December 30 2008 by Julie Drossos
Earlier this month the daily question was, "have you finished your Christmas shopping?" I've always found this question to be quite annoying but it seems to be the standard early-December conversation starter or "small talk" standby. As Christmas passes and we approach year-end, another equally (if not more) annoying question seems to come up - "what are you guys doing for new years?"
Personally, New Year's Eve has never been a huge deal to me. I've happily spent many a low-key New Year's Eve at home with my husband, a bottle of champagne and Dick Clark (or is it Ryan Seacrest now?!). Despite my non-excitement over New Year's Eve, I do have a lot of friends who are HUGE New Year's people. These people live for this momentous occasion. They start researching potential plans months in advance and approach December 31 with high hopes of an unforgettable, over-the-top night of celebration. And so, after a quick survey of these friends - these full-on New Year's Eve buffs - I can recommend four New Year's Eve experiences that sound like a guaranteed good time.
Orlando, Florida - Universal Studio's City Walk
I last visited Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida at the young age of 8... and boy, have things changed since then. Now "Universal Resort", this shrine of amusement and action movies has exploded into much more than a theme park. Universal City Walk is a Mecca of dining and entertainment. City walk spans 30-acres full of live music, dancing, shopping, movies and excellent dining options that will appeal to all ages and budgets. For New Year's Eve, they're "takin the party to the streets" - with live performances by the Doobie Brothers, entertainment in all of their clubs including Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville (for all your Parrotheads), Bob Marley - A Tribute to Freedom, Latin Quarter and the Red Coconut Club (to name just a few). Included in the ticket price of $119.99 is all-you-can-eat gourmet food, a champagne toast, party hats and noisemakers. This event will be fun for all ages and a great way to take in a lot of action in one location. With varying entertainers and dining options at your fingertips there will be something to keep everyone entertained.
San Francisco, California - Beach Blanket Babylon
A friend that lives in the Bay area is welcoming her family from Phoenix to her home in San Francisco this New Year's Eve. I asked her what she was going to do to entertain them, and she giddily told me that she'll be taking them all to see Beach Blanket Babylon. I've personally had the good fortune of taking in Beach Blanket Babylon during a business trip to San Francisco last year, and take it from me, this show is one of the funniest and most entertaining productions I have ever seen.
For those of you that are wondering what on earth Beach Blanket Babylon is, it is the nation's longest running musical revue. It's a wacky and wild spoof of pop culture and is a guaranteed laugh-until-your-tummy-hurts kind of experience. Beach Blanket Babylon's New Year's Eve show includes a chorus line of tap dancing Christmas trees (sounds weird but trust me you'll kill yourself laughing at the eccentric performers, singing and costumes), parodies of traditional Christmas carols and more. The 7 pm show on New Year's Eve will include champagne and chocolates for all guests, and the later show which starts at 10:15 pm will end in all its glory at the stroke of midnight with champagne, chocolates and dancing (and I speak from experience, something about this wild and kooky show makes you want to get up and dance!). The second show will also feature "the best and worst of 2008" which you can imagine will be very amusing! Tickets can be ordered directly from their website.
Since San Francisco has so much to offer to visitors, I suggest you stay for a few extra days (The Best Western Hotel California is in an excellent location and is very reasonably priced). For other ideas and "things to do" while in town check out these links:
December Events in San Francisco
January Events in San Francisco
London, England - Fireworks at the London Eye
I've been keeping an eye on the prices of flights and there are certainly some great deals to be had. That said, it might not be out of the question to travel overseas for New Years. We've all seen photos of the huge Ferris wheel in London all lit up. Called the London Eye, it is a magnificent structure, over 135 meters high, making it the world's tallest observation wheel. The London Eye is the focal point for a stunning (and free!) fireworks display for New Year's Eve. The display starts immediately after Big Ben chimes midnight and lasts approximately 15 minutes. Crowds will be significant, so it's worth it to head out early and find a good viewing spot. The best spots to take in the show are from Westminster Bridge and the north embankment of the River Thames.
One other option for London, if by some miracle you have tickets, is to attend Sir Elton John's New Year's Party at the O2. Pretty much the hottest NYE ticket in town, the show is set to be the biggest of Elton's career!
Whistler, BC, Canada - First Night
Whistler, BC, Canada - a skier, snowboarder or ski-bunny's paradise - is located a 90 minute drive away from Vancouver and is a very popular New Year's Eve destination. Whistler's flagship New Year's celebration is called First Night, and it takes place throughout Whistler Village, along the pedestrian-only "Village Stroll" and in the TELUS Conference Center. This is an alcohol-free public event and therefore is an excellent way to celebrate New Year's as a family.
This year's First Night event gets underway at 6 pm on December 31 and for a mere $15 (or $8 for kids 12 and under) you can take in the entertainment including live music performances, art workshops, street entertainment and more. As no New Year's celebration is complete without fireworks, you'll enjoy a magnificent fireworks display lighting up Whistler's beautiful mountains, together with live music performances on two stages. There's even a countdown at 9:30 pm for those younger folk who have a pre-midnight bedtime.
Of course, for those of you going kid-free for New Year's Eve who may not want to hang out at an alcohol-free event all night, Whistler Village is known for its robust dining and nightlife offerings. The cobblestone streets of the village are lined with plenty of pubs, lounges, bars and restaurants to please just about anyone's taste buds and budget.
For a complete rundown of First Night's festivities, visit their website. For warm and inviting accommodations smack-dab in the heart of Whistler Village, check out The Best Western Listel. And for those of you searching for a more adult-oriented evening out for New Year's Eve check out this page which is a great resource and overview of Whistler's hotspots.
Are you doing something exciting and unique for New Year's Eve? Let us know.