New Year’s Eve in Times Square is the world’s most famous New Year’s celebration. Watching the ball drop, jamming to the musical performances, and joining more than a million people filling a tiny area of New York City seems like a great way to ring in the New Year. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. When you’re watching the show on your TV at home or wherever you are, it seems like everyone’s having an incredible time. Growing up watching it every year, naturally, I decided I was going to make it happen and fulfill the childhood dreams of little me.
I completed that journey two years ago. Watching the 2018 ball drop from the comfort of my home, I couldn’t help but be slightly smug at everyone enduring the freezing temperatures, pushing their patience and dedication to the extreme. For every person that you see on TV having the time of their lives, there are a couple hundred more people hating every second of it.
I’ll be blunt about it. If you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square, wear a diaper and lower your expectations. The cold, the lack of restrooms and general lack of anything to do for 14 hours is something that I still consider as one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. It was the ultimate test of endurance for a few flashes of excitement and confetti. I’m happy I did it, mostly because I know I won’t ever do it again.
It looks like a lot of fun when you’re watching it on TV, but it is far from what it looks like on there. Only a tiny percentage of people make it to the area where all the fun and music and Ryan Seacrest is. Considering that over a million people pack into Times Square each New Years, that probably means that over a million people are disappointed every year. My friends and I got to Times Square well before noon and still did not even get close to the main stage. We got a great view of the ball, but that only matters for exactly 60 seconds.
By 6 PM, nothing had happened and I had already partially peed my pants. Chugging an irresponsible amount of alcohol right before locking myself away from any bathrooms for half a day was extremely regrettable. We made a few friends around us, mostly for their snacks. Aside from that, it had been basically 8 hours of standing around in the cold. You can’t sit down. Seriously. You can sit down maybe for a few seconds before a police officer comes by to make you stand up again. Time had gone by so slowly that we had become delirious to the point that we thought all the police officers were named Po because all of them had PO (Police Officer) on their nametags.
There’s not much you can do to pass the time. There’s no way to get food or drink once you’ve barricaded yourself in. Aside from the airplane shots that we snuck in, there’s no alcohol allowed in the barricades. There are no bathrooms besides empty bottles, and with literally hundreds of police officers patrolling the area, it’s up to you to decide if relieving your bladders is worth risking becoming a sex offender for public urination. We also thought that waiting until dark to pee until bottles might be a good idea, but then we remembered we were in Times Square. It actually gets brighter as the sun goes down and the night wears on.
Once the music and performances start, the entire crowd livens up a little bit. Thankfully, time starts passing by a little quicker. However, if you were expecting to get up close and personal with your favorite musical artists, I am here to disappoint you yet again. If you can even see the stage, consider yourself lucky. Want to end up on TV with Ryan Seacrest? You won’t.
I hate to be pessimistic, but it’s better to go into this with the lowest expectations possible and be pleasantly surprised. If you’re going in expecting a fantastic show, a crazy party, and a star-studded outing, then you will be disappointed. For every person saying they had an amazing experience, there are going to be thousands more walking away feeling like it wasn’t worth it.
So is it worth it? Yes and no. Like I said, if you build up your expectations to the point that you think you’ll be dancing on stage with Mariah Carey, you’re going to be beyond disappointed. If you surround yourself with good people, make friends with those around you and let loose, then it’s impossible to have a bad time. I won’t lie. Everything sucked until about 8 PM. If you make it those brutal 10+ hours of standing around in the cold doing nothing, then it starts getting more fun and time starts passing by more quickly. Everyone gets those tall poofy hats and balloons and more and more people are dancing and jumping around.
Long story short, it is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, but mostly because you’ll only want to do it once. It is tough and takes a lot of endurance and dedication, but there is nothing quite like ringing the New Year in with such a huge crowd of people. It’s not going to be what you imagined based on what you see on TV.
Wear a diaper and lower your expectations.