Finding the ideal New Year’s Eve celebration takes planning ahead and determination — just like our New Year’s resolutions! I like to think about the people I want to spend NYE with and how to find the right festivities for us all. Whether it’s time with our families or rocking in the New Year with style, we have the right destinations and venues for everyone living in or visiting sunny California.
10 Best Places To Spend An Epic New Year’s In California
1. Los Angeles
Santa Monica Pier
A classic LA hotspot, the Santa Monica Pier never fails to disappoint. It’s hosting a huge 30-minute light display over the Pacific Park’s Ferris wheel that culminates in a countdown for the final 60 seconds of the year. It is free to attend, although from past experience, it’s usually best to arrive early to secure parking for the day. There will be crowds, and of course, some traffic!
Downtown LA’s Grand Park
For an affordable family-friendly evening of celebration and fireworks, come to DTLA’s Grand Park. Located between the Music Center and City Hall, this iconic space will have all the offerings of a good evening, including a selection of food trucks, live music and DJ tracks, and a countdown projection over City Hall. Please note that alcohol will not be allowed or sold in the public park and $10 parking is available at the Music Center.
New Year’s Eve Party At Burton Chace Park
Another iconic place to celebrate is Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey. You can enjoy the family-friendly glow party from 7 p.m. to midnight. Stay after for the annual fireworks show along with live entertainment, food trucks, face painting, photo booths, and more.
2. San Francisco
Fireworks Over The Bay
Feel free to take your pick of countdown venues in San Francisco; the most popular being the fireworks over the Bay Bridge with upwards of 100,000 people in attendance. The best locations for viewing are the waterfronts on the eastern side, to the south of the Ferry Building or Rincon Park. Be sure to get there early to grab a good spot to sit. For those who are willing to spring for the best views, there are plenty of restaurants or bay cruises that offer a fantastic view of the fireworks.
Diplo @ Festival Pavilion
Party into the New Year on the Historic San Francisco Waterfront with a countdown performance by Diplo. With views of the fireworks display over the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz — as well as an open bar from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. — those 21 and over can dance into the night to hits by LP Giobbi and The Knocks.
3. San Diego
New Year’s Eve At LEGOLAND
Families can enjoy a fireworks display and special kids activities at LEGOLAND simply for the price of admission! LEGOLAND California Resort is hosting a family-friendly New Year’s Eve event complete with fireworks and a countdown. The park offers live music and entertainment, rides, special events, and a variety of food vendors for the whole family.
There is nowhere else to party like San Diego’s Gaslamp District. Often a favorite destination for St. Paddy’s Day, you better believe that this area will be full of people, fun, and plenty of options for ringing in the New Year. Book tickets for the various bar crawl offerings in advance to get the best deals.
4. Lake Tahoe
Snow Globe Music Festival
Held in South Lake Tahoe, the Snow Globe Music Festival is a famous outdoor party filled with great music, gorgeous snow-capped mountain views, and a stunning fireworks display.
Ski Resorts And Lodges
For more family-friendly festivities, I’d recommend checking out the ski resorts dotted around Lake Tahoe. My personal favorite is the Heavenly Holidays Family Festival with daily tree lightings, ice sculptures, and A Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Celebration with fireworks and live music.
For those who would rather reflect on the past year in peace, the many trails and scenic lookouts in and around Lake Tahoe are the perfect spots to get out in nature. Just make sure to bring a hiking buddy!
Inside The Park
A special treat for the whole family, the Christmas lights at Disneyland are a wonder to behold. The best places to watch the top-notch fireworks displays are in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, It’s a Small World, and the riverfront in Frontier Land.
Outside The Park
Those who choose not to spend the day in the park can still enjoy some Disney magic by celebrating at Downtown Disney. With plenty of restaurants and entertainment, there will be something for everyone to enjoy throughout the evening. Just make sure to bring a picnic blanket or reserve a table with a view of the fireworks!
6. Temecula Valley
New Year’s Eve Grape Drop
There’s nothing like the famous (or infamous) Temecula Grape Drop. With live music, food vendors, and kids activities, the countdown will kick off for both East Coast (9 p.m.) and West Coast (midnight) celebrations. Early birds and those with young children can celebrate at the Free Fun Zone from 6 to 10 p.m.
Old Town Front Street
One of my personal favorite spots for bar hopping, craft cocktails, and great food is Old Town Front Street. Walk along the Old West-style storefronts mixed with modern restaurants and bars and you’ll feel the spirit of Temecula. New Year’s Eve will surely have this row of bars and restaurants buzzing. It’s near the site of the Grape Drop.
7. Yosemite National Park
Ring in the New Year in the Mountain Room at the Yosemite Valley Lodge with live music and special entertainers. Sadly, the Ahwahnee will not be hosting this year due to scheduled renovations, but there are plenty of other parties to attend in the area.
Those with pets and an affinity for nature might appreciate the expanse and quietness of Yosemite, as an escape from the constant fireworks and noise of a typical New Year’s Eve.
8. Napa Valley
Napa Valley Wine Train
Countdown Napa Valley-style with the Midnight in Paris New Year’s Eve Celebration. Board the famous and historical Napa Valley Wine Train and let it take you on an adventure through wine country, complete with wine tastings, an onboard three-course gourmet meal, and a 2-hour winery party at the Grgich Hills Estate. Finally, join in on the dance party in the open-air train car and dance all the way back to the station. You’ll get to enjoy a whole day’s worth of festivities with plenty of time to find an after party — or take a nap — before the New Year’s Eve celebrations kick off.
Wineries And Resorts
Napa Valley’s top destinations are of course the wineries! Many of the wineries are offering a New Year’s Eve bash, available to members and non-members alike. Just make sure to get your admission tickets and/or table reservations ahead of time, and dress your NYE best!
I’d recommend the countdown with a balloon drop on the dance floor at The Meritage Resort and Spa. Raise a glass of bubbly and enjoy live music long into the night.
9. Sonoma Valley
Come and party like a local with a low-key set of New Year’s Eve parties at a handful of bars and wineries around the valley. Join in on the fun at venues such as The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Murphy’s Irish Pub, or The Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall, to name a few.
For a glamorous New Year’s evening, go no further than the Songbird Parlour. Offering craft cocktails, live entertainment and arts, a dance floor, and a DJ, this local venue is bringing the roaring ‘20s to the 21st century. Top off the night with a countdown balloon drop with champagne and caviar to really make your New Year’s sparkle and pop!
HopMonk Tavern Sonoma
For those of us who prefer celebrating with craft beers, HopMonk will be hosting free live music until midnight. Enjoy the chill ambience in their former farmhouse, originally built in 1888, and the outdoor beer garden just blocks from Sonoma’s historic downtown. Staff will be handing out glasses of craft IPA or sparkling wine to toast to the New Year.
10. SoCal Beach Bonfires & Concerts
Nothing says SoCal like beach bonfires! My favorite place to have a beach bonfire with family and friends is at Huntington State Beach. Bring a cooler with hotdogs and all the fixings for s’mores, but try to get there early to claim a fire pit, it’s first-come first-served!
Concerts And Live Music
There’s never a shortage of live music and concerts all around Southern California. Enjoy an upbeat Brazilian-Cuban-jazz concert at the Disney Concert Hall or the star-studded Countdown in San Bernardino featuring Tiësto, deadmau5, and The Chainsmokers (among many others!). From underground sets to classical concerts to all-out festivals, you can find any style of music to bring in the New Year.