THE COUNTDOWNS BEGIN
What people can -- and will pay -- for New Year's Eve parties can be staggering. But keep in mind there's still plenty of fun to be had while keeping an eye on the budget. You can have quite a night out, sometimes even for free, in every state across the country. Fireworks displays are one good example of cheap fun. Here's a sampling of other cost-conscious ways to ring in 2018 from coast to coast. (Prices noted for ticketed events).
Never heard of MoonPie over Mobile? We hadn't either, but it sounds like a fun -- and quirky -- event that includes not only music (George Clinton!), dancing, and a parade but also the cutting of the world's largest MoonPie. It all leads up to the midnight dropping of a 600-pound electric MoonPie, fireworks, and a laser light show.
Girdwood is the place to find the Torchlight Parade at Alyeska Resort, an event that finds local skiers and snowboarders descending the mountain -- torches in hand -- to create a parade of light. Things get underway at 9 p.m., capped by fireworks.
If black-tie isn't your thing, then the 2018 Flannel Ball in the Roosevelt Row Art District of downtown Phoenix just might be a fit. The New Year's Eve Party and Art Show by Lawn Gnome Publishing features beer, art, music, food, games -- and a midnight piñata drop. Price: From $15.
Last Night Fayetteville will once again bring a music and arts festival to downtown Fayetteville Square. Expect multiple stages of entertainment, along with the "world famous Hog Drop" and fireworks at midnight. Still not enough? Well, there's also an official after party. Price: $5 to $95 (VIP).
LOS ANGELES, CA
There's a huge free New Year's Eve gathering at Grand Park and The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles. N.Y.E.L.A. includes live music, food, photo booths and a countdown on City Hall. This family-friendly event is all about unity, so no booze, bullying, or other shenanigans.
For a kid-friendly take on New Year's Eve, hit the Mile High City during the daytime to participate in Noon Year's Eve at the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus. Expect a "Times Square" vibe – long before bedtime, with hourly countdowns complete with "firework pops" (bubble wrap popping) plus confetti. Price: $13-$15.
Location, location, location! Head to the famed Mystic Aquarium for the Black and White Ball: NYE 2018. The 21-and-over event, complete with live entertainment, asks that guests dress in black and white in honor of the evening's honored guests -- a pair of endangered African penguins. Price: $125, a portion supporting the aquarium's Mission Programs.
DEWEY BEACH, DE
It's a two-part party in Dewey Beach. Revelers are invited to gather along New Orleans Street for music, party favors, and a midnight ball drop -- and then come back at noon Jan. 1 for the Dewey Dunk ($25), an annual plunge into the chilly Atlantic waters -- the shock lessened by a bonfire and party.
In Miami, they do it big -- so head to Bayfront Park on Biscayne Bay for the "Big Orange Drop." As the evening progresses, a 35-foot-neon orange -- wearing sunglasses -- "climbs" the side of the InterContinental Hotel across from the park -- only to drop in a South Florida welcome to the new year, an event complete with live music.
Raise a stein to 2018 as Wild Leap Brew Co. presents Brew Year's Eve in LaGrange. Festivities include a five-hour open brew bar, special "one-night-only" brews, a DJ spinning Top 40/pop/dance music, party favors and yes, a midnight keg drop. Prices vary, less than $50.
If you're in Honolulu, you might as well go retro and ring in the New Year at Rock-a-Hula's "Rockin' Eve with Elvis." The enterprise bills itself as "the show born in Paradise, with the energy of a volcano and the star-power of a Vegas review." Price: Various packages, $103-$185 for adults, and $61-$111 for children.
You knew it had to involve potatoes, right? Head to Boise and become a "spec-tater" -- their word -- for the New Year's Eve 2018 Idaho Potato Drop, featuring live music, extreme sports, food, drink, dance and more. The free community event supports local charities. Price: VIP tickets are $75 in advance.
Go blue for New Year's Eve in Chicago, catching Blue Man Group's New Year's Eve Celebration at Briar Street Theatre. The 10 p.m. show includes a special post-show Blue Man Group rendition of "Auld Lang Syne," a countdown to midnight with complimentary party hats, noisemakers and a New Year's toast. Price: $59 to $99.
Downtown Indy Inc.'s New Year's Eve Celebration will fill Georgia Street with entertainment, food, drink, and a midnight "extravaganza." The fourth annual free event's highlight promises to start at 11:59 p.m. when "an IndyCar hoisted high above the crowd will once again descend to a collective countdown amidst great fanfare and fireworks at midnight."
DES MOINES, IA
If you're in Des Moines on New Year's Eve, the Des Moines Symphony's annual New Year's Eve Pops concert at the Civic Center is a beloved tradition. This year, expect to travel back in time for "The Classic Hits of Motown" featuring the award-winning vocal group Spectrum. Price: $35-$90.
If you're not a midnight kinda person, perhaps a trip to Botanica will fit nicely into your holiday plans. The community garden will wrap up the year with a New Year's Celebration and the last night of its Illuminations. Plus fireworks at 8 p.m. Price: $5-$7.
Ride the rails into 2018. My Old Kentucky Dinner Train's New Year's event leaves the Bardstown station at 5 p.m. and features a 2½ hour train ride, four-course gourmet meal, souvenir champagne flute, and bottle of champagne (per couple). Price: $109.95 for adults, $69.95 for children.
NEW ORLEANS, LA
You gotta love the creativity when New Orleans welcomes 2018 -- the year of its tricentennial -- with a Fleur-de-lis Drop in Jackson Square, centerpiece of a free French Quarter event that includes live music and fireworks -- and participation in "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" with Ryan Seacrest.
The name pretty much says it all -- the Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop. Everyone gets into the act at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art in Eastport -- restaurants, shops, galleries and cultural organizations. The Maple Leaf Drop is at 12 midnight (Atlantic Time), with the Great Sardine Drop at 12 midnight (Eastern Time).
Sure, the big cities have fireworks and all that – but Hagerstown has Krumpe's Donut Drop from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Not only will Krumpe's drop a giant donut -- but it will also give away thousands (regular size, we imagine) to the revelers on hand. The downtown event will also feature free popcorn, coffee, and cocoa.
Salem welcomes the new year a bit early -- from 4 p.m. to the countdown at 6 -- at Old Town Hall and Derby Square with the LAUNCH!, an annual family-friendly party. Free, though a $5 suggested donation helps support Salem Main Streets' "Holiday Happenings" initiatives.
TRAVERSE CITY, MI
They'll drop just about anything ... in Traverse City, it's an illuminated giant cherry that highlights a street party filled with music and all kinds of live entertainment, from 9 p.m. It's officially called the CherryT Ball Drop, a nod to its charitable angle -- raising money and collecting nonperishable foods from partygoers. Nice!
Feel like going old-school, you know, dinner and a show? Well, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres offers what it calls "the best New Year's Eve bash in town." For $99, you'll get dinner, a show ("Sister Act," "An Andy & Bing Christmas" or "Stevie Ray's Comedy Cabaret") plus an after party.
It's a New Year's Eve Party and Oyster Ball Drop at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi. Admission includes live entertainment by Blackwater Brass, "heavy" hors d'oeuvres, full bar, party favors, beignets to go … and fireworks. Price: $90 per couple ($50 for singles)
KANSAS CITY, MO
The youngest of revelers will likely delight in Zoo Year's Eve at the Kansas City Zoo, an annual event held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that will feature penguins, polar bears, and many more animals enjoying festive treats, plus an interactive DJ, a craft activity, and photo booth. Included with zoo admission.
Missoula is among the many cities nationwide that offer a First Night celebration. First Night Missoula will feature some 80 performing, visual, and literary artists who will showcase their talents in some 30 venues, from noon to midnight. Price: $15 in advance, $18 day of event.
Omaha closes its Holiday Lights Festival with one of the largest New Year's Eve fireworks displays in the region, starting at a family-friendly 7 p.m. at the Gene Leahy Mall. Produced by J&M Displays, each shell is choreographed to open on cue to a musical score developed specifically for this event. Tune in to STAR 104.5 for the full experience.
LAS VEGAS, NV
When it comes to New Year's Eve in Las Vegas, it's pretty much an "all-in" event. The entire Strip is shut down to traffic with hundreds of thousands of revelers taking part in what's basically a giant block party culminating with the casinos launching a choreographed, mega-fireworks display at midnight.
First Night Portsmouth seems just that bit more unique than other First Night celebrations. Perhaps it's the diverse offerings that include ice sculptures, stargazing, storytelling and puppets along with the routine street dancing and fireworks. Price: From $15, with advance packages. ($3 for kids).
OCEAN CITY, NJ
In the family-friendly shore town that is Ocean City, it's no surprise that First Night entertainment includes "inflatables" at the Civic Center from 4 p.m. Oh, there's plenty more, from Japanese drummers to skateboarding to (indoor) swimming. Price: $15.
SANTA FE, NM
In Santa Fe, revelers are welcome to join "The City Different" for its second annual New Year's Eve on the Santa Fe Plaza. As cozy piñon bonfires scent the air with a comforting New Mexican fragrance, festivities will get underway at 9 p.m. and include music, slam poetry and hot chocolate and biscochitos. Don't forget to write your hopes and dreams on the memorial banner and watch a new tin Zia symbol raised at midnight.
NEW YORK, NY
Ah, Times Square. What else is there to say? It's an annual free New York City tradition that's known around the world. It's frantic, mobbed and a once-in-a-lifetime event featuring music and more. Arrive early; stay til the last of the confetti has fluttered to the ground. You will tell your children.
CHAPEL HILL, NC
Did the "Murder on the Orient Express" movie get your mystery juices flowing? If so, you might want to check out "Murder at the Masquerade 5: A New Year's Eve Murder Mystery Party" at Aloft Chapel Hill. And don't forget, you're not only a guest but also part of the show. Price: $60-$95.
STEAM -- an initiative championing science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics -- is in the spotlight as the Magic City Discovery Center in Minot offers a Noon Year's Eve Party for families that features a photo booth, dancing and an "epic" balloon drop. Price: $5.
Take in the holiday from the high seas ... or at least the waters of Cleveland. Set sail on the Nautica Queen for an evening of dining and sightseeing with the New Year's Eve Cruise featuring unlimited buffet meal, five hours on board, hors d'oeuvres, disc jockey, party favors and decorations and a bottle of champagne for each couple. Price: $84.
Sprint your way into 2018 by participating in the 11th annual Race Into the New Year 5K at River West Festival Park in Tulsa. This year's event -- complete with music, party hats, noisemakers, champagne and fireworks -- teams up with the Chinese Lantern Light Festival for added excitement. A 1-mile fun run is held at 11. Price: $15-$35.
If you've always wanted to go to a masquerade ball, your time has come. Venue 252 in Eugene is holding a New Year's Eve Party Masquerade-Style. Costumes -- or just a mask -- are welcome, with the evening set to include live entertainment, appetizers and cocktails along with stilt-walkers, acrobats and silk aerialists from Portland's AWOL Dance Collective. Price: $65-$85.
Twice is nice in Philadelphia as SugarHouse Casino offers two fireworks shows on the Delaware River Waterfront. Be among the throngs filling Penn's Landing for free shows at 6 p.m. and again at midnight.
If you simply can't let Christmas end, then Newport's "Christmas on Historic Hill: A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols" at Trinity Church just might be your way to wrap up the year. The 4 p.m. New Year's Eve tradition invites you to join the choir of Trinity and the Newport Community Youth Choir in a festive celebration. A free-will offering will be accepted to support the Martin Luther King Center.
Singer Elle King is this year's featured attraction of the Famously Hot New Year celebration in Columbia, billed as the state's largest New Year's Eve event. The free event also features a full night of music, a true party atmosphere, and the expected fireworks.
If you're feeling charitable this season -- and in the Aberdeen area -- perhaps you'll buy a ticket to the Make-A-Wish New Year's Eve Benefit and Dance, which kicks off at 8 p.m. at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel. All proceeds from the event benefit Make-A-Wish South Dakota. Price: $20 for adults, $10 for children.
Keith Urban, Maren Morris, Cheap Trick, Carly Pearce, Jonny P and the Fisk Jubilee Singers are playing the Jack Daniel's Music City Midnight: New Year's Eve in Nashville. The free event in Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park features vendors, the mega-show and a 15-foot-tall red music note dropping 145 feet at midnight. Oh, and fireworks.
Austin is known for its music, so it's no surprise that Austin's New Year 2018 will feature not only art, food trucks, and fireworks but also some seven hours of music featuring Brownout, Ian Moore Band, and many others. The free, family-friendly -- and alcohol-free -- party runs from 3 to 10 p.m. at Auditorium Shores.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT
Kids will no doubt delight in Salt Lake City's Noon Year's Eve 2018 at The Natural History Museum of Utah, Rio Tinto Center. The family event will feature hands-on activities, music, and a countdown to an explosion of confetti as 2018 "arrives" a bit early. Included with admission.
First Night Burlington 2018, the 35th annual New Year's Eve Festival of the Arts, is a multi-site, multi-hour party of music, dance, magic and more. Highlights include Circus Smirkus, a parade, (concluding with family fireworks at 6:45 p.m.) and a traditional fireworks celebration at midnight. Price: $5-$18.
Family-friendly events are on the rise, or so it seems. In Richmond, take the whole gang to the New Year's Eve Family Frolic at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for live music, a parade and more. And those on hand can stay on for the Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights from 5 to 10 p.m. Price: $8 to $13.
Renaissance men -- and women -- will likely delight in this year's incarnation of First Night Spokane, which will carry a "Be a Hero" Renaissance theme. Participants are encouraged to "join forces with the 1st Knights of Spokane" on their quest to keep the arts alive. Costumes are welcome for the full slate of activities, with family and adult zones. Price: $15.
Head to Charleston for Good Night, its free, family-friendly New Year's Eve celebration now in its 23rd year of offering music and dance from hundreds of volunteer performers.
For a venue most artistic, head to the Milwaukee Art Museum's NYE Celebration, where you can ring in the new year with a specially crafted holiday dinner along with live entertainment. Price: From $175.
Fancy a spin on the ice? Cheyenne's NYE Ball Drop features events throughout the day Dec. 31. Expect children's activities, a family-friendly ball drop at 6 p.m. and an all-ages celebration from to midnight -- including ice skating on the Plaza. All leads up to the traditional ball drop to cap things off.