The Biggest and Brightest Spots to Spend New Year’s in Every State

Courtesy of J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Alabama: MoonPie Over Mobile (Mobile) from The biggest and brightest spots to spend New Year’s in every state

The Biggest and Brightest Spots to Spend New Year’s in Every State

Don’t drop the ball, watch it drop.
The Biggest and Brightest Spots to Spend New Year’s in Every State

Courtesy of J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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.

Alabama: MoonPie Over Mobile (Mobile)

Alabama: MoonPie Over Mobile (Mobile)

Aleeta P./Yelp

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.

Alaska: Anchorage New Year’s Eve Celebration (Anchorage)

Alaska: Anchorage New Year’s Eve Celebration (Anchorage)

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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.

Arizona: The Great Pinecone Drop (Flagstaff)

Arizona: The Great Pinecone Drop (Flagstaff)

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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.

Arkansas: New Year’s Eve Ball Drop (Fort Smith)

Arkansas: New Year’s Eve Ball Drop (Fort Smith)

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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.

California: Grand Park + The Music Center’s N.Y.E.L.A. (Los Angeles)

California: Grand Park + The Music Center’s N.Y.E.L.A. (Los Angeles)

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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.

Colorado: New Year’s Eve Fireworks (Denver)

Colorado: New Year’s Eve Fireworks (Denver)

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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.

Connecticut: First Night Hartford (Hartford)

Connecticut: First Night Hartford (Hartford)

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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.

Delaware: Riverfront Wilmington (Wilmington)

Delaware: Riverfront Wilmington (Wilmington)

Paul Brady Photography

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.

Florida: Big Orange at Bayfront Park (Miami)

Florida: Big Orange at Bayfront Park (Miami)

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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.

Georgia: The Possum Drop (Tallapoosa, Georgia)

Georgia: The Possum Drop (Tallapoosa, Georgia)

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.

Hawaii: Waikiki Beach (Honolulu)

Hawaii: Waikiki Beach (Honolulu)

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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.

Idaho: Potato Drop (Boise)

Idaho: Potato Drop (Boise)

Sandi N./Yelp

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.

Illinois: New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Navy Pier (Chicago)

Illinois: New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Navy Pier (Chicago)

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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: Fort Wayne New Year’s Eve Ball Drop (Fort Wayne)

Indiana: Fort Wayne New Year’s Eve Ball Drop (Fort Wayne)

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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.

Iowa: New Year’s Eve Pops: Cirque at the Symphony (Des Moines)

Iowa: New Year’s Eve Pops: Cirque at the Symphony (Des Moines)

Des Moines Symphony/Yelp

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.

Kansas: Botanica (Wichita)

Kansas: Botanica (Wichita)

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Kansas’s largest botanical holiday light display houses 8,000 luminaries, 300 lit trees and 18 themed lit gardens. Altogether, the Botanica Gardens are decorated with over 2 million lights throughout December.

Kentucky: Fourth Street Live! (Louisville)

Kentucky: Fourth Street Live! (Louisville)

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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.

Louisiana: New Year’s Eve, Jackson Square (New Orleans)

Louisiana: New Year’s Eve, Jackson Square (New Orleans)

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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.

Maine: New Year’s By The Bay (Belfast)

Maine: New Year’s By The Bay (Belfast)

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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.

Maryland: New Year’s Eve Spectacular (Baltimore)

Maryland: New Year’s Eve Spectacular (Baltimore)

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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.

Massachusetts: First Night Boston (Boston)

Massachusetts: First Night Boston (Boston)

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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.

Michigan: The Drop (Detroit)

Michigan: The Drop (Detroit)

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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.

Minnesota: Countdown Minneapolis (Minneapolis)

Minnesota: Countdown Minneapolis (Minneapolis)

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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.

Mississippi: Oyster Ball Drop (Biloxi)

Mississippi: Oyster Ball Drop (Biloxi)

Courtesy of Edmond Boudreaux for Coastal Mississippi

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.

Missouri: Worlds of Fun New Year’s Eve at Winterfest (Kansas City)

Missouri: Worlds of Fun New Year’s Eve at Winterfest (Kansas City)

Jennifer N./Yelp

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.

Montana: First Night Missoula (Missoula)

Montana: First Night Missoula (Missoula)

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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.

Nebraska: Holiday Lights Festival (Omaha)

Nebraska: Holiday Lights Festival (Omaha)

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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.

Nevada: America’s Party Las Vegas New Year’s Eve (Las Vegas)

Nevada: America’s Party Las Vegas New Year’s Eve (Las Vegas)

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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.

New Hampshire: Hampton Beach Fireworks (Hampton Beach)

New Hampshire: Hampton Beach Fireworks (Hampton Beach)

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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.

New Jersey: First Night Ocean City (Ocean City)

New Jersey: First Night Ocean City (Ocean City)

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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.

New Mexico: New Year’s Eve on the Plaza (Santa Fe)

New Mexico: New Year’s Eve on the Plaza (Santa Fe)

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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.

New York: Times Square (New York City)

New York: Times Square (New York City)

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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.

North Carolina: Island of Lights New Year’s Eve Celebration (Carolina Beach)

North Carolina: Island of Lights New Year’s Eve Celebration (Carolina Beach)

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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.

North Dakota: Holiday Lights (Fargo)

North Dakota: Holiday Lights (Fargo)

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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.

Ohio: New Year’s Eve Blast (Cincinnati)

Ohio: New Year’s Eve Blast (Cincinnati)

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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.

Oklahoma: Opening Night (Oklahoma City)

Oklahoma: Opening Night (Oklahoma City)

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“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.

Oregon: Pix Patisserie New Year’s Eve Extravaganza (Portland)

Oregon: Pix Patisserie New Year’s Eve Extravaganza (Portland)

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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.

Pennsylvania: Rivers Casino’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront (Philadelphia)

Pennsylvania: Rivers Casino’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront (Philadelphia)

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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.

Rhode Island: One Providence (Providence)

Rhode Island: One Providence (Providence)

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Bask in the fireworks glow along One Financial Way in Providence, the vastly underrated, biggest city in the smallest state.

South Carolina: Famously Hot New Year (Columbia)

South Carolina: Famously Hot New Year (Columbia)

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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.

South Dakota: Main Street Square (Rapid City

South Dakota: Main Street Square (Rapid City

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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.

Tennessee: Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight (Nashville)

Tennessee: Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight (Nashville)

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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.

Texas: Over The Top New Year’s Eve (Dallas)

Texas: Over The Top New Year’s Eve (Dallas)

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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.

Utah: Last Hurrah (Salt Lake City)

Utah: Last Hurrah (Salt Lake City)

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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.

Vermont: Last Night St. Albans (St. Albans)

Vermont: Last Night St. Albans (St. Albans)

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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.

Virginia: First Night Alexandria (Alexandria)

Virginia: First Night Alexandria (Alexandria)

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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.

Washington: New Year’s Eve Fireworks At The Space Needle (Seattle)

Washington: New Year’s Eve Fireworks At The Space Needle (Seattle)

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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.

Washington, DC: First Night Alexandria (Alexandria)

Washington, DC: First Night Alexandria (Alexandria)

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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.

West Virginia: Downtown Countdown (Princeton)

West Virginia: Downtown Countdown (Princeton)

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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

Wisconsin: Skyrockers New Year’s Eve Fireworks at the Bluff (La Crosse)

Wisconsin: Skyrockers New Year’s Eve Fireworks at the Bluff (La Crosse)

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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.

Wyoming: New Year’s Eve Ball Drop (Cheyenne)

Wyoming: New Year’s Eve Ball Drop (Cheyenne)

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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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