NYE in NYC. It sounds so cool. But it can be an expensive nightmare.
That’s how often I have been to New York (so far). My first visit was 15 years ago. Never for business, always for pleasure. The city has an addictive effect. Cause New York is fun, right? Skyscrapers, statues, people watching, shop till you drop, sightseeing, so many restaurants that it is impossible to try them all once in a lifetime… The Big Apple has so much to offer, not many other metropolitans can compete up to the same level of excitement.
An estimated 62.8 million people visited New York City in 2017.
I can’t help myself overhearing people talking to each other about wanting to spend New Year’s Eve (NYE) in New York one day. “That would be sooooo amazing!” I cannot blame them. I thought the same. Now, from experience, I can only tell you: don’t do it. Go another time of the year. Really.
Yes, I love New York. A lot. The city is mind blowing fantastic. Just not with NYE! I’ll try to explain why.
The thing is, both New York and New Year’s Eve come with high expectations. They both have to be fun, right? I guess that’s why many people’s ultimate fantasy is to do both at once: NYC at NYE. There are even movies about it! Imagine yourself in New York – which is already pretty cool on itself, right? In NYC with NYE, now that’s like the cherry on the pie, right? That’s something else than the annual not-so-great-party-with-always-the-same-faces in your home town or watching the big ball drop on TV as a couch potato, right?!
Getting a spot
The thing is: millions of other people think exactly the same. And there comes the problem: hundreds of thousands of people actually do the same; go to New York to celebrate New Years’. New York is already a crowded city; around NYE it gets crazy. I do not believe this has so much to do with the more recent global tourism boom due to social media. Although New York’s number of visiting tourists keeps breaking records every year and has doubled over the past 20 years; 79% of the tourists in NYC comes from the US, and New York City is simply – and I believe always will be – a top 10 player for most popular city worldwide among tourists (and everyone else).
Ball drop NYE
You want to witness the big time ball drop on Times Square at midnight? Well, then make sure you are there early morning and ‘keep your spot warm’ for the next 12-16 hours or so. In the ice cold! End of December is gets terribly cold in New York. Good luck! And put a diaper on because who wants to lose their spot over a toilet visit?
Each year, over one million people descend upon Times Square to party for NYE. So during one evening, there are as many visitors in one place as whole NYC normally receives in a week! Absolutely crazy. For coming NYE in NYC there is a way out of this, I will tell you more about this later.
Want to come a few days earlier or stay a few days longer around NYE, so you can do some sightseeing in the city? Be prepared for nightmare-long waiting lines at all hotspots, everywhere crowded with people. 4 hours of waiting in line to go on the boat to the Statue of Liberty or into the Empire State Building is nothing.
Lines that do not solve before closure of the attraction. It seems so pointless.
I could not stand the terrible cold. Chills to the bone. Where is the fun in all of this?! Better come back another time, when conditions are much better.
OK, it did not really help that I was just de-hospitalized after a terrible food poisoning from the airplane. Having to stand in line for hours in the cold is no fun anyway. But believe me, especially not when you feel weak, have a painful stomach after 24 hours of non-stop vomiting, plus a painful arm due to the dehydration and anti-nauseous infusion from the hospital. Cheers!
Nevertheless, the bottom line is: you spend a lot of money to get to NYC, coming from overseas at least around €1000 on flights and hotel for a long weekend or mid-week. Especially around NYE (demand thus) prices get ridiculously high (count on at least US$200 per night per room). So you want it to be fun. Be smart and take my advice; do not spend NYE in NYC, go another time. Lower prices + less crowded + shorter waiting lines = more fun.
So when to go then? Check out my other blog New York City first-timer? Recommendations from an experienced NYC lover here!
NYE in NYC
Stubborn as you may be, you might decide to spend your NYE in NYC anyway, or have already booked it before you bumped into this blog post. In that case you better make the best out of it. Some tips:
- Dress to impress yet bring warm clothes and booths because it will be freezing cold outside!
- Many places require at least reservations, also an entrance ticket at NYE, so check that out in advance.
- You cannot rely on public transport nor taxis that night (walking distance hotel vs. party location).
- Do you have any friends in NYC? Congratulations, you have a much better chance of having a great time!
- If you do end up in a crowd, watch your stuff. You don’t want to get robbed and without money at NYE in NYC.
You still got that idea of Times Square at NYE stuck in your mind? Consider to buy a spot on Times Square. This is a relatively new option, which was not available at the time I was with NYE in NYC. And it’s definitely not cheap, but it does save you a long wait in the cold during the day. Like a VIP ring ticket at a big non-seated concert in Europe.
Roof top bars
Roof top bars are always pretty cool, especially with Manhattan view, moreover at New Year’s Eve! It will come with a price though. And you will need to see which ones are actually open as many roof top bars and restaurants are closed during winter season and/or New Year’s Eve.
Roof top bars that are also open during in winter are for example The Crown and Gallow Green. Several roof top bars organize a party with NYE, which require an entrance ticket (US$75-450 p.p.). Examples are (at least last year, may be different this year) for example The Roof, Upstairs at the Kimberly and the rooftop bar of Hotel Chantelle. For more information about roof top bars in New York City check out my other blog.
I really cannot recommend going to a real club party at NYE in NYC, since I had a terrible experience myself at Webster Hall.
Avoid the worst crowd
Wonder what to do if you would want to avoid the worst crowds at Times Square with NYE in NYC?
- Book a NYE fireworks cruise dinner, NYE concert and/or NYE ticket for a good roof top bar/hotel with limited no. of visitors (mentioned above).
- Watch the fireworks from Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge or Prospect Park (Brooklyn) for free (in parks do stay close to other groups of people for safety reasons).
- Join New York’s annual NYE bike ride & outdoor after party.
During the day (before NYE), take the free ferry to Staten Island instead of the official boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, whichare horrible around NYE. Both are great to visit, but would advise to avoid around NYE. Or book a fun helicopter ride like I did!
There are a few work-arounds to avoid the lines this year. It will require advance planning, booking and additional costs though (like anything else in NYC at NYE):
- Empire State Building skip-the-line ticket
- Small-Group Early-Access Statue of Liberty Tour and Ellis Island
- VIP combo: Empire State, Miss Liberty & 9/11 Memorial
New Year’s Day
January 1, the New Year can begin! So what to do in NYC if you are still there on New Year’s Day?
- Get rid of your hang over as soon as possible and/or go out for a walk early in the morning like 7:00 am when not so many people will be on the streets and in the parks yet.
- Join the Coney Island’s Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Swim.
- Go to a local sports bar and watch the NHL Winter Classic for example.
- Go ice skating at Wollman’s Rink in Central Park as soon as it opens or late in the evening.
- Choose another day to visit museums like the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and MET (they’re good but extra crowded that day as not many others are open on Jan 1).
- Postpone shopping to another day since many shops are closed and the ones that are open such as Westfield World Trade Center (mall) will be overcrowded.
Where to stay
Please check out my separate blog post Where to stay in New York City: my favorite NYC hotel collection.
More NYC info
For more information about:
- Highlights of NYC
- Free things to do/see in NYC
- Shopping in NYC
- Fun tours in NYC
- Where to eat in NYC
- Roof top bars in NYC
- Out of Manhattan
- When to go to NYC
- How to get to & around in NYC
… please read further in my blog post New York City first-timer? Recommendations from an experienced NYC lover here!
I created this a mobile friendly map with my favorite highlights, roof top bars, hotels, shops, etc. in New York City. You can check and uncheck the various categories based on your interests.
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