Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve in NYC

It’s my first year living near New York City. So, of course, I thought ringing in 2010 at Times Square would be an excellent idea. What a mistake! If you plan on visiting the Big Apple for New Year’s Eve next year, here’s some free advice to keep in mind.

1. Be there 12 hours early unless you have a hotel or restaurant reservation.

Once the boys in blue set up the road blocks expect mass confusion in their direction on how to view the ball drop. We arrived at 7 pm, walked like moths to the flame to the lights at Times Square, reached the road block and then we were directed to 44th and 9th Avenue. At 44th, the police directed us to 49th Street. At 49th, we were directed to 52nd Street. At 52nd, we were directed to 55th Street. Finally, when the signs for Central Park were visible, we were permitted to enter into a mass of annoyed and tired revelers hungry to push forward and unable to see anything.

Sadly, because I’m not the most technologically inclined, I don’t have a digital camera, but I will post a picture once I get the film developed. It was a madhouse!

As a side note, if you have a hotel or restaurant reservation, you can get past the police barricade much closer to Times Square. The trick: get a ticket from a local business to act as a pass to get you much closer to the action.

2. Bring food and drink.

After an hour of standing in place, having walked half of Manhattan to get there, you find yourself staring at little shops selling food and water. Then, as if to torture you, people start walking the sidewalks calling out “Pizza! Pizza here!” and “Hot Chocolate!” As you pull out your wallet, ready to pay any amount for refreshment, the New York’s Finest chase them away. It’s a cruel joke.

3. Tuck in your scarf and hold on tight.

Because the police directed ALL of the foot traffic to the back of the viewing area, they begin to realize that several blocks of space are mostly empty. In order to thin out the crowd at the back, they have the genius idea to allow the crowd to trickle through existing barriers.

As those in the front of the crowd are released to the next block, people in the back make a desperate attempt to come forward. The next thing you know the cops, fearing a stampede, close the barriers again and force those in front to step back.

Suddenly, you’re hip to hip and chest to back with everyone around you, unable to even move your arms. As the police opens the barriers again everyone pushes forward en masse. I made the mistake of wearing my scarf out of my jacket. The next thing I knew, we were so packed that my scarf was moving forward tucked between people in front of me.

We went through this 3 times holding on to each other for dear life, making it up to 52nd Street before they decided to stop letting the crowd move forward. At 52nd, there was still half a block of open space with angry and dejected onlookers arguing with the police to be allowed past the barriers at 53rd.

4. Wear 3 layers. One for the bar, one for the cold, and one to shed after you’re drenched.

It was cold, snowy and rainy. Thank God I was wearing sensible shoes and 2 sets of socks! I did wear 2 pairs of pants, but the first pair was soaked from the wetness of the street. Of my 4 tops and coat, the coat and top layer were wet from the snow and the first 2 layers underneath were soaked from sweat from having power-walked a million miles to get to the viewing area.

In a word, I was miserable.

5. Make alternate plans.

I doubt that I would attempt this again. In the end, we were cold, thirsty and unable to hear or see anything. When we decided to leave, it took us 45 minutes just to get to the PATH on 33rd and leaving the viewing area was actually much harder than getting in.

By the time we got to a bar in The Village (The Luxor), we were soaked, tired and ready to relax. Thankfully, we had enough time to salvage the evening dancing like fools in a divey, overpriced half empty basement bar with a horrible iPod DJ. We watched the festivities at Times Square on the bar television with champagne and beer a plenty. Despite Times Square, we wound up having an awesome time.


  1. I sorta think I would like to do NYC on NYE one time - just to say that I did. But, from what you say and what I've heard from others, it doesn't sound all that exciting. Glad you still had fun!

  2. Happy New Year's Sarah! I've moved so much that I always make it a point to go to the NYE celebration in the city where I'm living. Last year, it was Brussels - the capital of Europe - and I can tell you that even with the famous Belgian inefficiency, it was a million times easier to get in and out of the celebration. Although I would say that the event in Brussels was not nearly as big as a typical US city would be.

    Anyways, with all of the experiences I've had in many, many cities, I thought I could handle the NYE celebration in NYC, but it was just way too big to be manageable. What I might do next time, if I try it again, is go very, very early or make a reservation close to Times Square so that I can sneak in close to the event a little later in the evening. If you do try it, good luck!

    If you're looking for a great city for NYE, out of everywhere I've ever celebrated it, my favorite has been Philly's fireworks display at Penn's Landing followed by bar hopping at South Street or Old City. You can arrive almost last minute, get a great spot, the show is fantastic and the atmosphere is energized and positive.

  3. Happy New Year, Samantha.

    ( I also think I owe you an apology for saying you don't go into the city enough - your NYE attempt exonerates you entirely. It was just sour grapes anyway.)

  4. Happy New Year Chris!

    No apologies necessary. Sometimes I need a good kick in the rear. Especially since I tend to vege in front of my computer on a Friday night (like tonight). Ever since moving here I've been more of a hermit than an adventurous vixen. Your gentle prodding actually reminded me to live a bit. So, I should be thanking you!

  5. Hi,
    I have always wanted to be in Times Square at least once for NYE but now I may think twice. I'm not sure I would want to stand for 12 hours just to get an "okay" place to watch from. Well, at least you have a good story to tell. :)

  6. A friend of mine went but he enjoyed it...When he told me he'd gone, I was like, wow really?? because I always expected it to be like what you said...with crazy people everywhere. Everything else, I'm used to in the city but can't stand people's craziness lol I was out there last Friday and on every block, somebody's cigarette smoke was being blown in my face. We do live in NY by the way and he was staying at his college in the city. It's only thru a t.v. screen for me but I have wondered what it'd be like, confetti falling in your face, like I've wondered what it's like to go to the tree lighting.
    It's true that so many people who live here never do as much as people who don't live here do.