With revelry and midnight toasts, New Year’s Eve celebrations are usually limited to adults. But children can celebrate too at special parties and events planned with them in mind. “It’s a new year for kids too,” says Laura Begley Bloom, chief content officer for Family Traveller. “Across the country there are so many locations and destinations focusing on kids.” She shares some favorites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Panama City Beach, Fla.
Times Square has nothing on Panama City. The seaside town celebrates New Year’s by dropping not just one ball, but 10,000 inflatable ones. And the beach ball drop starts at a kid-friendly 8 p.m. Those with the energy to make it until midnight can count down another ball drop, this one an 800-pound LED-lit one, also shaped like a beach ball. “It’s the perfect ode to the destination, and it’s super fun,” Bloom says. visitpanamacitybeach.com
For a chocolate-flavored New Year’s Eve kiss, head to this sweet Pennsylvania town. The action starts with a bubble-wrap stomp at 11 a.m. (repeated at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.) and includes teen rock and pop performances during the day. At midnight, a dazzling 300-pound, 7-foot Hershey’s Kiss descends from the sky in ChocolateTown Square. hersheypa.com
Tenaya Lodge, Yosemite National Park
Plenty of resorts have New Year’s festivities for adults, but the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite invites the whole family. Kids ages 4-7 can dress up for a comic book heroes party, while tweens ages 8-12 will have a blast at an outer space-themed celebration, Bloom says. Those over 13 are invited to the main gala, which includes comedy and dancing. And the festivities can continue the next day. “To me there’s nothing like taking a new year’s walk, and what better place to go out for a hike than Yosemite.” tenayalodge.com
The self-proclaimed live music capital of the world hosts a huge New Year’s Eve hoe-down featuring four stages. The event kicks off at 3 p.m. at Vic Mathias Shores park, with a kids’ area with activities and food. Fireworks start at 10 p.m. and wrap up 30 minutes later. “Moms and dads will like that. This one is very appropriate for families.” austinsnewyear.com
The Crescent City knows how to party, especially this year. Dec. 31 kicks off the city’s 2018 tricentennial celebration, with kid-friendly events like a Louisiana Children’s Museum gathering with arts and crafts and a noon New Year’s countdown. There’s also a French Quarter afternoon Mardi Gras-style parade with floats and bands. “You think of New Orleans as being hedonistic, but when it comes to New Year’s Eve, they host parties for the whole family the entire day,” Bloom says. neworleansonline.com
New Year’s Eve Around the World, Seattle Children’s Museum
Kids can toast in the new year with a glass of apple juice beginning at 11 a.m., with countdowns throughout the day at this international event. Special themed activities represent featured countries, including India, Russia, France and Morocco. “It’s a really nice way to show kids how other kids around the world celebrate their tradition,” Bloom says. thechildrensmuseum.org
Boston has long made New Year’s a family affair. At 6 p.m. you can choose from a free figure skating show on the Frog Pond ice rink on Boston Common or a People’s Procession parade down Boylston Street to the Common, Bloom says. Then there’s fireworks at 7 p.m. “You can have the kids in bed at a reasonable hour.” There’s also a second fireworks display over Boston Harbor at midnight. boston-discovery-guide.com/first-night-boston.html
For old-fashioned revelry head to Colonial Williamsburg, which celebrates Hogmanay, a Scottish New Year’s holiday with ancient roots. Or go modern at nearby Busch Gardens, which glows with more than 8 million lights in one of the nation’s biggest holiday displays. visitwilliamsburg.com
New Mexico’s capital city shines throughout the holiday season, with lights at the Botanical Garden, and a year-welcoming gathering in the city’s historic plaza, Bloom says. The garden hosts a children’s New Year’s Eve party, with a flower petal drop at 7 p.m., while the gathering in the plaza includes piñon bonfires, hot chocolate and traditional biscochito cookies. Guests can sign a memorial banner recording their hopes and wishes for 2018, before fireworks at midnight. santafe.org
Disney Cruise Lines
While it’s getting late to book, there’s still a chance to sail into 2018 on a Disney cruise. “Disney goes crazy at New Year’s Eve,” Bloom says, with separate galas for teens, tweens, and a midnight deck party. There are also Disney characters dressed for the season. And if you can’t make it to sea, Disney’s theme parks all throw big parties too. disneycruise.disney.go.com
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