No holiday is more universal or traditional than New Year’s Eve. It’s the one day in the world that unites almost every modern country and culture at a single point in time regardless of language, geography, or social or economic status.
Lamely, our tradition for the past few years has been to stay in. Not because of terrorism, drunk driving, or the unavailability of babysitters. It’s the fear of staying up until 2:30 am and being exhausted for the next two days at work. That’s what happens when you get older and professional life gets more complicated. You start planning in advance for naps.
So we’ve decided that our 2016 New Year’s Eve resolution is to work less and live more. For us that starts by living in an old Southern city that’s warm and vibrant year round and doesn't skimp on New Year’s Eve. Don’t be dissuaded by the stereotypes of the word ‘historic’. Some of the South’s oldest cities still put on the best modern day New Year’s Eve. Cue the rockabilly and pyrotechnics. Here are our top five.
And yes for the record we are still going to nap on New Year’s Day.
Any place that’s been simultaneously dubbed ‘The Capital Of Live Music’ and 'The Silicon Valley Of Texas’ is probably a pretty safe bet for a New Year’s Eve that’s heavy on the jam bands and hyper-caffinated Millennialism. Which sounds just about perfect to us.
Visit the dozens of downtown art galleries or the State Capital building during the day, snag dinner and champagne at Barley Swine, Swift’s Attic, or Geraldine's in the Hotel Van Zandt and watch the fireworks over the city skyline at the annual Austin’s New Year (ANY) celebration which features local artists, music, and kid friendly events. If you're planning on staying the night (a good plan if you like classy late night hotel bars), the Driskill Hotel is one of Austin's most iconic.
If you go to the city of Nashville’s visitor site the front page says “Spend New Year’s Eve In Music City”, then it fades to “Free Street Party” with a photo of thousands of party goers awaiting the next up-and-coming country star and the fireworks display.
You don’t need a marketing degree to know that there’s no better way to get a country-music addicted, middle-aged man like me to jump in his car tomorrow and be in Nashville by New Year’s Eve than that type of ad campaign. Remember what I said about going to bed at 2:30 am? I take that back. I’m just hoping we bump into Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani.
Here’s the definitive list of every New Year’s Eve event going on in Music City from restaurants to nightclubs to live music and fireworks. And no matter how you feel on New Year’s day don’t even think of missing the Grand Ole’ Opry.
We spent our 8th anniversary in South Beach back in October and it now ranks in our top five places to return to (which says a lot since there are a lot of places left to visit). And if that’s what an average weekend during the off-season is like we can only imagine what South Beach is like when they turn it up to eleven on New Year’s Eve.
If you’re looking for a classic Art Deco New Year’s Eve experience don’t miss out on Ocean Drive. The New Year’s Eve prix fixe menu at BLT Steak in the historic Betsy Hotel is one of the best things going on the strip. If you’re sporting a sunburn from your New Year’s Eve day at the beach there’s no better place to cool off than with a Moscow Mule in a cold copper mug in The Delano Hotel while waiting for the next Real House Wife Of Miami to walk through.
You can walk off your own hangover the next morning by touring the grounds of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Key Biscayne.
If you asked us to pick our top historic Southern city for a once-in-a-lifetime New Year’s Eve, our knee jerk reaction probably wouldn’t be Savannah. Its downtown is walkable, steeped in Antebellum history and architecture, and packed wall to wall with cultural, heritage events year-round. Which makes it sound more suited to a family vacation with children than a New Year’s Eve blow out.
How wrong we are. Savannah’s historic downtown and River Street in particular stays open late on New Year’s Eve with parties and prix fixe menus at many of the city’s best restaurants. Savannah City Market’s New Year’s Eve outdoor block party is a classic and should not be missed.
If you’re looking for a different perspective on New Year’s Eve dinner try an historic riverboat dinner cruise up the Savannah River. When midnight approaches pull up a beach chair, pop the champagne, and watch the fireworks over the Atlantic Ocean from Tybee Island’s Walter W. Parker Pier & Pavilion. You may just be wearing shorts and flip flops.
Any list of the top historic Southern cities to spend New Year’s Eve would be illegal if it didn’t include New Orleans.
Jackson Square is ground zero for NYE in NOLA. At the stroke of midnight, you can watch the traditional New Orleans fleur-de-lis drop and a spectacular fireworks show over the Mississippi River. The true secret to New Year’s Eve in New Orleans, however, is the ‘Reveillon Dinner’ which is basically a prix fixe tasting menu. Every December New Orleans’ best restaurants offer these specially priced multi-course meals ranging from classic historic venues to trendy new hotspots. Take your pick of NOLA’s best culinary hotspots and book early for NYE.
And then there are NOLA’s nightclubs. At 2:30 am in the morning on New Year’s Eve most people will just be showing up. For a quiet place to lay your head within walking distance home try La Belle Esplande.
For more information on New Year’s Eve events in New Orleans click here.