What It’s Like to Celebrate New Year’s Eve at the $450 Olive Garden Party In Times Square

When it came time to decide how I was going to spend New Year’s Eve, I found myself seriously considering the possibility of heading into Times Square at 11 AM to watch the ball drop in-person for the first time in my life. What I didn’t know was that I’d end up there thanks to Olive Garden’s party instead.

Rocky at the New Year's Eve Olive Garden Party in Times Square
Rocky in Times Square After the Olive Garden After-Party

They say you can’t put a price on the experience of watching the Times Square ball drop live from New York City. I am not joking when I say it has been a lifelong dream of mine to spend New Year’s Eve in Time Square and to see the famous ball drop happen live.

I needed to see 3,000 pounds of confetti overtake the sky only to soon fall on top of me.

Planet Fitness Hats in NYC New Year's Eve

Despite living so close, it’s one of those things I’ve never done before! In fact, most people from this area haven’t.

Most New Yorkers flee from Manhattan on New Year’s Eve. I’ve had friends and family tell me they’d rather chew glass than participate in going to Times Square on December 31st.

They say an estimated one million people congregate to view the ball drop in New York City; a shocking percentage of them are wearing adult diapers in preparation of standing in place for 12 hours or more just to see the ball drop!

Determined to find a way to get a good view of the ball, I began conducting research and discovered the possibility of attending a VIP NYE Party at Olive Garden in Times Square.

Celebrate 2024 Olive Garden Times Square Event Poster

New Year’s Eve celebrations have created some of my favorite memories. From partying the night away in Spain, to playing games with close friends, to finally fulfilling my dream of seeing the ball drop in-person, I’ve had some of the best nights of my life on New Year’s Eve.

It’s a holiday I deeply appreciate because it creates an opportunity for reflection, togetherness, and aspirations as we welcome in the new year. A fresh start. A new chapter.

Selfie with the Ball Drop in Times Square on December 31st

Before purchasing a $450 ticket to attend Olive Garden’s Times Square NYE Party, I was mentally preparing to stand among the millions who gather 12+ hours early to await the big countdown!

With that in mind, I wanted to make sure I’d have a fun time with whatever decision I made! Although I wasn’t thrilled about standing outside in the cold for hours and hours, I was willing to persevere and do it if that was the only way to make it happen.

The Olive Garden First Floor in Times Square
Entering the Olive Garden Party

Thankfully, it’s not… there are other ways to cheat the system. It turns out that over the past 10 years, some of the chain restaurants in Times Square have begun hosting VIP New Year’s Eve dinner parties. These events sell out quickly and cost a small fortune to attend. The little carrot they dangle over customers’ heads is the “chance to see the ball drop.” (It’s never guaranteed.)

I Went to the New Year’s Eve Olive Garden Party in Times Square

I chose to take a chance with Olive Garden’s Party in Times Square which required a ticket just shy of $500. Although it’s still pricey for “dinner at Olive Garden”, it’s by far the cheapest Times Square party I could find (and you’re paying for more than just “dinner.”)

Celebrating a Happy New Year at Olive Garden Times Square

Applebees in Times Square, not far from Olive Garden, charges $800 per person. Bubba Gump Shrimp, located above Olive Garden Times Square, charges more than double Olive Garden’s price with a fee of $1,015. In comparison, Olive Garden’s $450 deal begins to look sweeter and sweeter.

The thought of spending New Year’s Eve at Olive Garden started out as somewhat of a joke. I told my sister I was going and asked if she would want to tag along and she looked at me like I had a third head. The more I thought about celebrating in an Olive Garden… I was intrigued.

Understandably, it was hard to commit to the party since there was little to no information about the event online except this humorous article published on Vice six years ago!

I searched endlessly for ANY reviews and the only additional information about the party I could find were some photos on Jackson Krule’s blog and this article on People.

Honestly, the photos and stories Jackson Krule published made me think the party might be a bit corny but I love corny things so I decided to take a chance and purchased a ticket to go on my own.

Olive Garden Party Photo from Jackson Krule's Post on Vice.com
Photo Source: Vice

Going to Olive Garden by myself would either be the saddest or silliest thing I’ve ever chosen to do. I had been graciously invited to house parties, but something within me told me this was the year to go. The weather was going to be nice. (I didn’t even need gloves or earmuffs! Thanks, climate change!)

Selfie at Olive Garden

But gosh, I have to tell you from comparing Jackson Krule’s positive experience back in 2017-2018 to my own in 2023-2024, Olive Garden has ELEVATED this New Year’s Eve Times Square Olive Garden Party. I was so impressed. I had the time of my life there!

The reason so many people DREAD the option of going to watch the ball drop live is that viewers are corralled into sections at the discretion of the New York Police Department. Once the police close your section, you cannot re-enter for any reason if you choose to leave.

People wait for the ball to drop in Times Square

Even from a food standpoint, you have to pack wisely; they are very strict about what you can bring into the area. Space is limited and large bags aren’t allowed. I suppose people grab granola bars and other small snacks while waiting for the midnight countdown.

While, yes- these parties are expensive, all of the following considerations played a part in how I personally justified Olive Garden’s $450 cost as a total steal!

Included with the $450 Olive Garden ticket, you get:

  • Olive Garden Representative and Police Escort into the heart of Times Square
  • Bathroom Access (No diapers here!)
  • Buffet-Style Dinner
  • Open Bar All Night Long
  • DJ and Dance Floor (The DJ rocked!)
  • Props (Party Hats, Necklaces, Glasses, etc.)
  • Champagne Toast at Midnight (If you stay inside)
  • A Chance to See the Ball Drop (If you manage to go outside)

Oh and yes, there were unlimited breadsticks!

My new friends from Olive Garden
My new friends, Jeff & Ann, at Olive Garden NYE

Since I didn’t know I was going to this event until a few hours beforehand, I actually arrived in New York City pretty early that morning close to 10 AM. I wanted to have access to a hotel close to Times Square as a fall back plan in case anything at all went wrong.

I booked a room at the Moxy in Times Square using points from the Chase travel rewards program. Thanks to the Chase Sapphire Preferred‘s annual hotel credit, I was also able to reduce the cost by $50. This meant the room had no direct monetary cost, just points.

The Moxy Times Square
Booking a room at the Moxy Times Square

I started walking around the city early on December 31st to find an ideal spot to watch the ball drop from. Everywhere I went, roads were closed or blocked by NYPD. I actually found several spots over the course of the early afternoon, but NYPD kept asking me to relocate as they began to expand the inaccessible areas. Seeing the lines, I felt more and more inclined to just book Olive Garden.

That’s when I decided that even though I was flying solo for the night, I’d just do it. Olive Garden party, YOLO, here I come.

My New Year's Eve Outfit

I suppose I’m one of the only one Italians on Earth who doesn’t hate on Olive Garden’s food. At least, all the vomit reactions to Olive Garden’s tweets on social media make me think so.

So many people mock Olive Garden’s food but I think their salad is delicious. After I committed to attending this party, a sense of nervous energy swept over me. Its weird because I got really nervous but I should have been more relaxed knowing I had VIP-like access into Times Square. According to the instructions emailed to me, I didn’t need to be in the area until 7:00 PM at which time I’d meet my designated Olive Garden Representative.

Buying New Year's Eve Props like glasses

Following instruction sent by Olive Garden, I left my room around 6:00 to meet my Olive Garden Representative at a designated meeting area. From there, I was personally escorted by NYPD through the secure area of Times Square to the line wrapping around the restaurant.

Here’s two videos. The first shows the Olive Garden rep, the second shows my selfie with the ball in the background as I was being escorted to Olive Garden hahaha.

I waited in line for a while. I got lucky and managed to score one of the iconic Planet Fitness hats that you see everyone wearing when you watch the ball drop on television! (I never knew the hats come filled with things like gloves, glasses, necklaces, and more!)

It was so surreal to be right in the thick of everything. I immediately realized that if I could make it outside closer to midnight, I’d definitely be able to get a crystal clear view of the ball drop.

It was fun even watching the television crew from a behind-the-scenes perspective.

In the meantime, they made us wait in line from 7:00 PM until 8:00 PM when doors officially opened. It was during that time that I made two friends, Jeff and Ann, who I felt so grateful to get to know.

They were really awesome, funny, and friendly with me and honestly having them to hang out with made the night even better. I knew there was a solid chance I’d be on my own the entire night and I was prepared for that so making friends was really a super nice surprise.

Photo with friends from the Olive Garden Party on New Year's Eve

I wanted to respect their space so I wouldn’t intrude on their night, but it turned out they were a really kind couple and they went out of their way to include me. They even offered me a spot at their table which I thought was so nice. I was grateful and honestly, I really had an incredible night with them.

They were just visiting for the holidays, but I really enjoyed their company. I hope to see them again if/when they come back to New York City in the future! 🎊

Olive Garden Celebration Photo with New Friends

After the doors opened, we scored a table in a really great location. We were close to everything: the food, the bar, and even the dance floor. I took a quick video as I climbed the steps. I had no idea this party would have 3 levels! (I’ve never actually eaten at the Times Square location prior to this night.)

Speaking of food, they served everything buffet-style and yes: they had breadsticks! What was even more exciting, at least for me personally, was seeing the classic Olive Garden salad!

I didn’t bother to make my plate look pretty since I was rushing to get food before the line got long. Still, here’s a glimpse into some of what I had to eat that night!

My Plate of Food from Olive Garden Buffet

These were the desserts next to the coffee station:

As the night went on, the DJ’s dance floor became so lively. It was totally hilarious but in the best way possible. I never ever imagined a party at Olive Garden could be so much fun.

One lady even had her dog at the party. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t technically supposed to have it, but I was more amused and perplexed not only by how she got it into Olive Garden but also past NYPD.

The three of us shared the same mission too: SEE THE BALL DROP BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

So later that night around 11:30 PM, when Olive Garden staff decided in agreement with NYPD that everyone could go outside to our reserved Olive Garden area, we were first in line to lead the crowd out haha.

We were surprised by how large Olive Garden’s reserved area was. I think it almost certainly had enough space for every single person who was at the party to stand outside and watch with a view of the ball drop. I know they don’t promise it, but at least for 2023-2024 that’s how it was. Plenty of space.

I can’t even begin to explain how amazing the final countdown was during the last 60 seconds of 2023. Hearing the crowd, seeing the confetti begin to fill the sky, and then the last 10 seconds.

It was everything I wanted it to be, only better. I actually got tears in my eyes seeing the confetti only to be followed by the classic New York, New York song by Frank Sinatra.

Another awesome benefit to Olive Garden is that after the ball drop wraps up, people wait in a long queue to exit the area. NYPD disperses the crowd in a slow and controlled manner to prevent people from getting trampled.

With Olive Garden, the Olive Garden after-party kicks off! Flash your wristband and the party continues! They let you head back in- no need to stand outside in the crowds of people trying to leave but barely moving.

Naturally, people have been asking whether or not I’d ever do it again. Right now, the honest answer is: I’m not sure. It’s one of those “perfect memories” that I might want to leave alone. Certainly, I would love to go with a group of friends if anyone was open to going with me and expressed it, I’d be open to it. I’m certainly not opposed to returning since I loved it. I might not want to do it back-to-back years since I generally have a preference for trying new things. Right now, it’s open-ended.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll catch you there some other New Year’s Eve! 🤪

If you’re new here, I’m Rocky and I hope you found this recap helpful! If you’re interested, you can read my travel blog’s 2023 Year-In-Review here.

If you are considering attending this party in future years to come, feel free to follow and reach out with any questions either down below in the comments or on Instagram (@rockytrifari) I’m more than happy to try to share tips and other thoughts based on my personal experience from attending the party.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year. ☺️

A Tribute to My Dear Friend

This post is written in loving memory of my dear friend Gina DiPasquale whose life was cut short far too soon. I will miss you forever. I’m so grateful to have had a friend like you.



  1. I am so sorry for your loss. A nice tribute to Gina.

    It sounds like New Years was a very pleasant experience… you are far braver than me, I could never be around that many people at once without a TON of anxiety. Glad you had a good time!

    1. Ah, thank you. Losing a close friend like Gina was definitely the hardest part of 2023 for me. I don’t think there is really any good way to move forward from such a tragedy, but I do find myself aspiring to make the most of each day in her spirit. There were so many great things about Gina that I try to apply in my own life every single day. It’s those losses that put everything back into perspective.

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