New Year’s Eve in New York
If you really want to be in Times Square and won't consider anything else for New Year's Eve, here are the basics: Dress warmly. Even if it's been a nice day, be prepared for a deep chill to set in well before midnight. Take something to drink-I'm thinking water for hydration-take care with alcohol and caffeine, dehydration is more likely in cold weather. But just warning you, there won't be portajohns and restrooms will be difficult to find. Leave your bags in the hotel. Not only are you an easy target for people looking to get rich the easy way, you may have trouble getting past the police. Backpacks and large bags aren't allowed in the square and trained dogs will be checking for drugs and bombs. Go early. People will start moving into Times Square by sunset trying to get the best view of the ball drop. Police from all five boroughs and New Jersey will be there to discourage homesteading, but go with a crowd and make sure someone is always there to protect your spot.
If standing in a crowd of a million freezing people waiting for a lighted ball to drop over a ten second period doesn't do it for you, there are lots of other ways to enjoy New Year's Eve in New York. A more pleasant, but much more expensive option is to watch from one of the businesses around Times Square. The AMC theater has packages from $25 to $1700 that allow different levels of access to the ball drop and alcohol. These hotels, clubs, and restaurants offer New Year's specials, but two caveats: they aren't cheap-even TGI Friday's party options start at $220, and it's not certain that you'll see the ball drop in person at some of these parties-it may be a televised version of the live drop. More here.
Party source, joonbug, also has the scoop. Parties, sky watch of the ball drop, hipster bars-they're all here: joonbug.com/newyork/newyearseve
There are free activities to enjoy outside Times Square-fireworks and dancing at the Central Park Bandshell. Enter Central Park at Fifth Avenue and 72nd St. And a 5K race if you're interested. http://www.nyrr.org/races/2008/r1231x00.asp
A bike ride follows fireworks at midnight on the north side of Untion Square Park. Get details at this website: www.times-up.org.
For a fee you can cross the Brooklyn Bridge with a group of revelers-stopping halfway at midnight to watch fireworks from every part of the city and the Empire State Building lightshow all at the same time. The tour is $50 if you pay that night, $40 if you book online in advance. Detailed information is at the group's website: newyorktalksandwalks.com/brooklyn_bridge.html
If you just need a laugh, Carolines at1626 Broadway, between 49th & 50th St. is an institution and right in the middle of the NYE madness. Find out who's there and when they'll be cutting up at www.carolines.com.
Maybe you'd like to pass on the craziness and attend a concert for peace. You can do that! The Cathedral of St John the Divine is a worthy tourist destination, and it's even better for services. On New Year's Eve there's going to be a musical meditation and candle lighting. General admission seating is free-come early. Doors open at 6:00pm, the concert is at 7:00. For reserved seating and more information check the website: www.stjohndivine.org/NewYearsEve08.html
It can be difficult to find a restaurant in the city serving its regular menu. Most will have a fixed price, limited selection either all day or for the dinner service. You can save money by eating early that day. Open Table has details on many of options available for New Year's Eve. http://www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?pid=4&m=8
There are lots of reasons to be in New York for New Year's Eve even if you decide to skip the festivities in Times Square and don't want to overpay for a mediocre dinner. The holiday energy is high and there's lots to do. Go by the TKTS booth in Times Square, (the South Street Seaport and Brooklyn sites are closed on December 31), and get discounted tickets for Broadway shows. Tickets are sold from 10:00 to 2:00 for matinees and from 3:00 to 8:00 for evening performances. To make TKTS even more wonderful than it's always been, now there's a Smartphone app! You can find it by doing a search with TKTS.
While you're in town, don't miss the spectacular views from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Details on hours and ticket prices can be found on their website: www.topoftherocknyc.com.
And whatever you do, have a safe and happy New Year!