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New Year's Eve Times Square ball drop: What to know about the NYC tradition

Before heading out to see the ball drop, make sure you're fully prepared.

The ball drop in Times Square on New

The ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve is the city's most iconic way to celebrate the holiday. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Stephanie Keith

The ball drop in Times Square is as iconic a New Year's Eve tradition as drinking a glass of champagne or sharing a kiss at midnight.

Since 1907, people have braved snow, sleet and the coldest of temperatures to ring in the new year in the center of the world (to New Yorkers, anyway). It's the prime spot to be as the world watches one year melt into another.

Whether you’re looking to head to Times Square yourself or plan to watch the ball drop from the warmth of your home, here’s what you need to know about the spectacle as 2018 turns over to 2019.

How big is the NYE ball?

The original 1907 ball was 500 pounds. It had 100 25-watt light bulbs and was made of iron and wood. This year's Times Square ball, made from Waterford crystal triangles, weighs 11,875 pounds and is illuminated by 32,256 LED lights. It's capable of displaying more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns to make a kaleidoscope effect.

This year's designs are spread across four sets of 288 triangles and another 1,248 triangles that make up another design.

One light pattern, called "Gift of Serenity," resembles butterflies flying above a meadow. Another, "Gift of Kindness," makes up a ring of rosettes that symbolize unity with the fronds reaching out. "Gift of Wonder" is a pattern that forms into a faceted starburst. "Gift of Fortitude" makes the shape of a crystal pillar to represent resolve, courage and spirit. The last pattern, the "Gift of Imagination," features 1,248 triangles reflecting each other.

The numbers 2-0-1-9 stand 7 feet high and contain a total of 516 9-watt LED bulbs.

Can anyone watch the ball drop in Times Square?

Yes. Watching the ball drop is a free event, but attendees have to arrive in Times Square early in the day and spend the remainder of 2018 waiting to ring in the new year.

Don't fall prey to companies and scalpers offering multiple venue/pay-one-price/all access passes, which advertise free access to Times Square — it's not possible. Police security lines are tight and in the past, these pass holders have been refused access.

Where is the best viewing location?

The sound system will be set up where Broadway and Seventh Avenue cross in Times Square, so the closer you can get to that area, the better view you will have. The Times Square Alliance says the ball can be seen best along Broadway, from 43rd to 50th streets, and along Seventh Avenue, from 43rd to 59th streets. 

Police will be directing people to open viewing locations. 

According to the official Times Square site, it's best to arrive as early as possible to secure your spot because prime viewing areas fill up by the early afternoon. 

How do I get into Times Square?

Access points south of 41st Street are at:

  • 37th Street & Seventh Avenue
  • 37th Street & Broadway
  • 38th Street & Eighth Avenue
  • 38th Street & Sixth Avenue

Access points north of 43rd Street are at:

  • 49th Street from Eighth & Sixth avenues
  • 52nd Street from Eighth & Sixth avenues
  • 54th Street from Sixth Avenue
  • 55th Street from Eighth Avenue
  • 57th Street from 7th Avenue
  • 57th Street from Broadway
  • 58th Street from Eighth & Sixth avenues
  • 59th Street from Eighth & Sixth avenues

Will I be able to leave my spot and return?

Though you'll be on your feet for hours, public restrooms are not set up for this event and you most likely won't be let back into your space if you leave. And while you may want to limit your liquid intake, don't — dehydration is common and can take a toll on you in cold weather. Just skip caffeine and alcohol.

That also means you can't go out and get something to eat and come back (there are no food vendors within Times Square that night), so bring snacks as needed. 

What can I bring to Times Square?

All attendees have to go through a security check before entering the viewing areas that are barricaded by the NYPD. Large bags and backpacks are not permitted, so don't expect to be able to bring a lot with you for your wait. Alcohol (including champagne) is not allowed.

What should I wear?

Let's just say that the more layers you have on, the better. The ball drop usually happens on cold, below-freezing nights. Most times, the revelers waving their balloons are actually miserably freezing. So wear many layers, synthetics, a wind-resistant and water-repellent coat and a warm hat. Don't forget thick, warm boots — the streets can be so frigid that the cold can travel up your feet if you're not prepared.

How many people attend the Times Square event?

Though millions around the country are glued to their televisions to watch the event, approximately 1 million people attended the Times Square ball drop for NYE 2017-18.

How much confetti is dropped?

More than 1 ton, and there is a confetti master who orchestrates the whole thing.

Can I watch the ball drop online or on TV?

Major networks including ABC, NBC and CNN will be hosting New Year’s Eve specials live from Times Square, showing the ball drop when the clock strikes midnight.

If you don't have cable, you can stream it live on Times Square's website, Facebook and Twitter.

There's also a free Times Square Ball app you can get through the App Store and Google Play.

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