Forget watching the ball drop while rubbing elbows — and hands together — in the Big Apple. There’s plenty of other family-friendly fun to be had to ring in 2019, and much of it is free.
There’s plenty of fun before midnight in Chicago and its environs, including the New Year’s Eve party at Rosedale, where an early countdown Dec. 28 includes moon-bounces, arts and crafts, snacks and an 8 p.m. balloon drop. Beat the evening chill thanks to Chicago Park District, with a morning bash with music and crafts that ends before noon (starting at 10:30 a.m.). In the suburbs, Happy Noon Year in Wheeling features a sparkling grape juice toast at noon, with party hats and noisemakers. Itty Bitty New Year in Skokie offers fun for ages 1–15, including games, a DJ and prizes.
Nothing’s better for families than free, and all the entertainment is complimentary for a NYE hoe-down in Austin. Everything’s bigger in Texas, including a four-stage extravaganza with concerts starting at 3 p.m. There’s also a kids activity area and age-appropriate food. Conclude with a bang with fireworks — only a 30 minutes long — are at 10 p.m.
It’s worth braving the cold in Boston for six hours of daytime, family-friendly activities starting at noon. Follow a trail of ice sculptures throughout prominent locations in the city, and make sure to conclude at the Frog Pond in Boston Common for a free figure skating show at 6 p.m. Two fireworks displays — the earlier at 7, the later at midnight — punctuate a full day’s worth of music and arts performances at both indoor and outdoor venues throughout the easily walkable city.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Crescent City shines bright with Zoo Year’s Eve. The daytime event includes a non-alcoholic beverage for toasting, party hats, games, Zydeco music and a prince and princess meet-and-greet at the Audubon Zoo. At Louisiana Children’s Museum, activities to make noisemakers and party hats precede a countdown to noon, that ends in a magnificent confetti toss — all with a brass band.
Do the whole patriotic thing at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite. Parents can revel at an adults-only party (for ages 13-plus, that is), while the youngsters will be entertained at two age-appropriate bashes. Superhero dress-up is encouraged for ages 4–7 for their shindigs, and ages 8–12 should come ready to walk the red carpet at a Hollywood-themed party.
Two beachball drops include an earlier countdown at 8 p.m. for those who can’t make it to midnight — with 10,000 inflatable ones that descend when the countdown is done. The day’s celebrations start at 5:30 p.m., with free music and a large street festival with shopping, food vendors and games for kids. There’s no need to bundle up in Florida, enough reason besides the New Year to celebrate.