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Travel Talk

Local hosts share their insights

Times Square: 3 facts you likely didn't know

Time Square is among the most visited places in the world. When you combine New Yorkers who work there, or pass the square on their commute, with visitors taking selfies with the famous billboards - there are well over 300,000 people walking through the square each day.

Times Square wasn't always like this, here are three facts that you likely didn’t know.

How did it get its name?

The two triangular squares that form Times Square have always been a hub of trading. Back then it was known as Longacre Square and even then the houses were covered in big advertising billboards.

In 1904 the New York Times moved their office here and the square was renamed to Times Square. Only a few weeks after they moved in, the first electrical advertisement appeared on their building. This trend caught on fast and remains to this day. ⁠

Advertising billboards - What are the legal requirements?

Bright flashing billboards are the signature of Times Square, and it is intended to be kept that way. There is a law that requires all the buildings around the square to keep a minimum amount of light display.⁠

There are about 238 billboards in the square and the daily costs for brands to advertise on them start from $5000 and go up to well over $50,000… It can easily cost well over $1M for an ad campaign for a month. The property owners are making their fortunes from both the advertising revenues and the rent leasing offices and retail space to prominent corporations, such as Hard Rock Cafe, Thomson Reuters, MTV and Morgan Stanley.

The New Year’s Eve Ball drop and why some years it didn’t happen?

The New Year's Eve ball drop is a New York tradition that is known worldwide. At 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, the ball descends down a flagpole to signal the start of the new year. This tradition started in 1904, when the New York Times magazine offered to host the party in the square in front of its new headquarters.⁠

(Image: SimonPix)

During the 115 years of this tradition, there have been only two occasions when the ball was not dropped. In 1942 and 1943 the square was not lit so that the WW2 German submarines would not see it. ⁠

And in 2020, New Year’s Eve was slightly different. Due to the spread of Covid-19, for the first time in history, the ball was dropped in empty streets as people were not allowed to gather in Times Square.

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