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How to Celebrate a New York City New Years like a Local

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A New York City New Years that isn’t Totally Sucktastic

New York City New Years, a time for new beginnings, a time of joy and celebration, a time when you plead for service at an overcrowded bar that serves overpriced drinks (should you flash him?

Yeah, probably not) and finally a time when you’re stuck in the bathroom, holding your friend’s hair back while she pukes her brains out. Hmm, maybe that open bar that you each spent $70.00 on wasn’t such a good idea after all (but this was all so fun and exciting when you were 21, what happened?).

Avoid Times Square on New Years, and other New York City tourist traps.

Look, I get it. What else are you supposed to do on New Year’s in New York City? I mean, typically you get loaded on mildly fancy champagne, get groped by a random stranger, and watch the ball drop as Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin make in appropriate jokes in Times Square New York City.

Oh and don’t forget that desperate attempt to find someone to kiss if you’re single.

Seriously, you don’t want to look lame so just about any warm body will do. Bueller? Bueller? Hey, don’t all rush to get a kiss as once but for real, I’m gonna eat your face off. No? Too much?

Okay, err, let’s awkwardly move on. Things get a little too cannibalistic.

Anyway, you then stumble home and thank God you have New Year’s day off so that you can nurse that wicked hangover (a sad reminder that you don’t rebound like a champ anymore).

Yikes, when did hangovers start to feel like the Grimm Reaper is knocking at your back door, looking for random souls for sale?

My resolution is to NOT make a resolution. BOOM!

Well, if this is not your idea of a swell time then you may want to check out how to celebrate a New York City New Years like a local. And for the love of God and all that is holy, do NOT celebrate New Year’s in Times Square.

It is probably the single most overrated celebration in all of New York City. Seriously, a New Year in New York that involves Times Square is horrendous.

First of all, you have to get there at like 1:00 pm just to get into Times Square. Then once you’re crammed in there you can’t really leave and, like the hordes of other people around you, begin to wonder how the hell you’re gonna get to the bathroom.

Then there’s the epic polar vortex that is winter weather in New York. I mean, who doesn’t love getting a wicked case of frostbite while waiting outside for the ball to drop.  

Yeah, not really my idea of a good idea and I seriously would not recommend it to your worst enemy. But if you love New Years eve in Times Square then more power to you. Who knows, you might even like some of the best hotels in Times Square.

I sometimes wish it was my thing but I’d rather have five root canals than subject myself to that level of abject torture. So keep reading to find out what the local’s get up to during their New York New Year’s Eve.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

If you’re booking a trip right now then I IMPLORE you to get travel insurance – even if it’s not from me.

After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed. 

Truth be told though, I’ve never traveled without travel insurance and don’t think you should either – especially since I think we’ve all had plans drastically change because of the pandemic. 

Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.

1. Brooklyn Bridge Walk

I love the Brooklyn Bridge. But there are ton of other free things to do in New York City too.

Quite honestly, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of my favorite things to do. Not only is it easy to get to, (just take the 4, 5, or 6 to City Hall), but the view from this icon of architecture is truly one of a kind (it gets me overtime.

Okay I don’t cry but it’s a good time for a shameless selfies, as you sheepishly pull out your selfie stick. I mean, i don’t have one anything).

Plus, if you’re here on New Year’s Eve, you get the added bonus of the already awesome skyline being illuminated by a series of fireworks that are set off all across the city.

Now, if you’re looking for more than just a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge (we need to jazz it up a bit for New Year’s Eve), then why not sign up for a guided Brooklyn Bridge Walk?

Tickets are $60 for adults and $30 for children, with multiple walks departing at 10:15 pm. A unique way to understand more about the bridge and its significance to New York City.

I mean the price is a bit steep for a glorified walking tour but let’s be real, New York City is expensive to begin with so there is no way you’re gonna find super cheap things to do on New Years (most open bars start at $80 a person).

***As an added bonus, if you want to see the abandoned City Hall subway station (Its super pretty. Like Johnny Depp pretty) just take the 6 train downtown.

When the train makes its final stop at “Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall” instead of getting off, duck down and stay on the train (FYI this is not strictly legal so this is for all the badasses who are into breaking the law).

The train will then turn around and go through the abandoned City Hall station and you can get a good view (I would go early since its at its prettiest on a sunny day).

***If you want to take a public tour of the abandoned subway station, then you can purchase a tour through the New York Transit museum, with the purchase of a museum membership ($50) and a tour ticket ($50).

Tours for this year are on  November 12 at 2pm-4pm, November 18 at 11am-1 pm and 2pm-4pm, December 2 at 11am-1 pm and 2pm-4pm, and December 17 at  2pm-4pm.

2. Fireworks at Prospect Park

I think I am the only weirdo who doesn’t like NYC New Year’s Eve fireworks. Actually, I don’t really like fireworks any time of the year.

I find them loud and annoying and I feel like once you’ve seen them once, then you’ve seen them all. But I am quirky to say the least so ignore me and my insane ways.

Oh, bright like a diamond. Thanks Rhiana.

So if fireworks are totally your thing then bundle up like you’re trekking into the deep reaches of Siberia and prepare for a free (my favorite word), low-key (my other favorite word.

I’ll take sweatpants with an elastic waistband for $5.00 Alex) New Year’s Eve with hot beverages (their hot chocolate better have the marshmallows or the whole thing will be ruined I tell you!

And I want my money back. Kidding, sort of) and fireworks coming to life all across Park Slope (that’s in Brooklyn for those not in the know).

Just make sure you wear those dancing shoes or embrace the total wallflower within because live music starts at 11pm at Grand Army Plaza.

Just don’t forget to chase your live music with a free cup of cocoa. Then, at midnight (I know, the time is totally surprising to no one)  fireworks will go off at Long Meadow.

Honestly, you’ll get the best view from Grand Armory Plaza,  inside the park on West Drive and along Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 9th Street.

If that is also super confusing and you have no idea what (I’m talking about, then just follow the crowds that are chasing the big sparkly lights in the sky because I mean God forbid you miss even a second of this extravaganza (sorry I am so sarcastic that I might look like a bitch but I swear I’m really nice).

***FYI there are also fireworks at New York Harbor and Central Park if either of those locations is way easier for you.

3. NYRR (New York Road Runners) Midnight Run

Hmm… How do I put this nicely. I don’t run. Like even if the cops are chasing me with a taser I don’t run.

I’ll just call my Sergeant brother and beg him for help because running is so not my thing. I never get that euphoric runner’s high.

Instead, I get knee pain, am out of breath, and practically have my boobs hitting me in the eye because they’re bouncing around so much. Breathing apparatus for one please.

Props to Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect.

Okay, so it’s safe to say that this activity wasn’t designed for someone like me but I have a ton of friends who love running.

Legit, they hit 30, decided to “get healthy” and went from eating Taco bell to getting up at 5 am and running 10 miles before work.

And I wish i could to this because then i could justify eating an entire pizza but no. I look weird and winded and remind people of Phoebe from Friends when I run.

However, if you suddenly realized your own mortality at 30 and are one of those cool, carb free, gluten free, wheat free, non-Taco Bell eating people, then this midnight run may be for you.

Registration is between $45 – $65 (the earlier you register the cheaper it is) and runners meet up at various locations on the Upper West Side near Central Park.  

So lace up your sequins converse (they exist because I had a pair but then I ruined them by throwing up on them.

Sad Kelly indeed) and get that “new year new me” resolution started because as soon as the clock tolls midnight, the four mile run of terror, I mean joy, starts through Central Park.

I mean, I’m gonna stay the same, super cool and awkward me but run, run like a two year old chasing a Teletubby (Sorry, I’m a nanny but toddlers love them so I mean run really fast.

I think they’re super weird and creepy but whatever. I’m not the target audience).

***If you need a little nudge of running encouragement, there’s a badass pyrotechnic display.

And if you’re allergic to running (we call that Asthma, which I don’t actually have) they also need volunteers to help setup the race and had out wickedly decadent treats like apples and bananas because gotta prevent those muscle cramps (Bananas actually do have a lot of Potassium and help prevent muscle cramps).

4. New Year’s Eve Bike Ride

True story!

So if you are an exercise enthusiast and don’t want to pay someone to let you run, then you may want to check out this New Year’s Eve bike ride.

It’s kind of like Soulcycle, only without the charade like dance moves on a bicycle and the ridiculous price tag (Have you seen how much those classes cost? And everything is a la carte! They don’t even give you a free bottle of water.

I’m surprised you don’t have to pay for air). I tried a class once and practically fell off the stationary bike (I know, sad but true. I couldn’t get my feet unclipped from the pedals).

But unlike Soulcycle, this event is free and has different meeting points around the city (typically people meet at the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge).

So grab a vehicle with a wheel (bicycle, tricycle, unicycle, rollerblades, pogo stick, horse, etc.) and join Time’s Up for the ride of your life (Okay, maybe not your life.

I mean you won’t see Free Willy jumping out of the harbor but it could fun-ish. I only ride if someone has a giant piece of cake at the finish line).

Typically, the ride crosses over the Williamsburg Bridge (ohhh, ahhhh) and goes through Washington Square Park and Madison Square Park before ending under the Central Park fireworks at Belvedere Castle.

Once here, the New Year party enthusiasts will greet you with their writhing and undulating bodies as the epic flash mob, I mean dance party begins.

I actually hate dance parties because I don’t like “grinding” or when random dudes stick their midget sized junk in my back. I feel like they oversized dogs trying to dry hump me but whatever.

I’d steer clear of the gyrations and get jiggy with it in the park away from the creepers.

5. See a Movie at Ipic

How to Celebrate a New York City New Years like a Local at Exterior Manhattan IPIC Movie Theater
Source: Wanderlustvixen

Start of NYE NYC right by avoiding people altogether! Yes my friends, seeing a movie at Ipic is so up my antisocial alley because not only is not talking to people encouraged, but you get to avoid large gatherings, known as parties, altogether.

Plus, get to see a great movie too. Okay, a lot of movies now are kind of crap but you never know, something good could be out!

This is why I look like a sherpa with all the food I carry into the movie theater.

Premium plus tickets, at the South Street Seaport Ipic theater, are $28.

Now I know it sounds insane to pay almost $30 for a movie, but hear me out because this theater is one of the most self-indulgent movie experiences that you will ever have.

And I mean, you’ve worked hard all year long so why not live a little (if alcohol is your thing then they have Prosecco for $12 a glass and Champagne for $17 you fancy beast you)?

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to watch a movie in a plush, lazy boy recliner (only more chic) and have lobster rolls, filet mignon sliders, unlimited popcorn and baked Alaska served to them at their seat?

Like seriously, people who bring me food while I’m watching a movie? I may never leave. It is like all my dreams have come true.

Kind of like Seamless only even easier. So avoid the crazed masses and treat yo self to this one of the many great New Years Eve events NYC.

***Ipic theaters is a chain that can be found all across the country. So even if you won’t be in New York City for New year’s Eve there still might be a theater near you.

Oh and for my fellow Westchester residents, there’s one in Dobbs Ferry.

6. The Naked Show

I love comedy but no way am I getting naked.

Only New York City would host something like the naked show. I mean I barely feel comfortable in my bathing suit, let alone performing live, stand up comedy in the nude.

But that’s exactly what the comedians at the Creek and Cave do. At midnight on December 31, these comedic psuedo geniuses bare it all and take on the world cave man style, minus the fire and the excessive body hair/random grunting.

And while you may be more preoccupied with these comedians’ nether regions than their jokes about the creepy Elmos that roam the streets of Times Square, this is definitely a unique way to ring in the New Year.

Plus, added bonus, audience members can join in the fun and get as naked as they want too. So ditch the granny panties and your over the shoulder, boulder holder because clothes free is the way to be!

Mind you, I would never strip naked in public but that’s just little, prude old me. And no worries, your goodies won’t ogled on Instagram because photos are strictly prohibited.

 *** They don’t want you to get arrested for indecent exposure so please come to the show wearing clothes and they will let you know when it’s okay to take it all off.

But no need to wear a steel reinforced chastity belt or penis sheath because all lewd or sexual acts are reserved for the privacy of your own home, or your local strip club. Whichever you prefer.

***Tickets are $20 presale and $30 at the door if they are still available (at the Creek and Cave, located at 10-93 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101).

To get here, take the 7 towards Long Island City and get off at Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Heights.

7. New Years Eve Yoga at Laughing Lotus

Hmm…I am gonna have a real hard time describing this one without making it sound like a cult but here goes nothing. Oh, and I tried doing this one year at a hot yoga studio and almost passed out while doing downward dog and sweating out all those toxins and brain cells.

So while this is not be my thing since I am about as flexible as an iron rod, clearly I am in the minority since yoga studios are more common than McDonald’s nowadays.This picture almost makes me want to do yoga.

So for all you yogis and aspiring yogis out there, skip the Times Square ball drop and spend New Years Eve at Laughing Lotus (if nothing else its a fun name) instead!

Here, you can embrace a brand new beginning with a sense of peace that is largely absent in clubs where everyone is robotically fist pumping the night away (I am the only one who is not relaxed by yoga since I concentrate so intensely on getting the moves right that I forget to breathe, get nauseous, and eventually want to run screaming from the class).  

During this two-hour sesh you will participate in chanting, powerful and sexy asana, cleansing kriyas, and even release thoughtful energy to create positive intentions for the year to come (Sounds a little witch doctory to me.

But I can’t judge because I don’t know what half this stuff means. So for me it’s a Nama-stay away.)

  ***An all access pass costs $30 and includes food, sparkling kombucha (to me this tastes like swamp water but clearly people dig it. That and Kale smoothies.

If I were a rabbit then I’d eat grass. #passthemacandcheese) at midnight. But I’d rather do this than the New York ball drop.

***If you really like yoga, Victor Colletti has a great “soul sweat” class that is set to Madonna classics (Did someone day Madonna? I’m in, minus the yoga. I’ll give moral support).

8. The Poetry Project’s Marathon Reading

Okay don’t throw tomatoes at me or send me death threats but this event actually takes places on January 1 so strictly speaking, it isn’t on New Years Eve.

But whatever, it’s only a day off. And I mean, who doesn’t want to be lulled away from an excruciating hangover and into a world of linguistic bliss (urban dictionary would call it word porn).Rock on with your bad self Poe.

Plus, this isn’t just some random coffee house poetry slam where people say random words like Liverpool over and over again while baking on a Bongo drum.

No, the Poetry Project’s New Year’s Day Poetry Marathon was started a long long time ago, like when Conestoga Wagons crossed the country in the truly ancient year of 1974 (kidding. I know Westward Expansion wasn’t that recent.

This event just started back when John Travolta and Harrison Ford were still young). But some poetic big shots like Eileen Myles, Patti Smith, Philip Class, Yoko Ono, Kathy Aker, Amiri Baraka, and Allen Ginsberg have all participated in this event.

So who knows, you might get to hear the poetic stylings of the next great Shakespeare wannabe (Kidding, it is lovely)!

Tickets are $25 (pre-sale tickets are only $20), which is way cheaper than any open bar you’ll find in Manhattan. Plus, the program lasts from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.

So get up late and stay late because you are bound to hear something that will make you think about the true meaning of life or ponder where you’re gonna eat your next meal, both of which are truly riveting, existential questions for the ages.

***I read the Poetry Project’s site and they describe this event way better than me. Seriously, the way they explained this event makes me want to burn my bra, buy a black burette, and take up smoking unfiltered cigarettes while cursing out the social confines of modern society.

So yeah, I now know why these 140 + poets were invited to participate in this event and not me. 

9. Phish at Madison Square Garden

I can’t help it but whenever I hear the name of this band, I always think of Finding Nemo and then the phrase, “Just keep swimming” randomly pops into my head.

But other than the word fish, this concert ,and new years party NYC, has very little to do with this awesomely iconic Disney movie.Quick, look at this mesmerizing view of the Empire State Building so that you aren’t overwhelmed by my insane amount of text.

Now concerts at Madison Square Garden are super awesome to begin with. Not only is this an iconic music venue in New York City, (and right near the Empire State Building and Herald Square. But stay away from Port Authority. It’s a little seedy) but the garden is right next to Korea town in New York City!

So stop in for some Korean Barbecue (Try Jongro BBQ. However, this place is usually packed so I would ditch the wait and head to Hee Korean BBQ grill instead) and Nodebong (Korean karaoke) before you head into the show. Seriously, node bong is the best and will totally amp you up.

Next you’re gonna add some Phish to MSG, (they are phat. If you unfamiliar with late 90’s slang that means cool) and you will get an experience that cannot be beat; throw in a dash of festive, New Year’s Eve spirit and you get a concert that is the stuff that music dreams are made of. Yes, they are that good.

I mean, they kind of have like a cult following anyway.

I mean, you know how people went to see Titanic like 7 times? Well, it’s the same with Phish and come to think of it, their concerts are usually longer than that movie too.

That’s because the band generally does three sats and an encore. So you will definitely get a full night of fun and won’t even remember that silly old ball drop NYC (Ball? What ball? Where? I swear I am not a dog!).

***This concert is now kind of like a New Year’s Eve tradition in New York City since they have played at this venue nine times since 1995. So clearly this concert has a little something’ something’ extra special about it.

***Sadly, tickets cost about $172.00 a person since this band is so popular but look around and see if you can find any cheaper tickets. Four day passes are also available for $574.00. The show starts at 7:30 pm and runs till basically either you or the band passes out.

***To get to MSG, take the Q32 bus from 5th Avenue and 45th Street. The trip will last about 20 minutes (depending on traffic) and make sure to get off at 32nd Street and 7th Avenue.

10. New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at Saint John the Divine

This New Year’s Eve tradition started way back in 1984, when leg warmers were all the rage and if you ran out of Aqua Net then you were in fact facing the apocalypse.

This annual event was created by none other than the totally rad director of the New York Philharmonic, who decided to create a non-migraine inducing way of bringing in the New Year in New York City.

Instead of some twenty one year old vomiting on your shoes, think of peace and serenity that will overwhelm you in the gorgeous nave of the Saint John the Divine; a building that is actually the largest cathedral in the world (Oh snap New York. Talk about cray cray).

This free concert has a diverse program that appeals to both children and adults alike since anything from from Vivaldi (I am gonna be all intellectual and pretend like I know what the hell that is) to “This Little Light of Mine” (this one I know) will be played with a gusto.

I don’t always go to church, but when I do I don’t listen and think about what I’m gonna eat instead. #realktalk.

However, this event is more than just listening to some delightful music. Rather, the music, candles, and peaceful atmosphere of this Cathedral all combine to create a renewed sense of hope, for the year to come, for anyone attending this event.

So continue this musical tradition and gather with old friends or maybe even some new ones too (unless you’re me because I hate meeting new people. I’ll be in my Bat Cave if you need me).

***This concert starts at 7 pm and ends at 9 pm. This year, the theme of the concert is our shared Earth, or the idea that citizens of the world need to support one another and share compassion if we are to find hope and joy for generations to come. 

The program will begin with Haydn’s glorious Te Deum and continue with the U.S. premiere of See the Wretched Strangers, among other performances (What, you mean no Taylor Swift? Well then obviously I’m not going. LoL. This is a rip off I tell you).

***General admission seats are free but there are a limited number available. These tickets operate on a first come, first serve basis. Reserved seating is also available and starts at $40.

*** You can either take the 1 or the B to Cathedral Parkway and 110th Street (takes about 35 minutes). I would take the 1 if you can since the walk from that stop to the Cathedral is shorter.

11. New Year’s Eve Jazz Show

One of the nicest places in New York City to ring in the New Year is at a jazz club.

While jazz’s roots can be traced back to New Orleans in the early 1900s, it was not until the mid- to late 1920s that prominent jazz performers moved from Chicago to New York City, where it has since prospered, that the city became one of the top jazz destinations in the nation.

Therefore, if you’re seeking for the ideal kind of performance to enjoy on New Year’s Eve in New York City, take into account one of these outstanding jazz clubs and venues that provide unique events and routine performances on December 31.

An annual New Years Eve event in New York City is held in the posh, subterranean Django Jazz Club at the Roxy Hotel (2 6th Ave). Your ticket includes a three-course meal, a drink of champagne at midnight, and access to the performance.

Intimate jazz venue Blue Note Jazz Club (131 W 3rd St) in the Village offers two regular performances on New Years Eve in addition to a menu of supper and beverages ($20/pp min expenditure).

Every year, The Iridium (1650 Broadway) hosts enjoyable New Year’s celebrations. You get food, a disco, and dancing with your ticket! Along with live music, of course, here are all the finest ways to ring in the new year!

Go to Harlem, which has historically been the center of the city’s jazz scene, for a more laid-back jazz performance. The iconic neighborhood bar Bill’s Place (148 W 133rd St) will be hosting live music performances in addition to its usual movie showings.

Visit Birdland Jazz Club (315 W 44th St) in New York City’s Theatre District hosts musical acts just in time to continue your celebration with late-night drinks or meals after the event. (min. spend $20/pp in addition to ticket price).

You can also try on New York City’s Upper West Side, Smoke Jazz & Supper Club (2751 Broadway), a vintage supper club and jazz venue, always has a unique event going on.

Here’s to letting go of Auld Lange Syne and Embracing a New year in NYC!

This is my life.

No, I’m not having a seizure and I don’t have early onset Alzheimer’s. And the above wordage isn’t the result of the total collapse of my cerebral cortex.

So why use the phrase, “Auld Lange Syne”? Well, believe it or not, that is the name of the New year’s Eve song that everyone plays at midnight but that no one actually knows the words to.

Well fun fact, this song was originally written in Scottish, by Robert Burns in 1788 (hence the unfamiliar turn of phrase).

Literally the phrase means, “Old Long Since”. But since translation sometimes makes no sense when taken literally, we’re gonna say that this phrase means “days gone by” or “long, long ago” .

Either way, you can go forth and enjoy your New Years with some random facts that will help you win it big on, “Who wants to be a millionaire?”.

And sorry, I have no idea if that show is still on TV. But the English lyrics to this song are, “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? 

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

Honestly, I really want to make a random Star Wars reference that goes, Auld Lange Syne, in a galaxy far far away… but i’ll stop with the cheesy jokes now and wish you a very happy new year! Whoop whoop!

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Thursday 9th of November 2017

Maybe this is me, but I just feel like 99% of these are trying too hard to do something. Literally, any bar with alcohol will do. A friend dragged me to Times Square and never again.

Vanessa Ball

Monday 6th of November 2017

Some awesome ideas in here! Would definitely like to do the Brooklyn Bridge walk or the NYE yoga sounds cool! Not sure where I will be this year though!


Sunday 5th of November 2017

I always enjoy reading your posts as they have right amount of laughter with those awesome memes! This is sarcasm with a pinch of salt :D


Sunday 5th of November 2017

Haha! So true. And thank you so much. I am so glad that you "get" my humor.


Sunday 5th of November 2017

LOVE this! I live just outside of London and have never ventured into the city for NYE as it's just too busy - so I can only imagine what New York is like!


Sunday 5th of November 2017

I am so with you. I bet London is about as crowded as New York. I honestly hate crowds and always try and go to more off beat places.


Saturday 4th of November 2017

Now I know what to do in NYC on NYE. This is great, I have spent NYE there before but never this exciting.


Sunday 5th of November 2017

Oh good!! I am so glad you enjoyed this. i tried really hard to list things that were off the beaten path and unusual

Comments are closed.