Best Places to Ring in the New Year: 2024

If your holiday plans aren’t set in stone yet, it’s a great time to add in a quick trip to celebrate the new year. To help select the best place to spend New Year’s Eve, WalletHub recently released their rankings for 2023’s Best Cities for New Year’s. They compared the 100 biggest cities over 26 key metrics, taking into consideration everything from the legality of fireworks and the nightlife options per capita, to food affordability and forecasted precipitation.

In addition to some of the favorite standout cities—like NYC and Vegas—there’s also of plenty exciting celebrations happening in smaller destinations across the country. So whether you’re looking for a big city or a more under-the-radar spot, the list below has you covered.

NYE Beach Ball Drop in Panama City Beach – courtesy of Visit Panama City

You won’t find Panama City Beach on WalletHub’s rankings, but that doesn’t make this beachside town’s celebrations any less spectacular. The New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop attracts thousands of visitors and features live music, entertainment and not one, but two beach ball drops – both accompanied by spectacular fireworks displays on the streets of Pier Park.

The celebration begins with free live music on the concert stage in front of the Celebration Tower, as the streets of Pier Park are closed off to traffic for thousands of revelers to delight in free entertainment, fireworks, and good cheer throughout the night. Families with young children can enjoy the first countdown of the evening at 8:00 p.m., which includes fireworks and the release of 10,000 inflatable beach balls from nets stretched over the crowds at Pier Park.

On the way to midnight, bands perform for the gathering crowd, anticipating the countdown to 2024 and the lowering of a giant LED-lit beach ball on Panama City Beach’s Celebration Tower in the center of Pier Park. Standing over 80 feet tall, this tower is ten feet taller than the pole on One Times Square in Manhattan and can be seen from Russell-Fields Pier, where the second round of fireworks will be launched over the Gulf of Mexico and the “World’s Most Beautiful Beaches.” Throughout the night, visitors can enjoy food vendors, games, activities and musical performances by Saved by the 90’s, Will Thompson Band and The Life Atlantic. Please see below for a full schedule of events and more information, click here.

Fireworks at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas – courtesy of the Warren Group/Plaza Hotel & Casino

Las Vegas ranks 4th in this year’s WalletHub list, thanks to a first place finish in nightlife options per capita and a 7th place ranking in the entertainment and food category. While there are several parties to choose from in Sin City, one of the best places to go is the Plaza Hotel & Casino. It’s New Year’s Eve features a full evening of celebrations in classic Las Vegas style, complete with a delicious dinner at Oscar’s Steakhouse, live entertainment, complimentary champagne toasts, as well as downtown’s only live fireworks show at midnight on December 31st.

The Plaza’s new Carousel Bar located under the property’s iconic dome will be at the heart of the evening’s festivities. Carousel Bar will offer an unmatched location to celebrate the new year with handcrafted cocktails, and just steps away from the best vantage point downtown to watch the fireworks, the portion of Main Street in front of the Plaza that will be closed to vehicles during the show.

As part of its NYE Room Package, the Plaza will hold an all-ages viewing party of the fireworks for hotel guests only on its rooftop pool deck. The room package also includes a $50 food and beverage credit for use during the stay (2-night minimum) and complimentary early check-in and late check-out (based on availability). The NYE Room Package is available to book online. Before the fireworks, the award-winning Oscar’s Steakhouse will offer a special three-course meal in addition to its regular steak and seafood menu. Restaurant diners will enjoy a complimentary champagne toast at midnight while watching the fireworks show from under the dining room’s iconic glass dome. Reservations are recommended and can be made online or by calling 702-387-7227.

The Sand Dollar Downtown will give 2023 a proper send-off with live music and hand-crafted cocktails all night long. The classic rock band, Ian Crawford & Cosmic Miles will perform from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

After a complimentary champagne toast on the casino floor when the clock strikes midnight, the Plaza’s casino will offer a special New Year’s Day 10X Multiplier for a maximum of 10,000 points until 2 a.m. on Jan. 1. (Promotion excludes video poker; see Plaza Rewards for complete rules and details.)

Another destination you won’t find in the city rankings is this under-the-radar spot in Mississippi. You’ve heard of New Year’s Eve ball drops… but what about an achor drop? In Pascagoula on December 31st at 8 PM, a new New Year’s Eve tradition kicks off. Presented by Main Street Pascagoula, the event includes live music, an anchor drop, encore music show after the drop until 12:30, and, of course, fireworks!

A tourist takes a photo in Times Square by Luo Lei – Unsplash

No NYE Celebration list is complete without New York City. Although the Big Apple only comes into third place overall among the best cities in WalletHub’s list, there is no more iconic celebration in the US than the Times Square ball drop. This event is attended in person by around a million people and watched live by around a billion. If NYC wasn’t so expensive, it would likely take first place. It lands in first place for categories like affordable quality restaurants, nightlife options and music venues, and it also has long fireworks shows.

The skyline of San Diego by Reed Naliboff – Unsplash

Edging out NYC in the top WalletHub cities is San Diego. The second-best city for New Year’s Eve celebrations overall, and the top destination on the west coast, is the best place to go to if you want nice weather: forecasts estimate clear skies, perfect for outdoor parties and fireworks shows. San Diego is also tied with Orlando, Florida when it comes to the availability of affordable restaurants rated at least 4.5 stars; the city also has some of the highest Google search frequencies for terms like “New Year’s Eve party,” “New Year’s Eve dinner” and “New Year’s Eve concerts.” Great places to celebrate include the San Diego Zoo and the Old Globe theater.

Celebrate Auld Lang Syne at St. Augustine Beach’s iconic Light Up the Night! Beach Fireworks! This fun, free event is one of the best fireworks experiences around, with a spectacular show right off the beach pier over the Atlantic Ocean. Bring a blanket to snuggle under and enjoy the show!

Fun New Year’s Eve celebrations locally can be found at Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort’s fabulous Winter Wonderland-themed party, Chez L’Amour’s live music bash, premium bar and Posh Nosh snacks’ and the free Dewey Via performance at St. Augustine’s Colonial Oak Music Park is a local favorite. Tickets are still available for Venardos Circus‘s world-class show with Broadway musical-style performances, or for a more classic evening, First Coast Opera’s stirring performance of Puccini’s masterpiece, La Bohème.

Sparklers in the night by Ian Schneider – Unsplash

Taking WalletHub’s top spot for NYE celebrations is Orlando, Florida. The city is also one of the most frequently visited during the holiday, thanks to its many theme parks like Disney World. The city ranks first when it comes to nightlife options and affordable restaurants rated 4.5+ stars, and the city has some of the longest fireworks displays in the country. Consumer fireworks are legal, too, so people can set up their own shows. Residents can host the ultimate party, as Orlando also has the most party supply stores and second highest number of gourmet specialty-food stores in the nation (per the square root of the population).

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