Tips for a Great New Years Eve in New York City

Headed to New York for New Years 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 Eves 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 with these tips I learned the hard way.

so many people in Times Square

Don’t do Times Square. I did it four years ago and while I wouldn’t trade it for anything… and if we had only known…

  • It’s beyond crowded. We could lift our feet and not move (and this was on side streets).
  • If you leave your spot, you can’t come back.
  • They set up barricades around 4 pm, but don’t tell you where they will go and 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 Library where we could see part of the ball. Made for great memories, but not recommended.

Instead… Opt for something away from Time’s Square with just as good a view. We went on a cruise on the Hudson (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 things 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 was beautiful
  •                 Saw the fireworks at midnight by the Statue of Liberty
  •                 Open bar
  •                 Dinner included (although, it was not very good)
  •                 We could use the bathroom

If you MUST do Times Square...

  • get there early like 10 am early - we got there at 11 am and people were already standing around
  • stand in front of a stage so you will be inside barricades
  • pack water, food, and dress warm - we wore coats, gloves, multiple layers, hats
  • go to the bathroom before, you won't be allowed to leave
  • watch where barricades are located - It may change from year to year.
  • don't expect much help from locals - we asked people for help and they would walk away or say "I don't know"
    four years ago 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.

  • Traffic on New Year’s is terrible.
  • Expect major delays.
  • 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.

  • Public transit is closed around Manhattan
  • You won't waste money on taxi's or Uber
  • 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 Years Eve in New York... if you need a taxi, call a regular cab, they will most likely have a cheaper price.

Don’t waste time looking for places to eat.

  •  Everywhere is crowded downtown
  •  You will probably have to wait a long time for a table
  • Things will be pricey, plan ahead and save by booking a restaraunt you've already looked into

Instead… Make reservations and avoid the wait

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

Don’t skip walking around

  • Yes it’s cold out
  • No, you don’t want to miss out.

Pro-tip: Most of the outdoor things in New York are free - 9/11 memorial, central park, Rockefeller Center, many museums, and so 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

  • So many great things are free and beautiful outside in New York
  • Stops inside can be free or cheap - go into a gift shop, a store in Times Square, or grab a drink
  • No touristy trip to New York is complete without Central Park
  • 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

  • You will be walking, dancing, and standing a lot
  • You don’t want to make your date carry you home - Mike actually had to do this for me basically on our walk home, sorry babe!
  • 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

  • Spend the night worried about having fun
  • Still look cute and dance the night away!
my feet hurt so bad at the end of the night

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

  • 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.
  •  It is cold outside and you will probably be wanting to wear fancy clothes that are not made for the cold

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

  • Less waiting in line
  • More drinks and food
  • Your feet and body will thank you

Pro-tip: If you go to an event with an included drinks, 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 Years 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. Have other tips to help people save and have fun? Comment below!

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  • Lara

    Traveling teachers are the best.


      Thank you! And thanks for reading my post!

  • We love NYC and can’t wait to visit in Jan. Great post!


      Have so much fun! I love New York. Thank you!

  • I went to Madison Square Garden to see Phish last night. It was my first time to a Phish concert, so I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but it was definitely a cool way to spend NYE in NYC! I’ve also done open bar at Bryant Park Grill, low key bars, babysat, etc. So many options!


      NYC is such a cool place to do NYE! Madison Square Garden sounds like a really fun option!

  • Erika

    I chuckled about the locals not being able to help. That’s because locals avoid times square year round as much as humanly possible. The #1 NYE plan is to leave NYC, then if we stay, to avoid Times Square lol I’ve never even thought about going somewhere to view the ball drop tbh. I totally agree with you that NYC has sooo may delicious restaurants. The most fun I have had on NYE in NYC is to make a reservation at a restaurant and celebrate midnight there. They often pass out free champaign and have streamers and such. You give really practical tips and half of it is your attitude. Low expectations, pleasantly surprised. Great post!