The entire world knows what happens in New York on New Year's Eve. With over one billion people watching it live, there is no surprise that New Years in Times Square has become a worldwide tradition. To participate with the one million or so revelers, however, is something that cannot be experienced from a TV. With a much larger portion seeing the city from indoors than head-on and in the action, it’s fair to say that many or most of the people we encounter will know what it’s all about on December 31st, but not have an idea of what it’s like to actually be there.
The unique event has changed over the years. From the first celebration in 1904 to the “dim out” years of 1942 and 1943, the current safety measures of the 21st century and countless other obstacles, almost every year has been a bit different. Nevertheless, no hindrance has been so great that it keeps the more than willing and eager from coming to the most popular destination on New Years Eve. One of the major ways Times Square New Years Eve has changed is the amount of people that have been drawn to the area since its conception. If you are planning on partaking in the festivities, you should be prepared well before the stroke of midnight. With the heavy crowd, people start grouping up on 42nd Street in the late afternoon, some 8 hours before the countdown. As the gangs multiply, the streets begin to close going north, and by 7 pm, up to 47th is closed, between Broadway and 7th Avenue. With the number of people and street closures, you might want to rethink any driving plans you had. Your best bet for getting to the famous “bow tie” area of New York is definitely the subway. To get to Times Square, the 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, A, B, C, D, E, F, N, Q, R, W, V and S shuttle trains all service 42nd Street. After 7 p.m. on December 31st, the N and R train station at 49th Street and Seventh Avenue may be closed until after midnight, but to get the most up-to-date info, call or visit the MTA at (718) 330-1234 or www.mta.nyc.ny.us. To get to New York from the tri-state area, the LIRR, NJTransit, Amtrak, and Path trains all run on special schedules, also.
Once you do arrive at Times Square, and early enough to choose a spot, you will be one among the many to fight for a sight of the famous stage, the focus of the countdown. The Waterford Ball, located on the flagpole at Broadway & 43rd Street, is the first section to be full, but not the only one with a view. There are screens set up at Broadway and 50th Street, Broadway and 52nd Street, Broadway and 54th Street and Broadway and 58th Street also. There is a designated spot for the disabled, located on the northwest corner of 43rd Street. The area is limited, so be sure to arrive early. If you spend the better part of December 31st finding your piece of the pavement, and are proud with your achievement, do NOT leave it. Once your feet are lifted from their settlement, you can’t replant them—no exceptions. There are no public restrooms, and the ones in the restaurants and local establishments are strict on their “for paying customers only” policies. Keep in mind you are among approximately one million others in one small area, as soon as even a few inches clears up, they are never free for more than a few seconds.
Food is also an issue for the unseasoned Times Square reveler, as there will be no vendors in the area, and since “saving” your spot is prohibited, you won’t be able to simply leave, pick up a slice of pizza, and return to your friends. It is recommended by Times Square veterans that you bring food of your own; but while you’re packing, be warned: leave the bottles at home. There is NO public drinking permitted in New York. Many people show up to the event with alcohol only to have them taken away; the police have no problem or hesitation confiscating anything from the sometimes-rowdy crowds. If you do bring something to snack on, be sure to also keep it small. Since we are in an age unlike our parents, safety concerns have shifted. Along with the precautions, no backpacks or bags will be allowed at Times Square, and this is a strictly enforced rule. Police, with counterterrorism units, will be surveying Times Square and the surrounding areas, and have little tolerance for anything “on the fence.” If they see something suspicious, it will be removed. You really do not need much to celebrate the New Year, so it’s easy to leave extras at home. One essential part of the Times Square New Years is dressing warm. You should prepare to be standing in freezing temperatures, rain, snow, or an unfortunate mixture of nature’s elements. The festivities will be held regardless of what Mother Nature surprises New York with at the last night of the year, and the best thing to do is dress for all possibilities.
If you are like many of those standing below the ball on the eve of 2008, you are looking for the night as an excuse for a vacation. There are thousands of people not only visiting Times Square for a few hours, but making an overnight (or few) stay. Since these preparations are usually made well in advance, those looking for a place to reside will need to do so before they come to the Big Apple. New York, especially a tourist epicenter like Times Square, is not a city to just “crash” at, although the area does contain some 16,000 hotel rooms. There are basically full occupancies at every hotel, motel, resort or room on a night like New Years Eve. If there are any vacancies however, the prices will skyrocket. If you set aside time early enough however, you can find a reasonable rate in any type or budget possible.
There are so many reasons why hundreds of thousands come to the same place on the most celebrated holiday of the year. If you come ready and equipped (the right way), you will be a part of what you have been watching for years, seen by the rest of the world at the biggest party of the year.