Riding the Tourist Train in Albufeira: A Wanderlust Experience

Albufeira, Portugal, is bigger than you’d think.

And the main attractions are spread out over a fair distance. This makes walking a less-feasible mode of transportation. Luckily, there is a fun and affordable alternative⸺the Tourist Train. Riding the tourist train in Albufeira is a fun way to see all the most popular sites.

You’ve probably seen similar tourist trains on your travels. I’ve personally taken them in a variety of cities, from Key West to Paris and everywhere in between. But who knew they would have one in this quaint seaside city? It’s certainly not heavily advertised on traditional tourism sites, and you likely won’t find a brochure for it at your hotel. You just need to stumble upon it, which I very fortunately did as I was walking through the Old Town as last time I came for a work visit and I used the corporate transportation from Boston Corporate Coach, find it in this website https://bostoncorporatecoach.com/, they operate in more than 25 countries, the best in the area.

For just 4 Euros you can get a day pass aboard the train, which makes four stops throughout Albufeira. There are other options available for a lower rate⸺it’s just 2 Euros for a roundtrip ticket, for example. But for the extra couple of bucks, it’s worth it to be able to hop on and off anytime you like.

Getting Around Town

The train moves in one direction along the main street, Areias de São João. It departs every 20 minutes during the day and every 40 minutes after 7 p.m. from The Strip, Old Town at Fishermen’s Beach, Town Hall, and Brisa Sol Hotel. I caught the train at Brisa Sol and did a full circuit, which took about 40 minutes. After a quick poke around the area, I hopped back on the next train and headed for Old Town, where I was staying. Later that night, I took the train to The Strip and back. It saved my feet a ton of walking, and I didn’t have to shell out a ton of cash for taxis.

Pro Tip: The last train departs The Strip at 10:40 p.m., so if you plan to party til the wee hours, you’ll need to find another way to stumble home safely.

There’s not a lot of sightseeing to do on the train itself. Riding the tourist train in Albufeira is simply a quick and easy way to get from one place to another. Just kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride through town. Another great way to see the sites around Albufeira is to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Be sure to sit on the upper deck for the best views of everything from Fisherman’s Beach to the castle. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not take a custom tuk-tuk tour around town, stopping anywhere you like for the best vantage points.

Have you ever taken a tourist train? What was your experience like?

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Kissing the Blarney Stone: A Wanderlust Experience

You’ve probably heard people talk about kissing the Blarney Stone, but you may be wondering what that means exactly?

One of the first things people would say to me when they learned I was vacationing in Ireland was that I had to kiss the Blarney Stone. Sure, I’d heard of it—who hasn’t—but I always just thought it was anecdotal. I didn’t realize it was a real thing. Oh, but it is real…very real.

Blarney Castle is located just a short drive from Cork, Ireland, and it’s one of the most visited attractions in the entire nation. If you’re taking a tour of the area, it will likely be one of your stops. Built in the 1400s, the picturesque castle sits amid lush gardens in a beautiful landscape. In order to reach the infamous Blarney Stone, you’ll need to climb to the top.

Pro tip: Be sure to wear sturdy shoes. The castle is in ill repair in some parts, and it’s a steep climb.

There are many theories about where the stone came from and how it earned its reputation, but no one is certain. Many people believe it is tied to Bible stories. Some say it is the stone that produced water when Moses struck it with his staff during the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Others believe it is the Stone of Ezel that David hid behind when fleeing Saul. Another story suggests that the man who built the castle was involved in a lawsuit. He asked the gods for help, and they told him to kiss the stone. When he awoke the next morning, he was able to speak with such eloquence that he easily won his trial. He then moved the rock to the parapet of the castle.

According to legend, anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone will receive the gift of the gab. I like to think I was bestowed this gift at birth, but I figured no harm could come from gaining more eloquence. At least, I felt that way until I realized the acrobatic feat I needed to pull off in order to get to the stone.

If you’re like me, when you envision yourself kissing the Blarney Stone, you imagine yourself inside a museum-type atmosphere standing akin to a pedestal holding a large rock. You simply lean in and press your lips to the stone, smiling and laughing for the camera. But that’s not even remotely what the experience is like. You see, the stone is built into the outside wall of the tower, and you need to hang upside down to reach it. Yes…you read that right…upside down. But what’s more is that you’re dangling several stories above the ground while you do it. Let me explain.

The Blarney Stone is located outdoors at the top of the castle. If it’s cold outside, be sure to wear a warm coat or long underwear—you will be exposed to the elements. You will see a person—likely a man—sitting on one side of the castle. That’s who you need to see about kissing the stone. When you get closer, you’ll see a large hole in the floor of the castle where the man is sitting. You’ll also notice handrails screwed to the wall just above the hole. This is when you’ll start to realize how this whole kissing the Blarney Stone thing works and think about backing out—don’t. It’s not nearly as scary as it seems.

Next, you’ll get down on the ground and lay on your back with your head facing the wall. There will be about a foot between your head and the wall—otherwise known as the gaping hole in the ground. You’ll reach your arms over the hole to the wall behind you and grab the rails with your hands. Your head and back will still be firmly on solid ground at this point, but you’ll still be quite a distance from the Blarney Stone itself.

In order to actually kiss it, you need to scooch closer to the wall. And the only way to do that is to cross the hole. But don’t worry. The man sitting in the hole will support your back and hold you steady to ensure you don’t tumble through the hole to the ground below. You’ll lean your head back, pucker up, and before you know it, you’ll be brushing your lips against a cold rock. And don’t worry, someone will document your big moment so you can buy the picture on your way out.

Is it worth it? Sure, why not? I was sweating bullets despite the cold chill in the air, but it’s a unique experience and something I would only have the courage to do on vacation. And don’t worry, millions of people do it each year without a single one of them plummeting to the ground below. You’ll be just fine.

Have you kissed the Blarney Stone? What was your experience like? Were you surprised or scared? Share your thoughts with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

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Hot-Air Balloon Ride Over Maasai Mara: A Wanderlust Experience

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to take a hot-air balloon ride over Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya?

 

My adventure began in the wee hours of a mid-September morning. The alarm clock bleated loudly, summoning me out from beneath the warmth of my cozy duvet. Crawling out of bed, I began layering nearly all of the clothes I’d packed, one on top of the other. You see, even in the heart of Africa, the weather is quite cool before the sun rises. And if you’re going to soar over the savanna aboard a hot-air balloon, you have to be out the door well before the crack of dawn. The goal is to be in the air above Maasai Mara before the sun rises above the horizon.

In the lobby of the exquisite Mara Serena Safari Lodge, I met up with the seven other people who would be joining me on my adventure, as well as an entire convoy of crew members.  I had few expectations since the folks at African Sermon Safaris had made all of the arrangements as part of the custom safari package they’d whipped up for me. I quickly realized there was a lot more to the ride than simply piling into a basket and taking flight. Under the cover of darkness, our jeeps wended through the rugged savanna in search of the perfect place to launch our balloon. Every one of us was silent as we exited the vehicle and awaited further instruction.

As soon as I was outside, I started shivering. But it was only partly due to the cool nip in the air. The rest was nerves, especially after our pilot explained the rules of the ride. Our instructions were brief but firm. Don’t lean out of the basket. If the pilot says to sit down, don’t hesitate. Just do it. And be prepared for a bumpy landing that may involve rolling through a field. For this reason, if you have long hair, it needs to be tucked away entirely—you could be choked by your own ponytail if not. And the same goes for camera straps around the neck. What seemed like a quaint morning excursion was turning out to be a bit frightening. Until we finally took flight.

It’s hard to explain the majesty of the African savanna as you soar over the plains. Unlike driving in a jeep through herds of wildlife, giraffes, gazelles, elephants, and other exotic animals roam undisturbed hundreds of feet below your basket. How high you fly is entirely dependent on the weather. My basket stayed fairly close to the ground, giving us a great view of the landscape. Wind in my hair, I watched the sun rise into blue skies. It nearly brings me to tears just thinking about it.

But when it’s over, it’s really over. There is no set path for the flight. The pilot decided where to land on a whim, and the convoy followed closely behind the balloon, ready to scoop us up where ever we touched down. On this particular journey, we ended up across the border in Tanzania. And the pilot joked that she would bribe the authorities with a bottle of wine if we got caught. We laughed and laughed, until she abruptly told us to sit down.

And that was it. With a thunderous jolt, we hit the ground, our basket rolling on its side as we skidded for what felt like miles across the grassy plains. My teeth clamored and body quaked. I knew the landing might be rough, and I’m a pretty tough cookie, but it was much worse than I had expected. Shaken, I crawled out of the basket and into the awaiting jeep. Within a few moments, the shock of our rocky landing had worn off, and I was flying high on the adrenaline. I would gladly tumble across the plains another ten times if it that’s what I had to do to take another hot-air balloon ride over the Maasai Mara. It was that good.

After a quick drive back into Kenya, we arrived at the final leg of our journey. In the middle of the African savanna, we were treated to a gourmet brunch. There were buffet tables filled with every type of breakfast food you could imagine, from pastries and meats to cereals and juices. It was a feast for the eyes and the stomach. The hot foods were prepared fresh on site. We sat at long tables and talked about our exciting adventure. All the while, we knew there were lions looming in the nearby fields—we’d passed them on the way to the site. But not to worry, a small herd of zebras separated us. They would make a much better meal for the felines.

To my great surprise, our private safari guide arrived at the site with my mother, who was my travel companion for the trip. She’s a wee bit of a fraidy cat, so she opted out of the flight. Instead, they had followed our balloon to the site and were waiting to whisk me away in search of the big five, which we saw later that day. It was one awesome experience.

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div>Hot-air balloon rides over Africa don’t come cheap. It’ll set you back a few hundred bones, but it’s worth every penny. Have you ever taken a hot-air balloon ride over Africa or anywhere else? What advice would you give anyone thinking about giving it a try? Share your ideas in the comments section.



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New Year’s Eve in Paris: A Wanderlust Experience

What could be better than New Year’s Eve in Paris? It is the City of Lights after all.

 

Paris is one of the most beautiful, romantic, decadent cities in the world, so it’s a real treat to ring in the new year in this amazing place. Throughout the holiday season, the city is filled with festive lights and holiday cheer. There’s are even Christmas markets all about town, including one that runs along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where you can grab a cup of steaming gluhwein or a sweet boules de Noel to enjoy as you shop.

If you’re heading to Paris for New Year’s Eve, here are the top three things you need to know.

1. No Official Events

Believe it or not, there are no official New Year’s Eve events in Paris. The city does not put on a fireworks show or anything of that nature. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fun things to do around town. Like any other big city, parties take place at most restaurants and bars—it all comes down to how much you money you want to spend and what you feel like doing.

If you’ve got a lean budget, you can make your way to the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Sacre Coeur is also a great place to take in a beautiful panoramic of Paris. for Many people head down to the Champs-Élysées, have a meal at one of the many restaurants there, and then watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle as the clock strikes 12. If you’re prepared to shell out the big bucks, the infamous Moulin Rouge. A table for two in the cheap seats will run you a cool 800 Euros. Alternatively, you could check out the show at the Lido, which also comes with a lofty price tag. On the low end, tickets for two come in around 600 Euro.

2. Book a Boat Cruise

If you’re looking for something special that won’t break the bank, a late-night sailing on the Bateaux Parisiens is a lovely idea. For as little as 65 Euros, you can take a quiet cruise along the Seine for a view of the city lights. The tour departs from the dock just below the Eiffel Tower or near Notre Dame Cathedral and includes a half-bottle of champagne, a packet of macarons, and party favors, such as a hat and horn. This is how I spent New Year’s Eve in Paris, and it was wonderful. Even if it’s cold outside, you’ll be toasty warm sailing along the Seine. We chose to depart from the Eiffel Tower, which is also where we docked at the end of the cruise. We returned just in time to see the tower twinkling in all its glory, and though I had seen it many times before, it seemed just a little more special this time round.

3. Midnight Kisses

Whether or not you’re looking for a midnight kiss, be prepared to get one. Strangers will walk up to you on the street and plant a peck on your lips or cheek. They don’t mean any harm—they’re just a little drunk and a whole lot excited. No one seemed to understand what I was saying—or maybe they simply didn’t care. I’m a happily married woman, but it seemed a lot easier to go with the flow than to cause a ruckus. It’s all in the name of fun after all.

These are just a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris. Have other tips you’d like to share? Head on over to the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Funchal Toboggan Run: A Wanderlust Experience

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to slide down busy city streets in a wicker basket?

 

You probably answered “No,” but you can do just that on a Funchal toboggan run. When I first heard about this local activity, I thought it sounded too crazy to be true. But it is very true and very crazy. If you’re in Funchal, Madeira, it’s a must-do activity. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Getting There

The Funchal toboggan run is located at the very top of the town in an area called Monte. Sure, you can take a bus or hire a taxi to get there, but there is a much more exciting option: cable car. A quick 15-minute trip will cost you just a couple of bucks and take you to the top of the town. But only buy a one-way ticket. You’ll be sliding your way back downhill. When you get to the top, simply take a right and walk down the road a block or two.

Funchal toboggan run

2. What to Expect

You’ll quickly find what you’re looking for—a long line of men of all ages propped up alongside giant wicker baskets and wearing straw hats and winter-like boots. If you arrive at the same time as a tour bus full of people, you may need to wait in a queue for the next available toboggan. But fear not…the line moves quickly. A seemingly endless supply of toboggan “drivers” appear on command from behind bushes and buildings. You’ll quickly be seated in a sled, and the man operating the ticket booth will snap a few shots before you head out on your journey. Don’t these fine gentlemen look thrilled at their lot in life?

Funchal toboggan run

3. Payment

You’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege of being pushed downhill in a basket. The cost is 25 Euros for one person or 30 Euros for two people. The man taking the payment simply couldn’t comprehend how I was passing up on the deal for the extra passenger. At the time, I was the last person in line. There was, literally, no one else to ride with me…the people in the background of the picture arrived later. Truth be told, I didn’t want to ride with a stranger anyway.

Be sure to have cash on hand. The man at the booth may have the ability to take credit cards, but it’s not a guaranty. I never dreamed the ride would cost so much, and I was short 10 Euros. The credit card machine wouldn’t connect to the Internet, so the man called down to someone at the end of the line to ask if I could pay there. Unfortunately he failed to tell me drivers. They were not pleased when they realized I hadn’t paid in advance. And the man at the end of the line worked for another company altogether. He was less than pleased to accommodate the request to use his machine. Lesson learned…

4. The Ride

Before you know it, your toboggan is sliding through the back streets of Monte gently gliding downhill along well-oiled streets. For the most part, the drivers push the basket from behind, chatting to each other over your shoulders. The toboggan moves at a fairly quick clip, and the special boots they wear act as brakes to help slow the basket around corners or busy crossroads. Your adventure takes you through active streets and intersections. Occasionally, there may be a need for your toboggan to stop for cars. From time to time, the drivers take a bit of a breather. They shift to the front of the basket, where there are two longs strings they can use to pull it along.

Funchal Toboggan

I didn’t time it. but the trip lasts about 10 minutes overall. And while that may seem like a short trip for the price you paid, it is a once-in-a-lifetime activity. How often can you say you took part in a Funchal toboggan run after all?

As you wind your way through twisting roads, seemingly random men pop out from the side streets to snap your picture. But there is nothing random about it. Through the magic of WiFi, your snaps are instantaneously sent to a central point to be collated into a cute keepsake album you can purchase for 10 Euros at the end of your ride. It comes with a few historical images and anecdotes and two or the pictures from your special ride. It’s worth the money if only to prove you actually rode through busy city streets in a basket.

When your ride is over…it’s just over. One minute you’re sliding through the streets, and the next minute you’re not. Frankly, I was having a blast and could have sat in that basket for another hour. I had a blast. At the end of the ride, you’ll find yourself at a small market with a handful of kiosks selling all types of local trinkets. There is also a place where you can grab a quick bit if you’ve got a hankering for something to eat.

funchal toboggan run

5. Getting the Rest of the Way Back

So there’s something you should know about the Funchal toboggan run that no one seemed to mention to me…it only takes you part of the way downhill. It’s way to far to walk back to the cable cars, so you have to find another way back to central Funchal. Most people are part of a tour group, so they have a bus waiting for them. You other options include public bus or taxi. Both of which are easy to catch.

I opted to walk. And everyone looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t know that very many—or any—other people take that option. It only took about 45 minutes to reach the bottom of the hill, but the roads were steeply inclined so it was often awkward. I don’t recommend it for everyone.

The Funchal toboggan ride is just one of the many fun things to do in Funchal, Madeira. In fact, Funchal is one of my most favorite cruise ports ever, and I’ve cruised a lot. What other things do you enjoy doing in Funchal? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center in New York: A Wanderlust Experience

There’s something dreamy about gliding across the ice with the Manhattan skyline as your backdrop.

 

Each year from Columbus Day weekend through April, an enormous ice rink pops up in the middle of the infamous Rockefeller Center complex between 47th and 50th Streets and 5th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan. This likely isn’t news to you—you’ve probably seen the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony on TV at least once or twice in your lifetime. The ice rink typically features prominently as part of the production.

As a little girl, I would dream about lacing up a pair of skates and going for a whirl around the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. Finally, a few years ago, my dream came true. And it was worth the wait. If you’re one of the privileged travelers who will be spending some time in New York this holiday season, this wanderlust experience should be high on your list of things to do.

rockefeller

Here are a few things you need to know about ice skating at Rockefeller Center in New York City.



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1. Be Prepared to Wait

Believe it or not, you’re not the only visitor to New York who wants to skate at Rockefeller. Shocking, I know. Entry to the rink is on a first come, first serve basis. And it’s almost inevitable that there will be a line up to get into the rink. Expect especially long lines over the holidays, which run from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. I was there on January 1, and the line was at least a full city block long when I arrived. But it moved fairly quickly—we only had to wait about 45 minutes.

2. It’ll Cost You

You’ll have to fork out the big bucks for this premium experience. Admission is $25 per adult for a 90-minute session. But that’s not all, unless you managed to pack a pair of skates in your suitcase, you’ll need to rent them. That’ll set you back another $12. But you’re in New York and on vacation, so who cares about the cost. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, after all.

3. Get the VIP Experience

Truth be told, I didn’t know mere mortals like myself could actually go skating at Rockefeller Center. I thought it was only open to the elite. It wasn’t until my friend and I were on our flight to New York that I learned otherwise. Had I known in advance, I would have done more research and learned about the slew of VIP experiences available at the ice rink. Not only do you get to reserve your skating session in advance so you can skip the line, you can pair it with some sort of awesome extra, like breakfast with Santa, afternoon tea, or even an engagement celebration.

4. It’s Magical

I come from a cold part of the country and grew up on a pair of skates. But no rink I’ve ever skated on felt quite as special as the one at Rockefeller Center. When I put my first blade down on the ice, it was like I stepped out of reality and into another dimension.

Sure, it was crowded and cold, but all of that melted away as I looked up at the Manhattan skyline enveloping the ice like a cashmere sweater. My bff and I have been friends a long time—forever, in fact—and this was by far one of the most special experiences we’ve ever shared…and we’ve done a lot of cool things over the years. We laughed so hard we nearly cried as we stumbled awkwardly around the rink for our first few laps. We enjoyed every second of our 90-minute session, soaking in the atmosphere of that majestic place at the most magical time of year.

If you’re traveling to New York, take a few hours out of your day to enjoy this special seasonal experience. I promise you won’t regret it. Be sure to share your pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #wanderlustwayfarer.

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Rockefeller Center

 

9 Things You Need to Know About New Year’s Eve in New York City

So you want to spend New Year’s Eve in New York City?

 

It feels like 2016 went by in a flash, and with 2017 just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start planning your New Year’s Eve activities. Maybe you’re considering a trip to New York to ring in the New Year by watching the ball drop in Times Square. I had the good fortune to do just that a few years ago. And there is so much more to it than you can even imagine from watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.

I consider New Year’s Eve in New York City one of my top ten travel experiences. I LOVE everything about New York—the people, the food, the buildings, the smells…everything! So it was truly a dream come true to take in this time-honored tradition. But this post isn’t for the faint of heart.

If you are looking for a fairy tale about counting down to zero and singing Auld Lang Syne, you may want to skip to number 9. But if you want to hear the nitty gritty of what to actually expect and how to plan for the evening, here’s what you need to know before you make your way to Manhattan on December 31st.

New Year's Eve in New York City

1. Incredible Crowds

You have never been in a crowd like the one you will be in on New Year’s Eve in New York City. I don’t care if you’ve taken a train in India or waited in line to meet your favorite boy band—you’ve never seen anything like this. If you have even a hint of claustrophobia, this is not the event for you. The crowds are a vortex you get sucked into.

I arrived at Times Square around 7 p.m., and it was almost impossible to move. This is a time when there is strength in numbers. Latch onto your group and form a train to snake your way through the crowd. If there are only two or three of you, find another group headed in the same direction and let them know your plan. If you try to move one at a time, you’ll likely lose each other in the chaos. Hold on tight and forge ahead as a group. You’ll feel like you’re pushing against a tsunami, but baby steps and perseverance will get you there. Be patient and friendly. Getting mad at the guy next to you won’t get you anyplace but kicked out (see point 5 for more on that).

2. It’s Not Like on TV

You know how everyone is cheering and happy and they all have a bunch of blue Nivea swag? It’s not like that at all. Unless you are very near the heart of the action, you won’t see any balloons or get a party hat. There are no streamers or confetti. You won’t even hear the performers singing. You’ll just be standing outside in a huge crowd looking at the sky. And you’ll be doing it for hours.

3. Expect to Wait

If you want to be really near the stage where all the hot stars perform, you need to arrive well before the crack of dawn to claim your space. Keep in mind that once you’re in place, you can’t leave or you risk losing you spot. Because security is high, you’re not allowed to bring in any bags, which means no food or drinks. That may be a blessing in disguise because sneaking out to use the facilities is not an easy task. Pretty much, once you’ve claimed your stake, don’t expect to do much else. You’re there for the next 18 hours or so.

4. Buy an Event Ticket

This should maybe be number one…If you don’t want to sit outside for hours waiting for a glimpse of the ball dropping at midnight, buy a ticket to a nearby event. Even if you don’t want to go to an event, purchase a ticket to something…anything. Why is this so important? Well, if you have tickets to a specific event, the authorities will help you get there…if you can get to the authorities (see point 1). If you get close enough to someone with the power to move a barrier so you can get to your venue, wave your tickets in the air. They are watching for you and will hail you over.

But getting through the crowds faster is just one of three advantages to having an event ticket. The second is that you are pretty much guaranteed to see the ball drop. If you are simply hoping to get someplace within view, so are millions of others. And there is only so much space on the streets of New York. I suspect thousands of the people I passed on the street never made it within five blocks of a place where they could see the ball. They waded through the massive crowds and stood on the street for hours for nothing.

The third advantage is that you only have to wait outside for two hours or so instead of 12 or more. Simply step outside the venue at about 10 p.m. and claim a space on the sidewalk out front. Tuck in tight—don’t leave any space between yourself and the barrier or the rest of your party. Before you know it, someone will swoop in and steal your spot if you do. It happens in the blink of an eye.

You’re probably thinking a ticket to an event on New Year’s is out of your budget. I thought so, too, but I was really wrong. Sure, if you’re hoping for a glass of Cristal as the clock strikes twelve, you’re looking at dishing out the big bucks. But I got a ticket to the shindig at Madame Tussaud’s that was being hosted by a B-list celebrity for only $45. We spent a few hours guzzling free bevvies, touring the museum, and chowing down on snacks before snagging our spot outside. We missed the party inside, but that wasn’t why we were there anyway.

5. Expect a LOT of Security

It’s to be expected that security would be high at any packed event in New York, but you ain’t seen nothing like this. There will be cops, firefighters, and everything else you can think of everywhere you look. And they mean business. Don’t make any cracks about sketchy subjects. They won’t tolerate it, and you’ll be tossed out faster than you can count down to zero.

In our case, we got to know the cop manning the gate pretty well in the two hours we were standing outside. I’m not sure we ever actually spoke to him, but he definitely knew who we—and everyone around us—were. If we’d been in trouble, he’d have jumped into action. I never felt safer.

6. Be Prepared for Anything

You’re going to be standing on a hard cement sidewalk. It may be hot, or cold, or both. You likely won’t be able to sit down. You will be fenced in. People will push, shove, and try to take your space, even though you have been standing there for hours. I know you want to look good, but if you do yourself one favor that night, consider your shoes, coat, and other accessories carefully.

Comfort and style can be a hard balance but one you will definitely want to find. I wore low pumps with a three-inch, block heel rather than spiked stilettos. I also chose an off-the-rack sequined dress and didn’t care if it got torn in the crowd. I could also wear it with leggings instead of pantyhose to help keep in the warmth (though it ended up being the warmest New Year’s in 100 years). I popped a pair of gloves and earmuffs inside my clutch to add as the night wore on. I even managed to fit a wee umbrella inside just in case. If I’d been smart, I’d also have tossed in a pair of fold-up flats, but I managed…barely.

7. When It’s Over, It’s Really Over

Once the ball drops, there is nothing left to see or do. The streets clear out fast. We were staying in the Financial District, and even after fighting the subway crowds, we were back at our hotel well before 1 a.m. We even stopped to pick up some street pizza on the way “home.” So if you’re expecting a big party in the streets, don’t. Once the ball drops, the crowd will break…fast. People just want to get out. Remember, some of them may be very hangry from waiting there all day. Of course, if you did buy a ticket to an event, you can always go back inside.

8. Only Take What You Need

The crowds are so thick that you will have no idea if someone pulls off your Tiffany necklace or Cartier watch. People’s hands will be all over you—not necessarily because they want them to be, but more so because they have no where else to put them as you shove your way to your final destination. Only take the essentials. In my clutch, I had the gear I mentioned previously, as well as lipstick and a compact. I tucked a credit card on my body. That was it. I didn’t take a lick of cash or anything else. Just the bare necessities—I even took off my wedding ring and watch, two things I never leave home without.

9. It’s Magical

Now, forget all that other stuff I just said about cops and crowds and all that jazz. None of it matters once the countdown begins. When you’re standing on that street surrounded by strangers and your loved ones, it’s like the world stops spinning for those ten seconds. It’s surreal and wonderful and heart-warming and so many other adjectives that I can’t put into words.

I spent the night standing on a corner with my best friend of 30 years, and I can’t explain the warmth that washed over me when we hugged in the glow of nearly 3,000 Waterford crystals at the stroke of midnight. I’m the least emotional human on the planet, but even I got teary-eyed. I would do it all again in a heartbeat to reply those few minutes of my life.

If you still have questions about what to expect on New Year’s Eve in New York City, shoot me a line via comment on this post or on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group. I’d love to hear from you.