My finance, her best friend and the mother-in-law just arrived back after 3 senstational weeks in Washington and NYC. My fiance and I are frequent travellers and had already been to DC and NYC earlier in 2010, but when work provided the opportunity to see these cities again, we jumped at the chance, and the mother in law and best friend decided to tag along too.
I've been in love with NYC since my first visit. It truly is the greatest city in the world and it always feels like I'm coming home as soon as I step foot on the streets of the big apple. We spent 16 days in NYC alone this trip and it really gave us an insight into the what living in NYC would be like if we were to make the move permanently......something I would love to do some day. It also gave us more opportunities to explore the other boroughs in more depth and also find more hidden gems around manhattan (and especially in the village and surround areas).
To read more about my love of NYC and some of the worlds other greatest cities, you can visit my blog here. travelblog.org/North-America/United-States/N…
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Anyways, on to the review. Quickly, a big of background info.
We are a party of four. One male, 3 females.
Paul - age 26
Erin - age 26 (27 next week)
Janelle - age 23 (24 in feb)
Gail - age 53
We had be researching new years options for a few weeks before the trip and like a lot of people, found good information hard to come by. No website seem to clearly articulate all the information that obsessive planners like myself feed on and searches on sites like TA bought up a collection of old, irrelevant or undetailed information. In addtion to this, I almost gave up on TA for the first time as I got increasingly frustrated by the constant posts from the contributors regarding their hatred of Times Square for new years. We get it, you don't like it. You don't need to post in every thread and....well, I'm not going to rant here. You know who you are and maybe this year you can all think twice before jumping in on the NYE debates.
So anyway, we knew we wanted to give Times Square a shot as it had been my dream for years and very much a "bucket-list item". What I did know is that standing in the street for 10+ hours without any supplies or bathroom breaks was not a fun-sounding option. So we hit the net and reviewed party options.
A brief run-down:
1) The TS all access pass. Sounded good, until I started digging. Quickly it became apparent that this pass is very much a "sucker/tourist trap" pass and really doesn't get you anywhere need the party itself, just a bunch of bars in the TS area (which is bigger than duffy square...can you believe it!! :p). If I wanted to bar crawl and not see the ball drop I would do it away from times square. Strike, you're out!
2) TGI Fridays. TGIF's was the easist option to find information on. What I did notice though is that there seemed to be some confusion regarding the location of the restaurants and the deals available at each. Prices seemed to range from about $250 - $400+ depending on the package and location etc. It all sounded a bit to confusing (i.e. how would they manage the various tickets on the night, how would tables be reserved, which floor of the restaurant would we be on etc). Add to this the fact that I'm really not an avid fan of the TGIF franchise and we prompted decided to scrub it from the list.
3) Olive Garden. Still don't know what happened at OG, but private party seems to be the thoughts of most. Anyways, we didn't bother looking into it any further. Deleted.
4) Bubba Gumps. So we came down to Bubba's. Firstly I was impressed with the location. Having dined at the restaurant on a previous trip, I knew the view and location was great from the second floor restaurant. Its a fun place to eat, a tourist-trap sure, but fun none the less. The staff are energetic, the food is fine and exactly what you expect from an establishment of this type and the restaurant is nicely shaped, offering a plethora of views and different places to navigate.
What stopped us initially was the price. $529.00 + Plus Tax!! For this I figured we'd be getting a private helicopter to and from the event and forrest gump himself would be showing up and putting his "million dollar wound" on display.
So before we made any decisions, I decided to called the restaurant and talked to the main rep for the event, Becky. She was helpful, courteous and patient with all my questions. I quickly received all the information I required and also had an email within minutes with even more info. I was feeling more confident that this was a restaurant that actually had their stuff together.
We booked the following day. Four tickets to the event. We were tickets 196, 197, 198 and 199. Considering they only sell 250 tickets, we got pretty lucky. This was on the 29th of November. I expect all tickets were gone by the first week of December.
So what do you get for the price:
1. Access to the restaurant from 9PM to 2AM. The location is brilliant, absolutely perfect for the ball drop. You can watch from either inside through the huge windows or from outside on the street. Both offer spetacular views of 1 Times Square, the ball and the crowd undulating down 7th ave.
2. All you can drink.....and I mean ALL! We had drinks in our hand before we could even take our coats off. And the only limit is no shots. But that deson't stop you ordering a tequilla or scotch on the rocks. Plus the cocktails were brilliant. We must have litterally drunk gallans of the cocktails. Felt pretty full on the 1st of January!!
3) Party Favours. Walking in the door, everyone is given a personal bag filled with a shirt and other peripherals that I'm sure change year to year. What was good is their are different favours for men and women and they assess your shirt size so that you don't get lumped with an XXXL (you also get the option to change your shirt with leaving at the end of the night). we also got noise makers, hats, tiara's, balloons etc.
4) The food. If I thought the drinks were plentiful, it was because I hadn't wandered around to the lobster bar. As seafood lovers, we were all impressed! Seafood everywhere, plus a full hot buffett for all the trimmings. Not to mention all the cocktail food being served constantly (pulled pork sliders, coconut shrimp etc).
5) Entertainment. A great DJ is spinning all sorts of music and keeping everyone happy. Plus he's announcing prizes, commenting on whats happening outside and allowing requests and announcments. I took the opportunity to announce my and erin's wedding which is now only 10 months away!!! There was also a fortune teller having plenty of fun. However, the best entertainment within the restaurant came from the stuff. There people looked genuinely happy to be working and having a blast with us. They were dancing, posing and all the while I never had an empty drink or belly. By the end of the night, they were more friends than workers.....and all the while they stayed sober...impressive!
So lets get to the actual festivities. We had to meet at the corner of 8th and 44th between 8:30 and 9:00PM. Here a BG greeter would group us and get us through security.
We left our hotel about 8pm. We were staying at the Affinia Dumont at 34th and Lex. We were going to walk it but Erin's feet had some nasty blisters from 14 days of walking and we decided to cab it to save our feet for a night of dancing and fun. Big Mistake. You would think that most cab drivers would know which streets are closed on NYE....wrong! As soon as I saw him take 3rd ave north and towards 40th street I knew this was a disaster waiting to happen. I quickly questioned where he was going and he didn't seem to understand that we couldn't get to our destination by driving through the middle of times square. Idiot! We managed to escape the cab on 5th and 44th street and were now stuck with the task of walking downtown and around TS. I was not impressed.
We started the long, foot traffic filled trek around time square. Luckily I class myself as more of a native new yorker than a tourist and was able to navigate the streets quickly. I'm not sure the girls would agree, their heels clicking behind me the entire way.
We managed to get to the meetpoint about 8:50PM and stood with the BG crowd until we were ushered through. By this stage, the crowds were growing and police decided to skip the security checks and just let us through....good move! We were escorted down 44th street and into TS. As soon as you get the 7th Ave the atmosphere is electic. We were all pumped and were already talking to fellow Bubba Gumpers in line.
We were soon in the foyer of the restaurant and after a couple of quick Id checks, we were handed our party favours and made our way upstairs. None of this felt sterile and cold. Everyone was friendly, fun and bustling with excitment. Even walking upstairs were we greeted by a bunch of employees hanging over the railings with noise makers. Great atmosphere.
We found a cocktail table against one of the main windows and hung our coats without a problem. BG does not offer a coat service, but we didn't have any issues leaving our coats hang by the table. I had an expensive camera kit with me and I was even happy to leave that hanging behind the coats. The whole place felt very safe and accommodating.
As I mentioned, we had drinks before we even stepped of the stairs and food was within reach by the time we reached our table. Incredible. We marvelled at the view, engulfed our drinks and feasted on the food. After a short-while of drinking, eating and roaming the place, talking to fellow revellers, we hit the dance floor to really get the party started. Everyone was having a great time and after a few songs we made our way downstairs and outside into the private BG pen outside the restaurant. Getting outside was no issue whatsoever and we made our way in and out of the restaurant numerous times before the ball drop. Everything was relaxed and we felt like we had full run of the restaurant and pen.
Now, before I continue, I must also mention that the restaurant normally has a capacity for about 380+ people (from memory), but they only sell 250 tickets. I have to commend BG's for this as it keeps the restaurant really easy to navigate and everyone either had a table, booth or cocktail table to themselves. They also remove all the tables near the windows and sit the cocktail tables there (which is why we opted to stand, rather than sit at a table). To be honest, I don't know why you would want to sit all night. Standing by the windows allow us to freely move about, dance and watch the party outside while we partied inside! Limiting the people also meant that getting drinks and food was almost too easy. I don't actually know why we didn't have bigger hangovers in the morning as the access to booze was greater than anything I've ever seen (and I use to coordinator the social club at my last job).
We decided to head downstairs to the pen about 11:30 to get good positions for the ball drop. It was a good thing we decided to go down early as the penn quickly filled and we managed to get spots right up the front. During the last 30 minutes we enjoyed the live performances from the backstreet boys, new kids on the block and Taio Cruz. We had also watched Kei$ha and some others earlier in the night. The stage is up a few blocks, but you can watch all the screens in the area and the music is nice and loud!
At midnight we enjoyed all 60 seconds of the ball drop and rang in the new year with a millilon other people that seemed to be having the times of their lives! you can watch my video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAUdH4pggJ4
We partied outside for about 20-30 minutes and enjoyed singing alone with all the songs after midnight. Finally we made our way back inside and enjoyed more food and alcohol until 2AM, when we slowly made our way out of the restaurant and out into the confetti filled streets.
We rambled back towards our hotel, often continuing the celebration with other revellers on the streets of NYC.
All in all, it was the greatest new years eve party any of us have ever experienced and probably will ever experience. We're already trying to figure out when we'll head back to do it all again, and I have no qualms about spending another $500 bucks to do it all again at BG's!
A few final musings:
1) The dress code states "cocktail" and no jeans. However I spoke to becky and its not like they were about to kick anyone out for under dressing. that said, I wore jeans, but very nice jeans with a dress shirt, vest and a very cool looking jacket (lots of compliments from the staff). Plenty of other people were dressed similarly. Dress up or simple keep its nice and neat. No one looked out of place.
2) Leave some extra time to get to the meet point. The streets around TS are crowded and could be confusing for people new to the area.
3) Security passes were not an issue and all the cops accepted them and allowed us through in order to get to the meet point. When you pick up your ticket, you'll receive an event ticket and a laminated security pass for the checkpoints.
So I hope this post is helpful to people now and in future. I do ask that people that have nothing better to do than bash NYE in times square do so elsewhere, we've all read what you've got to say already. This is a constructive thread for people interested in the logistics of partying at Bubba Gumps.
Can't wait to be walking the streets of NYC again soon!