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14 Family-Friendly New Year’s Celebrations Around the Country

Who says grownups get to have all the fun on New Year's Eve? These special events around the country are festive for the whole family. Added bonus: You don't even have to stay up until midnight for many of them!

Mother and son celebrating New Year's Eve togetherMerla/Shutterstock

December 31—family-style

Let’s face it most New Year’s Eve celebrations aren’t exactly good for the kids; many are rowdy, open-bar celebrations or fancy, dress-up affairs with champagne toasts and gourmet dining. Either way, none of them say “family-friendly”. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay home in your PJs and watch the ball drop on TV (unless, of course, you want to). These fun and festive events around the country focus on families and offer plenty of kid-inclusive ways to ring in the new year. We especially like the ones that figure out a way to celebrate in style without having to stay up until midnight, which means you can get home before your kids have a meltdown and truly start 2020 on the right foot. Find out about 26 of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations around the globe.

sartori big cheese drop NYE New year's family friendlyCourtesy Ken Pannier

Big Sartori Cheese Drop, Plymouth, Wisconsin

Never mind NYC’s ball drop. Ring in the new year in Wisconsin at the cheesetastic Big Sartori Cheese Drop event in Plymouth. At 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, a gigantic wedge of Sartori cheese will be dropped during an extremely fun, and free, family-friendly festival that includes live music, hot chocolate, bonfires, and even free cheese gift bags if you’re among the first to arrive when the event starts at 8:30 p.m. (There’s another countdown at midnight with free champagne and cheese if you have big kids who can stay awake.) No one to travel with? You can rock your new year solo at these destinations.

beach ball drop florida NYE New year's family friendlyCourtesy Visit Florida

Beach Ball Drop, Panama City Beach, Florida

For a colorful countdown to the new year, head to Panama City Beach for the 12th Annual New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop, complete with live music, two fireworks displays, and 10,000 inflatable beach balls released from nets stretched over the streets of Pier Park. Families with young children conduct the first “mock” countdown at 8 p.m., followed by a fireworks show and magnificent beach ball drop. Not ready to head home yet? The party keeps going and there’s a second drop of an illuminated beach ball at Celebration Tower at the strike of 12. Try one of these 20 lucky new year’s traditions for the best year yet.

pickle drop New Year's NYE family friendlyCourtesy Kirk Pullen Photography

Pickle Drop in Mt. Olive, North Carolina

In Mt. Olive, North Carolina, the 20th annual New Year’s Eve Pickle descends the flagpole at the stroke of very kid-friendly 7 p.m., that’s because 7 p.m. EST also happens to be midnight Greenwich Mean Time (aka New Year’s in the United Kingdom). That way you can officially shout “Happy New Year!” and not have to stay up until midnight! It’s great family fun with live music and complimentary refreshments, including Mt. Olive pickles. Speaking of food, try these lucky dishes to eat on New Year’s Eve.

shrimp drop florida NYE family friendly New Year'sCourtesy Visit Florida

Shrimp Drop, Amelia Island, Florida

Another spot to celebrate the Greenwich Mean Time stroke of midnight at 7 p.m. local time is on the warm shores of Fernandina Beach on Florida’s Amelia Island where the waterfront celebration includes live music, a kid’s zone, vendors, holiday food and drink, all leading up to the dropping of a massive, LED-lighted shrimp. This is the surprising reason we drop a ball on New Year’s Eve.

elvis festival family friendly NYE new year'sCourtesy Tupelo CVB

Tupelo’s New Year’s Eve Party, Mississippi

This family event on the streets of Downtown Tupelo, Mississippi, includes a diverse line-up of bands on two different stages, ball drop, fireworks, festive food and drink, and kid-friendly activities, including ice skating, from 1 to 9 p.m. The party this year not only kicks off 2020, but also the 150th anniversary of Tupelo as well as celebrating the city’s native son Elvis’ 85th birthday. Take a look at these amazing vintage photos of Elvis.

PEEPSFEST NYE family friendly New Year'sCourtesy Just Born Quality Confections

PEEPSFEST, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

PEEPSFEST®, the annual two-day, free New Year’s Eve festival at the iconic SteelStacks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, offers a celebration the entire family can enjoy that culminates with a giant illuminated PEEPS® Chick—weighing in at colossal 400 pounds and standing almost 5 feet tall—-dropped to ring in the New Year on December 31 at the very family-friendly time of 5:15 pm. Highlights of the festival include Mascot Dash & Kids Fun Run and PEEPSFEST 5K, PEEPS® S’mores making, PEEPS® Olympics, and the Family Disco Lounge featuring live music, balloon art, and inflatables. These are 11 candy factories around the United States you can actually visit.

legoland NYE kids family friendly New Year'sCourtesy LEGOLAND California Resort

Kids’ New Year’s Party, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Winter Haven, Florida

Who says New Year’s has to be a one-day celebration? From December 26 to 31, families can celebrate the New Year in a special way at Kid’s New Year’s Party at LEGOLAND Florida Resort, complete with nightly fireworks, groovy dance parties, and special themed building events. Plus, you can watch the “brick drop” to ring in 2020 at a kid-friendly hour on New Year’s Eve at both the Florida location and the Southern California one.

winterfest family friendly NYE New Year's orange county CaliforniaCourtesy Winterfest OC

Winter Fest OC New Year’s Eve Celebration, Orange County, California

Most travelers don’t expect a snowy winter down in Southern California’s coastal region of Orange County, but at Winter Fest OC, attendees can experience 18 days of family-friendly fun in the snow with ice tubing, carnival rides, an and an outdoor ice skating rink, with snow being made daily. On New Year’s Eve, ring in 2020 not once, but twice with a special countdown, Orange Ball drop, fireworks, live music, and a balloon drop at both a kid-friendly 6 p.m. and then again at midnight for the “big kids.”

pineapple drop NYE family friendly New Year's sarasota floridaNorman Schimmel/Courtesy Visit Sarasota County

Pineapple Drop, Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota, Florida, hosts an annual tropical-style Pineapple Drop Block Party and celebration to ring in the new year. Kicking off on December 31 at 1 p.m., it includes amusement rides and games at 5 Points Park, live music at Main and Lemon streets, food, drinks, and a fantastic firework display on Sarasota Bay. Don’t miss these 11 New Year’s resolutions cartoons that are spot-on.

squaw valley NYE family friendly new year'sAlpine Meadows/Courtesy Squaw Valley

New Year’s Eve Family Celebration, Squaw Valley, California

Squaw Valley is the perfect spot for a snow-covered winter family ski trip, topped off with the local New Year’s Eve Family Celebration. This day-long celebration provides the ideal combination of children’s activities, with live music and drinks for the parents. The festivities begin with a Glow Stick Carnival in the afternoon, followed by a Torchlight Parade, a firework spectacular, and an East Coast New Year’s Eve ball drop, which means 9 pm instead of midnight, featuring DJs and a balloon drop to end the night.

epcot holiday fireworksCourtesy Disney

Midnight Around the World at Walt Disney World, Orlando

Who says you can only ring in the new year once? Spend the evening of December 31 at Epcot and you can celebrate as the clock strikes midnight in each country’s respective pavilion at the World Showcase. There’s even a colorful burst of fireworks to coincide with the international countdowns, and a grand finale New Year’s Eve display of fireworks, plus live music throughout the night at the America Gardens Theatre near the lagoon. Here are more reasons Disney World is even more magical during the holidays.

LA zoo lights NYE family friendlyJamie Pham/Courtesy LA Zoo

L.A. Zoo Lights Family New Year’s Eve, Los Angeles, California

L.A. Zoo Lights is a not-to-be-missed holiday light experience with light animals, disco ball forest, and colorful installations that are fun for the whole family. On New Year’s Eve, families can enjoy express entry to Zoo Lights, a dinner buffet and holiday desserts, carousel rides, games, DJ dance party, and a live broadcast of the ball drop in NYC. Adults can enjoy a complimentary champagne toast and children can enjoy sparkling apple cider.

NYE hershey park family friendly new year'sCourtesy Hershey’s Chocolate World

Hershey New Year’s Eve Kiss Drop, Hershey, Pennsylvania

For a sweet start to 2020, take a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, called “The Sweetest Place on Earth.” Hershey New Year’s Eve is a free, family-friendly event held at Chocolatetown Square. This year’s event is focused on called “Rocking Through the Decades” and you can expect live music and lots of dancing. Activities for kids are planned throughout the day and evening at The Hershey Story (where a bubble wrap stomp at 9 pm wraps up the night for young ones), The Museum on Chocolate Avenue, and at First United Methodist of Hershey. Midnight is celebrated with the raising of a 7-foot high, 300-pound giant Hershey’s Kiss replica, followed by a fireworks display. Want to do something special on Christmas Eve? These are the 15 best traditions to start this year.

sea world holidays NYE family friendlyCourtesy SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

SeaWorld Orlando’s New Year’s Eve, Orlando

SeaWorld Orlando’s New Year’s Eve event celebrates the vibrant ocean life and the sea with a number of special holiday shows. There are technicolor fireworks to fill the night sky and festive entertainment will take place throughout the park, including interactive DJ stations, craft beers, and delectable bites.

Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.

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