Once a year, every year, thousands of people forgo using the bathroom for several hours, crowding into Times Square for the world famous ball drop that ushers in the New Year. But if you don’t care for dazzling lights, freezing temperatures and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, New York City offers plenty of alternatives — some close enough to the action that you’ll still hear the crowds and feel the excitement; others so far off they could be in another world.
Get a running start on the rat race
Loads of people make New Year’s resolutions, and one of the most common goals is a desire to be healthier. You can start, restart or maintain your journey toward health with the New York Road Runners’ Midnight Run. Starting at 11:59 p.m., this four-mile run in Central Park starts with a fireworks display at the stroke of midnight, so you can hit the ground running in 2023. (Note that runners must pick up their identification bibs before Dec. 31.) For more information and registration, visit here.
Raise a glass to the ghosts of Prohibition past
If your hunger for history matches your thirst for revelry, the Drinks and Prohibition History Tour NYC offered by NiteTables Experiences has just what you’re looking for. The nine-hour tour starts at 3 p.m. and takes in some of the city’s oldest bars and most storied former speakeasies, where historians will recount the rise and fall of Prohibition and the gangsters who scoffed at the law. The tour wraps up with an extended open-bar session at a location offering a choice view of the ball drop from a safe distance. (Also? Indoor plumbing.) Find out more here.
Take a slow boat around the city
One sure way to avoid Times Square, along with its traffic and transit snarls, is to leave Manhattan island altogether. Enter Circle Line’s New Year’s Eve Party Cruise, which provides hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and a midnight champagne toast as you cruise serenely up the Hudson, taking in the sights and the fireworks while a DJ spins the hits. Tickets are scarce and start at $249; go here for more information.
Treat the family to fireworks in Prospect Park
If you’re looking for a semi-chill way to ring in the New Year with the family, bundle up and head to Grand Army Plaza for fireworks over Prospect Park. Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso presides over the four-decade community tradition, which returns for the first time since 2020. The free event starts with live music at 10 p.m.; go here for details and directions.
Pay the waiters to sing for your supper
Okay, so you’re not exactly skipping out on Times Square crowds if you spend your evening at Ellen’s Stardust Dinner, located on Broadway at West 51st Street. But the 1950s-styled diner offers a three-course meal, a champagne toast, a singing waitstaff and, again, dignified toilets. Tickets start at $350, and are available with and without an open bar option. You can find more details here.
Witness the last laughs at an NYC comedy institution
The famed comedy club Carolines on Broadway, a local nightlife fixture for 40 years, is shuttering its current location as 2022 comes to an end. The club has indicated it plans to reopen elsewhere; in the meantime, a clutch of comics will give it their all in sets at 7 and 10:30 p.m. You can order tickets here, and pay attention to details about the club plans to escort ticket holders safely past the Times Square throng.
Peace out (or pick up the pieces) with serene choral music
If you’re in search of a genuinely peaceful way to ring in the New Year, a live performance of venerated Russian choral music might be just the ticket. The Clarion Choir is presenting all of Rachmaninoff’s major choral works in 2023 to mark his 150th birthday, and it all starts with performances of his sublime “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom” on New Year’s Eve and again New Year’s Day at Holy Trinity Cathedral on the Upper East Side. Grab your tickets here.