Traditional New Year’s Eve countdowns in crowded places and confetti drops are so 2016. Fortunately, you don’t need to suffer the crush of Times Square or pay a high price tag for dinner and a party favor. We’ve got your hookup to eight, great (affordable) less-than-predictable places to ring in the New Year.
Party revelers in Sydney, Australia, may have the honor of being the planet’s first major city to ring in the New Year, but there’s a certain caché of being among the lucky last in Honolulu, where you can countdown with the world as you await the Aloha State’s annual Pineapple Drop.
The celebration begins at 2 p.m. at the Town Center of Mililani where the countdown begins at 7 p.m. with a Pineapple Drop to sync with NYC’s midnight in Times Square.
For a kid-friendly alternative, the Moana Surfrider’s Under the Sea is catering to the under 18 with music, Polynesian dancing, fun activities and mermaids in the pool.
Later, you can ring in the new year on island time by heading over to the beach where fireworks will shower the Honolulu Harbor at midnight.
While your fellow foodies in San Francisco fight for a table to celebrate the last night of the year, savvy travelers in the Pacific Northwest know that Portland offers equally great fare plus a few offerings that are truly unique to the City of Roses.
For instance, if you’re into mystery theater, you might like The Dinner Detective Murder Mystery Show, America’s largest murder mystery comedy dinner show where every attendee is a suspect. Between the salad and salmon, you’ll want to remain keen to the clues dropped randomly between courses to help solve the mystery.
After enjoying a great meal, make your way to Pix & Bar Vivant to indulge in a free midnight chocolate buffet. There, you’ll find all things chocolate, from mousse to meringue, truffles and even chocolate beer. Why not? Your resolution can wait!
Plus, you can walk it off the next day for First Day Hike around the Portland-metro area, where 28 state parks will waive the usual day-use parking fee.
This southern city has no shortage of charm when it comes to serving up great food, fun and, of course, country music. New Year’s Eve is no exception this year, with Music City Midnight: New Year’s Eve in Nashville, famous for its 15-foot Music Note Drop at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Keith Urban will headline this free event for a second year in a row with a lineup also featuring CMA New Artist of the Year Maren Morris, Cheap Trick, Carly Pearce and more.
Or for the Parrotheads in town, Jimmy Buffet is playing the Bridgestone Arena, while the Nashville Symphony takes a mellower tone at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown.
If you’re searching for a unique, family-friendly way to ring in the New Year, look no further than Seattle, which will play host to the Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure, sunrise to sunset. Urban Adventure Quest has turned Seattle into a giant game board that will send you and three to four of your friends and family members on an unforgettable three-hour sightseeing tour across the city. With your smartphone as your guide, groups scan various landmarks and lesser-known sites for clues. The fun begins at the Seattle Center, home of the city’s iconic Space Needle. You’ll venture downtown and Pike Place and go mobile on the city’s monorail.
Speaking of the Space Needle, revelers can take the celebration up high with a New Year’s at the Needle dance on the Observation Deck amid casino-style tables with prizes. Count down at midnight as you witness one of the world’s largest structure-launched fireworks display.
And those looking for the ultimate hangover cure, there’s always the city’s famous Polar Bear Plunge New Year’s Day at Seattle’s Matthews Beach, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Rather than fight the crowds in Manhattan, head up to one of Canada’s favorite cosmopolitan centers for great urban nightlife without the high cost. Even if you’re not Canadian, you can always pretend and join in the fun at Nathan Phillips Square as the country sends off the year with the final celebration of its 150-year history. The free, non-alcohol celebration includes DJs, site animations, a skating party and fireworks at midnight.
Or hop on over to Toronto Harbour for Mariposa Cruises’ 3 ½ hour Cocktail Cruise, boarding at 7:30 p.m. for an 8 p.m. departure.
Meanwhile opera fans will be ringing in the New Year on a high note at Bravissimo! Opera’s Greatest Hits with world-class opera stars taking stage 7-10 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall.
Also just north of the border you’ll find one of the most spectacular fireworks shows in North America when Niagara Falls comes alive against a backdrop of the Winter Festival of Lights. Each year, approximately 40,000 people pack the park to participate in this fireworks extravaganza and outdoor concert. This year, two fireworks shows will light up the night at Queen Victoria Park, including one at 9 p.m. for younger children and another at midnight.
A sure-fire hit with the kids, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World will once again come alive as the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show lights up Tinkerbell’s castle to the delight of children of all ages.
At nearby Epcot, you can experience food and music from around the world during IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at 6 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. prior to the fireworks at midnight.
SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland Florida and Hard Rock Café are also hosting family-friendly events.
Hurricane Irma may have tried her best to ravage this quaint island town on the tip of the Florida Keys, but nothing gets in the way of Key West and a great New Year’s Eve party. And you can bet plenty of Hurricanes – of the alcoholic variety — will be flowing among the town’s many tourist-friendly pubs, including the Bourbon Street Pub, where Sushi, the drag queen, will once again drop from her giant red high heel – a 20-year New Year’s tradition.
Famous for its sunsets, Key West’s Fury Water Adventures is hosting The Last Sunset Sail with departures at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. You can choose from Commotion on the Ocean Live Music Sunset Sail if you’re in a party mood or the tamer Glass Bottom Boat Sunset Cruise & Reef Eco Tour for a more family-friendly option.
Of course, you won’t want to miss the final Sunset Celebration of the Year at Mallory Square, beginning two hours before sunset, where magicians, jugglers and artists will entertain as the greatest ball drop of them all – the sun – begins her final descent.