Design People & Places

The 19 Most Offbeat New Year’s Eve Celebrations in the U.S.

Tired of the typical fireworks and champagne toasts at midnight? These American cities drop oversized boots, pickles, peaches, and more to ring in 2024.
Celebrating New Year's even
Photo: istockphoto.com

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While New Year’s Eve is typically observed with raucous parties and freely flowing libations, some towns veer away from tradition to embrace oddball festivities that reflect their distinct personality. If the Times Square ball drop is too tame for your tastes, venture to any of these best places to spend New Year’s Eve or new year’s Day on the less-beaten path. They’re sure to make for some merriment and memories.

1. Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island Polar Bear Plunge
Photo: Tybee Island Main Street via Facebook

Whether they do it to burn off Christmas calories or debunk the “don’t swim after eating” rule is anyone’s guess, but every year more than a thousand brave souls venture to this barrier island near Savannah to wade into the icy Atlantic at noon on New Year’s Day. Dubbed the “Tybee Polar Plunge,” the traditional dip is one of the best things for Georgians to do on New Year’s Day.

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2. Marion, North Carolina

Gold Nugget Drop
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Wakenshaken

Marion has never dropped the ball on its New Year’s Eve countdown. Instead, in a nod to its earlier life as a gold mining town, this community located 35 miles east of Asheville drops a 6-foot “gold” nugget into a pot of gold as part of its annual Gold Nugget Drop.

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3. Vail, Colorado

Vail Colorado at night
Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’re wondering where to go for New Year’s Eve, the peaks of this mountain town will light the way, but not just from fireworks. Starting at 6:30 p.m., ski instructors, glow sticks in hand, form an illuminated train that descends Golden Peak to kick off the town’s annual Torchlight Parade, which is followed by a fireworks display.

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4. Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, USA - February 6, 2015: Historic facades, pubs and restaurants in downtown Mobile, Alabama at sunset.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Moon Pies, which are akin to chocolate-covered s’mores, have been a Southern dessert staple since 1917, when a hungry Kentucky coal miner reportedly asked for a snack “as big as the moon.” Mobile’s fixation on the sweet treat is celebrated on New Year’s Eve, when an illuminated 12-foot mechanical Moon Pie travels down the RSA BankTrust building at midnight. There’s even a noon Moon Pie drop for those too young to ring in the new year.

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5. Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Hand-carved wooden sign for the Basin Park Hotel, a historic building in the middle of downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The sign is hanging above the sidewalk.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Every year in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, participants don formal attire but leave their shoes behind for the New Year’s Eve Downtown Dance Party. Also known as the Barefoot Ball, the tradition embodies the spirit of Eureka Springs, a town known for its quirky and welcoming sense of community.

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6. Mount Olive, North Carolina

Mount Olive Pickle Drop
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via RadioFan

Proving that you don’t have to stay up until midnight to have a good time on New Year’s Eve, the sleepy town of Mount Olive, home of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, hosts a rip-roaring annual pickle drop at 7 p.m. EST, which is midnight Greenwich Mean Time. The giant gherkin descends into a redwood pickle tank at the most natural place for a pickle drop: the corner of Cucumber and Vine.

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7. Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
PHoto: istockphoto.com

Anglers flock to Prairie du Chien for fishing year-round, but especially for ice fishing in the week leading up to New Year’s Eve, when the town hosts its annual Carp Fest. The weeklong event, which revolves around Lucky the Carp, includes a carp coloring contest and a meet-and-greet with the Carp King and Carp Queen. The festivities culminate in the Droppin’ of the Carp, in which a 20- to 30-pound frozen carp is lowered by crane onto its “throne,” where revelers can, if they’re so inclined, give the fish a smooch.

8. Prescott, Arizona

Prescott Arizona Illuminated Cowboy Boot
Photo: Blushing Cactus Photography

Not surprisingly, given the town’s wide array of Western boot retailers, Prescott’s riff on the New Year’s Eve ball drop has plenty of sole. In the leather-loving locale’s annual Whiskey Row Boot Drop, a 6-foot lighted cowboy boot is lowered from a 40-foot flagpole atop the Palace Building. A bonus for early risers: The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., so revelers can catch the countdown and still get to bed at a reasonable hour.

9. Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas
Photo: flickr.com via reginarodriguez

As New Year’s Eve merrymakers elsewhere celebrate the start of 2019, many in Fredericksburg will be traveling back in time to the 1940s. The Hangar Hotel, a re-creation of a World War II aircraft hangar, annually hosts a New Year’s Eve party that harks back to USO-style shindigs of the 1940s. The bustling ball held near Main Street features retro tunes, swing dance lessons, and a ’40s costume contest.

10. Pottsville, Pennsylvania

Yuengling_Brewery-
Photo: Wikipedia va CC 4.0

The clinking of glasses is a familiar sound on New Year’s Eve in Pottsville, but the glasses are more likely to be filled with beer than champagne. Pottsville is, after all, the home of Yuengling, the oldest brewery in the country. In an annual homage to a rich brewing legacy, the city rigs a super-size Yuengling lager bottle to the flagpole in Garfield Square and raises it to the top when the clock strikes 12.

11. Princess Anne, Maryland

muskrat eatiang on lake on winter
Photo: istockphoto.com

Few town mascots know how to make an entrance like Princess Anne’s own Marshall P. Muskrat. During the annual Midnight Muskrat Dive, the stuffed muskrat, wearing a cape and stovepipe hat, zooms through Somerset Avenue on a zip line to commemorate the coming of the new year. The event starts at 9 p.m. and admission is free.

12. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Holy Rollers at Mummers parade
Photo: Stroke9n3eb, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A 120-year-old tradition, the Mummer’s Parade in Philadelphia is a lively and colorful celebration featuring more than 10,000 elaborately decorated participants from various “mummer” clubs who dance and play music along Broad Street. Every year, the Mummers entertain the crowds with their lavish costumes and performances, bringing a festive atmosphere to the city.

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13. St. Cloud, Florida

St. Cloud Florida Food Truck Festival
Photo: istockphoto.com

How many people attended your neighborhood’s last block party? 5? 10? 15? While the tradition may have grown stale in some corners of the country, it’s alive and well in the Orlando suburb of St. Cloud. The annual town-wide New Year’s Eve Rockin’ the Cloud block party, featuring food trucks, live country music, and a Cloud Drop, is attended by thousands of people every year.

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14. Williamsburg, Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg
Photo: flickr.com via watts_photos

If you can’t make it to Edinburgh for Hogmanay, hit up Colonial Williamsburg for a stateside twist on the Scottish New Year’s Eve festivity. Colonial Williamsburg’s rendition of Hogmanay, which features authentic songs and storytelling, will have you counting down to the new year like a 17th-century Scot.

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15. Panama City, Florida

Pier Park in Panama City Florida
Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’ve ever tuned in to the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop on television, you know it’s all too easy to miss the actual moment when the ball drops. But attend Panama City’s New Year’s Eve celebration in person, and you’ll have thousands of chances to see an orb descend from the night sky. The seaside town drops a whopping 10,000 inflatable beach balls at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, then at midnight lowers an 800-pound illuminated LED beach ball from Celebration Tower; the city says that’s 10 feet higher than the one in Times Square.

16. Hershey, Pennsylvania 

2022 Hershey NYE - kiss raise
Photo: hersheynewyearseve.org

Every year on December 31 as the clock nears midnight, locals and tourists gather in anticipation for the historic Hershey’s Kiss Raise. In the town known for the chocolate brand, a massive Hershey’s Kiss of approximately 300-plus pounds is hoisted into the air, illuminating in all its silver glory. The event also includes music, a dance party, and a bubble wrap stomp.

17. Atlanta, Georgia

Giant Peach in Atlanta for NYE Drop
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you don’t want to watch the traditional ball drop, you can watch a giant peach drop instead. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the New Year’s Peach Drop has been an annual tradition since 1989 and captures the city’s vibrant spirit, along with the state’s official fruit. At the stroke of midnight, an 800-pound foam and fiberglass peach descends from the sky, illuminating the historic Underground Atlanta district.

18. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Bethlehem steel stacks turned into public entertainment area in downtown with concert center. Lit at nighttime with multi colored lights.
Photo: istockphoto.com

They’ve cooked up a New Year’s tradition that’s as sweet as it is quirky in Pennsylvania—the annual Peepsfest. Instead of witnessing a giant ball descend, locals and visitors gather to watch a giant Peeps chick make its descent at 5:30 p.m. on December 30 and 31—a delicious way to ring in the New Year!

19. Plymouth, Wisconsin

Hotel Lack in Plymouth Wisconsin
Photo: Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Among other places to go for New Year’s celebrations with a food theme is Plymouth, Wisconsin. The town’s residents have turned cheese into an art form with their annual Sartori Big Cheese Drop. For the past 16 years, at midnight on December 31, a massive decorated cheese wedge has descended over a festive crowd, welcoming the New Year in a way that’s as sharp as cheddar.