For the best places to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the USA, you probably think of the likes of New York City and Las Vegas.
They host some of the biggest and most widely televised New Year’s Eve events in the world. Beyond those glitzy cities, however, the USA is home to some great New Year’s Eve destinations, including theme parks, islands and alpine lakes.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is one of the best party destinations year-round. Friendly locals, warm weather, bars that stay open late 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 celebration 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.
Fireworks over the Mississippi River in New Orleans
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 bayfront fireworks show. Festivities by boat with Hornblower include brunch, dinner and fireworks cruises. Elsewhere, there are a number of New Year’s Eve balls, such as 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 the high ground, such as Twin Peaks (one of the highest points in San Francisco), or the Embarcadero waterfront, to watch the fireworks go off at midnight.
Fireworks exploding over the San Francisco waterfront
Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
That’s right, Walt Disney World near Orlando knows how to throw a New Year’s Eve Party, and it’s for children and adults alike! Toast to a sparkling new year with decadent dining, festive libations, dazzling dance parties and mesmerizing fireworks. Each December 31, Walt Disney World offers unique packages at various Disney hotels. One of the most popular options is dining while watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Other events include ringing in the new year with music, tasty treats, high spirits and a dash of Disney magic at Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.
Watching the fireworks show at Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World
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 with 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 host New Year’s Eve parties. Another popular downtown event is Prohibition at the historic Union Station, a Roaring 1920s-themed event with burlesque dancers, DJs, live jazz music and an open bar. One of the most unique events takes place in Long Beach, about 40 kilometers south of downtown, aboard the Queen Mary, featuring a number of unique bars, live music, entertainers and fireworks to cap it all off.
Fireworks projecting off a building at Grand Park in Los Angeles
The peach drop is to Atlanta what the Times Square ball drop is to New York City, just on a smaller level. The 362-kilogram peach drops above Underground Atlanta, a downtown shopping and entertainment district, at midnight. The hours leading up to midnight feature local food and drinks, entertainers, DJs and live shows by big-name musicians. Best of all, admission is free. On a smaller scale, there are other great events in Atlanta, like neighborhood block parties and festivities at clubs and venues.
Honolulu is the best of both worlds as you get the urban side of Oahu in Waikiki and the tropical side on the North Shore. One of the most unique things that you can’t do at most other places is attend a traditional luau, such as Waikiki Starlight Luau at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. A couple of kilometers 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, DJs and live music 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 a fireworks cruise.
The Waikiki Beach shoreline leading to Diamond Head
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 will feel like spring at the San Antonio River Walk, the central place to be for the celebration. Several restaurants and bars along 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 features several stages of music, rides and food leading up to the grand finale of fireworks.
Moon shining over the San Antonio skyline
Nashville hosts the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, Music City Midnight, which is complimentary and appropriately features great musicians; after all, this is Music City. Several major bands take to the stage before Nashville’s signature "Music Note Drop,” which triggers confetti cannons and a fireworks display. Elsewhere, many of Nashville’s best bars and venues, including the famous Ryman Auditorium, throw parties and events. For something smaller, M Street, which owns several beloved Nashville restaurants and bars, sells one New Year’s Eve ticket to four parties.
Crowds gathering for the fireworks at midnight in Nashville
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 in New York City. Also on the south side, the three-day SnowGlobe Music Festival coincides with New Year's Eve and features some of today's top artists. 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. If you want an urban New Year’s Eve coupled with a mountain town, Reno, Nevada, (about 50 kilometers away) hosts a big fireworks show at the Reno Arch. Many of Reno’s casino resorts throw their own parties include the Grand Sierra Resort's LEX Nightclub, Peppermill and Silver Legacy.
Heavenly Holidays display in Lake Tahoe