Post Overview: Everything you need to know about celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square
Celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square is a bucket-list item for folks all around the globe, and for good reason. Fireworks, celebrity performers and the bright lights of Times Square have made this one of the most epic parties all across the globe.
However with brutal winters and the sheer size of the crowds the dream can quickly turn into a nightmare. But no need to fret, if you’re planning to celebrate New Years Eve in Times Square, I’m here to help.
I celebrated New Years Eve in Times Square in 2018, and have written this post using that firsthand experience outlining everything you need to know. Enough of the small talk, why don’t we get to the good stuff.
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Tips for celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square
- Dress warm: There’s no sense in sugarcoating it, NYC is cold during the winter season. Average temperatures in December hover around 44° but the windchill makes it feel colder! When celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square wear an insulated coat, warm hat, and these bad boys don’t hurt.
- Wear comfortable shoes: When attending New Years Eve in Times Square you’ll be doing a lot of standing around while waiting for midnight. You’re going to want shoes that will keep your feet comfortable. (And if rain is in the forecast make sure they’re waterproof too.)
- Bring a portable charger: Even if you leave your hotel with a full battery, you’ll be out for hours and the cold drains batteries even quicker. I suggest invest in one of these, they come in handy any time of year.
- Follow the rules of the NYPD: The New York City Police Department is on-site keeping things moving slowly so everyone can enjoy New Years Eve in Times Square. Don’t be the jerk who makes their job harder than it already is. Follow directions and be respectful.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration has a way of sneaking up on folks in the cold, so be sure you’re drinking enough water before hand. Emphasis on the before, since there are little to no public bathrooms available. Also be conscious of your intake of coffee and alcohol (which isn’t allowed) since they will further dehydrate you.
Celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square
Before getting into the details, I want to emphasize that celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square is a FREE event. In past years there have been people selling “tickets” to the Times Square New Years Eve Ball Drop, but that’s a scam. You don’t need to buy tickets.
What is the New Years Eve Times Square Ball Drop?
The New Years Eve Times Square Ball Drop is an event dating back to 1904 where thousands of folks gathered in Times Square to ring in the New Year.
To put it simply the Ball Drop consists of a big, illuminated ball sliding down a flagpole counting down to midnight.
Over 100 years later the celebration on New Years Eve in Times Square is attended by hundreds of thousands of people (with some reports claiming up to one million).
What’s more, celebrity performers and television crews from all around the world cover the Times Square New Years Eve festivities, with reports suggesting annual viewership surpasses 1 billion!
When the clock strikes midnight, confetti rains down and fireworks light up the sky to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s (Theme from) New York, New York. People kiss, high five and cheer and just like that, we’re in a New Year!
Did you know? The Times Square New Years Eve Ball has made the descent to ring the new year every year since 1907, with the exception of 1942 and 1943 to avoid giving enemies a target during WWII.
Where is the Times Square Ball Drop?
The Times Square Ball Drop takes place in yep, you guessed it, Times Square, which is centrally located in Midtown Manhattan. The Times Square New Years Eve Ball sits atop the One Times Square where 43rd Street meets Broadway and 7th Avenue.
The subway is undoubtedly the best form of transportation since vehicle traffic in the area gets shut down the night before, not to mention parking in Midtown can be a nightmare.
Here’s a little local’s tip: get off one or two subway stops before Times Square and walk the rest of the way.
Crowds are no-joke and there’s a lot of people who celebrate New Years Eve in Times Square so by getting off a little early you’re avoiding the floodgate of the Times Square subway station.
Once you arrive at Times Square, there will be a series of pens. They’re essentially barricaded sections to help with crowd control. Just remember, if you leave your pen you won’t be allowed re-rentry, so use the bathroom before and pack anything you might need like snacks and water.
What’s the best time to arrive at Times Square for the Ball Drop?
The Times Square New Years Eve festivities typically begin at 6PM, but the official schedule won’t be released until December.
Last year, access to the pens began at 3PM, but I expect that to be closer to noon this year since COVID restrictions have lifted (which is what they were pre-pandemic).
If you want a good view for the Times Square Ball Drop you’re going to want to show up in the morning. It’s not uncommon to see folks gathering as early as 9 AM to gain access to the pens closest to the ball.
If you’re not too picky about getting a good view, showing up in the afternoon is generally fine. It’s not uncommon for the pens in the back to still be open at 4 or 5PM.
At 11:59PM the 60 second countdown begins, with the Times Square Ball beginning its 70ft descent.
Typically attendees countdown the last 10 seconds, and when the clock strikes midnight the world-famous fireworks go-off and confetti rains down all while you’re serenaded by Frank Sinatra’s Theme from New York, New York.
The Times Square New Years Eve celebrations are over at 12:20AM so sanitation workers can begin cleaning up, the next morning it’s like nothing ever happened (I wish my friends were this good at cleaning up after a party).
Cons of celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square
But if I’m being honest, New Years Eve in Times Square is hectic, touristy and uncomfortable. Thousand of people are crammed into designated viewing areas called pens like sardines.
Remember how I said I’ve visited New Years Eve in Times Square once? Well that’s because you couldn’t pay me to do it again! Ha! Below are 3 reasons you might not want to go.
It’s cold: I mean really cold. According to the Weather Channel the average high for New Years Eve in NYC is 41° Fahrenheit. And considering the fact that you basically just stand all day waiting until midnight, the cold has an even stronger bite (not to mention wind-chill!).
No bathrooms: Once you leave the pens you will not be granted re-entry, even if it’s for the bathrooms. I’ve heard horror stories of people going over storm drains, into plastic bottles, or even wearing diapers (you do what you gotta do).
It can be boring: There are live performances, but unless you’re right in front of the stage you’ll have better luck viewing them from your phone. Outside of the 60 second countdown leading up to the New Years Eve ball drop, spending New Years Eve in Times Square can be pretty underwhelming.
Private Times Square Ball Drop Experiences
Restaurants with a view of Times Square often host New Years Eve parties of their own. This way guests can stay out of the cold and eat and drink their hearts away, all while still enjoying the magic of New Years Eve in Times Square.
Fair warning though, entry will cost you your prettiest penny. Reports of the Times Square Olive Garden pricing start at $400 (talk about expensive breadsticks!).
Some of the restaurants even have patios, so they’ll bring you out a few minutes before midnight so you can watch the ball drop. Afterwards they’ll bring you back inside to keep the Times Square New Years Eve party going!
Once we get closer to The New Years Eve Times Square Ball Drop I will update this post with specific restaurants, events and pricing.
Something to be aware of when buying tickets to Times Square New Years Eve parties
There are websites/companies that offer multi-event passes that enable the buyer to visit multiple New Years Eve parties in Time Square, except there is an issue. Once police shut-down access to an area good luck getting past them!
There is a high probability that on your way from one event to another, the next event has an area blocked off to the public. The NYPD will not let you in, essentially wasting that “multi-event” pass. It’s better to book one party and stay there until the New Years Eve Times Square Ball Drop is over.
Fun Facts About the Times Square Ball Drop
Here are a few fun facts about the Times Square ball drop you can share with your friends while celebrating New Years Eve in NYC. For more, check out the attached video from the Times Square Association.
- New Years Eve in NYC used to be hosted by Trinity Church, but when the New York Times offered to host the festivities the church agreed. The church was not fond of the usual drinking associated with the holiday.
- Times Square got its name from One Times Square, the building the New York Times occupied from 1905 to 1913. The same building where the Times Square New Years Eve Ball sits year-round.
- The first New Years Eve celebration in Times Square took place from 1904 to 1905, making 2023 the 118th year.
- The Times Square ball is 12 feet in diameter and nearly 12,000 pounds, illuminated by 32,256 LEDs.
- More than one ton of confetti rains down on Times Square on NYE.
Looking for more New York City holiday content?
If celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square wasn’t enough check out some of our other holiday guides.
- 15 Stunning New York City Christmas Trees (Local’s Guide)
- Where to see Christmas Lights in New York City
- Christmas in New York City: 20 MAGICAL Things to Do (5 to Avoid)
- The Complete Guide to Celebrating New Years in New York City
Interested in more things to do in Times Square that aren’t related to New Years Eve? Read 20 Epic Things to Do in Times Square (Perfect for First Time Visitors)
I just wanted to wrap up this post by saying that if you’ve always wanted to see the Ball Drop in Times Square on New Years Eve, do it! Don’t let the cold stop you from fulfilling your bucket list.
Just because I’m not keen on celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square again doesn’t mean it isn’t a core memory I share with loved ones. Every year we bring up how cold we were, and how grateful we are to be celebrating indoors!
This was just a quick rundown of everything you need to know to celebrate New Years Eve in Times Square. All I want to do is lay everything out on the table to make sure you’re well prepared and have the best experience possible.
Be safe, enjoy our city and happy New Years!
Chuck McAlexander says
A map of venues would have been helpful
Rafael Torres says
Thanks for the rundown!
One question though, would NYPD let us bring a collapsible stool???
Love your honesty. You are spot on about the event. I have seen the ball drop over 20 times, missed the last 4 years due to Covid but will return 2023. Prior to 911 there was very little security (imagine?). Since then much has changed. I would not recommend standing in the square for this event (under any circumstance) in my opinion its not worth it. Get a hotel room in the middle of the square the day before the event, that way you are already settled in. If you decide to check in on 12/31 remember to get there early, Times Square starts to shut down around 1 or 2pm. It could take an hour to get to your hotel even though its just across the street and you better have proof. If you decide to forgo a hotel, don’t settle for standing on one of the side streets. The PD has learned to move the barriers back around 30 yards away from the square therefore, you have no chance to see the ball drop. Private party-I went to Bubba Gump Shrimp a couple of times at $850 a piece (probably more expensive now). The parties don’t start until 9pm, so the next problem is navigating through the square to get to the venue you spent a few hundred dollars on. Very difficult at best due to security and once again you better have proof. Recommendation-stay at a hotel in the square, party at the hotel bar, leave the hotel at 1130pm watch the ball drop, then go back to the hotel party at 1215am. Last but not least bring lots of money.
New York Simply says
Thank you for sharing your experience, it’s always helpful getting multiple points of view (especially for such a chaotic event like New Years Eve in Times Square). Cheers!