9 Awesome Spots to Celebrate New Year's Eve in the USA
By Spencer Spellman
Think New Year’s Eve in the USA and you probably think of the likes of New York City and Las Vegas, since they are some of the biggest, most-televised New Year’s Eve events in the world. However, beyond those glitzy cities, the USA is home to some great New Year’s Eve destinations, from theme parks to islands to alpine lakes. We bring you nine of the best destinations around the U.S. for New Year’s Eve.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is one of the best party destinations year round. Friendly locals, warm weather, bars stay open late (some even 24 hours a day), and people walking around with their favorite adult beverage in hand make for an inviting climate for party seekers. Head to Jackson Square for the real New Year’s Eve party in the historic French Quarter. Bands and entertainers play throughout the night, leading up to the famous fleur de lis drop and fireworks over the Mississippi River at midnight. Afterward, the party continues at bars and nightclubs up and down Bourbon Street, in the heart of the city. For something unique, hop on the Creole Queen or Steamboat Natchez for a fireworks cruise.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco’s location on the bay affords a number of New Year’s Eve events that are unique to the city, including a spectacular bay-front fireworks show. Catch the festivities by boat with Hornblower, including brunch, dinner, and fireworks cruises. Elsewhere, there are a number of New Year’s Eve balls, such as the San Francisco Symphony’s posh Black and White Ball and the Passport to the World New Year’s Eve Ball, featuring several deejays, live music, open bar, and entertainers. For something more casual, head to a rooftop, Twin Peaks (one of the highest points in San Francisco), or the Embarcadero to watch the fireworks go off at midnight.
Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
That’s right, Walt Disney World in Orlando knows how to throw a New Year’s Eve Party, and it’s for kids and adults alike! Interestingly enough, many of the Disney New Year’s Eve experiences are food-based, such as prix-fixe meals at Il Mulino Trattoria and Monsieur Paul, or dining and imbibing while watching the fireworks from California Grill. Other events include a live big band, dancing, and drinks at Atlantic Dance Hall, and if you buy VIP tickets, access to your own bartender and a dessert bar. However, as you might expect, New Year’s Eve at Walt Disney World is one of the busiest days of the year (and with some of the longest lines for rides), so plan accordingly (and get a FastPass+!).
Los Angeles, California
The upside to Los Angeles is that because the city is so big, there are great events for all interests happening throughout the city. The biggest event is at Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), which sees food trucks and live music on several stages until 1 a.m. This is a great family event, since it’s alcohol-free, although several bars nearby are hosting New Year’s Eve parties. Another popular DTLA event is Prohibition at the historic Union Station, a Roaring Twenties-themed event with burlesque dancers, DJs, live jazz music, and an open bar. One of the most unique events takes place in Long Beach (roughly 40 km south of DTLA) aboard the Queen Mary, featuring an international-themed party with a number of unique bars, live music, entertainers, and to cap it all off, fireworks.
The peach drop is to Atlanta what the Times Square Ball drop is to New York City, just on a much smaller level. The 362-kilogram peach drops above Underground Atlanta, a shopping and entertainment district in Downtown Atlanta, at midnight. However, the hours leading up to midnight feature local food and drinks, entertainers, djs, and live music, with last year headlined by Atlanta-native Ludacris. Best of all, admission is free. However, on a smaller scale, there are some other great events in Atlanta, starting with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at noon, and continuing with parties like the Buckhead NYE Block Party and the Bungalow Ball.
Honolulu is the best of both worlds as you get the urban side of Waikiki, yet the tropical side of Oahu, such as on the North Shore. One of the most unique things you can do here that you can’t do at most other places is a traditional luau, such as Waikiki Starlight Luau at Hilton Hawaiian Village, a popular hotel in Waikiki. A couple miles up Ala Moana Boulevard at Aloha Tower Marketplace, you’ll find the annual New Year’s Eve “Party of the Year.” It features rides, food trucks (hello, shrimp tacos!), djs, and live music, all leading up to the fireworks display at midnight. For a different view of the New Year’s Eve fireworks show, jump aboard the Star of Honolulu or Dolphin Star, for one of a number of different fireworks cruises.
San Antonio, Texas
The upside to many of these New Year’s Eve destinations is the weather, and San Antonio is no exception, where it’ll feel like spring as you’re walking the San Antonio River Walk. Naturally, the San Antonio River walk is New Year’s Eve central. Several restaurants and bars up and down the River Walk offer specials and packages, including prix-fixe meals and private seating to ring in the New Year. Downtown San Antonio’s New Year’s Eve celebration is the biggest in Texas. Starting at 5 p.m., it features several stages of music, rides, and food leading up to the grand finale of fireworks.
Nashville hosts the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, Bash on Broadway, which is complimentary and appropriately features great musicians (since this is Music City after all). Several major bands will be taking to the stage before Nashville’s signature "Music Note Drop,” which then triggers confetti canons and a fireworks display. Elsewhere, many of Nashville’s best bars and venues will be throwing parties and events, such as the famous Ryman Auditorium, where Old Crow Medicine Show will be taking the stage. Elsewhere, for something smaller, MStreet, which owns several beloved Nashville restaurants and bars, is selling one New Year’s Eve ticket to four of their parties.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada and California
For a smaller New Year’s Eve that will carry over those winter wonderland dreams of Christmas, look no further than Lake Tahoe. The action in South Lake Tahoe happens at Heavenly Mountain Resort, featuring live music, entertainers, and ice sculpting, leading up to the world’s only “Gondola Ball Drop” in conjunction with the Times Square ball drop. On the north side of the lake, the big party takes place at Squaw Valley, with live music, fireworks (best viewed from KT Base Bar), and an after-party at the Olympic House. However, if you want an urban New Year’s Eve coupled with a mountain town, Reno, Nevada is 30 miles away, where thousands descend on the Reno Arch for a big fireworks show. Many of Reno’s casino resorts are throwing their own parties, including the Grand Sierra Resort's LEX Nightclub, Peppermill, and Silver Legacy, all of which will have live performances and party favors.
For other winter escapes, see our guide here.