where Kermit the Frog dined in "Muppets Take Manhattan"). A few blocks north there’s the new Dream Hotel, which has the Rickey and other new wave restaurants. But the choice of the day, for today at least, is pretty simple: Le Bernadin. Led by celebrity Chef Eric Ripert, whose food is considered a work of art, the French restaurant is one of the best and most consistent in the world.
Easily the most bustling area you will ever see in the world, the life outside your door and in the Times Square (named after the New York Times) could be quite overwhelming. Traveled by an average of 360,000 daily, this is one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the world. The lights and the oversized billboards are dizzying. Take a moment to stand in the middle of the square and soak it all in. Times Square Studio, home to ABC’s Good Morning America, Nightline and Dick Clark’s New Year's Rockin Eve, is here. Playstation Theater, home of the Heisman Trophy, too. Just blocks away there’s the Ed Sullivan Theater, formerly home of the Ed Sullivan Show and the current home of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. There’s oversized commercial stores such as Toy R’ Us (so massive that it has a Ferris wheel inside), Disney, and Forever 21. Journey to the top of 1 Times Square (the former New York Times Tower). The building is the site of the New Year’s Eve ball drop, and you could in fact visit the ball, given how it remains in place all year long (enter through the Walgreens on the ground floor.) With too many other attractions to list, your best bet is to simply stand by the subway ventilation grates on the streets… and listen.
Theater District’s biggest perk by far is such an intimate proximity to so many Broadway shows. You’ve already seen "The Lion King: The Musical” and "Kinky Boots," do tonight you decide to take in “Hamilton." The musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has reached popularity of epic proportions, making the show the toughest and most expensive ticket (think thousands of US dollars) in the world. These days, luckily, you can indulge and see the show at a more affordable price.
The bars in the Theater District are plentiful, busy and beautiful but also very expensive. Still, keep looking around and you will find some true gems. The two best are Beer Culture and The Perfect Pint. The former features more than 100 beers on tap, as well as in the bottle and can. The popularity of the small beer bar was so large that it expanded into another location, a two-level establishment in the Upper West Side. The Perfect Pint is the prototypical Irish bar but it has a rooftop bar and a neighborhood bar appeal.