Is spending New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square on your “Bucket List?” If so, here are a few things you should really know before you go.
What are my credentials for offering this advice? Well, spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square was always on my bucket list too and I crossed it off on December 31, 2007. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. Once was more than enough and in retrospect, it wasn’t a fantastic experience. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fulfill your dream! Here are things I learned from my experience:
Get There REALLY Early
I know, I know, people always say this. I heard it myself! Get there early…blah, blah, blah. But let me put it to you this way: I arrived at 7:00pm, a full 5 hours before the ball drop and I ended up at 53rd Street, a full 10 blocks (1/2 mile or .8 km) away from the ball!
Way up there we got no swag, no entertainment and only a pitiful amount of confetti at midnight. Sure, there was a mini celebration every hour, but there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement until the last 15 minutes.
The people that you see on TV who are actually in Times Square have been standing there since mid-afternoon. Think I’m kidding? The police start to close off the streets around 2:00pm and by then there are many people waiting to take their spots. I’ve walked by at 3:00pm before only to see the area up to 45th Street (2 blocks north of the ball) filled up already!
Now, with getting there that early, there’s something important you need to bear in mind…
If You Leave, You Lose Your Spot
Sounds simple enough, right? But let’s think about the consequences of this here. You can’t leave to get food or drinks. You can’t leave to get warm. And you cannot go to the bathroom!
Sorry, but there are no port-o-potties to be found anywhere. And if you can’t hold it in and try to go on the street, you risk an unpleasant encounter with the police who keep a watchful eye over the crowd.
Before entering Times Square, the NYPD will conduct a security check. You are not allowed to bring in any glass bottles or bags. So anything you bring in must be on your person. That means any and all food and drink. Be aware that since the entire area is “secured,” there are no vendors selling food or drink. And remember, don’t drink too much, cuz, you know…
You’ll Feel Like Cattle
It’s at times hard to tell on TV, but the NYPD has a system down where they basically establish a series of pens. There are walkways around the pens, which you will share in tight quarters with hundreds or so of your closest friends. At times, the NYPD may even herd you from one pen to the next (literally like cattle). Enjoy it while you can, because it’s probably going to be the most exercise you’ll get the whole time you’re there.
Ever notice on TV how quickly it empties out? The police open up these pens and almost everyone makes a beeline for the bathroom! I mean, if you hadn’t gone in 9 hours…
Dealing With the Cold
I’m sure this one is a given, but it’s all about layers, layers and more layers! Remember, you can’t really move, which will, of course, make it feel colder! Besides, the more layers you wear, the more pockets you have in which to stuff snacks!
As Times Square starts to fill up, the NYPD begins closing off streets heading uptown. So when I arrived at 7:00pm, I had to walk all the way up to 58th Street to enter the “secured area.” Entry points start at 45th Street and as far east as 5th Avenue.
Enter on the EAST Side
Though it may be out of your way, I would highly encourage you to enter on the East Side (5th Avenue). Here’s why: Entering east means you will end up on 7th Avenue rather than Broadway. Why should you care?
Well, 7th Avenue runs directly north-south offering an unobstructed view of the ball as you head out of Times Square. Broadway runs at an angle, making your ability to spot the ball at times difficult!
Being on 7th Avenue has another advantage too…
After Midnight, Turn UPTOWN!
The ball drops, there’s confetti and the tiny fireworks display that happens in Times Square and that’s it. Or is it? If you’re on 7th Avenue, turn uptown (behind you if you’re facing the ball) right after the ball drops. You can spot the fireworks display happening in Central Park (which is also host to a lovely midnight run, complete with free hot cocoa). It’s nothing incredible, but it’s still pretty cool!
If standing around outside for 7-9 hours doesn’t sound like your cup of tea and you have some money to burn, then it might be in your best interest to make a reservation at a restaurant in Times Square or along 7th Avenue or Broadway north of Times Square. Then you can chill inside and then just step outside to watch the ball drop from the sidewalk! Of course, this experience will cost you. Try upwards of $600 per person at some national chains!
Have you spent New Year’s Eve in Times Square? What was your experience and do you have anything to add?