Stupasky: In New York, Why I Passed Up the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
My alternative to the traditional way of celebrating New Year’s in New York.
Words and Photos by Haley Stupasky
If I could give one piece of advice for enjoying New Year’s Eve in New York City, it would be this: do not go to Times Square. Although I had never been to New York City before my recent trip, advice from native New Yorkers and frequent visitors deterred me from the famous Ball Drop.
The thing is, you have to arrive early to get a spot, go through extensive security, there are limited bathrooms, and you’re left standing for hours only to receive some free merch from whatever sponsors pay enough to be a part of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
When you’re one in a crowd of millions, you have a better chance of snuggling up to someone who forgot to wear deodorant than dreamy host Ryan Seacrest. It’s basically a claustrophobe’s nightmare.
So while the Ball Drop is free and boasts an impressive lineup of artists, my friends and I opted to give other areas of the city a shot at ringing in 2016 — and the City that Never Sleeps didn’t disappoint.
During the day, with the exception of street vendors pushing party whistles and an increased police and military presence, New York City was business as usual. I won’t lie, seeing people in camouflage with a firearm on one hip and a bomb-sniffing dog at the other at every Metro station initially made me uneasy, but ultimately, I was happy they were there. It was the men and women in uniform that gave me the freedom to safely enjoy my first time in New York.
Because of this, I only felt it appropriate to visit the 9/11 Memorial to pay my respects to victims and first responders. I’ve been to Auschwitz and other sites of tragedy before, but never a place such as this on American soil. The memorial spoke to the resilience of the city and the American people, and it made me grateful to be in the city on such an important day and have the ability to celebrate new beginnings while reflecting on my past.
After a day full of shopping at the country’s largest Macy’s and the typical tourist sightseeing, my friends and I took the Metro back to our Airbnb rental in Chinatown and mapped out our evening. We would find a last minute bite to eat in Chinatown, meet up with friends who were also visiting the city, then enjoy some drinks at a party at a bar called Onieal’s in SoHo that we had reserved tickets for.
But that plan quickly fell apart. We stumbled upon Little Italy, illuminated with lights strung across the streets, bustling with families headed to their favorite spots to get a hot meal. As we walked by a place called Umberto’s and a man outside offered us free wine with dinner, we were sold.
Although some Yelp reviews damn the place, my group and I were more than pleased with its service, food, and atmosphere. After some lovely red wine, bruschetta, lobster ravioli, and a glass of limoncello liqueur to top it off, we headed to Onieal’s to begin the festivities.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by a woman named Serena who was the Keeper of the Keys, our tickets to get into the party. Onieal’s, situated on Grand St. in SoHo, is a classy bar with an atmosphere reminiscent of another time. In the locations history, it has been a brothel, a speakeasy, a gambling parlour, and now, a place for young professionals to snag killer cocktails.
If you ever have the pleasure of going to Onieal’s, give the Four Devils Fairy cocktail a shot. The bitter mixture of gin, lime juice, pineapple, mint, and absinthe is sure to keep you alert until the clock strikes midnight.
What’s more, I later found out the bar has served as a backdrop for more than a few episodes of my guilty pleasure show, Sex in the City. And while sipping on a craft cocktail, surrounded by people in designer suits and dresses, I gained new perspective on the lives of the ladies of the show, content that I was experiencing a New Year’s Eve in one of the world’s most exciting cities.