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.
Chaos in Times Square on December 30
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.
1 Times Square
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.
Ryan Seacrest on the main stage in Times Square
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).
Looking down 7th Avenue on New Year's Eve
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.
Happy New Year!
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.