NYE in NYC: Watch The Ball Drop Without The Crowd

Best Way To Spend NYE in Times Square

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This past year, I spent New Year’s Eve in New York City for my 40th birthday. To see the ball drop has been on my bucket list for a long time. I knew crowded would be an understatement, but that was okay; however, for quite some time, I never knew that once you got in place, you couldn’t leave! That is a whole different ballgame. I knew I still wanted to do it, but I also knew I didn’t want to be stuck for 12 hours in one spot with hundreds of thousands of my closest friends and NOT be able to so much as go to the restroom. This is how to watch the ball drop without standing in the crowd!

NYC Resources & Recommendations

First Of All…

I thought you show up extremely early to get your spot, bring your own food and drinks, and you and your friend(s) took turns saving each other’s place to go to the bathroom. This makes me laugh even now at how naive I was. That is NOT how it happens. Not even close.

In fact, what actually does happen, is that police start closing off the streets in the early afternoon. People have been lining up for the security checkpoints even earlier than this. Once you get in place, you can NOT leave. Not even to go to the restroom or to get food or something to drink. You can’t bring food and drinks in with you. You are there for the 10-12 hours until that ball drops. Yeah…

The Process

Best Way To Spend NYE in Times Square

My husband and I walked through NYC to grab authentic Italian pizza. As we did, we watched as people were lining up to go through the checkpoints. No backpacks or large bags and no umbrellas. You can have a small purse on your person, but of course, it will be searched. People were herded into corrals. Once that corral filled, that security checkpoint would close down and you would see the crowd running down to the next checkpoint (farther away from Times Square and the ball). We remember thinking we were so glad we were just on our way for pizza!

Why We Were So Calm

Ahead of the trip, I knew that neither of us really wanted to stand in that crowd for so long without basically being able to move, let alone eat, drink or use the restroom. Diapers didn’t interest us (don’t laugh, but this is how a lot of people do it!).

Best Way To Spend NYE in Times Square

Instead, we opted to book a hotel with a room view of the ball. Ours was a partial view, but it had one and we could go outside for a better view. The hotel was decently priced (for the event going on) except for December 31st.

In full disclosure, as you can imagine, that night isn’t cheap. I will say that if you really want to see the ball drop, but the crowd and the rules are keeping you from doing so, save up to book a hotel room with a view. It’s totally worth it!

If you want to learn how to cut down on the total cost to balance out that one expensive night, this is a fantastic guide to building up Hilton Honors points. Trust me, those points are golden!

How The Afternoon Went

What we didn’t think about when we booked our hotel with a view is that it would be on a street closed to the public. This was kind of nice…until we were trying to get back to our hotel with our warm pizza and ran into a long line trying to get through a single checkpoint. Yes, a checkpoint to get to our hotel on said closed-off street. Completely grateful for security though. It’s truly priceless.

Once we got through the checkpoint, we were escorted to our hotel by police carrying extremely large machine guns. Turns out, the street our hotel was on was not only closed off to the public, it was also serving as the personal parking lot of NYPD including the Inspector!!

After this, we decided that would be our last venture out for the rest of that day. We ate our now lukewarm pizza while watching football and waiting for the festivities to begin…all from the warmth of our hotel room.

The Festivities Begin

At 6pm EST, they raised the ball to take its position at the top. There were fireworks and a little celebration for this event. Then there was a celebration every hour until that big countdown at midnight. We caught these from our room each hour. They didn’t last very long.

Here is the 9:00pm celebration.

And the 10:00pm celebration. You get the idea. This continued every hour until the big moment!

THE Countdown

Around 11:45pm, I went to experience the special moment outside with several others; however, my husband shot this video from our room! At 11:59pm, the ball started its 60-second descent to the bottom of the pole ushering in the new year. With 10 seconds left, the crowd shouted the countdown…


Best Way To Spend NYE in Times Square

into the arrival of 2017!

Best Way To Spend NYE in Times Square

Happy New Year 2017!

Confetti was everywhere. I mean everywhere! It really was a magical moment! One that I thoroughly enjoyed. For me, it signaled the end of my birthday, the end of the current year and the start of a new one. I can never tell anyone my birthday is next year! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Aftermath

Best Way To Spend NYE in Times Square

We waited until around 1:30 am so that the crowd had died out (for the most part) and then ventured from our hotel to the middle of Times Square to see the aftermath and get a photo of the front of the ball with 2017 in view. Our hotel room faced a back/side view of the ball so we didn’t have a view of the 2017 sign. This was quite okay with us as again, we were happily eating our pizza and watching football in our warm hotel room instead of waiting outside in the cold, packed in like sardines.


Have you always wanted to watch the ball drop in Times Square on NYE, but don't want to stand in the crowd and cold? That was me too! Here is how we did it! #nye #nyc #newyears #newyearseve #newyork #newyorkcity #timessquare #balldrop #guide #traveltips
Have you always wanted to watch the ball drop in Times Square on NYE, but don't want to stand in the crowd and cold? That was me too! Here is how we did it! #nye #nyc #newyears #newyearseve #newyork #newyorkcity #timessquare #balldrop #guide #traveltips
Have you always wanted to watch the ball drop in Times Square on NYE, but don't want to stand in the crowd and cold? That was me too! Here is how we did it! #nye #nyc #newyears #newyearseve #newyork #newyorkcity #timessquare #balldrop #guide #traveltips

Tips for NYE in NYC

  • HOTELS: There are some hotels that offer rooftop views. Book EARLY to secure these hotels. If you want to book a room with a view make sure the room description states “Times Square Views” or something similar. Just because it’s located in or near Times Square does not mean every room in the hotel or even the hotel itself has a view of the ball.
  • PACKAGES: There are packages you can buy from hotels and restaurants in Times Square that will allow you to escape the crowd but have a view of the ball.
  • ENTERTAINMENT: A lot of people have asked me if I was sad I missed out on the entertainment that is always seen on TV such as Ryan Seacrest and (the year I went) Mariah Carey. The thing is unless you happen to get corralled in the areas to which Ryan walks or where the stages are located, you won’t see them anyway. You could be blocks from them! So, no it didn’t bother me at all. I recorded the show at home and caught up after I returned.
  • FLYING: Don’t fly into New Yorkย on December 30th (it should go without saying not to fly in on December 31st) and don’t fly out on January 1st. The prices are SO much higher and you don’t want to risk missing the event or fly out when you are dead tired anyway, right? We flew in on December 29th and out on January 2nd. It was much cheaper and the crowd was much easier to manage.
  • ACCESS: Keep in mind that if you book one of the hotels with a view of the ball, your hotel is likely going to be on a street that is closed off. Go out early to get food or do anything you need to do. This was something we didn’t know and didn’t think about. Thankfully, our curiosity to see how everyone lined up and how all this worked saved us as we went out early!
  • HAVE FUN: Do YOU. Do your version of getting to watch the ball drop in person. Maybe this is standing out in the crowd for several hours and not eating and wearing that diaper. I personally find that to be an awesome feat. My hat is off to you because I couldn’t do it. Well, I could…but honestly, I did not want to. However, if your version is to watch it from your hotel room or standing outside your hotel, then do it! Either way, you will truly enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
  • MORE INFO: Check out the official Times Square website. There are a lot of answers here!

Spend NYE (aka My Bday) in NYC to watch the ball drop

How this item now reads on my Bucket List. Any time I get to cross something off of my list, I get excited. This one, though, had been on the list for several years. Probably since high school at least. I can’t think of a better way to have turned 40 and I certainly won’t ever forget it!

Hope this helps those of you out there who really want to see the ball drop in person, but can’t imagine standing out in the crowd!

Have you been to NYC for NYE? How did you do it? Be sure to leave me a comment and tell me your story! I’d love to hear it!

‘Til next time…

Trimm Travels,


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    1. Hi Johanna, thank you-I hope you found it useful! It was actually the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square. SO convenient! Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. Hi Teresa-I don’t remember, unfortunately. Not off the top of my head anyway. I was hoping it was on my badge, but it wasn’t. I will look back in that folder and see if I happened to have it and if so I will let you know! Sorry about that-I will try to remember to record room numbers from now on ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. This is on my bucket list, so I really need to remember these tips! I’ve pinned it so I don’t forget. Now, I just need to get my butt in gear and get to NYC on New Year’s Eve!

    1. Hi Juliann-It was a huge item on my bucket list for years and I can totally say it was worth the splurge of that one night’s hotel! NYC on NYE is just awesome. I hope you get to go soon and thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. LOVE THIS POST! And it couldn’t have come at a better time: I was bummed that our NYE trip got cancelled, but since we live in NYC, this is such a fun alternative! I did watch the ball drop from the comforts of my Times Square office a few years ago, so I know the checkpoint thing well, but I love the idea of just hanging out in our hotel sippin’ on champagne and watching the ball drop. I think I know my new plan for this year… ๐Ÿ™‚ (And what a kick ass way to spend your 40th!)

    1. Hi Julianne-It really was the perfect way to turn 40 for sure!! I’m jealous you live in NYC, I love it there! But yes, if that’s a crazy you want to venture into as a New Yorker, then this is a way to stay out of the insanely crazy! LOL! Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. We were there in 2001. I’d been spoiled with a night in the Algonquin, and spent most of it drooling over the Christmas decorations everywhere in the hotel. We’d also sneaked out early to stock up! When I make my coffee in the 2001 mug I brought back, it keeps the memories alive.

  4. Great article. Quick question did you spend midnight in your room or did you stand outside in front of your hotel? I.e. was there room?

    1. Hi Cher-Thank you!! You ask a really great question. I stood outside the hotel to be in the experience. To watch the ball with my own eyes without barriers and to be “in the confetti”. My husband shot it from our hotel window because we could see it from our room too. Yes, there was room outside. That road is blocked off as it was used for NYPD parking lot (including the commissioner)! I didn’t wait until 11:55pm to go down there though…I think I went around 11:40 maybe? Give or take a few minutes. Hope that helps and thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. So if I get a room that just has a city view (much cheaper than Time Square view) can we go outside around 11 to experience everything and have a great view of the ball dropping? Or will the police or hotel not allow that?

        1. Hi Haley-Yes you should be able to walk outside and view the ball dropping from the street outside the hotel. That’s exactly what I did (although I do recommend going closer to 11 like you stated than the 11:40-ish I went out to have a better choice of where you want to stand). There was no one at the door to prevent this and there was a crowd outside (not just like 10-15 of us). You couldn’t walk out into the street, street because that’s where the police parking lot was. This is how it was for us but it was 3 years ago. It is my understanding that it is still this way, but I would *contact the hotel just to be sure before you book*. As far as seeing everything, yes you can see the ball in its entirety just as shown on the videos in my post. However, it is the BACK side of the ball and you won’t see the crowd or the year 2020 light up. The confetti will reach you and you will hear everything. After midnight, give it a little while and then you can walk around the front of the ball and snap some photos of 2020 lit up. Also, just fyi…the ball stays up there all year (until they raise the ball for the next NYE) and 2020 will stay up all year too! It’s an experience you will never forget and I hope you have a great time! Let me know if you have any other questions and thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. hi, I loved your article
    im planning on going this year and I was advised to book dinner in a restaurant in times square so I don’t have to get there too early
    but I really want to see the ball drop live, so my question is: once your inside a restaurant or hotel, can you go outside?
    or police don’t let you get into the crowd?

    1. Hi Sam-First of all, so excited for you. You are in for one of the best experiences of your life! Second of all, I’m so glad you loved the post, thank you! Third, the short answer to your question is I’m not entirely sure since we didn’t do this personally. I am aware that there are packages at restaurants and hotel rooftop views, but I don’t know the specifics of the come-and-go. If I had to guess (and this ONLY a guess), you may have to go through a checkpoint to get to the particular restaurant or hotel (just like we did to get back to our hotel) but this didn’t allow us into the crowd. We were still outside that checkpoint. If the restaurant/hotel entry is inside the checkpoints (and I don’t know if there are or aren’t any set up like this) then you might be able to move around. There is an NYC Times Square NYE info link to this kind of thing at the end of my post. Maybe see what it has to say? Sorry I’m not more help on that question, but thank you for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Does your hotel has the direct view of the ball, fireworks and crowd? Is it possible to post the photo of the view from your hotel room? Also, how early in the year did you book it?

    1. Hi Yung-So the first photo under the subheading “Why We Were So Calm” (blue) was taken from our room. The ball was on the solid pole (just above the snowflake). Also all the videos except the last one were taken from our room. The last one from when the countdown was 0 and it was the New Year was taken from outside the hotel on the sidewalk because I wanted to experience it outside and have the confetti drop on me, etc. Our room had a direct view of the ball from the side/behind. It wasn’t the front. We could not see the crowd but we could see the ball completely for it to be raised, all the hourly fireworks shows as well as its full minute descent. We could hear the countdown and confetti was all over me because the wind blows it everywhere. Once the crowd cleared, we walked out around to the front of it to take the photos that you see with 2017 on them. As far as how early we booked….we booked LATE. Like late Nov or maybe even early December. I contemplating going this year again (for the one that just passed this week) and the last time I looked the second week of December there was Times Square-view rooms still available. However, I wouldn’t suggest waiting that long because that may not be that way every year. I would recommend booking as soon as you have decided you are going. Hope that helps and thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Laura-It’s pretty pricey for that one night. I went there in 2016 so I’m not sure what prices will be like this year and going forward but it was well over $1500. Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I did the whole ball drop from the street thing when I was in my 20s. No way would I do that as an adult, except the way you did it. I did not wear a diaper, but can say I peed on the street in NYC. Ah, youth.

    1. Hi Jamie-Oh youth age…the glory days, right? But there is NO way now…the way we did it was awesome and I can’t wait to do it again. Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

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