New York City is worth a visit every time of the year. On New Year's Eve, however, scores of tourists are drawn to the Big Apple to watch the ball drop at Times Square. But is that really worth it? Find out what really is the best way to start the new year in New York City and what else to do around New Year's Eve.
Avoid Times Square on New Year's Eve
Everyone knows it from the movies and TV shows: The famous ball drop at Times Square. Exactly at midnight, a giant ball with thousand of LED lights is dropped from a pole up on the One Times Square. Frank Sinatra's “New York, New York” is played over the speakers and everybody celebrates the new year in each others arms.
As tempting as it may be to experience this yourself: Don't do it – reality is very different. Be prepared to start waiting at Times Square around noon (at the latest) with two million other people. If you're very lucky, you might be able to get a space with a view of the musical live acts of the evening. After Times Square is closed at early afternoon, there's no way to get in or out. Wondering, how you'll be able to go to the bathroom? Here's a hint: Many people wear diapers. Is this really how you want to spend your New Year's Eve?
Boat rides and rooftop bars are much more relaxing and equally delightful ways to start the new year. The ball drop is usually broadcast live on large TV screens here and people celebrate while listening to Sinatra just like at Times Square.
Go ice skating
When visiting New York City in winter, be sure to try one of the city's ice skating rinks. Many of them can be found in popular spots like Central Park, or in front of Rockefeller Center. Bryant Park even has an entire Christmas village until January. While the rinks are relatively cheap for New York's standards, some of them even free, they are often very crowded. If you don't feel like skating yourself, you can also just go and watch the ice-skating crowds.
Winters in New York City are cold – extremely cold. New Yorkers even a name for the icy wind blowing through the narrow streets: “Brick”, which perfectly describes what it feels like leaving your house and being hit by the wind. Be sure to dress warm and cover your face with a scarf.
Visit Brooklyn's neighborhood
The Americans' love for excessive Christmas decorations is well-known. A great example is Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, where a neighborly dispute about the most elaborate decorations broke out a few years ago. As most people don't take down their decorations until January 6, you'll still be able to see them if you're there around New Year's Eve.
Take a walk around neighborhood and admire the creative ornaments. You can even book guided tours around the area, which is a great way to find out more about the city and learn interesting anecdotes from locals.
Admire the Rochettes in Radio City Music Hall
From pre-Christmas time until January, guests and locals alike can enjoy Christmas Spectacular in Radio City Hall. Performed every year since 1933, the musical-like show is a real New York institution. The performing group are The Rochettes, one of the best show dance groups in the world. They are known for their perfectly synchronized and aligned choreographies.
All fans of musicals and theater plays in general should of course pay a visit to Broadway, where countless shows will leave you spoilt for choice.
Go shopping on New Year's Day
Many stores in New York City have special offers and discounts on New Years' Day, so a little shopping could be worth it. Woodbury Outlet is open as well, though you will have to book a bus tour in advance to get there.
New Yorkers typically eat brunch on New Year's Day. However, you should book a table in advance if you're looking to get the local after-party experience.
Visit the most important sights
If you're in New York City for the first time, you'll want to visit the famous attractions, of course. Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square are usually the first destinations of most tourists. A walk in Central Park is a must-do during every season of the year. Whether you prefer squeezing inside the Statue of Liberty with thousands of other guests every day or looking at it from one of the free Staten Island ferries is up to you.
While you can spend a lot of time in parks during summer, it may be best to check out some of the city's famous museums. The American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum are all well-worth a visit.
Our insider tip is the SPYSCAPE Museum. Here, visitors can find out what it's like to be an agent of the CIA or FBI. Master personality tests, overcome challenges of the everyday life of spies and find out your position in a spy agency. Designed interactively, the museum is very entertaining and exciting.
Enjoy the best view
In a city full of skyscrapers, you'll have to climb to the very top to get the best view. The most popular observation platforms are the ones on the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and the One World Observatory in the World Trade Center. We recommend to visiting at least two of them: One during the day and one at dark or sunset. This way, you'll be able to see all of New York City's many facets.
Careful: As mentioned, it gets extremely cold in New York City during wintertime, with the wind really whipping across your face. Be sure to dress appropriately when visiting the observation decks.
Go watch a sports event
If you've got some extra cash left, you should definitely take the opportunity to watch a US sports event. An obvious but expensive choice during the winter season is a New York Rangers ice hockey game in Madison Square Garden. Those who invest in a ticket are rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime experience with thousands of passionate fans. A visit to the most famous stadium in the world is something even those less enthusiastic about sports will enjoy.
Last but not least: Hail a taxi in 5 seconds
A typical scene in many New York movies: A pedestrian raises their hand on the roadside, and a taxi immediately stops to pick them up. Only possible in movies, is what we thought, and tried it ourselves. Several times. The result was the same every time. Manhattan is full of yellow cabs and you'll be able to hail one in just a few seconds, regardless of your location.
So, our last activity sounds rather unspectacular – call a cab. It's fun!