The year went by fast, right? And December is going by fast too. Let’s say it together—before you know it, the year will be over. If you don’t have New Year’s Eve plans yet, it’s time to make them—even if those plans mean sitting your keister on the couch and watching people who were crazy enough to go out and celebrate.
In fact, when it comes to the New Year’s Eve celebration in the United States, there are two kinds of people—people who think everyone in Times Square on New Year’s Eve is out of their mind, and people who want to be there even if only once in their lives.
I guess there is a third kind of person though because that would be me—someone who knows that everyone in Times Square on New Year’s Eve is out their mind, but who has already been there and (under the right circumstances) might do it again.
Two or three times in the 1990s, I was in the crowd where Broadway crosses Seventh. If you go, or you’re just curious about the experience, here’s what you need to know:
• Go early. Crowds start forming in Times Square by late afternoon. If you’re not there by 8:00 p.m., don’t expect to get too close.
• You’ll be herded like cattle. For safety reasons and easy access in and out in case of emergencies, police keep people in groups behind barriers. And once you’re in there, it’s not so easy to get out.
• If you do get out, you won’t get back in. There’s no showing your stub at this event. If you leave your place, don’t expect the police to let you back. And yes, this means that you can’t leave to go to the bathroom—even if you can see it in the Times Square McDonald’s just a few yards away.
• You probably won’t be able to see the ball. Think about it. The ball is at the top of a twenty-five story building (the second tallest in the world when it opened)—the perspective from below it on the ground isn’t so great. If the crowd is spilling into side streets, some people won’t even be able to see the building.
• It will be a long wait. If you’re lucky, the people around you might be entertaining. Even the cops might be entertaining. Just don’t ask them to sing McNamara’s Band. You might, however, be able to start a sing-a-long of American Pie which should waste ten minutes.
• Alcohol isn’t allowed. But given that you can’t get to a bathroom, is that such a bad thing?
• It will be loud. You should be glad of that though, because if it weren’t for the crowd yelling you probably wouldn’t even know when the ball is about to drop.
• It will take a while to get out. Seriously. You don’t just walk away when it’s over. It can take up to an hour for over a million people to clear out of there.
• You’ll either love it or hate it. Much like New York itself, Times Square on New Year’s Eve is an experience you’ll either love or want to forget. You won’t forget this though—trust me on that one.
If you go, make a vacation out of it and check out some other attractions. Reservations in New York City over the holidays are absolutely necessary in both hotels and restaurants. And expect to pay higher prices just because it’s December 31. They can get away with it, so they do.
Happy New Year.