Tuesday, December 27, 2016

5 Places to Ring In the New Year with Your Kids

If you’re a parent whose first New Year’s resolution is “spend more quality time with the kids,” there’s no need to wait until January 1st to act. Here are five favorite destinations that celebrate the arrival of the New Year with early and, often, alcohol-free public events designed for families.

MoonPie Drop over Mobile, Alabama. Photo Courtesy Tad Denson, MyShotz.com

First Night in Boston, Massachusetts

The city of Boston was the first to produce a fee-free, alcohol-free, civic-minded First Night focused on performing arts more than 40 years ago, a tradition that has spread to more than 200 cities around the world. For 2017, First Night First Day festivities will take place indoors and out around Boston Common and Copley Square. All day into the night, families can see concerts, dance performances, holiday lights and ice sculptors at work. Art gallery tours begin at noon. At 6:00 p.m. there’s the annual People’s Procession and, at 7:00 p.m., family fireworks at Boston Common. Revelers can stay on till midnight for the even bigger Countdown to Copley fireworks illuminating the sky over Copley Square, or watch it live on NBC Boston from their hotels. On January 1, family and children’s entertainment will be live in Copley Square from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Sunset on Clearwater Beach, Florida

Don't expect much bubbly to flow on the sugar sand beaches of family-focused Clearwater Beach. On New Year’s Eve, like most other nights, everyone strolls over to Pier 60 on the Gulf of Mexico shoreline to admire the sunset, listen to live music, shop for crafts and watch fire-throwers perform daring feats. The free, nightly Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival takes place from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., after which most families head over to Frenchy's Original. In the past 45 years, the Quebec, Canada expat known as “Frenchy” has opened five very popular seafood cafes. Kids love the beer-battered grouper, garlic fries sprinkled with crabmeat, and key lime pie; a special menu will be available New Year’s Eve. If everyone’s still awake, lay your blanket out on the beach to wait for Light It Up Clearwater, the annual fireworks show amplified in spectacular fashion by reflections from the calm Gulf waters.

Twice the Fireworks in Denver, Colorado

The Mile High City of Denver is situated above 5,000 feet in altitude, and its thin air is ideal to view fireworks. Fortunately, New Year's Eve Fireworks Downtown are done twice:  at 9:00 p.m. for families and at the traditional stroke of midnight for night owls. Get to the 16th Street Mall by 8:00 p.m. for a good viewing spot, and enjoy the costumed characters, stilt walkers and balloon-making artists while you wait. If you’re traveling with preschoolers, start the last day of 2016 at the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. for running-around fun like confetti showers, bouncing on bubble wrap, and art projects. The Denver Zoo Year’s Eve party welcomes families to view its extensive holiday lights and enjoy a 9:00 p.m. countdown party.

The Big Orange over Miami, Florida

Whether you’re fans of Justin Bieber or Billy Joel, Miami has you covered, with private New Year’s Eve concerts by both superstars plus dozens of world-class DJ parties at area nightclubs. Families should head to downtown Coconut Grove at 2:00 p.m. December 31 for the King Mango Strut Parade, a silly parade of costumed locals whose first float features the winner of the Little Miss Mango Pageant. Hit the beach, have some Cuban food, then be at Pitbull's New Year Revolution at Bayfront Park by 10:00 p.m. Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg are hosting the free outdoor countdown concert that will thrill teens. (Younger kids can get in their PJs and watch it live on Fox TV in your hotel.) Keep an eye out for the 35-foot-wide Big Orange being hoisted up the side of the InterContinental Hotel. As it reaches the roof at midnight, fireworks illuminate the city, the park and Biscayne Bay -- where hundreds of party boats are waiting to host the city’s famed after-parties.

MoonPie Drop in Mobile, Alabama

They’re expecting 50,000 people for the Mobile New Year, which begins at 3:00 p.m. with the live broadcast of the National College Football Championship play-off game on big screens off Bienville Square. Mobile is known more for MoonPies marshmallow sandwiches than football – it’s the favorite treat thrown out by Mardi Gras maskers in the very first city to celebrate Mardi Gras, back in 1703. During New Year’s Eve, a 12-foot-tall, 600 lb. electric MoonPie hovers over the square while spectators chow down on the world’s largest edible MoonPie baked by the original Chattanooga Bakery. While awaiting midnight, dance to the live music of En Vogue, parade around with painted umbrellas, and find a viewing spot for the laser light show, fireworks and of course, the MoonPie drop.

Visit our colleagues at Family Travel Forum for more ideas on where to spend New Year's Eve with the whole family.

Happy New Year's!

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