Watch the fireworks erupt over replicas of the world’s greatest cities—both real and fantastical—at California’s Legoland. Pint-sized rockers can dance to the music from favorite kid-approved bands and ring in the New Year at a bedtime-friendly 6 p.m. with fireworks and cheers as an enormous LEGO brick drops 22 feet from the sky.
First Night brings affordable and unique New Year’s Eve fun to families in cities around country with diverse daytime activities including tango lessons, puppet shows and plenty of arts and crafts for one flat rate. Check to see if your city celebrates First Night or head to Boston, where the tradition originated in 1976, and purchase a $15 button for entrance to 30 venues around the city for theater, dancing, movies, ice sculptures and more. The party wraps up with midnight fireworks over Boston Harbor.
Panama City, Florida
Forgo the Times Square debauchery and chilly New York air for a family-friendly, beachside ball drop at Panama City Beach. The iconic, sparkly Waterford bling from Times Square is replaced with an 800-pound colorful beach ball that glides 100 feet from the sky to celebrate the coming year. Kids can come early to enjoy the carnival atmosphere on the boardwalk with bounce houses, stilt walkers, street performers and an earlier beach ball drop at 8:00 p.m. to facilitate an early bedtime.
Break out the noisemakers for the Noontime New Year celebration at Baltimore’s kid-centric museum, Port Discovery. Kids spend the morning making cool crafts and handmade instruments in preparation for energetic concerts, dancing galore and a drum countdown before the next year is toasted with cold milk and cookies.
The New Year’s Eve Celebration at the Square in Hershey, PA, caters to ‘tweens and their parents looking to celebrate the stroke of midnight together. Admission is free for the fun-filled night with concerts from Disney’s hottest pop and teen rock bands, leading up to midnight when an oversized Hershey’s Kiss drops from the sky and fireworks illuminate the night.
Great Wolf Lodge resorts around the country go all out for the holidays bringing winter fun to these indoor water parks with Snowland, a re-creation of the North Pole, complete with holiday decorations and indoor snow showers. If you’re in the Texas area, get the kids suited up and splash into the New Year at the Grapevine outpost. After a day of water-park fun, head to the Snowball party and enjoy a festive carnival atmosphere, family karaoke and a countdown at midnight in the hotel’s grand lobby.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Beaver Creek caters to kids, making it the ideal location for a holiday getaway with stellar ski school and daily hot cocoa and chocolate chips. On New Year’s Eve, join the twinkling line of skiers, young and old, as it snakes its way down the slopes during the glow-stick ski-down. When the procession is over, fireworks light up the village at 7:45.
Pint-sized party animals can bring along their parents to “Zoo Year’s Eve” at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. This special event, free with zoo admission, includes music from teenybopper-approved Radio Disney artists and plenty of fun and games from 6 to 8 p.m.
Celebrate with the Scots at the traditional multiday New Year’s party at Hogmanay, considered one of the largest celebrations in the world. While many of the events are geared toward adults, kids will enjoy checking out the amusement-park rides at the Carnival, the spectacle of the torchlight parade on December 30 and the 1 p.m. New Year’s Day fun run at Edinburgh Castle. An added bonus—the kids will have bragging rights to welcoming the New Year hours before their friends back in the States.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Leave the boozing to the midnight revelers on Bourbon Street, and indulge in some old-fashioned playtime at the New Year’s Eve Countdown at the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Kids can design their own party hats before counting down to a noontime celebration with a balloon release, cascading confetti and appearances by Sesame Street’s the Count, the perfect master of ceremonies.