At the end of December I visited New York with my friends Joe and Lesley. I previously wrote about our experiences on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. This post discusses the rest of our time in New York
I flew from Detroit to New York on a tiny jet. Our flight into Laguardia flew right over Brooklyn, with a fantastic view of Manhattan out the left hand side of the plane, and I was lucky enough to have a window seat on that side.
In retrospect, it seems like all we did in New York was walk and stand in line. We must have been on our feet 8 to 12 hours a day for 3 days straight. On our first day, we headed down to Lower Manhattan, visited the World Trade Center site, took the Staten Island Ferry across and back, and then walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. We had dinner at Grimaldi’s, a very popular pizzeria in Brooklyn with a 90 minute line up out front. The subway ride back to our hotel at 11:30pm was an eye-opening experience; Joe thought it so notable that it should be on a “top 100 world adventures” list.
After standing in line for dinner, what better to do than stand in line for breakfast the next morning? We stayed just a block from what is apparently the best bagel place in New York, Ess-a-bagel. The line was a bit quicker — probably a 20 minute wait — and the bagels with any kind of cream cheese you might want (in my case, chocolate chip) were fantastic. I was smart enough to figure out that you could order online and pickup without waiting, which we did the next morning, bypassing the line and getting to our tasty bagels in an instant.
Day 2 was spent in midtown Manhattan and around Times Square. The main event was seeing the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon. It won nine Tony awards this year. That evening, we wandered up Fifth Avenue at night, checking out the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, the Christmas window displays in the shops along Fifth Avenue, and the Apple Store cube at Central Park.
On the morning of the 31st, we headed to the Empire State Building for its commanding view of all of Manhattan. We made our way through line after line after line to eventually get up to the observation desk. We didn’t get to climb all the way to the top, but we did get to climb the last 8 flights.
After that, we headed up to Central Park, past The Dakota apartments, and through the park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In retrospect, walking around New York for a whole day before standing outside for another 5 hours for New Year’s Eve was not a brilliant idea. But as I previously wrote, we survived New Year’s, so it worked out in the end.
This past weekend I went to New York City with my friends Joe and Lesley. We went to New York to do some sightseeing, attend a performance of The Book of Mormon, and to go to New Year’s Eve in Times Square. I’ll write about the sights of New York a little later, but for now here’s a note about New Year’s Eve.
We wandered around Times Square a bit on December 30th and it was packed with people. Times Square is located at the intersection of two nearly-parallel streets, 7th Avenue and Broadway Avenue, with the cross streets being 42nd through 44th Streets. Times Square itself is like a bow tie between the two angled avenues.
The ball drops on top of 1 Times Square, a relatively short building at the south end of Times Square. In the picture at left, the pole that the ball drops down is visible, directly above the top Toshiba screen. It’s not a long drop, even though it looks like it is on TV. There’s a building directly behind it, so all the activity and the crowds happen north of the ball.
For New Year’s Eve, there are several stages in Times Square. The main stage is closest to the ball and that’s where Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest is hosted. When we were in Times Square on December 30th after dinner, we caught Ryan Seacrest on stage rehearsing for the big night. He waved to us (personally).
People apparently start lining up for New Year’s Eve around noon in Times Square. At 4pm the police start closing 7th Avenue and Broadway Avenue north from Times Square as people fill up the spaces. The crowd control is exceptionally well done. We arrived on 7th Avenue a bit after 7pm and got a spot between 55th and 56th Streets, but over the course of the next few hours the police gradually compressed people so that we eventually made it down to 53rd Street. Still 10 blocks north of Times Square and packed with people, and more people behind us all the way up to 59th Street.
In the picture above left, you can see the ball as a three-quarter circle halfway between the two upper-most video screens. The ball should actually be slightly higher and it moves up and down a little during the night, but it only drops basically from the bottom of the top-most video screen to the top of the next video screen. Not very far.
Surprisingly, there isn’t much going on while waiting for midnight. At 10 blocks up, there are no speakers, no screens, and no entertainment, so you have to make your own. You can see the big screens in Times Square, but only barely, so only occasionally could we recognize who was on the big screen. People partying in apartment buildings above us occasionally stepped on to their fire escapes to entertain us.
They do countdowns to 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, 11:20pm, and 11:30pm. And then the big countdown starts at 60 seconds to midnight. At midnight there are fireworks at both Times Square to the south and Central Park to the north. Confetti fills the air in Times Square, but not as far north as we were. And just like many New Year’s Eve parties as you start getting older, people started clearing out around 2 minutes after midnight.
New Year’s Eve in Times Square is certainly a unique experience. If I were to do it again I would probably go all out and stake out a place right in Times Square starting at noon, bringing a small folding chair and lots of things to entertain me. And right now I’m curious to watch a video of this year’s broadcast to see what was actually happening while we were on the street.