New York deserves its reputation as one the greatest cities on the planet. In 2011, more than 50 million domestic and international tourists visited the Big Apple to experience world-class culture in its museums and Broadway shows, eat at some of the finest restaurants representing every imaginable type of cuisine, and wander through its historic ethnic neighborhoods and expansive green spaces like Central Park. Yet for some indefensible reason, a full 80 percent of all visitors to New York choose to converge on the gaudiest and least authentic intersection in the city: Times Square [source: Forbes.com].
Times Square's big attraction is its famous "lights," aka giant billboard ads for underwear and perfume, and Jumbotron TV screens streaming CNN. Then there's the whole New Year's Eve thing, which must be thrilling for people whose idea of a great time involves subzero temperatures, hordes of drunk tourists and the threat of imminent trampling. But other than that, Times Square is an out-of-towners-only wasteland of knickknack shops (don't forget to buy your pointy green Statue-of-Liberty crown!), bad street theater, chain restaurants, and shady vendors selling knock-off handbags and pirated DVDs.
A side effect of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's successful effort to rid Times Square of the peep shows, porn theaters and prostitutes who ran the place for much of the '60s, '70s and '80s is that Times Square is now entirely devoid of anything particularly "New York." It's more like America's most crowded mall, where parking is $20 an hour, exactly how long you'll wait for a table at a local Times Square restaurant like Applebee's.