Teen pop sensation Justin Bieber and envelope-pushing singer-songwriter Lady Gaga are among the acts scheduled to perform live onstage in Times Square during the countdown to the ball drop at midnight. They're both part of "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2012."
Among the other entertainers scheduled on Times Square stages: rapper Drake and NBC's "Smash" star Megan Hilty ("NBC's New Year's Eve With Carson Daly"), and rapper Pitbull and pop rock band Hot Chelle Rae (with Seacrest). Also on tap: surprise guests with New Year's wishes and handouts, including hats and balloons for all those intrepid folks braving the night air at the Crossroads of the World.
ABOUT THE BALL
Whatever your musical taste, the true star of the evening continues to be that dazzling Waterford crystal ball perched above 1 Times Square. This year, the 11,875-pound ball has been updated with 288 new triangles among the 2,688 Waterford crystals decorating it. Watching it descend has been a Times Square tradition since 1907.
IF YOU'RE GOING
Your best shot to be at the center of the action in Times Square: Arrive early -- make that really early.
"If you really want to play it safe, get here by 2 p.m.]," Times Square Alliance spokeswoman Lori Raimondo says.
The NYPD starts closing down Times Square at about 3 p.m. with the "Bow-Tie" area (42nd to 47th streets between Broadway and Seventh Avenue) fully closed to traffic by 4 p.m.
Tens of thousands of Long Islanders are expected to board westbound trains into the city between 5 p.m. and midnight, according to MTA LIRR media liaison Salvatore Arena. The railroad is adding 10 westbound trains to the New Year's Eve schedule between 5:09 and 8:09 p.m. to accommodate Manhattan-bound revelers.
The show starts at 6 p.m., when the ball will be raised to the top of a 77-foot flagpole high above Broadway at 43rd Street.
Beyond the celebrity performers and the ball drop, New Year's Eve in Times Square is a time to make new friends from around the world. Revelers stand for hours in cordoned-off sections, each of which holds about 400 people.
"It's an international event that brings together many cultures," Raimondo says. "People from around the globe make the trek to witness this." At midnight, of course, come the first celebrations of 2012: a confetti shower and group sing-along to Frank Sinatra's classic "New York, New York."
"You need to do it once in your life," Raimondo says.
GETTING IN/GETTING OUT
The Times Square New Year's Eve ball drops at 1 Times Square and is visible from 43rd to 50th streets and along Seventh Avenue, as far north as 59th Street.
The NYPD starts closing down access to Times Square at around 3 p.m. The earlier you arrive, the better your chances of standing closer to the action.
We don't need to tell you to check the weather before leaving (long-range predictions are for temperatures in the upper 30s). Layers of clothing are best -- T-shirts, shirts and sweaters -- as well as several pairs of socks, thermal-lined pants and comfortable shoes.
Cell phones, iPods, snacks and nonalcoholic drinks.
WHAT'S NOT ALLOWED
Alcoholic beverages and extra packages. The NYPD will inspect backpacks and confiscate Champagne and other booze.
Leaving your section. You must stay or risk losing your spot. That generally rules out bathroom breaks, too.