New Year's Eve in Times Square is watched, known, and celebrated by over a billion people every year. The ultimate celebration is seen as a huge crowd, watching a ball drop, surrounded by cheer and balloons, amid a sea of confetti. To the avid Times Square New Years participant, it is much more than just what is seen on TV. But is it, really?
Logic may be conflicted when determining whether or not such an endeavor is worth it, but isn’t it usually when it comes to parties? Yes, December 31st is part of the winter in the North Eastern part of North America, and it is cold. New York is not immune to the weather that affects the region, no matter what the City that Doesn’t Sleep has planned. It makes sense then, that people will be hesitant about standing hours outside in frigid, even inclement elements, to what, watch a ball drop 77 feet in 60 seconds? But it also makes sense to think that if it truly wasn’t an exhilarating experience, especially to be there, then why is it watched by millions who are so far removed from it? Depending on your idea of “cold,” temperatures below 32 degrees might be too low for you to stand outside, or you may just need a couple of extra layers to be comfortable. Like the Big Apple, Mother Nature is fickle; each year is different from the last, and you won’t know what the atmosphere will be like until you step into it.
Times Square, especially the “bow tie” section, fills up extremely fast; by 6 pm, a full six hours before the countdown, your chance of getting a spot right in front of the stage and the famous Waterford Crystal have diminished. So, it is your call to wait for the weather to make your decision, but that ever-present logic will tell you do make the choice early. Part of the fun that comes with celebrating holidays is that they are excuses to party; everyone acts like they’re the iconic age of 21 again (or someday). You may have choreographed your precise plans in advance, gotten to Times Square by 5 pm on December 31st, but you know you won’t be getting home anytime shortly after. It is an ironic night focused on the clock, and we abandon it, acting as if we have all the time in the world once it strikes twelve. It is the one night of the year that most people stay up past midnight, regardless which day of the week it is and how old they are. While the “kids” generally do make up the majority of late night partiers the other 364 or so days, the streets, especially those of Times Square, are filled with young and old alike on NYE. It is a time of the year to celebrate with everyone; families gather in Times Square, friends are made among the million standing before the billion watching, and after the countdown, everyone scatters to the future. In addition to the big event, there are thousands of options to attend at the start of the New Year—the City is known for its insomnia and vibrant nightlife that takes up the waking hours.
Some could argue that the festivities they see on their TVs are the same every year. With the exception of the celebrity guest hitting the button to lower the ball, even the host, Dick Clark, has been the same since 1972; 2004 being the only exception. Before and during that, Guy Lombardo hosted live New Years Eve celebrations for 48 consecutive broadcasts. While New Years Eve in Times Square is always on schedule, occurring on the same day, time, and place each year, each change of the calendar is a different event. You have extraordinarily good chances that the people surrounding you will be strangers, often out-of-towners or tourists from far away, and from most experiences, everyone has been friendly and in the holiday spirit. The entertainment differs each year, and well, so do we. We usually have skewed perceptions, experiences, and ideas from before, and if we don’t want one year to be the same as the last, it doesn’t have to be.
There are of course, the things about New Years Eve in Times Square that, even amid the electricity of the night and the energy you saved for it, may keep you from attending. Without the ability to “save” your spot, in addition to the lack of food vendors and public restrooms, getting there early and standing for hours becomes less of a possibility. Both rules already established and the strict mob of your peers regulating, your friend won’t be able to secure you a place to stand, and your once firmly situated feet will not be able to be back where they once were if you leave. In addition, many people come to Times Square not just for the experience, but to actually get a good look at the stage, better than they see on TV. For that, they must make sacrifices, including packing light, dressing warm, and expecting a rowdy crowd.
There are also those who want to experience the much talked about clubs and lounges in the city that host huge parties on New Years. Tickets to these events are generally expensive, and begin around 9 pm. If you spend the hours from about 7 until midnight in Times Square, you could be wasting much of a ticket. Although almost all of the major ones are open well into the dawn of January 1st, guests can still have a good four or five hour party. Like most things, there are pros and cons to ringing the New Year in Times Square. Most people do not come back with feelings of regret, however, and there is a good percentage of the Times Square throng that come every year, which must say something about the experience. Often we are not aware when we are making memories, but if you decide to visit New York on New Years, you are guaranteed to have them.