New Year’s Eve is a time for new beginnings marked by communal countdowns and big and bright booms in the sky. Gathering at home with loved ones, noisemakers and party hats can spell fun for some. Others prefer to spend their last night of the year outside the house. For those interested in ushering in the new year with a crowd, each state offers a different experience.
Ring in the new year with 50,000 new friends outside the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel. Here, you can cut into the world’s largest edible MoonPie — a load of marshmallow sandwiched between two graham crackers and coated in chocolate — and later marvel as a 600-pound electric variation of the sweet treat descends down the hotel wall. A midnight laser light show, fireworks and live music are other obvious draws.
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Anchorage has the kids in mind. This free New Year’s celebration in Town Square Park begins at 5 p.m. and culminates with a fireworks show at 8 p.m. Adults interested in a later bedtime can move the party to one of Anchorage’s hot spots.
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Arizona has the college scene of Tempe and the nightlife of Phoenix and Scottsdale, but nothing in the way of New Year’s celebrations quite compares to the events at both 10 p.m. and midnight in the underrated city of Flagstaff. At those times, a 70-pound, 6-foot-tall, brightly lit, aluminum pinecone will descend upon a crowd of thousands as the sky erupts with fireworks. A massive pinecone was first dropped outside the front door of The Weatherford Hotel to celebrate the hotel’s 100th anniversary in 1999. The tradition has stuck around ever since. Ambitious travelers may consider making the 75-mile trip to the Grand Canyon to take in the new year’s first sunrise.
Gather around Downtown Fort Smith at 8 p.m. and stay out way into the new year. Squeeze some live music, bounce-house fun for the kids and a midnight fireworks show into the last remaining hours of 2019.
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New Year’s celebration options abound in the Golden State. But the biggest, brightest and most cost-effective of the bunch has to be N.Y.E.L.A. Doors open at 8 p.m. Two music stages, multiple photo booths, food trucks and art installations keep attendees entertained before the countdown. Then, as the hands of the clock inch closer to midnight, all eyes turn to City Hall, where an interactive 3D projected countdown show ushers in the new year.
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Twin eight-minute firework sets, one at 9 p.m. and another at midnight, light up the sky outside 16th Street Mall in Denver on New Year’s Eve. The best views and live DJs can be found along the mall’s mile-long pedestrian walkway.
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The first of this list’s many First Nights, First Night Hartford exhibits have a focus on arts and culture. For $12 ($3 for kids age 3 to 15) visitors get access to all First Night venues including City Hall, the Bushnell Park Carousel, Old State House and Sea Tea Comedy Theater. Fireworks illuminate the sky at both 6 p.m. and midnight.
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Skate into the new year at Horizon Service Riverfront Ice Skating Rink in Wilmington. The celebration begins at 6 p.m. and fireworks fly at 9 p.m. Along with the skating, drinks and snacks will be available for purchase from Constitution Yards Beer Garden. The Ice Rink is the premiere firework viewing location, but anywhere along the Riverwalk will do.
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The Big Orange does not drop at the “largest free party in all of South Florida,” it rises. Tens of thousands of party-goers gather along Biscayne Bay to watch the big Florida orange ascend to the top of the InterContinental Hotel alongside live performances and dazzling fireworks, all free of charge. The neon orange sign was built and designed over 30 years ago by Steve Carpenter, a Miami-based neon-crafter. Carpenter, known as Mr. Neon, has designed and built neon for shows like “Miami Vice” and “American Crime Story” as well as for stars like Cardi B and Bad Bunny.
For 30 years, the Georgia Peach Drop in Atlanta has been Georgia’s quintessential New Year’s celebration. But the 2020 Peach Drop has been canceled as city officials mull changes to the event. Luckily for Georgians looking to begin another lap around the sun with a crowd and some midnight fun, there is another ceremonial drop and fireworks show in Georgia: The Possum Drop. Complete with music, food and activities for kids, and void of any charge or less pleasant possum droppings, the Possum Drop rings in the new year with the descent of a plush possum and fireworks.
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On New Year’s in Honolulu, every minute leading up to midnight is marked by an announcement salute fired from a barge off the shore of Waikiki Beach. Then, as the clock strikes midnight, all of Waikiki Beach dials their radios to one of three local stations and turns their gaze to the shore. A nearly 10-minute firework display graces the night sky and ushers in a new year.
Since 2013, thousands of spec-taters have gathered first outside the Grove, and now outside the Idaho State Capital, to watch the GlowTato rise at 6 p.m., then drop at midnight. A new year begins as the brown Idaho potato disappears behind a curtain, releasing a small batch of billowing yellow crinkle-cut fry balloons, along with many fireworks.
Each year, Lake Michigan is set aglow by midnight fireworks at Navy Pier. Opt to attend one of many galas hosted at nearby restaurants or bars, or camp out in the Chicago chill, blanket and noisemaker in hand to enjoy the free view.
Indiana’s largest public New Year’s Eve party, Downtown Indy Inc.'s New Year's Eve has been canceled. This free alternative in Fort Wayne, the state’s second-largest city, has all the ingredients of a classic NYE: food, fireworks and a ball drop, or in 2018’s high-wind case, a ball rise.
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Many cities in Iowa outright ban residential fireworks yearlong, a few exceptions being Pleasant Hill and Aukny. Still, Iowans looking to get out of the house on New Year’s Eve can attend a nontraditional symphony at the city’s Civic Center. Gravity-defying acrobats and aerialists swing from auditoriums rafters as the Des Moines Symphony plays an accompanying setlist.
Confetti and balloons rain down at Louisville’s famous Fourth Street Live!, an open-air music venue sure to let in the soft moonlight and keep out any unwanted weather. Access to the party and participation in the countdown is free, however individual venues may charge entrance fees.
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Jam to live performances by local musicians and artists in Jackson Square, and later watch the Fleur De Lis drop and fireworks rise over the Mississippi River. Gather outside Jax Brewery to take part in the televised Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve Central time zone countdown.
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For 20-plus years, Belfast’s New Year’s By The Bay has offered a safe New Year’s celebration made bright not from the faraway glow of midnight fireworks but from the warmth of a midnight bonfire. This free event showcases the city’s artistic and cultural prominence while keeping everything chemical free.
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Fireworks set off from barges in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor can be viewed all along the Inner Harbor Promenade as well as in many surrounding neighborhoods.
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The first-ever “First Night” was held in Boston in 1975 and has always been free and open to all. The People’s Procession, a parade of puppets, dancers and antique cars, begins at 6 p.m. First Night-goers can also enjoy cultural and musical performances in various venues and admire ice sculptures and light displays. Fireworks ring out both at 7 p.m., following the parade, and at midnight, following a dazzling light and music show.
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Detroit’s biggest free drop party boasts not just one balloon drop or a singular confetti storm, but multiple of each. Not to mention multiple stages with live acts, a firepit and fireworks.
Dress in your cocktail best for this slightly more formal affair. A $25 ticket grants guests access to one of many party rooms and a DJ-directed dance floor in the Minneapolis Club in downtown Minneapolis, while $39 gets you access to the whole lot.
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On Dec. 31, crowds gather in front of the Maritime and Seafood Museum as others head inside to attend a ticketed New Year’s Eve party. A factory whistle-blow signals the close of another year and fall of the oyster ball. Fireworks erupt and party-goers head home with complimentary donuts and coffee.
Kansas City’s Worlds of Fun amusement park transforms into a frosted Winter Wonderland just in time for the holidays. On New Year’s Eve, the park remains open until midnight and features Snoopy’s Rockin’ NYE Countdown, midnight fireworks and live musical performances.
Hosted at multiple locations across downtown Missoula and the University of Montana, First Night Missoula showcases over 80 performers during its noon-to-midnight runtime. Like several other First Nights, the Missoula party is family-friendly and largely alcohol-free.
The New Year’s Eve fireworks are the Holiday Lights Festival’s final signature event of the season. Hosts recommend onlookers stay warm by parking their vehicles in one of four free lots, tuning into local STAR 104.5 and taking in the midnight show.
On Dec. 31, fireworks are launched from the roofs of seven iconic locations on the Las Vegas strip: MGM Grand, Aria-City Center, Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, Treasure Island, The Venetian and Stratosphere Casino. Any spot along the strip is an ideal fireworks viewing location.
Enjoy New Year’s on the boardwalk at Hampton Beach. Head over for dinner then cozy up with friends and family for the free midnight fireworks display. The dry winter air allows the bright fireworks an additional crispness.
More yearly beginnings on beautiful boardwalks. Buy an all-inclusive button and enjoy not just the midnight fireworks, but anything from ventriloquists and quiz shows to choirs, karaoke, storytellers and mentalists.
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Facing tough neighborly competition from the Chile Drop in Las Cruces, this family-friendly party on the plaza raises a Zia, an ancient Native symbol of a red circle bringing together four rays pointing in four directions. Local bands kick off the night and fireworks close it out.
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In a city internationally known as the New Year’s Eve capital, no party is bigger or brighter than the Times Square Ball Drop. Seven iterations of the timeless ball have dropped since 1907. The celebration has occurred each of the past 110 plus years, with just two exceptions, 1942 and 1943, when all of New York was under a wartime “dimout.” Now over a century since the tradition’s start, a mammoth crowd gathers each year to ring in the New Year Big Apple style.
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Carolina Beach does not drop a traditional crystal ball on New Year’s, instead, a beach ball drops on the boardwalk. Fireworks ring out following the drop. In addition to the countdown show, there is also an Island of Lights raffle.
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Catch a glimpse of “Holiday Lights in Lindenwood Park” just before it closes down for the year. Drive along Roger Maris Drive and enjoy 75 different lighted holiday displays while blasting your favorite holiday tunes. Pay just $7 per car or van and enjoy the bright lights.
Food, ice skating, games and a fireworks display are just some of the New Year’s Eve experiences in Cincinnati. Entrance into the ice rink comes at a small price, otherwise the event is free.
“Open” the new year right in Oklahoma. Scratch one last accomplishment off the year’s resolution list by participating in an afternoon 5K run. Then spend the evening chomping on Oklahoma’s favorite food truck finds and sipping adult beverages out of the New Year’s Cheers tent until the midnight fireworks blare.
Ease into the new year with an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet. For $10, participants get a complimentary glass of bubbly, access to the chocolate buffet and the opportunity to win multiple raffles or a costume contest. All the chocolate — chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate meringue, chocolate ice cream, chocolate truffles and chocolate beer — is served on a first-come, first-served basis until it runs out.
Families can choose to view New Year’s Eve fireworks at either 6 p.m. or 9 p.m. along the Delaware River. Then, on New Year’s Day, file onto Broad Street and Penn Square to watch the Mummers Parade, a century-old tradition featuring drummers, brigades, bands and over 10,000 costumed adults and children.
Columbia’s “Free Party of the Year,” Famously Hot New Year, has welcomed its fair share of famous guests, and Salt-N-Pepa will headline Famously Hot 2020. But before catching the show, shop local street merchants and vendors. Then, as the new year inches nearer, head to the historic South Carolina State House, the backdrop for the midnight firework display.
Party lights and fireworks reflect off the shining ice in Rapid City. The rink turns into a dance party at dusk and the night caps off relatively early at 9 p.m., granting ample time to hurry home, cuddle up in PJs and ring in the new year with loved ones and the hum of your heating system.
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Thousands gather in Music City to usher in the new year with song. A lineup of world-class performers, this year headlined by Keith Urban, play at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Confetti blasts and fireworks blare at midnight, as a music note drops from above the main stage, New Year’s Nashville style.
Fireworks shoot off a full 360 degrees around Dallas’s Reunion Tower. Bright colors spring up from the tower’s base and even higher from its peak, turning the structure into what looks like a 50-story light-up toy.
Jam to local artists and cultural performers at the Block Stage. Keep the kiddos busy with giant Lite-Brites or join in on giant beer pong. Sing along to time’s greatest musical hits in the karaoke lounge or enjoy alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages in the pop-up bar or punch bowl social. Of course, do not forget the midnight fireworks.
Purchase of a $5 button grants New Year’s celebrators access to all-day fun in St. Albans. Reserve tickets for “Paint and Sips,” British-style afternoon tea, snowmen-building contests or a cheese and beer tasting. Listen to a friendly neighborhood Spiderman’s storytelling at a local bookstore or the comedic talents of local stand-up and improv acts at a local pub. Finally, cap off the night with a fireworks display free to the public.
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Tickets to this annual live music and performing arts festival, if purchased anytime in December, cost $30 to $35. But all events after 11:30 p.m. — including fireworks, music and dancing both along the Potomac River and at the George Washington Masonic Temple — are free to the public.
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Gather around the Space Needle in Seattle to catch a glimpse of the free midnight fireworks show. Alternatively, consider watching the grand display from Seattle Center’s free Winterfest concert or one of the select parties held inside the Needle’s observation deck.
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Catch the Metro Blue or Yellow lines from D.C. or a water taxi from the National Harbor to ring in the new year along with Alexandria.
With fire dancing and ice sculptures, magic shows and scavenger hunts, and all sorts of art, Downtown Countdown delivers a phone book of New Year’s Eve opportunities. Trot around on a horse and carriage ride, hang a New Year’s wish on the wish tree or talk resolution workout routines with trained health experts at the Resolution Station. Admission into all outdoor events is free while all-access passes range from $10 to $15 for adults
Skyrockers New Year’s Eve Fireworks plans to celebrate its 90th year of New Year’s fireworks with two shows, one at 6 p.m. and another at midnight. Ice-fishers, skiers and sledders on the Grandad Bluff pause and take in the brilliant lights across the midnight sky over the Mississippi Valley.
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The ball drops and the fireworks erupt at midnight at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza. Family-friendly activities make up most of the day’s free programming, along with pizza and lots of celebrating.
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