Check out my updated guide New Year’s Eve 2020 in NYC
My annual New Year’s Eve last-minute guide to events that are still available to do on New Year’s Eve 2019 (when 2018 turns into 2019) in New York City
You can also watch the festivities online live!
New Year’s Eve in New York means the dropping of the ball in Times Square, the fireworks in Prospect Park and Coney Island, the annual concert at St. John the Divine, the midnight run with fireworks in Central Park — all FREE, and all things you can decide to do at the last minute.
It also can mean obscenely expensive shows and extremely loud parties, an annual arena concert featuring Phish and a new cabaret act from Aaron Tveit, a cruise in the harbor, or a dinner for two in your favorite eatery — not all of which are sold out weeks in advance. You can pretend to converse with 200 celebrities carved out of wax, or stay at home and watch the festivities online — on this very post.
Broadway show schedule for the week,+ other theater
Only eight percent of Americans reportedly plan to go out on any given New Year’s Eve, and I suspect the percentage is even lower when it occurs on a Monday, as it does this year. For those New Yorkers (and New York visitors) who haven’t made those plans yet, here are some ideas:
The New Year’s Eve tradition in Times Square began in 1904 with a rooftop celebration to greet the New Year. Three years later, they started lowering a ball.
From the organizers comes this overview of New Year’s Eve in Times Square, so you know what is in store for you if you decide to stand at the Crossroads of the World on December 31st.
Revelers start arriving late in the afternoon. By approximately 3:00 PM., the Bowtie of Times Square (42nd to 47th Sts. between Broadway & 7th Ave.) is fully closed to traffic. The crowd, which in the past has reached in the millions, could go as far uptown as Central Park, 17 blocks away.
Another way of saying this: If you want to be within naked-eyesight of the Times Square ball, arrive in the afternoon, and be prepared to stand immobile until the ball drops at midnight. Huddle with friends and loved ones for warmth – or make new friends.
Bebe Rexha and alt-pop band lovelytheband will be among the performers during the countdown.
Times Square offers an outdoor evening of entertainment, culminating in confetti, “2019” sign in lights, lots of hugging and wishing for a Happy New Year
I’ve spent three New Year’s Eves in Times Square, which is probably two more than necessary, but found each memorable. Do remember that the highlights will be televised. See What’s on TV, below.)
DINING OUT ON NEW YEAR’S EVE
Open Table lists some 700 restaurants with “New Year’s Eve offers” Most of them offer a choice of seatings – either earlier in the evening, so that you can make it in time elsewhere for the stroke of midnight, or party-hat-equipped seatings that lead up to midnight, where you can often turn on a TV so that you can watch the ball drop in Times Square. Open Table provides all sorts of filters — you can look for a table for 2 at a “charming” French restaurant at 7 pm in your specific neighborhood.
Have a favorite neighborhood eatery that’s not listed on Open Table? Go to the place NOW, and ask them whether they will take reservations.
THEATER ON NEW YEAR’S WEEK
No Broadway shows will be offering performances on New Year’s Eve, which falls on a Monday this year, normally the dark day for most shows. But 25 of the shows will offer performances on New Year’s Day, all of them in the evening.
(If tickets are not available through the box office, try buying tickets here)
Of course, New York theater is far more than just Broadway, and some Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows are not just happening, but getting into the whole excess thing that means New Year’s Eve to so many in New York. Prime example is Sleep No More, which for New Year’s Eve adds a “New Year’s Eve Feast” and something called the McKittrick King Masquerade, with live performances and an open bar (“All guests should come in their finest attire in shades of gold, silver, and black, suitable for a King’s Masquerade.”) The cost is astronomical.
Similarly XIV Company offers its “Nutcracker Rouge,” (a “baroque, burlesque” not-for-children take on Nutcracker Suite) at a new theater in Bushwick, Brooklyn, followed by a party with the cast.
FAMILY SHOWS NOT ON BROADWAY
Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular (two performances on New Year’s Eve, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m..)
Big Apple Circus> (noon and 9:30 p.m.)
AT NIGHTCLUBS & WEIRD PLACES (including home)
There’s a New York for almost any taste, so why would it be surprising that Eventbrite lists some 1,000 New Year’s Eve parties? More than 100 of those are listed as free (that’s my taste.) Others are obscenely expensive.
You can dance at parties set up in Times Square venues, such as the Marriot Marquis and the AMC 42nd Street movie theater, “six floors of fun” for as little as $49 (that’s after 12:30 a.m. admission) and as much as $3,300. Here’s an odd one offered at a discount through Goldstar
Party With the Stars at Madame Tussauds — which is to say, “with over 200 life-sized wax figures.”
Most promote a great view of the ball dropping (which — do you mind my pointing out? — is an insane pitch, but apparently an effective one)
Then there are the super-hip parties in Brooklyn and Queens.
BangOn!NYC has moved its annual bash this year to Maspeth, Queens, at the (aptly named?) Knockdown Center, with three musical stages, a silent disco, live painting, interactive art installations and performances, a bartering blackjack table, and more cosmic creations to transcend time and space.” (Their promotional material still claims the show is in Brooklyn — perhaps they mean it as a state of mind.)
Purple Rain Dance Party. For the fifth year in a row, Syndicated, a movie theater, bar and restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn will project the 1984 movie” Purple Rain” on the wall while dj/vjs The Hogstad Brothers spin Prince classics like “Raspberry Beret” and “Cream.” Purple Rain or Prince-inspired costumes/attire “strongly encouraged.”
Many suggest throwing your own New Year’s Eve party, and offer vaguely insulting step-by-step tips on how to do so. The most memorable advice for throwing a party came from Joan Crawford, who was quite a partier in her day (see above). Her advice (see below) can be summed up as:
- Have a mix of people as your guests, but nobody with dirty feet.
- Secretly drug them.
(P.S., don’t do this.)
Some concerts that will be sold out or too expensive will be available in your home, live, depending. (See TV listings below.)
An annual FREE event since 1984, when it was founded by Leonard Bernstein. Along with the music of Mozart and Bach, this year’s concert includes a choir singing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I have a dream speech.(You can pay in advance to reserve a seat. Otherwise it’s first come, first served.)
The soprano Renee Fleming will accompany the New York Philharmonic in performing Broadway and film hits, Viennese waltzes, and operetta gems. For those who can’t make it to Lincoln Center, it will be presented Live from Lincoln Center on PBS. (See TV listings below.)
Phish at Madison Square Garden for the 12th year in a row! The bad news is that their New Year’s Even concert is sold out. The good news is 1. (as of this writing) tickets are still available for their three earlier dates. 2. see TV listings below.
Margo Price and Lilly Hiatt
Music Hall of Williamsburg (country)
The Lone Bellow and Courtney Maries Andrews
Bowery Ballroom (folk, country and blues)
Oteil and Friends, Brooklyn Bowl (Southern rock)
Gov’t Mule,Beacon Theatre (indie rock)
Snoop Dogg, Terminal 5, Hell’s Kitchen (hip hop and r&b)
Post Malone, Barclays Center, Brooklyn (hip hop and r&b). See TV listings below.
With the repeal in 2017 of the hated 91-year-old Cabaret Law, which banned dancing at all but a handful of licensed venues (fewer than 100), you could argue that life is a cabaret (or at least could be) at all 25,000 eating and drinking establishments in New York City. But “cabaret” has come to define specific genres of intimate entertainment at just a few, relatively small venues, such as those below.
Tip: Most cabarets offer two seatings on New Year’s Eve. The one earlier in the evening is far less expensive. Many of these performers return to these venues every New Year’s — a wonderful tradition that makes last-minute tickets chancy, but worth trying.
Sandra Bernhard: Quick Sand at Joe’s Pub
Natalie Douglas: A Very Natalie New Year at the Duplex — her 20th New Year’s there
New Year’s Eve with Charles Busch and Friends at Feinstein’s/54 Below (early show)
Aaron Tveit on New Year’s Eve at Feinstein/54 Below (late show)
Annual Prospect Park Fireworks – free. at Grand Army Plaza
Coney Island New Year’s Eve Celebration -5th annual celebration, with free fireworks on the boardwalk
Big selling point of all these cruises — a close-up of the New Years Eve fireworks over the water. Most include a buffet, open bar, and dancing with a dj. Drawbacks: These cost hundreds of dollars, and many are already sold out. (But there are cruises during the day on New Year’s Eve”
WHAT’S ON TV (and other home devices)