What's (Actually) Cool Around Times Square

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To tourists, Times Square is a dazzling beacon of glimmering lights, hot nightlife activities, and bumping restaurants, but to New Yorkers it's a total no-go zone (unless you like foot-traffic jams, getting hustled for the 10 p.m. comedy show, and the Naked Cowboy). But we refuse to believe that all of Midtown West should be left to the out-of-towners. Instead, we're reclaiming 42nd Street by bringing you what's actually worth navigating the blocks filled with slow-walkers, foldable maps, and hot dog stands. These attractions are worthy of locals' attention and redeem the area that we've otherwise avoided for years (sorry, Condé Nast-ers, you'll be downtown in no time). Keep reading for just some of what's cool in Times Square right now.

pool

Experience

Looking for a staycation? Pool Bar at the Grace Hotel lets you feel like you're outside Manhattan even though you're smack in the middle of, you guessed it, Times Square. The best part? There's a well-lit indoor pool area with bottle service, a full bar, a DJ, and even some steam room/sauna action. And, you don't need to be a hotel guest (or even know one) to get in. Book this spot for birthday parties or just swing by on a Saturday night to get your drink, dance, and dunk on! FYI: Make sure you cellie's not in your pocket if you to decide to get wet.
Grace Hotel, 125 W 45th Street (between 6th and 7th avenues); 212-354-2323 .

Whether you're needing skin solutions, beauty applications, waxing, or (yep) injectables, even Midtown desperately needs a reliable (and all service!) salon. Luckily, Gotham Beauty Lounge — just open in the prestigious Bryant Park Place — has a roster of clutch treatments for guys and girls. We're calling this one 42nd Street-area indulgence we'd travel uptown for...and we're booking out appointments, stat.
Gotham Beauty Lounge, 32 West 40th Street (between 5th and 6th avenues); 212-921-2002.

If you're looking for a more low-key (but still glam) Midtown hotel experience, check out the original Dream Hotel, equipped with a rooftop bar and an outpost of Serafina for the classic NYC Italian fare that always hits the spot. Sure, the downtown jam may have stolen the limelight, but if you find yourself on West 55th Street, it's still a destination for drinks and relaxation.
The Dream Hotel, 210 West 55th Street (Between Broadway & 7th Avenue); 212-247-2000.

small> Photo: The Grace Hotel Pool Bar, Courtesy of Formulatin

koi

Eat And Drink

Famous for its Condé Nast power lunches and chic diners (or a combo of the two), Koi serves up an incredible list of delicious dishes for dinnertime, too. From a kobe beef carpaccio that you'll seriously want two of, to to a leopard-print molten chocolate cake (and everything in between, including totally filling sushi and an out-of-this-world lobster dish), the menu is no joke. Plus, they just added fresh springtime cocktails like the Spiked Passion Fruit Lemonade and Cara Cara Cosmo (pictured above) to finish off your night (or get you started midday à la Don Draper).
Koi NYC, 40 West 40th Street (between 5th and 6th avenues); 212-921-3330.

The Lambs Club was pronounced one of the city's chicest dinner spots upon opening (we chimed in, too), no matter the little fact that it happens to be rubbing shoulders with Times Square. And, while a three-course tasting menu would typically run you $68 for dinner, if you go pre-or-post theater time, enjoy the same delicious offerings for just $44.
The Lambs Club, 132 West 44th Street (btwn 6th Ave and Broadway); 212-997-5262.

A local-fare brewhouse and gastropub with clams, oysters, and an extensive beer menu may not be the first thing you think of when you think of Times Square, but that's just because you probably haven't checked out the newer of Little Town NYC's locations. And, just in case you're missing out on all that tourist fun, fear not, they serve upscale soft pretzels, too (perfect for that happy hour pint).
Little Town NYC, 366 W. 46th Street (between 8th and 9th avenues); 212-677-630

Photo: Koi Cocktails, Courtesy of LFB Media Group

show

Watch

Venus In Fur: Talk about girl power! (we mean boy power, we mean girl power, we mean boy power) David Ives' delightful 90 minutes of flip-flopping masculine/feminine power play will have your head spinning and your heart racing... in a good way. Hugh Dancy (Thomas) and Nina Arianda (Vanda), depicting a repressed, submissive-wannabe director and a snarky, fiercely intelligent and confident struggling actress respectively, deliver some of the best performances of their career. From the moment the sexy and intoxicatingly delightful Vanda explodes on stage until the culminating blackout, you will hang on her every word and movement. The adorable Thomas just manages to keep up, and audiences will find themselves exhilarated and empowered watching her beat him at his own game.
Venus In Fur, The Lyceum Theater, 149 W 45th Street (at 7th Avenue); 212-239-6200.

Death Of A Salesman: Arthur Miller's classic drama takes on new relevance and meaning with Andrew Garfield and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the lead roles of Biff and Willy Lowman. This Scott Rudin production drew a huge crowd when we were there opening night (ahem, Emma Stone) and we couldn't see a dry eye in the house. And that includes the play's leading men — they displayed so much raw emotion on stage we almost wanted to leap up from our seats in the front row and offer them a kleenex. It's so real, and so wrought with emotion, it seems almost inconceivable that the actors can pull off this challenging performance night after night — but they do.
Death Of A Salesman, Ethel Barrymore Theater, 243 West 47th Street (at 8th Avenue); 1-866-276-4887.

Magic/Bird: So for full disclosure, we haven't seen this one yet, but we're absolutely dying to. Chronicling the long rivalry and eventual friendship of NBA stars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, this new musical is sure one to drag the guys to.
Magic/Bird, Longacre Theater, 220 West 48th Street (between 7th and 8th avenues); 212-239-2822.

Photo: Via Venus In Fur