New York City’s Times Square celebration is one of the most famous and popular New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world, so it’s no surprise that Times Square and the city as a whole will be packed around this time.
In the spirit of the famous ball drop and countdown to the new year, here are ten New Year’s Eve in Times Square tips to help ensure your experience is a safe, enjoyable, and memorable one.
Can’t make it to Times Square for the festivities? You can watch the LIVE webcast of the event here.
1. You do NOT need tickets to go to Times Square on New Years Eve
The Times Square NYE celebration is a free event open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. Don’t be swindled into buying a “ticket” by anyone on the street.
That being said, make sure to get there as early as possible. People start lining up around the barriers in the early hours of the morning on the day of New Year’s Eve.
2. The earlier you arrive, the better
It should be rather obvious to anyone who’s ever watched the ball drop on television that the event is absolutely packed – so the earlier you get there, the better the view.
Unfortunately, early really means early for this Times Square celebration. The most dedicated visitors begin lining up in the early hours of the morning on New Year’s Eve. Depending on how close you’d like to be to the barrier, you’ll want to be up bright and early. Once you have a spot, do not leave it! It’ll be gone instantly.
You might even want to arrive the day before, stay at a hotel, and eliminate the stress of getting there the day of.
Note that if you arrive at your preferred viewing area too early in the day, you may be moved by the police when the barricades are put into place.
3. Eat beforehand or pack snacks
Don’t expect food vendors in Times Square. With all of the visitors packed in, there’s no space for food carts to set up during the celebration.
There are plenty of restaurants in and around the area though, so if you plan correctly ahead of time you’ll have no problem finding a delicious meal.
Call the restaurant to check on their operating hours and make sure they are open. You will almost certainly need to book reservations ahead of time if you plan to eat in the Times Square area.
If you prefer not to spend time sitting down for a meal, grab something for takeout or stop at one of the many fast food chains in the area. You could also pack snacks and drinks in a bag so you can eat right in your spot.
Remember, if you find a great spot to see the celebration, you’re going to lose it if you leave.
4. Dress in warm layers, it’s the middle of winter
Wondering what you should wear on NYE? Dress warm.
It is easy to underestimate how cold it’s going to be when standing for hours on end in the middle of winter. Even if the temperatures don’t seem very low, dress in layers – you’re going to be outside for quite a while.
Synthetics, like Goretex, wind-resistant and water-repellant outerwear and a nice warm hat are the keys to staying warm throughout the evening. Make sure to pack gloves and scarves. You may even want to grab some of the heating packs from a nearby convenience store.
5. Leave the backpacks & bags at home
At the entry points, and at the designated viewing areas, everyone will be searched with a hand-held wand.
Large bags and knapsacks are not permitted at all and ALL bags will be searched.
With limited space and many people standing on top of each other, we suggest bringing very small bags or leaving the bag at home altogether.
6. Take the train in
If there’s one general rule of thumb for getting to New York City, it’s that driving or taking a cab is the most expensive option – especially on a holiday like New Year’s Eve. Available parking spots will be at an all-time low and parking and cab prices are sure to skyrocket with so many visitors coming in and out of the city.
We highly recommend taking public transit to a stop nearby the event and walking the rest of the way to Times Square. If you’re coming in from Grand Central, there’s a specified subway line that runs directly from the terminal to Times Square.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes or sneakers so that you can walk several blocks depending on what stop you get off at.
The 1, 2, 3, 7, A, B, C, D, E, F, N, Q, R, W, V and S shuttle trains all service the Times Square area. Use Google Maps to find which route is best from your point of origin.
7. No alcohol in Times Square
Public drinking is illegal in New York City and this is strictly enforced at the Times Square NYE celebration.
There will be plenty of police offers circulating the area and they’ll confiscate any and all alcoholic beverages.
8. New Years Eve Times Square Bathroom tip – make sure you go BEFORE you arrive
The number one question asked by anyone visiting Times Square – where is the bathroom?
Unfortunately, there are no portable restrooms in Times Square, so plan to use the restroom before you arrive or at a local restaurant. Be aware, most restaurants will require you to make a purchase in order to use their restrooms.
If you leave to go use the bathroom during the wait for the ball drop, then you most likely won’t be able to get back to your hard-earned viewing spot. A good viewing area is difficult to find (let alone keep), so if you get a good spot you’re not going to want to give it up.
9. Don’t miss seeing the ball raised
There’s a lot of standing around while you’re waiting for the celebration to start, so you might as well see everything you can.
The Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball is raised up a 77-foot flagpole at the top of One Times Square at approximately 6:00 pm.
A few good places to watch are along Broadway (43rd Street – 50th Street), and along Seventh Avenue, as far north as 59th Street.
10. Plan to stay the weekend and visit some attractions
If you’re traveling from out of town, turn your New Year’s Eve trip into a mini vacation. And if you’re not from out of town, it’s the perfect excuse for a city staycation.
A weekend trip makes for the perfect amount of time to hit some famous New York City landmarks and attractions. We’ve outlined our top five must-sees below.
Empire State Building
Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building is more than just a perfect view. Erected during The Great Depression, the skyscraper has been a symbol of hope and New York’s legacy ever since.
Take a tour of the building with the Empire State Building Experience, climb to the top for a breathtaking vantage point of the entire city, and explore the exhibit halls that tell the story of the building and the concrete jungle below.
You can’t visit New York without visiting its most famous building.
Getting in: Empire State Building tickets included on New York City Explorer Pass.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Immigration Museum
For history buffs, the appeal of New York stems from the storied past of this bustling city. Of course, there’s no better place to start than the very beginning – literally.
Take the ferry out to Ellis Island and see where thousands upon thousands of people passed through on their migration to America. Explore the island and peruse the exhibits of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. From medical records to pieces of old luggage kept in mint-condition, to first-hand accounts and personal stories, you’ll leave the museum with a better picture of what life was like in New York City’s earliest days.
Getting in: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Immigration Museum tickets are included on New York City Explorer Pass.
9/11 Memorial & Museum
Visit the site where the Twin Towers once stood and experience a deeply touching and educational collection of exhibits and memorials that honor the victims of 9/11.
At the 9/11 Memorial, visitors will encounter the Memorial’s twin reflecting pools that are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. Inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s 110,000 square feet of exhibition space, visitors will experience the story of 9/11 through multimedia displays, archives, narratives and a collection of monumental and authentic artifacts.
Getting in: 9/11 Memorial & Museum tickets are included on New York City Explorer Pass.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
Part of New York City’s legacy is its vibrant arts scene. There are countless world-class museums that cover every discipline, from history institutes to exhibition halls full of contemporary art, to gigantic museums packed with pieces by famed artists of the past.
The Met is arguably one of the most famous and well-curated museums in the city. It’s been consistently rated the #1 Museum in the World by TripAdvisor, so if you’re trying to narrow down your list of must-see museums, definitely keep this one on there.
Inside the halls of The Met, you’ll find over 5,000 years of arts covering Greek, Roman, American, African, Eastern, Asian, and Islamic art in all mediums. Sit back and admire classic European-influenced paintings, sculptures of all sizes, costume jewelry, the fashion of the past, and more.
Getting in: The Metropolitan Museum of Art tickets on New York City Explorer Pass.
Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus New York: Classic 1-Day Ticket
To ensure you don’t miss any of the NYC sights, hop aboard a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus.
It’s one of the best ways to get around the city and you’ll be able to get on or off at any stop for the whole day. Popular stops include the Empire State Building, SOHO/Little Italy, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, Madison Square Garden, Central Park, and plenty of world-class museums.
Getting in: Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus New York: Classic 1-Day tickets are included on New York City Explorer Pass.
Have fun & enjoy ringing in 2020!
You’re in one of the most famous places in the world to celebrate the New Year, so make sure you enjoy it.
To save money on your sightseeing extravaganza, check out the New York City Explorer Pass, where you can save up to 50% off admission to top attractions vs paying separately at the gate.