We're going to be in New York over New Year's and are thinking of doing the stereotypical thing and going to Times Square. What time should we be getting there to get a decent vantage point? Does access to the square get shut off and if so, what time? Is there anything else we should be aware that differs from going to Times Square at any other time of the year?
To get a decent vantage point you should probably get into a restaurant like Olive Garden on Times Square or some similar, menu is not that fancy but the location is great and you might want to reserve the seat by the glass now.
Generally it used to be that to get a place by the fence you will need to be on Times Square the morning of the 31st (times have varied).
Last year the police had shut off all access in or out of Times Square around 9pm that means that from 9pm to about 1am you cannot walk in, or even take a train into Times Square, but this varies year to year based on the crowd expectation.
Just so it is better explained here is the FAQ from the Times Square Alliance explaining schedules and locations.
Since the question was answered there is another restaurant from which it may be possible to see the ball drop though the vantage point would be worse then the Olive Garden.
It may be possible to view the ball drop [Blue Fin] restaurant located on the corner of 47th and Broadway, though the angle would not be great and I can't find any indication that it may be open on the New Year's Eve, though for that location it is a must.