One of my first memories as a kid is driving down the New Jersey side of the Hudson River and watching the sparkling New York City skyline pass by. It was a vibrant place to grow up next to, and each year on New Year’s Eve, my eyes would be glued to the TV while I watched the glittering ball drop over Times Square. It was so close, yet so far, and my little heart wished I was there. The confetti, the music, and the film scene-esque environment of Times Square on New Year’s Eve seemed so warm and exciting, and I wanted to hear Mariah Carey sing and see Ryan Seacrest hyping up the crowd. I wanted the chance to be on TV. I needed to be there. Year after year, I begged my parents to go into Manhattan so that we could ring in the new year in style, and as I grew to expect, they said no each time – though they always cited a valid string of reasons: there would be too much traffic, it would be too busy, and the crowds would be way too big.
After almost a decade of begging, my parents finally gave in. In 2015, when I was 15 years old, my parents surprised me and said we were going to go to Times Square for New Year’s Eve. I was ecstatic! I remember picking out my sparkliest shirt for the special day and the feelings of anticipation as we got ready to go. We didn’t have tickets to enter the main crowd or to see the show, but I was excited to be in New York City on New Year’s Eve nevertheless. My childhood dream was finally coming true.
After a car ride full of excited chatter and impatience, we arrived in the city. My parents treated me and my older sister to dinner at Serendipity 3, our favorite restaurant ever since seeing John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale drink their frozen hot chocolates in the movie Serendipity. After drinking my very own that night, I felt the main character energy flow through me, preparing me for the night ahead. It was all coming together; I was ready for the New Year’s Eve show to begin.
As we walked to Times Square, I hoped that we would get there early enough to hear the musicians performing or maybe even see Ryan Seacrest swerving through the crowd. Most of all, I hoped for the perfect spot to see that ball drop. But my parents kept us towards the back of the crowd when we arrived, concerned about the crowd all trying to leave at once later in the night. Although our view of the stage was highly obstructed, we had a straight-on view to see that beautiful, magical ball drop at midnight, so it still felt like my dreams were coming true.
Everything was perfect, at least until that point. While we knew we weren’t going to see a single thing happening on the stage as soon as we got there, we didn’t realize how much it would impact our experience. Since the stage was so far away, we couldn’t hear very much of the performances, and what we could hear was overwhelmed by the people around us screaming and shouting. To try to pass the time, we played games like I Spy and Twenty Questions. My parents were probably regretting their decision to take us to the city as we tried to keep ourselves occupied and warm, but I was determined to see that ball drop. And after being there for so long, I think my parents were, too, even if they wouldn’t admit it – it would be a wasted opportunity if we left that far into the evening.
Vendors selling 2016 accessories eventually made their way through the crowd, and my parents bought us hats and glasses. As we drew closer to midnight, several trips to the nearest McDonald’s bathroom under my belt and my festive glasses on, I felt in my bones that the magic was about to begin. The buzz in the crowd was magnetic as the hour approached, and I started to get excited again. When I heard Ryan Seacrest announce that it was almost time to count down, I looked at the clock on my phone: 11:58 p.m. I was ready.
The time clock hit 11:59 p.m., and the countdown began: 2015 would soon become 2016. I screamed the countdown with the crowd as loud as I could, adrenaline rushing through my veins as the ball started to drop. This was the moment I had dreamed of, and as we approached the number 10, the buzz in the crowd was electric. As soon as we hit one, “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra played, and the entire crowd cheered for a new year and a fresh start.
But those feelings were soon replaced by stress and fear. As the entire crowd tried to leave at once, my sister and I were almost trampled. My parents held on to us tightly and maneuvered us out, and we ran to our car with everyone behind us pushing and shoving, all hoping to beat the traffic home without any crowd control.
Even though it had always been a dream of mine to see that ball drop in person, I’ll be the first to admit that it was not worth the hype. The magic and electricity that I thought I would see that night was essentially a Hollywood illusion, covering up a frigid evening and a very anticlimactic moment in person. Watching the ball drop from the comfort of your living room is just as exciting as being there in person, if not more. In person, it’s a small ball that barely lights up, and it moves excruciatingly slowly. You can barely feel your toes in person, and your whole family is tired, crowded, and frustrated. But when you’re at home, you can hug your family members and ring in the new year with kazoos and confetti, with plenty of space to celebrate – no mad dash to your car necessary.
So, take it from me: spend New Year’s Eve with the people you love from the comfort of your own home or wherever you are. Even for someone who’s been dreaming of it for their whole life, Times Square is not worth the trip, time, or energy on New Year’s Eve. And especially now, with Covid cases on the rise again, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than my own living room.