From its pre-Giuliani blue days to its current spiffed-up, corporate self, Times Square—the “Crossroads of the World”—has always cultivated a chaotic, carnival-esque atmosphere throughout its different incarnations.
Starting tomorrow, August 25, those urban midway vibes (after all, where else in New York City can you find blinding lights, oppressive crowds, a wax museum, at least one scantily clad busker, and barkers of all stripes in one spot) will be cranked up a considerable notch when a giant pop-up Ferris wheel towering roughly 11 stories over Broadway will start a-spinning.
The slow-revolving amusement ride, open rain or shine for roughly 10-minute spins from noon to midnight through September 12, isn’t the first Ferris wheel to hit Times Square. The 65-foot-tall centerpiece of the old Toys “R” Us global flagship, which opened in 2001 and closed at the end of the 2015 (three years ahead of the retailer filing for bankruptcy and shuttering all locations) was a real-deal Ferris wheel, albeit indoors. And although it was roughly half the size of the ephemeral attraction that will soon be pivoting 110-feet above Broadway, the Ferris wheel at Toys “R” Us was a beloved top draw for Times Square. (As noted by historian Stanford Friedman, a modest, 35-foot-tall big wheel was also temporarily erected in Times Square for a 1946 March of Dimes fundraiser.)
The nonprofit Times Square Alliance hopes that the so-called Times Square Wheel, conceived and financed by Vito Bruno of Brooklyn-based AMPM Entertainment Concepts, will have the same tourist-luring effect, even if for a limited time. Or, at the very least, the new diversion will help bring about a bit of family-friendly gaiety to Midtown Manhattan during the midst of an ongoing global pandemic (and following a string of rough headlines for the area.)
It “fits perfectly into the mayor’s overarching summer of fun campaign which includes the five borough concerts and Five Boro Bike Tour,” Alliance president Tom Harris recently told The New York Post. “We want to give people that ‘wow’ moment to show them Times Square is back.”
Naturally, like any traveling amusement ride worth its salt, the Times Square Wheel sells itself big with promises of “sensory overload by billions [of] pixels” as you “soar through a canyon of spectacular billboards” on what’s “destined to be the world’s #1 attraction for selfies.” Per the Post, this particular Ferris wheel was trucked in from Texas and installed by a six-man team over a period of several days; it was previously installed at, among other places, an entirely different sort of carnival: Coachella.
While dangling in a gondola over 100-feet above Times Square likely won’t appeal to most New Yorkers, there’s no arguing that the Times Square Wheel is more centrally located than what would have been (but still might be happening?) a permanent giant observation wheel for New York City, a la the London Eye and the High Roller in Las Vegas, located at a waterfront outlet mall on Staten Island.
A ticket for a ride on the Times Square Wheel, which is installed just west of Father Duffy Square between 47th and 48th Streets, costs $20 per person and $15 for kids; “skip the line” tickets are also available for $35. Strollers, single-riders, and children under five-years-old are not allowed.