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New Year’s Eve in New York City: 7 ways to have the best time!

Spending new years eve in New York City is on the bucket list of countless travellers across the world!

It has all the excitement and magic one needs to see in the new year and whether you’re on a budget or money’s no object, this post is for you.

New York is a constant buzz of activity throughout the year. It’s a city that is really the crossroads of the world so no wonder it is also known as “the city that never sleeps”.

Where better to have the best new year’s eve than the Big Apple?

*Note: Mayor Blasio has mandated proof of vaccine for entry into hospitality venues.

New York City from Brooklyn Bridge
Gorgeous pic of New York City from Brooklyn Bridge. Pic by Colton Duke on Unsplash

7 ways to celebrate the New Year in NYC

To help you make the most of your New Year’s Eve celebration, and to better experience New York on a budget, this post covers 6 epic ways to begin the new year.

Whether you prefer a more exclusive and elegant night out with your fellow New Yorkers, or to be one of a million jostling in a throng of people, I’ve got you covered. 

If you’re looking for the best, and hidden, rooftop restaurants and bars in NYC, you’ll love the places I’ve also selected on this post the best dreamy rooftop restaurants in NYC.

And after you’ve seen in the new year in, or maybe before, you might like to head off on a romantic winter getaway from NYC.

But if you’re looking for New Year’s Eve parties and events, New York has a long list to choose from and each event has its own details on dress code, time and cost. The following list is guaranteed to provide an unforgettable start to the new year.

New Years even in NYC
Pin this to your NYC Bucket List!

1.   Attend a NYC New Year’s Eve cocktail party

New York City drips with elegance and attending a cocktail party is a great way to get into the vibe as the countdown begins.

Take your pick from a variety of different events, such as the cocktail party at the Library of Distilled Spirits. Or choose a more casual approach and walk into one of the city’s many festive cocktail bars and rooftop restaurants. 

NYC and cocktails go hand in hand, so keep in mind that there will be plenty of people with the same idea as you. Make a booking and be sure that you head out early so that you can get a good seat at the bar and take advantage of those happy hour specials. 

If you want to dive deep into an NYC cocktail experience, then you can book a craft tour whenever it best suits your itinerary. 

New York cocktails
Start the evening as you mean to go on! Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

2. Get to some cool Open Bar events for New Year’s Eve 2022

> Open Bar events are hugely popular and there several all over the city on New Year’s eve. Check out the Girls Night Out Singles Party with an open bar from 8-9pm and complimentary appetisers until they run out. Plus hip hop and Top 40 music to dance the night away. (Tickets $50)

> Or for something a little more mysterious where the venue will only be revealed to ticket holders, try this event to see in the New Year 2022 with a 1 hour open bar and champagne toast in a private loft in Brooklyn including a buffet and DJ music. (Tickets $40-$100)

Photo by Zac Bromell on Unsplash

> For something truly special, grab tickets to New Year’s Eve at the Empire Rooftop. Not to be mistaken for the Empire State Building, but the 12th floor of the Empire Hotel for NYE from 9pm to 1am with an open bar, hors d’Oeuvres, dessert and champagne toast. Plus live music and party favours. (Tickets $150-$250)

> Take a New Year’s Eve fireworks cruise. Your ticket includes a top shelf open bar (VIP tickets get a bottle of champagne too) plus buffet dinner. This is the IDEAL ticket to the best fireworks show with a champagne toast in NYC on NYE! (Tickets $249-$349)

Fireworks on New York harbor

FREE New Years Eve events in NYC

Believe it or not, there are free things to do on NYE in NYC including the fireworks!

3.   Watch the New Year’s ball drop at Times Square

The Times Square ball drop at the stroke of midnight should probably be #1 on this list, but I put it second because you’ll need a cocktail (or two) first!

Every year a million people gather in Times Square and watch the famous ball drop when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. In fact New York’s New Year’s Eve would be incomplete without this tradition!

Jostling with the crowds for the ball drop
Jostling with the crowds for the ball drop. Photo by Luo Lei on Unsplash

There is live music and entertainment starting from about 6pm and people begin to gather from early afternoon, so if you’re not bothered about the crowds, join the masses to see the giant, sparkling ball drop 141-feet (43 metres) from the roof of One Times Square. 

The best view to see the crystal ball drop is in the heart of Times Square where Broadway and 7th Avenue meet, also known as the ‘Bowtie’.

However, it can still be seen from quite far and the entire scene is televised across the city too – so maybe just stay in one of these rooftop restaurants and watch the live stream including the live performances outside while you’re keeping warm! 

Keep in mind that New Year’s Eve in New York is in deepest darkest winter and the iconic ball drop is an outdoor spectacle, so dress warmly and get there early if you want to get a good spot to view the drop live.

Times Square New York for New Years Eve
Looking down on Times Square. Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

4. Take the family to Prospect Park

Rug up warm and head to Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park which plays host to a festive New Year’s Eve celebration for the whole family.

This free one-hour event starts at 11pm with live music and hot chocolate and, at midnight, a massive display of fireworks will light up the skies over the park. The best viewing spots are at Grand Army Plaza, the Park’s West Drive, and along Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 9th Street.

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

5.   Skate into the new year!

Ok, disclaimer: I can’t skate. In fact I hate the whole idea of slipping and sliding so I don’t ski either, but for those who do not share my phobia, here are three great places to ice skate in NYC.

The Rockefeller Center Ice Rink, under the famous Christmas tree, is a hot spot in the cold climate over winter. Even just wandering past to take a few photos is a must (that’s more like me!), and the experience is an affordable way to enjoy the city. 

But if the busyness of the Rockefeller Center intimidates you, then you can visit one of the many other ice rinks that pop up across the city.

Ice skating at Rockefeller Ice Rink
Ice skating At Rockefeller Center. I’d be the guy in the middle! Pic Flickr

In fact skating at Central Park is just as iconic as the Rockefeller rink.

For a more inclusive NYC tourism experience, you can book a Central Park ice skating and walking tour

Ice skating in Central Park New York
Ice skating in Central Park

Or head to the pop-up Winter Village in Bryant Park and don your skates there – then shop in the surrounding market stalls and grab a bite to eat.

Ice skating at Bryant Park New York
Ice skating at Bryant Park. Photo by Johnell Pannell on Unsplash

6.   Take a cruise on New York harbor

If you prefer to get away from the throng or want the sophistication of a more calm evening for your new year’s celebrations, then head over to the New York Harbor to enjoy a cruise under the dazzling night sky.

This is the ideal location to be, champagne in hand, the sound of sultry jazz in the air, to watch the fireworks display and festivities from the water on December 31st.

This New Year’s Eve fireworks cruise and champagne tasting on board the Yacht Manhattan II is one such cruise that promises an unforgettable night. Although slightly pricier, it pays in glamour and decadence. And imagine the selfies!

Fireworks over New York City
Fireworks over New York City! Pic Flickr/CreativeCommons

7.   Experience the thrill of Coney Island

Looking a more unique and exciting way to celebrate New Year’s Eve 2019? Coney Island in Brooklyn will give you a whirlwind adventure.

The famous amusement park’s celebrations kick off at 6pm and include all of the perks expected from New Year’s Eve: fireworks, live entertainment and a happening social scene.

Located right by the beach, Coney Island is particularly exposed to the city’s winter chill, so make sure that you dress warmly. And, perhaps bring an extra jacket for when the heated excitement of the rides cools you down. 

Coney Island amusement park New York
Coney Island amusement park

Top tips to have the best New Year’s Eve in NYC

  • Dress warmly
  • Get to your destination early
  • Set out a budget beforehand
  • Beware of crowds, which are huge on a normal day, and the size of revellers will only increase during the festivities

To avoid getting caught up in the traffic jam to get home, book somewhere central to stay.

Hotels such as The Time New York or The Kimpton Muse Hotel, where I stayed last time I was in town, both in the Times Square area, are a sure bet that you’ll be in the thick of the action without worrying about the headache of transportation. 

The Muse lobby, Times Square
The Muse lobby, Times Square

Final thoughts on New Years Eve in New York 

New York City offers a wealth of different, exciting and fun activities to celebrate the end of the year.

Regardless of your interests and preferences, spending New Year’s Eve in New York will be memorable, whether it’s shopping or a Broadway show, a stroll through Central Park or out to see the Lady Liberty…

I love the symbolism of welcoming in the New Year and letting go of the past one. Choose a New York experience that will inspire you to celebrate the fresh start that 2022 provides, and enjoy the beautiful city as it pumps with festivity.

Happy new year!

Read more: Awesome flea markets in New York City will keep lovers of vintage and hand crafts amused all day.

Read more: Dreamy rooftop restaurants in New York City with stunning views, some with igloos and some under retractable roofs.

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!