To quote the great American composer Irving Berlin, “Let’s watch the old year die with a fond goodbye.”
I don’t know how many of us will miss 2020. It has been one trying year to say the least, but hopes and excitement for 2021 are high, and we’re all looking for a way to celebrate the passing of one year to the next.
Each year, cities and towns across Alabama stage some totally unique celebrations as we kiss the old year goodbye. So, let’s ring out the old and ring in the new at these fun, festive, and totally uncommon New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Remember that these events are all subject to the current guidance and rules set up by each municipality due to the pandemic. Please visit the event websites for the latest updates.
Mobile is known as the Mother of Mystics. It was here in this Alabama Gulf Coast city that Mardi Gras was born. Over the years, masked men and women in secret societies would throw trinkets from floats to the masses of revelers -- beads, candy, stuffed animals, and boxes of Cracker Jack. Well, too many people were getting injured from getting clunked in the head with those boxes, so in the 1950s, they changed to a sweeter, softer throw -- the MoonPie.
Since then, the MoonPie has become an iconic emblem of Mardi Gras, and as a tip of the hat to the relationship between the marshmallow pie and the city, Mobile now rings in the new year with the MoonPie Over Mobile celebration, featuring the MoonPie Drop -- a 12-foot-tall, 600-pound MoonPie that drops at the stroke of midnight.
The city’s main entertainment district, Dauphin Street, with its vibrant nightclubs and renowned eateries, really comes to life as people pack the street for music and fun. When the MoonPie drops, an enormous fireworks display lights up the Mobile waterfront.
Pro Tip: Details of the event are still being worked out as of this writing due to the pandemic. Please visit the event website for updates. If the event goes on as scheduled, remember that the only thing that can dampen the spirit of the new year is parking. Your best bet is to hitch a ride on the shuttle bus that runs from the Bel Air Mall in West Mobile to Mardi Gras Park downtown. The first shuttle leaves the mall at 8 p.m., and the last one leaves town at 1:30 a.m. It costs $2.50 to ride the shuttle. Updated shuttle information can be found on the city’s website.
2. Orange Beach
The Wharf at Orange Beach is abuzz with activities all year long -- great dining, shopping, music and events -- but it really comes alive on New Year’s Eve with a celebration for both kids and adults.
The fun begins at 10 a.m. on December 31 with the Kids Confetti Drop. The morning is filled with music, mechanical bull rides, a surf simulator, arts and crafts, and even camel rides. Then, at noon, the sky is filled with colorful confetti to celebrate the new year. Admission is free; however, there may be a small fee for some activities.
Then, for kids of all ages, there’s the Wharf’s Reelin’ in the New Year street party. The complex is bedecked in spectacular Christmas lights, and horse and carriage rides are available to take you through the holiday magic. At 5 p.m., the joint is jumping with separate kid- and adult-centered activities, including an eclectic mix of music, dancing, and food and drinks at Villaggio Grille and YoHo Rum and Tacos, to name only a few.
The bands play the night away until midnight, when a giant lighted marlin is dropped to usher in the new year. This is followed by a spectacular fireworks display that lights up the night sky. The Sandshaker stays open until 1 a.m. for adult celebrations.
Once again, admission is free, but some activities may require a small fee.
Pro Tip: Parking is free but is on a first-come, first-served basis, and for this event, you can expect the lot to fill up fast. Visit The Wharf’s parking information website for additional information.
3. Flora-Bama Lounge In Perdido Key
Celebrate the new year on the Florida-Alabama state line at the historic Flora-Bama Lounge in Perdido Key. The Flora-Bama opens its doors at 6 p.m. for this adult evening of celebration featuring three bands that rock you to midnight as you sip on the Flora-Bama’s world-famous Bushwhacker.
Admission costs $60 and includes an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet, a breakfast buffet from midnight to 2 a.m., a free champagne split, party favors, souvenirs, and plenty of surprises.
One thing that the Flora-Bama is famous for is its annual mullet toss, where contestants come to the Gulf beach to vie for prizes by tossing a mullet (dead, of course) as far as they can. To pay homage to the event, the Flora-Bama New Year’s celebration features a midnight mullet drop across the street from the lounge at the Ole River Grill.
And the celebration doesn’t end there. The next morning, throngs of people come to the Gulf for the annual Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip. Participants are encouraged to wear costumes and take a dip in the “frigid” Gulf waters. Well, they’re not really that cold. It is the Gulf of Mexico, after all, but the water still gets pretty chilly. Admission to the dip is free.
Pro Tip: The New Year’s Eve celebration at the lounge sells out early every year, so get your tickets as soon as you can.
Break out the headbands, unpack your acid-washed jeans, and head back to the future in the town of Cullman at their 1980s-themed New Year’s bash. From 8 p.m. to midnight on December 31, you can travel back in time with drinks, music by DJ Chuck, incredible food by Seasoned Catering, a chance to win cash prizes for the best costumes, and a 1980s time capsule.
Tickets are $35 for admission only, $45 for admission plus two drinks, and $375 for a six-person VIP table.
Pro Tip: You must be over 18 to attend. Tickets are limited this year due to COVID-19, so get yours early.
Residents in the town of Livingston hold a unique parade each year to celebrate the coming new year. Townspeople dress up in elaborate costumes and masks and parade down the street.
Nobody knows exactly how the parade began, but it is believed to have been started in 1857 by Colonel T.B. Wetmore, Ben Little, and John McDaniel. Parade participants were originally called “Indomitables,” but later, according to historians, “some stupendous wit began to call the maskers ‘Damned Ugly Devils’.” The name stuck, although it was shortened to DUD.
The revelry rolls through the streets of Livingston at 6 p.m.
2021 New Year’s Eve Events In Alabama
The pandemic is throwing New Year’s Eve celebrations across the country for a loop, with many events being canceled. The same is true in Alabama, but mark your calendar and don’t miss these eclectic New Year’s Eve events in 2021.
In Huntsville, a real piano is dropped to ring in the new year. AM Booth’s Lumberyard is touted as downtown Huntsville’s backyard, serving up great food, drinks, and entertainment throughout the year, but on New Year’s Eve, it offers five stages of entertainment, drink specials, and the annual dropping of an unfixable piano from a tall forklift.
Dothan is known as the peanut capital of Alabama, so it is only fitting that every December 31, the town hosts the annual Peanut Drop. There’s plenty of music, activities for those young and old, and of course, lots to eat.
Ever heard the song “Stars Fell on Alabama”? This literally happens on New Year’s Eve in the town of Wetumpka. The city is known for its giant impact crater that was created some 80 million years ago when a meteor slammed into the Earth. It is one of only six aboveground impact craters in the world.
The meteor -- and the new year -- is celebrated on December 31 with the Meteor Drop. A large, swirling sparkler races in front of the Wetumpka Civic Center and collides with a pole. Then fireworks erupt, representing the meteor’s impact.
Local restaurants offer up some great food, and the night air is filled with music.
9. The Hangout In Gulf Shores
The children’s event runs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and features buffet dining, activities, and a balloon drop with prizes in each and every balloon.
From 2 p.m. to midnight, the grown-ups can enjoy drinks, music, a buffet, football on the big screen, and complimentary champagne at midnight.