My boyfriend and I welcomed 2013 in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Seeing the ball drop was something we both have wanted to do for a few years now and this year was the first time we could actually make it happen.
I was the one that did the planning, because I surprised him with the trip on Christmas. Through my research, I realized that there really aren’t a whole lot of tips about how the Times Square parties work, how to ensure you see the ball drop and, generally, tips on how to make sure your trip goes as planned.
So, I put together a list of tips for others that might want to celebrate the New Year in New York City:
Buy tickets: Times Square is blocked off with layers upon layers of security personnel and checkpoints. If you don’t have tickets, you might not be able to get close to the stages or the ball — unless you arrive before 1 p.m. (and are willing to stand out in the cold until midnight). To see what’s available, visit Joonbug.com, TimesSquarePass.com or BallDrop.com.
Bring your documents: Aside from your tickets, you need to have some form of ID, whether it’s a driver’s license or passport. Also, if you are heading to a venue (bar, lounge or restaurant), you might have been emailed a letter of reason. This is something that tells police officers why you are there and where you are headed for the night; print it out and have it with you.
Stay the night: Make hotel reservations near Times Square EARLY in the year. I made my reservations in October at the New York Palace and still had to pay $600 for one night. Most hotels hike up prices above $1,000 for New Year’s Eve. If you don’t stay the night, know that it’s nearly impossible to get a taxi from midnight to 6 a.m. in the Times Square zone.
Not all NYC New Year’s Eve party tickets are in Times Square: When you’re Googling around the web for New Year’s Eve parties in New York City, know that most parties are not in Times Square and might be miles away from the stages and the ball. If you want to be in Times Square on midnight, you need to find a party that specifies that it is in the Times Square zone or buy an add-on ticket to go to a ball-drop viewing area.
You might not see the ball drop: I know from experience that even if you purchase an add-on ticket to view the ball drop from a viewing area, you might not really see the full drop because of advertisement clutter. With that said, you will still see fireworks and a sky full of confetti. It will be an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime experience if you welcome in the New Year on the streets of Times Square.
Bundle up: Whether you will be spending the night inside or outside, you need to bring a warm coat, gloves, hat and scarf. If you are going into a party, you will most likely have to wait at least an hour outside until you can get in. (Most venues tell you to come at 7 or 8 p.m., but won’t open doors until about 9 p.m.) All party venues will have a coat check that usually will cost you $5 out-of-pocket.
If you have to get to a bathroom: Hold it. If you plan to welcome in the new year outside on the streets of Times Square, you might have access to bathrooms within open stores beside of you. But, you might not. Police officers will not want you to leave the spot you are standing. Because of security purposes, the police want people staying in one place all night and not moving around. And, from 11:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m., don’t even think about moving because security is heightened.
Bring a chair: If you are planning to stay outside all night waiting for the ball drop in Times Square (and aren’t up against a stage area), it might be wise to buy a small fold up chair. You could bring one with you from home or buy one from street vendors, who will be selling these the morning of Dec. 31. You are going to be outside in the cold for a long time and you will probably have a little room to sit down for a portion of the night.
Military perks: Anyone with a military ID can get into the Times Square zone for free — and, if service people get there early enough, they can get pretty close to the stages and ball.