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 2019 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.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art celebrates the new year with New 365. Guests can wander the museum galleries, enjoy live music, or dance to a silent DJ (yes, that's a thing), plus other events and a balloon drop at midnight. Price: $75 ($65 for members).
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
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 well before bedtime, with hourly countdowns complete with "firework pops" (bubble wrap popping) plus confetti. Price: $14-$16.
Location, location, location! Head to the famed Mystic Aquarium for the Black and White Ball: NYE 2019. 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.
The Delaware Children's Museum loves New Year's Eve so much that they ring it in twice during their annual Rockin' Noon party. The first countdown begins at noon, the second at 2 p.m. In between, there will be music and activities. Price: $8.75.
In Miami, they do it big, so head to Bayfront Park on Biscayne Bay for the annual 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 2019 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. Price: Tickets are $25 to $125.
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" at the New Year's Eve 2019 Idaho Potato Drop, featuring live music, extreme sports, food, drink, dance and more. The free community event supports local charities. Price: VIP tickets are $100.
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: $64 to $94.
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, IOWA
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 "From West Side Story to Wicked" featuring the Tony-Award-nominated Callaway sisters. 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 2019. My Old Kentucky Dinner Train's New Year's event leaves the Bardstown station at 4:30 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, LOUISIANA
New Orleans welcomes 2019 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."
The Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop takes place at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art in Eastport. Llocal restaurants, shops, galleries and cultural organizations will stay open late. 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, 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 from 4 to 6 p.m. 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, MICHIGAN
They'll drop just about anything for the new year. 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, raising money and collecting nonperishable foods from partygoers.
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 $110, you'll get dinner, a show ("Holiday Inn," "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, hors d'oeuvres, full bar, party favors, beignets to go, and fireworks. Price: $100 per couple ($50 for singles)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
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. Each shell is choreographed to open on cue to a musical score developed specifically for this event. Tune your radio to 104.5 FM for the full experience.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
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.
PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE
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, NEW JERSEY
In the family-friendly shore town of Ocean City, First Night entertainment is scattered across town, with events in local schools, libraries, and community centers. Highlights include ice skating, inflatable displays, swimming, and plenty of live music. Price: $20.
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
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 tin Zia symbol raised at midnight.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
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, NORTH CAROLINA
Tarheels in search of a good whodunit might want to check out "Murder at the Masquerade 6: 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: $75-$115.
MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA
Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics are the order of the day at Magic City Discovery Center in Minot. They offer a Noon Year's Eve Party for families that features interactive exhibits, a photo booth, dancing and a 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 2019 by participating in the 12th annual Race Into the New Year 5K at River West Festival Park in Tulsa. This year's event features music, party hats, noisemakers, champagne and fireworks. A 1-mile fun run is held at 11 p.m. Price: $10-$30.
Your school parties were never as cool at the party that McMenamin's has in store at the Kennedy School theater, pub, and hotel. Live music will be on tap from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.. Enjoy top-40 dance music by Big Bad Beat in the theater or blues singer Sonny Hess in the gym. Hotel packages also available. Price: $25.
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.
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
Head downtown to ring in 2019 with a ball drop at Waterplace Park. This is the first year for what city leaders hope will become a new New Year's tradition. Fun begins at 7 p.m. There will also be a free laser light show and fireworks.
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA
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.
DEADWOOD, SOUTH DAKOTA
Deadwood will be anything but quiet on Dec. 31. Businesses on Main Street will be open late, and there will be a midnight ball drop in front of the historic Franklin Hotel.
Keith Urban, Peter Frampton, Judah and the Lion, Caitlyn Smith, Devon Gilfillian, and the Fisk Jubilee Singers are headlining 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 2019 will feature art, food trucks, and fireworks, plus seven hours of music featuring Superfonicos, Los Coast, and others. The alcohol-free party runs from 3 to 10 p.m. at Auditorium Shores; admission is free.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Kids will no doubt delight in Salt Lake City's Noon Year's Eve 2019 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 2019 arrives a bit early. Included with admission.
ST. JOHNSBURY, VERMONT
Celebrate all over St. Johnsbury during First Night North. There will be live music at several venues, as well as a juried art show, a family pancake dinner, and fireworks at the St. Johnsbury School on Western Avenue. Events begin at 4 p.m.; fireworks are at 8 p.m.
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.
Natural history buffs and art lovers alike will be ringing in the new year at the University of Washington's Burke Museum, which is hosting Take Flight: Last Night at the Museum. There will be DJs, spoken word poetry, plus special art installations, live music, food, and drink, and a midnight toast. 21 and over. Price: $60.
CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA
Head to Charleston for Good Night, its free, family-friendly New Year's Eve celebration now in its 24th year of offering music and dance from hundreds of volunteer performers.
Families can get a jump on the New Year's Eve fun at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center downtown. The venue is hosting Madison Family Eve from 4 to 7 p.m., with a balloon drop, magicians, jugglers, music, and more. Price: Adults $8, kids $7.
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.