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

New Year's Eve revelers brave a frigid Times Square on Dec. 31, 2017. Photo Credit: David Handschuh

News you can use, including some warnings.

New Year's Eve revelers brave a frigid Times Square on Dec. 31, 2017.
New Year’s Eve revelers brave a frigid Times Square on Dec. 31, 2017. Photo Credit: Bleecker Street/Scott Green

The ball drop in Times Square is as iconic a New Year’s Eve tradition as toasting a glass of bubbly 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, yet again, one year melts into another.

Whether you’re looking to head to Times Square or plan to watch the ball drop from the coziness of your own couch, here’s everything you need to know about the spectacle (and a few things you don’t) as 2018 flips to ’19.

How big is the NYE ball?

Make sure you wear many layers at the New Year's Eve Times Square ball drop, because chances are, it will be frigid.
Make sure you wear many layers at the New Year’s Eve Times Square ball drop, because chances are, it will be frigid. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Stephanie Keith

The original 1907 ball was 500 pounds. It had 100 25-watt light bulbs and was made of iron and wood.  At 12 feet in diameter, this year’s Times Square ball, made from 2,688 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 create a kaleidoscopic effect.

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

Who’s performing during “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest”?

While dozens of artists are slated to perform, starting at 8 p.m., they’re split between the East and West coasts. New York City’s performers include diva Christina Aguilera, Britpop band Bastille (known for the single “Pompeii”), country duo Dan + Shay and your ‘90s crush, New Kids on the Block.

We really hope we hear Christina belt “Genie in a Bottle” and “Beautiful” and see NKOTB bust out with “Step by Step” and “Hangin’ Tough” (“we’re rough!”).

And now for a warning (or two)

Watching in person is free and open to all, but attendees have to arrive in Times Square early in the day and spend the remainder of 2018 … waiting. According to the official Times Square site, it’s best to arrive as early as possible because prime viewing areas fill up by the early afternoon. 

Don’t fall prey to companies and scalpers offering multiple venue/pay-one-price/all-access passes, which advertise easy admittance 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. 

What if I, um, have to go to the bathroom?

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 on the big night; bring snacks to fight hanger.

What can’t I bring to Times Square?

First things first: The forecast is calling for rain, and umbrellas are forbidden.

All attendees have to go through a security check before entering the viewing areas that are barricaded by the NYPD. Large bags and backpacks aren’t allowed, and alcohol is also verboten. Save that toast for later.

What should I wear?

Embrace the practical. Envision mom suggesting layers and warm, comfortable shoes and heed that sage advice.

While the start of 2019 is looking to be many degrees warmer than last year – early 2018 saw the mercury recorded at just 9 degrees in Central Park – your Monday high in the upper 40s will drop as the sun sets. So protect your cozy sweater with a wind- and water- resistant 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. Thanks, ma.

How many people attend the Times Square event?

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

How much confetti is dropped?

About 1 ton, and there is a confetti master who orchestrates the whole thing. And it’s all done by hand.

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

Now that I think about it, I’d rather watch from home

While the Dick Clark franchise is synonymous with ABC, other networks, including NBC and CNN, host their own New Year’s Eve specials live from Times Square, complete with ball drop.

If you don’t have cable, you can stream the spectacle 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.

Shaye Weaver