I have happy memories of New Year’s Eve parties before having kids. Drinking champagne, dancing the night away, being sad when midnight hit because it meant the party was over. Now I find myself looking at the clock at about 10pm, wondering when I can go home and get into bed! New Year’s Eve celebrations certainly change once you have kids, but it doesn’t mean that the fun needs to stop. Take a look at these 10 family friendly places to spend New Year’s Eve where everyone can have a good time!
1. Walt Disney World, Florida
What to do: Not surprisingly, the holiday season is extremely busy at Walt Disney World, and crowds can be crazy. The theme parks, particularly the Magic Kingdom, can reach capacity on New Year’s Eve, which means they don’t let anyone else enter. It’s much better to avoid the parks altogether, and watch the fireworks from somewhere else. The best places to watch the midnight fireworks outside of the parks are the Boardwalk (where you can see the Epcot fireworks) and the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (where you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks.) Both sets of fireworks are spectacular, and include 360 degree fireworks, meaning there are fireworks going off all around you! If you want to access the Boardwalk or the Polyneisan Village Resort on New Year’s Eve, you will need to either be staying at the resort, or have a dining reservation; I would suggest The Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (which also has access to the Boardwalk), the Flying Fish on the Boardwalk, or ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Village Resort. You can even watch a trial run of the fireworks on December 30th with smaller crowds; many people will watch this trial from Magic Kingdom, and then watch the real thing from one of the resorts as described after a nice dinner.
Why kids will love it: Well…it’s Disney! The atmosphere will be extremely family-friendly with lots of other kids around, and plenty of entertainment geared towards younger guests. The fireworks are absolutely incredible, probably some of the best you’ll ever see; they even include fireworks in the shape of numbers to count down to midnight!
What to do New Year’s Day: Spend New Year’s Day at one of the theme parks, relaxing at the pool (temperatures in January average around 70 degrees), or take a stroll around the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment district.
2. New York City
What to do: New York City is the most popular spot in the world to spend New Year’s Eve, so expect there to be plenty of other revelers partying with you! Times Square is where the main action is, and crowds start to gather early in the day to watch the famous ball drop at midnight. A much more comfortable (albeit much more expensive!) way to watch the festivities without being worried about your kids being crushed, is to stay in a hotel with a room overlooking Times Square. The Marriott Marquis has rooms with amazing views of Times Square, and a perfect view of everything going on. Enjoy a nice dinner somewhere in the city, then head back to your room to snuggle up with pajamas and hot chocolate to watch the ball drop in comfort. Rooms overlooking Times Square go for upwards of $1000 a night and book up well in advance, so this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things, but if you don’t mind paying for the experience, it will certainly be worth it.
Why kids will love it: You get the atmosphere and excitement and festive feel of New Year’s Eve in Times Square – without waiting around in the cold with thousands of your closest friends! Kids will be warm and comfortable, and younger kids can be put to bed earlier in the evening if they can’t make it to midnight (you can always wake them back up for the big moment!) Most importantly – there will be a bathroom available!
What to do New Year’s Day: It’s always nice to get out in the fresh air after New Year’s Eve, to allow the kids to burn off some energy (and maybe to clear your head from the night before!) Take a brisk walk in Central Park, take a spin on one of the city’s ice rinks, or head up to the High Line park. Read more about visiting NYC at Christmas with young kids here and what else there is to do in Central Park with kids here.
3. London, England
What to do: Pick somewhere for a great New Year’s Eve dinner; London has an abundance of fantastic family-friendly restaurants. We love Rainforest Cafe for a really fun atmosphere, Jamie’s Italian for fresh and tasty Italian dishes, or All Star Lanes, where you can dine and bowl all at the same time! After dinner, find a good spot to watch the London fireworks display. You’ll want to be between Waterloo and Westminster, and, if you don’t want to waste time holding a spot for hours in the cold, consider buying a ticket for one of the best locations; tickets are only $10 each for a great view.
Why kids will love it: London is a great city for kids, and there will be plenty of families out enjoying the night. Unlike New York City, where most of the festivities are crammed into the relatively small area of Times Square, London has a much larger area to watch the fireworks from. This means that it feels much less cramped, and you won’t have to worry so much about kids being squashed or overwhelmed. The fireworks are fantastic too.
What to do New Year’s Day: London’s New Year’s Day Parade is a fun way to kick off the New Year; the parade runs from Piccadilly to Parliament, with plenty of places to watch along the way. The parade includes marching bands, dancers, giant balloons, the Queen’s horses, vintage cars, and many more, with lots to keep both adults and kids entertained.
4. Maui, Hawaii
What to do: Celebrate the New Year with a traditional Hawaiian Luau at the Drums of the Pacific New Year’s Eve Luau at the Hyatt Regency in Lahaina. The show features fire dancers, traditional Hawaiian dancing, great food and drinks, as well as a champagne toast at midnight for the adults.
Why kids will love it: What’s not to love about celebrating New Year’s Eve in paradise?! Kids will enjoy the music and dancing, as well as being out under the stars for the celebrations.
What to do New Year’s Day: Maui has no shortage of fantastic things to do! Go for a family hike in the Iao Valley State Park, take a snorkel tour on the Pride of Maui, or just relax on the beach, enjoying the fact that temperatures in Hawaii are warm and sunny all year round!
5. Great Wolf Lodge
What to do: Great Wolf Lodge properties around the country are great places to be for the holidays in general, as they do a great job with decorations and festive activities. On New Year’s Eve, meet other guests for a late-night dance party and a countdown to midnight in the lobby.
Why kids will love it: There will be plenty of other kids there for them to dance, sing, and have a great time partying with! The atmosphere will be geared towards families and kids, so there’s no need to worry about your kids being bored or overwhelmed.
What to do New Year’s Day: Get the kids suited up and head down to the indoor water park, where the whole family can enjoy swimming, sliding, and splashing around in the heated pools.
6. Vail, Colorado
What to do: Grab a hearty dinner to keep everyone warm, then bundle up and head outside to watch the Torchlight Parade and fireworks at Golden Park. Watch skiers and boarders ride down Golden Peak, armed with glowing sticks, which create the illuminating effect of a logn stream of light all down the slopes. The Torchlight parade is followed by a fantastic fireworks show – but the fun doesn’t end there! Head over to Lionshead to take a gondola ride up to Adventure Ridge for the First Night Family Activities.
Why kids will love it: Spending the holidays in the snow is as magical as it gets, and there are so many things for kids to do in Vail on New Year’s Eve, there’s bound to be something to please everyone!
What to do New Year’s Day: hit the slopes, of course! Lessons are available all year round, and kids can enroll in ski school as young as three. After a day of skiing, be sure to visit Vail Village for some great dinner options, and quaint places to shop.
7. Disney Cruise
What to do: Disney knows how to party, and Disney Cruise line is no exception! New Year’s Eve is rung in at an open air deck party with champagne, music, and fireworks – all in the middle of the ocean!
Why kids will love it: What could be better than dancing along with their favorite Disney characters, then watching an amazing fireworks show at midnight? Kids will love the exciting atmosphere, and parents will feel safe knowing that the kids are having a great time and are being well taken care of my the Disney crew.
What to do on New Year’s Day: Depending on where your ship sails, you could be spending New Year’s Day on a tropical island, or perhaps a day at sea. Enjoy all that the ship has to offer, including amazing kids clubs, pools, restaurants, and a seemingly unending amount of activities to keep the little ones busy. You can learn more about Disney Cruise Line from the lovely folks over at Travel-Wise.
8. Edinburgh, Scotland
What to do: While the Hogmanay Street Party isn’t recommended for kids, there are various family-friendly Hogmanay parties throughout the city that would be perfect to take the kids to. Be sure to head outside for midnight to watch the fireworks!
Why kids will love it: Several parties feature traditional Scottish music and dancing, which is sure to be fun for the kids, and the fireworks are amazing!
What to do on New Year’s Day: Take in the sights of Edinburgh, including Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, and the Royal Mile. If typical Scottish weather hits and your day is rained out, check out the National Museum of Scotland or the Camera Obscura.
9. Sydney, Australia
What to do: More than a million people visit Sydney to celebrate New Year’s Eve, so you will be in good company! The fireworks are generally considered to be the best in the world, so be sure to grab a spot to watch them early, as free vantage points fill up early on. You could also take a boat trip out onto Sydney Harbor for an amazing view of the fireworks, or check out one of the many family-oriented parties happening around the city.
Why kids will love it: New Year’s Eve takes place in the middle of Australia’s summer, meaning warm, sunny weather – perfect for being outside to watch the famous fireworks! They also get bragging rights to tell their friends that they reached the New Year first – Australia is one of the first countries to ring in the New Year!
What to do on New Year’s Day: Sydney has plenty for families to do the day after the celebrations. Take a ferry across Sydney Harbor for fantastic views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge, or visit Taronga Zoo or the Luna Park amusement park.
10. Legoland, Florida
What to do: Hit the park early in the day to take advantage of all of the amazing rides and shows that Legoland Florida has to offer, and then be sure to grab a spot in front of the lake early for the dance party and fireworks – which are all done at a very kid-friendly hour, well before midnight!
Why kids will love it: the fireworks are awesome, especially when viewed through the special glasses that make them look like bricks exploding everywhere! The fact that everything is done early means kids get to experience all of the excitement of New Year’s Eve, but at a time that’s reasonable for them.
What to do New Year’s Day: If you’re staying at the Legoland Hotel, you could spend another day exploring the parks. Otherwise, it’s about an hours drive to all of the Central Florida theme parks, or one of Florida’s beautiful beaches.
Where else have you spent New Year’s Eve with your kids? Let me know in the comments!