Get ready to par-tay this New Year's Eve at some of the nation's biggest celebrations. Since many schools and businesses are closed around the winter holidays, this makes a perfect time to get away for a mini-vacation and welcome the beginning of the new year as a family.
New York's Times Square holds a yearly iconic ball drop to usher in the new year. Often televised, there's lots of big-name entertainment and a huge party atmosphere for revelers to enjoy. New York has several terrific attractions to keep a family busy on holiday, including ice skating at Rockefeller Center, the Holiday Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, seeing the sites from the top of the Empire State Building, a stroll through Central Park, the Museum of Modern Art and a variety of Broadway shows. A recent addition to New York City's must-see attractions is the Space Shuttle Enterprise on board the USS Intrepid.
"During New Year's holidays, the most popular event in Los Angeles will be the Rose Parade in Pasadena. That is definitely fun for all ages," says Tim Heffley of LAtourist.com, the Los Angeles tourist information center. "I have been to six or seven Rose Parades, and I can tell you it will be something to talk about when tourists get home!" There are plenty of activities for families to enjoy as well. "Theme parks, especially Disneyland, are an ideal choice. But parents can also enjoy activities in Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, Miracle Mile and others. Exposition Park (near downtown LA) is a great place where kids can learn from the exhibits, and admission is free!" Tourists typically enjoy tours of downtown LA, seeing movie star's homes and shopping on the world-renowned Rodeo Drive.
Boston hosts First Night Festival of the Arts and displays the work of 1,000 artists in various exhibits. It's an annual daylong celebration (until midnight) every Dec. 31, which features music, dance, theater, visual art, film programs and a midnight fireworks display. While in Boston, you can visit the Tall Ships in the Boston Harbor, follow the Freedom Trail to learn about the historically rich city, visit the interactive and fun-for-the-whole-family Boston Children's Museum, or spend time at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. And don't forget a visit to Fenway Park, the oldest park in Major League Baseball.
Florida is a terrific escape from the cold, northern winters and Orlando's Disney-theme parks, Universal Studios and SeaWorld all offer special New Year's Eve late park hours, entertainment and fireworks displays. The amusement parks alone will keep a family busy for days, and there is plenty more to do, including ziplining, indoor skydiving, Forever Florida -- a 4,700-acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area -- indoor go-kart racing, and Gatorland. There are a huge array of motels and hotels in the center of busy Orlando and many dining establishments, including the unique Medieval Times experience.
Visit the City of Brotherly Love aka Philadelphia and choose from several New Year's Eve celebrations. Set sail on the Ben Franklin Yacht for an evening of music, a fulfilling buffet, open bar and a gala fireworks display. The USS Battleship opens their forward deck on New Year's Eve to offer an evening of fun and a terrific view of the Camden Riverfront fireworks. Lucky Strike Bowling Bar and Club offers an adults' Vegas-themed soiree for the new year. Many more Philadelphia attractions include the Franklin Institute, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Franklin Square and the Philadelphia Zoo.
Internet travel site TripAdvisor released a list of the "Quirkiest New Year's Eve Celebrations in America." In Lebanon, Pa., a 200-pound bologna is lowered by crane at midnight, and the deli meat is later donated to charity. In Pensacola, Fla., children are invited to run across an expanse of bubble wrap early in the evening; at midnight, a giant "pelican" makes a 100-foot descent to usher in the new year. An eight-foot long, 30-pound wooden and acrylic sardine takes a midnight dive from a window of the Tides Institute to honor the U.S.' first sardine cannery, kissing the sardine ensures a fortuitous year.