Tips for a Great New Year’s Eve in New York City

Headed to New York City for New Year’s this year? Check out these tips to help you save money and time on your trip.

I’ve had the privilege of spending two different New Years’ Eve in New York City. There’s definitely a right and a wrong way of doing it, and I’ve done both. I had a blast both times, but there are some things that are important to know before going. Hopefully, you’ll be able to have a more successful first time than I did with these tips I learned the hard way.

Will this be your first time in New York? Here are some tips for visiting New York City for the first time.


Don’t do Times Square.

I did it four years ago, and while I wouldn’t trade it for anything… if we had only known…

  1. It’s beyond crowded — we could lift our feet and not move (and this was on side streets).
  2. If you leave your spot, you can’t come back.
  3. They set up barricades around 4 pm, but don’t tell you where they will go — when you ask, they won’t tell you.

We spent all day standing in this one spot to see the ball drop, then at 4 pm when they closed the barricades, we were outside and lost our spot. The night was still crazy fun, but we didn’t see the ball drop. We walked around for hours and eventually stood on the steps of the New York City Public Library, where we could see part of the ball. Made for great memories, but not recommended. 

Instead… Opt for something away from Times Square with just as good a view.

We went on a cruise on the Hudson River (it was $100 for the night, and yes this is a good deal for NYC on NYE). There are many different options ranging in price from $50 – 300. We saw deals in Times Square that were available, but you will pay a premium for a view. We chose the cruise because it had a view and was under $150. You don’t have to spend a lot to go to a good event. It can also be a pretty great activity for couples!

  1. Beautiful views.
  2. Fireworks at midnight by the Statue of Liberty.
  3. Open bar.
  4. Dinner included (although, it was not very good).
  5. A bathroom we could use.

If you MUST do Times Square…

  1. Get there early like 10 am early — we got there at 11 am, and people were already standing around
  2. Stand in front of a stage so you will be inside barricades
  3. Pack water, food, and dress warm — we wore coats, gloves, multiple layers, hats
  4. Go to the bathroom before — you won’t be allowed to leave
  5. Watch where barricades are located — it may change from year to year.
  6. Don’t expect much help from locals — we asked people for help and they would walk away or say “I don’t know”
when we stood in the wrong place all day long… only to get stuck not in Times Square for NYE

Pro-tip: If you live close enough, you don’t even have to get a hotel. We took an early morning train to and from New York, so we never even stayed in a hotel. We were exhausted but barely spent money on anything but our train ticket.


Don’t spend all your time in taxis.

  1. Traffic on New Year’s is terrible.
  2. Expect major delays.
  3. Everyone will be trying to catch a taxi around 1 am, and Uber will be expensive.

Instead…. Stay near your hotel so you can walk.

  1. Public transit is closed around Manhattan.
  2. You won’t waste money on taxis or Uber.
  3. Waiting for a taxi can be stressful (we waited in the cold for 45 minutes).

Pro-tip: Uber is expensive when demand is up, and demand is probably the highest on New Year’s Eve in New York… if you need a ride, call a regular cab, they will most likely have a cheaper price.

Don’t waste time looking for places to eat.

  1.  Everywhere is crowded downtown.
  2.  You will probably have to wait a long time for a table.Things will be pricey — plan ahead and save by booking a restaurant you’ve already looked into.

Instead… Make reservations and avoid the wait.

  1. There are so many good restaurants in New York City.
  2. Research and pick one in your budget — the hot pot place below cost us like $15 a person for a really good dinner!
  3. Spend your time seeing things and going places.

Don’t skip walking around

  1. Yes, it’s cold out.
  2. No, you don’t want to miss out.
  3. Buy a sightseeing pass for the day so you don’t spend your whole day in line.

Pro-tip: Most of the outdoor things in New York City are free – the 9/11 memorial, Central Park, the Rockefeller Center, so many museums, and much more. Lonely Planet has a great full list of free things to do!

Instead… Dress warm and make stops inside so you can still see all you want to.

  1. So many great things are free and beautiful outdoors in New York.
  2. Stopping to go inside shops can be free or cheap — go into a gift shop, a coffee shop, or a fun store in Times Square.
  3. No touristy trip to New York is complete without Central Park.
  4. Cafes and shops are everywhere. Getting cold? Pop inside!

    We had to buy extra scarves, gloves, and hats — plan ahead!

Don’t wear brand new shoes, even on NYE.

  1. You will be walking, dancing, and standing a lot.
  2. You don’t want to make your date carry you home.Those shoes probably cost a lot and will get dirty and sticky — save your money.

Instead… pack a pair of trusty flats or your go-to heels.

  1. Spend the night worried about having fun.
  2. Still, look cute and dance the night away!

Don’t go right when the event is supposed to start.

  1. You will wait in line — we ended up in so many lines when we did Times Square and never ended up getting in. We ended up frustrated and wishing we had just been there earlier.
  2. It is cold outside, and you will probably want to wear fancy clothes that are not made for the cold.

Instead… go early so you are one of the first to get in.

  1. Less waiting in line.
  2. More drinks and food.
  3. Your feet and body will thank you!
Pro-tip: If you go to an event with drinks included, I recommend getting two at a time (usually the max). That way you don’t spend too much time in line and when they stop serving, you will still have a drink to finish after midnight.

So there are my tips for New Year’s Eve in New York City. It can seriously be a blast or a HUGE bummer. Take time to research and prepare yourself for a long night. I’ve spent NYE in Nashville, Panama, West Virginia, Austin, and more, but there’s something truly special about New Year’s Eve in New York City. Want to know more about New York City? Here’s how to spend 48 hours in New York.

Headed to New York City for New Year’s this year? Check out these tips to help you make the most of the trip.
Headed to New York City for New Year’s this year? Check out these tips to help you make the most of the trip.

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