This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links. You can see my full disclosure policy here.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
- Hilton Garden Inn Times Square Central -Where I stayed and watched the ball drop (room view included when you book a room with Times Square Views)
- TripAdvisor -Read hotel reviews
- New York CityPASS -Save 42% or more on New York’s 6 best attractions
- Allianz Travel Insurance -Protect your trip and yourself! Get a free quote.
- Skyscanner -Get the best flight deals
- Lonely Planet NYC Travel Guide -The best (and my personal favorite) destination guidebooks out there!
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…
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!).
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!
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…
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!
into the arrival of 2017!
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! 😉
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/sideview 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.
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 York 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!
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…