If you happen to end up in the Times Square area of Manhattan, there are plenty of non-tourist places to check out. Whether you have friends and family visiting, or are simply in midtown to see a Broadway show, you definitely don't have to go to Red Lobster or Applebee’s.
The New York institution of Shake Shack opened this past summer with a new theatre district location on 44th Street and 8th Avenue. The location often has a shorter line than the downtown location, especially if you go when the Broadway shows are on (after 8 PM or after 2 on a Saturday). And don’t think that the restaurant is only limited to delicious burgers, their fries and milkshakes are also legendary.
If you're looking for a cheaper bite, the New York chain of Famiglia pizza has a location directly across from Shake Shack on 8th Avenue. And the best part? You can get dinner for about $5! Can't beat that price. Also recommend is the HB Burger across from the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on West 43rd between 6th and 7th Avenue, and the Cosi location on 50th by the Gershwin Theatre. There are also plenty of great places to grab dinner with friends west of 8th avenue, like Vynl on 51st and 9th or the Hell’s Kitchen Blockheads on 50th.
If you have family in town willing to pay for a nice dinner, try taking them to Becco on Restaurant Row (46th between 8th and 9th) which is a delicious Italian restaurant that always has their famous great unlimited pasta special.
The main reason to head up to midtown, in our opinion, would be to catch a Broadway show. Believe it or not, Broadway shows are totally affordable on a college student’s budget. Unless your parents are in town and paying, don’t fall into the trap of the TKTS line. Those tickets aren’t very cheap; you’re going to be paying at least $60. Student rush and lotteries are the best way to go – you can see even the most popular shows for about $30 or less. Playbill.com updates the rush policies for each show at http://www.playbill.com/celebritybuzz/article/82428-Broadway-Rush-Lotter....
Partial view seats are often a bargain as well (you can usually walk up to American Idiot and score a seat for $37 – just make sure that you try this before Billie Joe Armstrong comes back in April!!!). It’s often worth a try to just stop by the box office right before the show, and see if they have any last minute tickets. They’ll even sell you tickets right before curtain!
Central Times Square isn’t all bad – the new Forever 21 store is massive, and covers four floors. It’s overwhelming, but worth checking out – if you can stand the huge crowds that is! If you need a place to duck in for awhile before your show, go up to the 8th floor lobby of the Marriott Marquis. There’s a Starbucks, a bar, clean restrooms, and some couches to hang out on and people watch. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the elevators are pretty cool and you’ll get to take on the tourist role without getting glares from natives.