NYC’s New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square Is Going Virtual This Year

The coronavirus pandemic is shaking up another iconic New York City tradition.

For the first time in more than 100 years, New York City won’t host a public party for its New Year’s Eve Times Square ball drop. Instead, the city is promising to host a virtual celebration that brings the energy of Times Square into viewers’ homes.

In Times Square, officials are planning a scaled-back event that includes live performances, just without the millions of spectators that usually pack midtown Manhattan on New Year’s Eve. BTS was among the performers at last year’s celebration.

Some in-person honorees — a group likely to include first responders and medical professionals — will be invited to ring in the new year at Times Square, but there will be few opportunities for others to watch the ball drop from the heart of the city that never sleeps. Outside of Times Square, viewers will be invited to participate in the celebration through a dedicated app.

“The world desperately needs to come together symbolically and virtually to celebrate the people and things we love and to look forward with a sense of renewal and new beginnings,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said in a statement announcing the changes to New York City’s world-famous New Year’s Eve celebration.

Times Square Ball in Times Square during the coronavirus pandemic
Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York City police officers plan to block public access to Times Square on New Year’s Eve, CBS New York reported.

New York has hosted a New Year’s Eve ball drop each year since 1907. In previous years, crowds lined up hours ahead of time, while hotels and restaurants with a view of One Times Square, the building that hosts the event, have thrown pricey watch parties.

For example, entry to a rooftop watch party at the Knickerbocker Hotel started at a nonrefundable $4,335 — a price that explicitly didn’t include a view of the ball from your room. Meanwhile, dinner at Olive Garden in Times Square typically started at a few hundred dollars per person on New Year’s Eve.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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