(© Sarah Moore)
Let's say you find yourself in Times Square with a few hours to kill before seeing a show. You've already ridden the Toys R Us ferris wheel and eaten at the overpriced chain restaurants. What now? Over the past three-and-a-half years that I've lived here in New York, I've developed my own favorite places to hang out in the theater district.
If you're willing to wait a little while to get your food, I'm a fan of Shake Shack on 44th and 8th (which is conveniently located right near the Majestic, the St. James, and Second Stage theaters). It may seem like an obvious choice, but I promise it's worth it, and if you're just getting a drink or ice cream, you can get in a shorter line.
Some additional favorite restaurants include Vynl on 51st and 9th (with great burgers and fun cocktails), the Hell's Kitchen Blockheads on 50th (though it's best to go to Blockheads early -- the lines can often get very long), or the HB Burger across from the Stephen Sondheim Theater on 43rd Street.
If your parents are in town or you feel like treating yourself, some of my favorite places to go out to dinner are Becco, a fantastic Italian restaurant on Restaurant Row (46th between 8th and 9th) and Nizza on 45th and 9th (the grilled chicken paillard, one of my favorites, can be found on their gluten-free menu).
For more long term plans, if you live in the city you've really got to check out the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. (You can get a New York Public Library Card if you live, work, or attend school in the state of New York). There is the famed Theatre on Film and Tape archive, where you can view old productions for research. They also have a massive collection of plays, sheet music, and press clippings. Also, on Monday nights they often have Songbook @ LPA concerts to showcase upcoming performances.
Also if you're planning in advance, take advantage of your city and check out some free TV show tapings. I've seen Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, and they are all a great experience. Tickets for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report go fast, but you can check up on this twitter to find when they release new tickets, or just regularly check their websites. For Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, call (212) 664-3056 for ticket availability. His website says "Generally, tickets are booked about one month in advance from the actual taping. You can request up to four tickets, and all audience members must be at least 17 years old." Also, Jimmy Fallon films inside 30 Rock, so you can pretend you're Liz Lemon if you're so inclined.
Additionally, since the closure of the Lincoln Center Barnes and Noble, most Broadway/theatre related CD signings are held at the East 86th Street Barnes & Noble (the Godspell CD release was held earlier this week -- Click here for TheaterMania's photo coverage!) where you can often catch some free Broadway performances, if you're willing to venture further uptown.
The Laurie Beechman Theatre inside the West Bank Café (just west of 42nd and 9th) often has cabaret performers from the theater community (Alice Ripley recently held a series of her Daily Practice concerts here), so be sure to check their calendar for upcoming events.
If the weather permits, I actually really like to sit out in Times Square if I can score a table, or in Bryant Park if it's not too crowded. There are few better places to people watch than the "center of the universe."
In warmer weather in the summer and fall, be on the look out for Broadway on Broadway, the Broadway Flea Market, Broadway in Bryant Park, and Broadway Barks -- all free theater related outdoor events taking place in midtown.