We just spent New Year’s Eve with a million other people in the most famous and crowded place on the planet and not once did I get annoyed! That is a bit of a New Year’s miracle in itself. We decided to cross a big item off our bucket list this New Year’s and go watch the ball drop in Times Square in New York. So for somebody who doesn’t like crowds and doesn’t like to get cold, that’s a recipe for total discomfort. I have a mental process that I employ on trips that might be a bit challenging, in which I set my mind, determined that whatever it takes, I can do it. I really wanted to witness the most famous turn of the calendar in the world.
We actually drove to New York which is about an 11 hour drive and stayed outside in New Jersey at a hotel that was within a five minute walk of a city transit busstop. On New Year’s Eve, the weather was more like a chilly spring morning which bode well for the day. The New Jersey transit bus was right on time and the trip into Manhattan was only an amazing 30 minutes. And the cost? $5.50 a head! What a bargain!
We arrived at the Port Authority, which is an unbelievable underground transportation hub that is the gateway to everywhere in the city and is clean with nice restrooms and even shops. We changed to a subway train to make our way to the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. We had already done the walking tour of Ground Zero, which is worth a trip to New York in itself, but the Memorial just opened in 2011 and we had not seen it yet. Free tickets are available online and you must reserve your date and time ahead of your visit.
The Memorial is made up of waterfalls in the footprints of where the twin World Trade Center towers stood. The water then flows into a “pit” in the center of each of the fountains. It’s a beautiful yet melancholy site. The names of all the 9/11 victims are etched on the containment walls around each of the fountains. A museum on the site is scheduled to open next year.
While we were in the neighborhood we also checked out Zucotti Park, the home of the Occupy Wall Street Protesters and found only one protester left.
Many more returned that evening, however and there was a bit of a riot. Other stops before our Times Square ultimate journey included Grand Central Station, which is the most beautiful train station in the world with incredible architectural features,
and the famous New York Public Library where many a movie has been shot in its renowned Reading Room.
We also shopped in the original Macy’s which still decorates its windows with fabulous automated holiday-themed scenes.
It was then on to Times Square which was not only extremely crowded by this time but streets had been cordoned off and passes were required to get beyond the police lines.
We had tickets for a party at Applebees and made our way there. It was a mad crush of people everywhere and for those that are faint of heart or prone to claustrophobia, I wouldn’t advise it. But we took it as part of the adventure. I really had never seen so many people in my life in one spot. Our vantage point from 42nd Street at midnight was incredible and we watched the ball drop with fireworks and singing and horn tooting all around us.
The thing that strikes me most about the experience was how friendly everyone was. From the people in Times Square partying, to the police that were everywhere, there was a spirit of kindredness. In our last two visits to New York, the one thing that I have taken away is that New York is now a better, cleaner, friendlier place than in the past. I’ve heard it said that New Yorkers were so moved by the fact that people from all over the world came to help and felt their pain as a result of 9/11 that they were forever changed by it. . If there is any good that can come from such a horrible occurrence it is that people are changed for the better because of it. Start spreading the news: New York is one of the great cities of the world and a great place to spend a few days, especially New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year!!