Times Square on New Year's Eve is not for the weak of heart. I'll teach you how to beat the crowds.
Tens of thousands of people cram onto a few blocks of pavement, hoping for a glimpse of the ball drop and to experience the accompanying merriment.
People start waiting in the bitter cold near the heart of Times Square a full day before the festivities begin, with no real way to sit down, sleep or go to the bathroom without relinquishing their cherished spots near the action.
But I accidentally stumbled onto a secret way to beat the Times Square New Year's Eve crowds two years ago, and since I'm never planning to reenact that frigid evening, I figured I may as well pass it on to you.
You should know that this is by no means a foolproof plan. I have only carried it out once, and it worked swimmingly, but I cannot guarantee success.
It's every man for himself when trying to find a shortcut in front of throngs of shivering tourists. You may end up disappointed if you are unable to get near the celebration, but the reward of success is worth the possible heartbreak, and at least you won't go home with frostbite.
Also, it is best to look over these instructions at least a few days in advance in order to ensure you can get a reservation (you'll see). It will not be free, but you won't break the bank on hand-warmers and Depends either.
The first step in this cunning ruse is to get a New Year's Eve reservation at a restaurant located in a strategic location near the area where all of the revelers gather to watch the ball drop. The reservation should be for as late as possible to allow you to have dinner before they close and before the New Year is rung in.
Three of my friends and I scheduled dinner for New Year's two years ago at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at 148 West 51st St., a full eight blocks from the ball, which drops from the top of One Times Square, located at the intersection of 43rd Street and 7th Avenue.
Any restaurant located between 7th Avenue and Avenue of the Americas (aka 6th Avenue) or 8th Avenue and between 43rd and 53rd streets is a good candidate for one that would work under this crowd-avoidance scheme.
I would assume that the chances of it working get lower the numbered street you choose, but that is just conjecture. Also, the view from 51st was not bad for what turned out to be a less-than-30-minute wait, so it may be a good idea to go further uptown in the interest of sticking to what I did.
So get the reservation ahead of time, then show up either at the 8th Avenue or Avenue of the Americas end of the street on which the restaurant is located (if you try to access it from 7th Avenue, you will never get past this step.)
When you arrive at the intersection (in this case we will use 51st Street and Avenue of the Americas, as that is the line of attack we took), there should be a police officer or security guard posted there with a list. No one goes any further without being on the list.
Good news: you're on that list of VIPs. When you made your reservation for a restaurant located right by the heart of Times Square for the night of New Year's Eve, they added you to the allow to pass this point list. Tell them the name of your party (you may need to show ID) and what restaurant you're going to, and they will let you proceed.
Have dinner. Start out with appetizers. Order drinks. Have dessert. Dessert wine, coffee, whatever else floats your boat. You're trying to kill time. If dinner has run its course, and you absolutely must leave your table, make your way to the bar for an aperitif or two. The goal is to run down the clock.
When it gets uncomfortably close to the strike of midnight, grab your coats and bundle up, then head out of the restaurant toward 7th Avenue. There should be a straight shot to the sidewalk alongside all the antsy celebrants.
Sidle up next to them and try to sweet talk or ignore any cops who try to stop you - you're the least of their concerns when thousands of drunken people are penned in at the foot of a monolith to the year 2012, all waiting to kiss one another, sing, cry and make a huge mess. If you're concerned about police or security telling you to hustle along, get there only five or ten minutes before midnight.
Then all that's left to do is to wait a few minutes for the ball to drop. You had all the fun, with none of the pain. Just make sure you don't get hit by the champagne cork of some unknowing tourist who wishes he had seen this article.