New York City might think it has the market cornered when it comes to New Year’s Eve celebrations, but we’ve rounded up five Times Square alternatives in cities across the US that give the Big Apple a run for its money.
A Night in Paris By Train [Napa Valley, CA]
If the usual cocktail parties and fireworks just won’t cut it, and a flight out of the country isn’t in the cards, the Napa Valley Wine Train offers a unique compromise for the “where to celebrate New Year’s Eve” quandary. For one night only, the train whisks you away from the standard New Year’s Eve celebrations to “A Night in Paris,” a three-and-a-half-hour tour through Napa Valley’s countryside. The evening begins with an elegant Parisian reception at the station before boarding the train with a glass of sparkling wine in hand. Once underway, a gourmet four-course meal is served to guests relaxing in the plush velvet seats of the luxuriously restored Pullman cars that make up the train. Once back at the station, revelers are greeted by a deejay and dancing, a caricature artist, a cabaret club, and, of course, a midnight toast.
The Best NYE Block Party in California [Redondo Beach, FL]
Recognized as the West Coast counterpart to New York’s Times Square countdown, N.Y.E.L.A. is a family-friendly civic event that draws attendees from all over Southern California. Hosted in LA’s Grand Park (best known as a gathering place for food trucks, lunchtime yoga sessions, and summer concerts) by The Music Center, N.Y.E.L.A. includes live music, dancing, and large-scale art installations. But the headlining act is always the out-of-this-world New Year’s countdown with 3-D digital mapping of party snapshots projected on the side of the iconic 22-story City Hall integrated with a light show.
A Champagne Toast in the Sky [Seattle, WA]
A scheduled fireworks display is an obvious draw when deciding where to celebrate New Year’s Eve. But why crane your neck trying to look up the sky on New Year’s Eve when you can be celebrating in the sky? At 520 feet, the Space Needle’s Observation Deck and SkyCity Restaurant offer the best seats in the house for the display. On the Observation Deck, you’ll find a deejay and dancing, party favors, casino-style gaming tables, and a champagne toast. Or splurge for a ticket to Soiree in the Sky, where you’ll feast on a 10-course dinner designed by SkyCity’s executive chef while listening to live piano. The evening culminates on the Observation Deck, where guests dance the few remaining hours of 2016 away.
Ring in the New Year with Hemingway’s Ghost [Key West, FL]
Given Key West’s rich literary history and proclivity for eccentric celebrations, it makes perfect sense that there is an Annual Dropping of the Conch Shell at Sloppy Joe’s, the very place where Ernest Hemingway used to carouse his nights away back in the 1930s. The brainchild of local artist Tobias McGregor, the Dropping of the Conch Shell was McGregor’s attempt in 1993 to synchronize the New Year’s Eve revelers wandering around Duval Street. Now, party-goers are entertained by a rooftop host, while the crowd dances and catches beads below. The ambience is eclectic – you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with folks dressed up in New Year’s Eve finery and those still in swim trunks and flip-flops (as they say, anything goes in Key West). Keep an eye on the Queen Conch as the clock strikes midnight and watch as confetti, streamers, and lights fill the sky.
Buddhist Bell-Ringing and Fireworks at the Ferry Building [San Francisco, CA]
Of all the places to go on New Year’s Eve, the Asian Art Museum might be the most peaceful. According to Buddhist lore, striking the 2,100-pound sixteenth-century Japanese temple bell relieves you of regrets and bad memories of the past year, so grab a ticket on your way into the museum so you can give it a tap (the bell must be rung 108 times to usher in the New Year and to quell the 108 mortal desires that, per Buddhist beliefs, torment humankind). Afterward, make your way to the Ferry Building, where you can take in the dazzling fireworks at the Embarcadero. Widely regarded as the night’s best entertainment, the brilliant pyrotechnic display kicks off at 11:59 p.m. and lasts 30 minutes. While they can be seen from most vantage points along the Embarcadero, the best spots are to the north and south of the Ferry Building.