Updated December 19, 2018
So, the holiday rush has not only begun but is flashing by like Santa and his reindeer sleigh and you haven’t made plans for New Year’s Eve yet (or “amateur night,” as friends of ours title it). What to do? How can you still make it special? Can you even make reservations this late? Do you really want to spend exorbitant amounts of money for one night? Oh, the stress of the season!
The good news is, it’s never too late to have a good time. And remember what matters, as the commercials all broadcast, is “it’s not where you celebrate, it’s who you celebrate with” that’s important.
As examples, in the past, my husband and I spent an extravagant evening in New York’s Times Square with millions of our closest (?) new friends, freezing and having Champagne poured over our heads. Since we’re sports fans, some of our most memorable New Year’s celebrations have been at college football bowl games—Rose Bowl, Outback Bowl, and Orange Bowl. (Although, it’s worthy of note that due to weather on the return from one of these wonderful warm weather destinations we spent a lovely extra night stuck in Philly without luggage.) We’ve also spent quiet evenings making a special dinner—complete with Champagne toasts—watching the ball drop on television with friends or enjoying a one-night stay at a local hotel with an included holiday party and breakfast. It didn’t matter as long as we were safe and together.
As you plan your celebration, first, think of numbers. Do you want to spend an intimate evening with your one and only? Or, do you want to share your joys with friends and/or family? If you’re in a new relationship, you may want to “wow” that special person (or at least continue the relationship), however, if you’re joining others, you may be content with something more low key. Obviously, the second option is the easier of the two, requiring less planning and more spontaneity.
Here are my five tips to help you have the best New Year’s Eve yet.
1. Pair a dinner out with your Champagne.
It seems a bit heartless if you’re thinking of a romantic evening; however, practicality should be considered. Some more exclusive restaurants offer three- or five-course pre-fixe dinner options with two seatings, which may save time in terms of planning, but will be more expensive. Of course, reservations may be difficult unless you’re willing to join the “early bird” crowd or eat just prior to midnight. In addition, service on New Year’s Eve is usually spotty at best as servers (through no fault of their own) anxiously rush to please all of the patrons at the same time, so your experience may not be the stellar one you had hoped. Rather, if you have a favorite local restaurant, you may be better served by making reservations there: They’ll know you, you may know your favorite server, you’re familiar with the menu, and you know the price.
2. Consider whether you want to be indoors or outside.
- Indoor: Popular and simple indoor activities include going to the movies— it’s amazing how many people attend movies around midnight on December 31. Tickets can be ordered online prior or purchased that evening, especially if you’re not particular about which show you see. If you want to spend a bit more, choose one of the new Lux theater offerings with premium seating, drinks at your seat, etc. Local performing arts centers usually have concerts or shows that evening and often aren’t sold out. Again, your seat preference will be determined by your budget. As always, it’s best to order these in advance, but if you’re in an urban area, you may have more options than you think. If you simply want a drink and some atmosphere, most bars/nightclubs have entertainment — with or without a cover charge depending on the venue — and while some require reservations, others do not. For the would-be athletes, there’s always bowling, billiards, or some indoor sport. This is especially good for groups. In any of these cases, you’ll find other folks of a similar mind with whom to ring in the New Year at midnight. (As a side note, just be sure if you celebrate a bit too much, to call or text a ride service. You may not remember the entire night, but you’ll want to wake up in a bed, not on a cot!)
- Outdoors: For the L.L. Bean–type, many cities have “first night” family-friendly activities like ice carving, performances, snow sculptures, tree lightings, and fireworks. Purchasing one button for a nominal fee will often provide access to a wide variety of holiday happenings. Some ski areas have night skiing, snowboarding, sledding, tubing, and their own special celebrations in the lodge. Outdoor skating rinks, complete with hot cocoa, of course, are always fun for families, friends and couples alike. Naturally, if you’re in a warm-weather destination, simply walking the beach and watching the sunset (or rise!) can be a romantic outside opportunity.
3. Host a party.
The standard house party has always been popular and often borders on a ritual for some individuals. As is true of any party, even more so on New Year’s Eve, the keyword is festive! Themed food, decorations, and beverages can all make or break a party. If you’re hosting your friends or family, you can either prepare all the food or ask everyone to bring a dish to share. Perhaps you want to limit your choice to something simple like “takeout Chinese” or homemade Italian (think lots of carbs and sauce)! Whatever the case, be sure your TV and/or computer is tuned into the holiday celebrations around the world, so you can all enjoy a champagne toast at midnight.
4. Have a silent night at home—and then celebrate New Year’s Day with brunch.
If none of these options seems appealing, consider hibernating on New Year’s Eve, either alone, with your best friend, pet, or “special someone.” Instead, celebrating with an extravagant brunch on New Year’s Day can be less expensive and easier to get reservations. In this way, you can choose a premier destination — perhaps a resort, spa, casino property, or a beautifully decorated restaurant known for their view, service, and food. It’s a lovely way to celebrate a new beginning (in this case of 2019), rather than an inauspicious ending (2018).
Whatever you choose, enjoy the experience! And, if you were a procrastinator this year, make sure one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2019 is to “book early.” (Let’s be honest, we break most of these anyway, right?)