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New Year’s Eve in New York City – a guide

Written by Peregrine Travel Centre team member Adriana Russo.

If you’re anything like me spending New Year’s Eve in New York City is at the top of your travel wish list! The city that never sleeps, concrete jungle where dreams are made – as cheesy as it sounds the clichés are all true – New York is a place everyone needs to experience in their lifetime (in my opinion, more than once)!

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to tick this off my bucket list. Spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square with 2 million of my closest friends. It was nothing like I could have expected, but it was an experience I will keep with me for life. For those of you who may want to experience this for yourself – here’s some of my tips, advice and reasons why I loved visiting New York for New Year’s Eve!

Book early!

Travelling around Christmas/ New Year’s Eve is always more expensive, and New York is no exception. Make sure you visit your travel agent and book your flights and accommodation well in advance so you can have a selection of options and availability to choose from and you can secure a reasonable price.

Christmas time at the Rockefeller Centre, New York

Stay close to Times Square

Manhattan itself is huge and when visiting there are so many options for where to stay. If you are going to be there for New Year’s Eve, and you want to experience the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations, then I highly recommend getting accommodation in Times Square. Firstly, transport into Times Square will get very busy on the day so you don’t want to be stuck in traffic or on the Subway and miss out on the celebrations. Secondly, the streets will close off around Times Square leading up to the event, and once it is at capacity people cannot enter the area. However, if you have either a ticket to a party at a venue in the area or you are staying at a hotel there you can simply show your ticket or hotel room key and get access – a great advantage.

One thing to note, a lot of hotels in Times Square have minimum stays over this period. So, you won’t be able to just book for just one night. But trust me, I stayed 11 nights and still left feeling like I could have stayed longer, there’s so much to see and do so you will definitely need the extra days.

Have a plan

You need to know what you are going to be doing for New Year’s Eve – you can’t just wing it! Whether you are going to brave the cold and stand in Times Square with everyone to watch the great line-up of entertainment with Ryan Seacrest and the infamous ball drop; or you want to buy tickets to a party, you need to make sure you plan this well in advance. A lot of parties (especially those close to Times Square) will sell out months before, so be sure to lock in your tickets early!

We bought tickets to a party at a sports bar just off Times Square. It meant our food and drinks were taken care of and we could enjoy the night with other people from all over the world. We watched the ball drop on a screen in the venue, then all went outside into the streets and celebrated as the confetti fell from the sky around us.

Crowds walking the streets the day before New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Pack a coat – It’s winter!

Winter in New York is freezing! Compared to our Australian winters, it’s a completely different type of cold (especially if it’s snowing). So my advice is to rug up, especially if you plan to brave the cold out in Times Square…. I’m talking thermals, layers, jackets, coats, gloves, thick socks, beanies – the lot. On the plus side, it’s simply beautiful at winter time. Ice skating at Central Park or Rockefeller Centre, the beautiful Christmas decorations and lights lining the streets, I think it is possibly the most beautiful time to visit the city.


The Ice Skating Rink in Central Park

We were lucky to get some snow on our walk through Central Park.

Expect crowds

You can expect large crowds in Times Square any time of the year – but New Year’s Eve is on a whole other level! As I’ve mentioned, Times Square is a sea of millions of people during the days leading up to and after 31 December. There are crowds walking the streets, shopping and doing all of the fun touristy sites. If you are not a fan of lots and lots of people then it may not be the ideal experience for you. However, there is plenty of room for everyone and I didn’t find myself feeling claustrophobic at all. The event is obviously very well organised, a well-oiled machine with years and years of practice to ensure they have it at a point where they get it right. At no time did it seem chaotic, unsafe or unorganised.

I’ve also never felt safer in my life, there were groups of NYPD on every street corner watching the crowds and making sure there were no issues. Everyone is there for the same reason – to have a good time – so if you follow the direction of the police officers and the staff then you’ll have no problems.

Here’s a short glimpse of the New York City streets the day before New Year’s Eve.

Take time to take it all in

The three days leading up to the 31st December were crazy, I have never seen so many people in one place in all my life. There’s this fun and happy vibe in the air and I walked around wide eyed and with my mouth open in awe for most of it. We spent most of the day of the 31st around Times Square, watching the set-up, rehearsals and just taking in the amazing atmosphere. Make sure you take in all the hype and buzz because you may never have an experience like this again.

The aftermath. Confetti still falling long after the crowds had left.

For me, returning to my favourite city in the world and spending an iconic New Year’s Eve in Times Square is a memory I will never forget. I remember standing on the streets just after midnight, and as Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York New York’ was flowing out of the speakers through Times Square, the confetti was falling around me and we were celebrating the start of a new year with millions of people from all over the world – I had a moment where I smiled and thought “Yep, this was definitely worth it!”

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