Most New Yorkers would say it is crazy to wait for the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Imagine having to stand for 12 hours and bear the freezing temperature (and rain)– that is definitely crazy. Every year, I would watch the news and see thousands of people from all over the world waiting to welcome the new year ahead in such a busy and cramped space, that is Times Square. Back then, I would usually feel envious and wish that I could also experience such a magical moment.
In January 2019, I was fortunate enough to finally experience NYE in the Big Apple. It was one heck of experience I would definitely not forget! It was one of the best nights of my life — I just wished I was with my boyfriend or family at least. Nevertheless, I have no regrets, but only gratitude to actually experience it first hand.
To experience NYE in NYC though is no joke. It was a long journey to see the ball drop and cheer along with the crowd. Now, I get why locals would say to skip Times Square during NYE. But, this did not stop me (and so should you) from ticking this item off the bucket list. So, I want to share some tips that could help you make the most out of this experience.
1. Ditch the Sack
Forget about being a girl scout and bringing everything. Leave your passport at your hotel. Do not also bring the usual prohibited items such as drugs, alcohol, and other sharp objects. Backpacks, umbrellas — no matter how long or short they are, would likewise be confiscated — and you’d never see them again. My advice — ditch the sack! You’ll likely be pushed and squeezed by people along the way as you secure your waiting spot and I guess, you wouldn’t want to find yourself injured on NYE, just because of your big bag. Use a small body bag, and put your essentials. By essentials, I mean the following: Metrocard, $100-200 cash only, snack bars, and power bank. DO NOT even attempt to bring your luggage.
2. Plan Your Route / Waiting Spot
Time Square is huge. And chances are, people would have already also secured their spots by the time you get to your desired spot. Some subway exits would also be blocked if the nearby area of a particular exit gets filled with people. Various hotel chains would also block their respective areas/streets for their own guests and staff.
Times Square would be divided into areas, which would be then further divided into squares. Once the bags are checked, people would be grouped according to each square. Whether you like it or not, that square would be your area/spot for the rest of the evening. So if you want to secure a good spot, leave early, but endure a longer waiting time.
3. Layer, Layer, and Layer
There is no other way to emphasize the importance of layering. A disposable raincoat may also come in handy should it rain. Remember that not all bubble jackets could withstand the impact of a tremendous amount of rainfall. This year’s celebration welcomed us with rain, which I would like to believe, I wasn’t prepared for. Water started to be absorbed by my bubble jacket, which made me feel wet and cold inside. It was a good thing though that I was able to score a clean trash bag from a random stranger, which I then used as a raincoat. Creativity at its finest!
4. Come Prepared to Wait….for Hours
Aside from being physically fit to endure standing for hours, you must also have the mindset to finish the race. First, you have to be ready not to pee. Hence, forget about bringing a bottle of water and quenching your thirst. Besides, the cold itself would most likely result in an urge to pee. Remember, once you leave your spot, you could never go back. For a more comfortable experience, I advise wearing adult diapers or bladder control napkins.
Second, the long waiting time would most probably make you want to quit and just leave the area. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO LEAVE. You’re already there. You came all the way from the upper west side and endured being pushed by people…only to find yourself leaving 3-4 hours before the clock stricks midnight. As mentioned, it was raining so hard the whole day, which resulted in many people getting wet (as umbrellas were all confiscated) and cold. Around 8 PM, several people from our group decided to leave and endure the long commute back to the hotel. With all due respect to them, I think it was a bad idea because they texted arriving at the hotel at around 11 PM, which was just an hour away from 12 MN. Well, whatever their reserves were with regard to the situation, they just missed the chance to completely experience the vibe Times Square brought upon us. So remember, once you decide to do this, your mindset has to also be to complete this challenge. Trust me, the wait is totally worth it.
5. Mingle, Make Friends, and Welcome the New Year!!
I came to New York for the holidays alone, but I left with a new bunch of friends from all over the world — Philippines, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdown, and Argentina! Waiting for hours gives you the opportunity to get to know different cultures and widen your network. We danced the night away and celebrated the welcoming of the year together!
PS: If given the chance to get souvenirs, grab them!! I remember really fighting for my way to get that NYE party hat.
So, are you ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve at the Big Apple?