Times Square is currently home to a Ferris wheel — TPG went so you don’t have to
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Times Square in New York City is temporarily home to a new tourist attraction: a 110-foot Ferris wheel.
From Aug. 25 to Sept. 12, visitors can buy tickets to ride this new attraction. It’s on a stretch of Broadway in Times Square, just below the famous Coca-Cola billboard where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Rides start at noon and go through midnight, rain or shine.
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I have fond childhood memories of waiting in line with friends at the annual Garland County fair for the Ferris wheel — a hard-won stuffed animal from the ring toss in one hand, blue raspberry cotton candy in the other and the unforgettable view of my small corner of the universe filled with bright lights and laughter. The Times Square Wheel experience, unfortunately, was nothing like that.
For starters, tickets are expensive. For about three loops and 10 minutes, you’ll pay $20 for general admission tickets, $35 for “skip the line” tickets and $15 for kids 5 to 10-years-old (children under 5 are not permitted to ride). If you purchase your tickets online ahead of time, you’ll also be charged a service fee. You can buy tickets once you arrive, but the ticket booth specified cash only.
TPG reporter Chris Dong and I checked out the new attraction and paid $79.10 total for our “skip the line” tickets. Had we gone with the cheaper general admission tickets, it would have cost $45.20 total.
Ticket reservations are sold for 30-minute slots, and our slot was supposed to start at noon. As we arrived, it was clear there were still some kinks to work out with the attraction.
A small (or, relatively small for Times Square) crowd was amassed by the time we got there, but there was no direction on how to enter, who to talk to or where the entrance to the attraction was even located. Eventually, we did find someone working the attraction who instructed us to wait outside the metal fencing while media members filmed b-roll of the opening for use online and on TV.
The worker told those of us waiting in line — including a small group who had been waiting for almost 30 minutes by the time we got there — that they were running behind because the city had only given them the all-clear to start operating four minutes before noon (when the attraction was originally supposed to open to the public).
Despite having “skip the line” tickets, we weren’t actually let into the attraction area until 12:45 p.m.
That wasn’t the last of the hiccups, either. The ticket scanner app that was meant to check us in wouldn’t scan our tickets, which bottlenecked the line quite a bit. The man working the entrance ended up having to search for our reservation by last name. The workers were stuck outside trying to deal with an increasingly impatient crowd in 90-degree heat with next to no shade.
The ride itself was fine, though nothing I’d write home about. Once you load into the gondolas — which can sit up to six people each, though that would be a rather tight squeeze, in my opinion — you end up going around about three times. The attraction’s website claims the ride lasts nine to 12 minutes, but we were only on for maybe five or six total.
Because the buildings in Times Square are so tall, you really don’t get any unique or especially breathtaking views. You can get comparable (or sometimes even better) views without the actual Ferris wheel structure blocking you from some of the stores and restaurants in Times Square.
To be honest, the placement of the attraction is interesting. A Ferris wheel attraction in Brooklyn Bridge Park, for example, would have given more space while still attracting large crowds since the Brooklyn Bridge and Dumbo area of Brooklyn draw a lot of tourists on their own. Plus, the views of the New York City skyline would have been spectacular.
Something else to consider is that the attraction isn’t ADA accessible — tourists and NYC locals who use a wheelchair or who are unable to traverse stairs won’t be able to ride.
Now, to be completely fair, Chris and I went at noon on the first day of opening (which happened to be during a heat advisory in New York City). In a few days, the kinks for entry should be worked out. And going at night might be a better experience for tourists looking to experience Times Square while it’s lit up — the attraction is open from noon until midnight every day through Sept. 12.
It was definitely a unique experience (how many people can say they’ve ridden a Ferris wheel in Times Square?), but I personally wouldn’t shell out $80 to do it again.
If you’re visiting New York City and want to experience incredible skyline views, hit up one of the dozens of stellar rooftop bars throughout the city and use the money you would have spent on tickets on drinks with dinner.
Featured photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy.
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