MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

10 great ways to celebrate New Year's

Here are some fun ideas for welcoming the new year.


© R. Kennedy

If you want a good way to greet the new year, plan a great getaway.

First, look around for a party or show. One fall, we saw that Cherish the Ladies was performing at DECC in Duluth on New Year’s Eve. Rooms were cheap — we got a room at The Suites on Canal Park for $90 — so we made a weekend of it.

After the concert, we continued the Irish theme downtown at the Dubh Linn Pub, where some of the performers joined us for a pint. 

In bigger cities, you’ll save a lot of money if you celebrate at home on New Year's Eve and start your getaway on New Year's Day. The more luxurious the hotel, the more the price will drop.

For example, the week before one New Year's, a room at Le Meridien Chambers in Minneapolis' Hennepin Theatre District cost $407 on Orbitz for New Year's Eve but only $169 on New Year’s Day.

In 2012, both holidays were weekdays, and prices were lower: $242 for New Year's Eve and a rock-bottom $89 for New Year's Day.

With your savings, you can buy dinner at Marin and tickets for a touring Broadway show at the Orpheum, State or Pantages theaters, using a discount from Goldstar.

In Chicago, which has more rooms to fill, prices aren’t so high for New Year’s Eve. You could get a room at the Drake for $229 (dropped to $144 New Year’s Day) or Monaco for $188 ($159). In the theater district, see a touring show.

Pretty much any big hotel will have a New Year’s celebration with party hats, loud music and cocktails.

Here are 10 other good ways to spend New Year's Eve (and Day).

Twin Cities by candlelight

If you rather be outdoors than inside, light up the night at one of three parks on New Year's Eve.

At the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers near the airport, Fort Snelling State Park offers a candlelight walk and ice-skating plus marshmallow roasting, free with vehicle permit.

In the southern St. Paul suburb of Eagan, Lebanon Hills Regional Park holds a  New Year's Eve party with candlelight snowshoeing, ice skating, animals, storytelling, magic and a ball drop, $10, $8 in advance.

And in the southern Minneapolis suburb of Richfield, Wood Lake Nature Center always holds a Candlelight and Ice celebration on New Year's Eve, with luminary-lined trails, marshmallow-roasting and crafts and games, $4.

Carp drop in Prairie du Chien

A pinata during Carp Fest.

© Chamber of Commerce

The lowly carp is feted in Prairie du Chien.

This Mississippi River town in southwest Wisconsin has a funny New Year’s Eve tradition: the Droppin’ of the Carp on St. Feriole Island, site of a fur post through which nearly every famous name in the region passed in the 18th and early 19th centuries. 

There's also music and a bonfire. The falling roughfish is the culmination of the weeklong Carp Fest, which includes a football game, hot-air balloon rides and skiing, hiking and sledding by torchlight in LaRiviere Park.

Prairie du Chien also has eagle-viewing platforms. Across the river in the Iowa bluffs, Effigy Mounds National Monument also is a good place to spot eagles and hike.

In Plymouth, near Sheboyan, there's a cheese drop.

Across Lake Michigan, there's a good old-fashioned ball drop in Ludington and a cherry drop up the coast in Traverse City.

Schussing and champagne

Most alpine-ski resorts plan New Year’s Eve festivities. At Granite Peak in Wausau, there's fireworks and a torchlight parade, followed by music and dancing with a champagne toast at midnight.

The ski resort doesn’t have on-site lodgings, but there are a lot of good restaurants and good places to stay in town, from the Super 8 to the 1906 Craftsman-style Stewart Inn.

Be sure to stop by the free Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum to see the current exhibit.

For more, see Winter in Wausau.

On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Big Powderhorn Mountain holds a New Year's Eve Party with a torchlight parade and fireworks.

The party at Ski Brule, due east of Eagle River, Wis., includes a barbecue dinner, tubing, music and sleigh rides as well as a torchlight parade and fireworks.

A quiet cottage

If you’re not wild about wild parties, rent a cabin or cottage and make your own party with a crackling fire and cocktails. There's usually plenty of availability, especially for Jan. 1-3.

Every tourism web site lists vacation rentals, but VRBO makes it easy to see everything that's available; just plug in the dates you want.

For more, see Finding a cozy cabin.

State-park camper cabins and guesthouses in Minnesota state parks are very popular for New Year's Eve. And many B&Bs include private cottages.

Cottage at Cove Point.

© Beth Gauper

On Minnesota's North Shore, a cottage overlooks Lake Superior.

Party in Duluth

Duluth is pretty cold by the end of December, but there’s always something special going on New Year's Eve at the DECC entertainment complex. This year, it's the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra with "New Years' at the Oscars.''

Inexpensive hotel rooms in Duluth can be hard to find. For cheaper rates, wait until the last minute or try Priceline.

For more, see Duluth stories.

Getting into the Door

Door County has lots of rooms for the summer crowds, so you can always find a good inn or B&B for New Year's Eve.

Door County Trolley offers a Winter Wonderland tour Dec. 31 that calls on wineries for wine-tasting and includes a sleigh ride and a fireside lunch at the English Inn in Fish Creek, $60.

At noon on New Year's Day, there's a Polar Bear Plunge in Jacksonport. Then run over to downtown Egg Harbor, where there's a parade for Frosty Fest.

Sturgeon Bay has a lot of great places to stay, restaurants and shopping. For more, see The door to Door County.

Horse-drawn carriage in Chicago.

© Beth Gauper

In Chicago's theater district, the restored Ford Center/Oriental Theatre hosts touring shows.

Fireworks in Chicago

If you can't shell out $100 for one of the big Broadway touring shows, head over to Navy Pier for Winter WonderFest. New rides this year include the Wintertube, Toboggan Tunnel and Mini Golf, $17-$25 for a pass. General admission is  $3.75-$5.

At midnight on New Year's Eve, there's a fireworks show.

Of course, you still can spend a lot of money at Navy Pier, with two big galas and  four fireworks dinner cruises.

For more, see Chicago stories.

Walking to welcome the new year

Across America, state parks are hosting First Day Hikes, with walks guided by naturalists and a festive atmosphere provided by bonfires and hot chocolates. If there's snow, many parks provide snowshoes.

In Minnesota, they're at Minneopa, Jay Cooke, Lake Carlos, Whitewater, Lake Bemidji, Tettegouche and Afton state parks.

In Wisconsin, they're at 10 state parks, including Devil's Lake, Mirror Lake,  Peninsula, Whitefish Dunes and Kettle Moraine State Forest.

In Michigan state parks, there are Shoe Year's Day hikes on New Year's Day and through the weekend.

Last updated on December 4, 2014

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