If you're looking to celebrate New Year's Eve in a big way, California's cities and towns have lots to offer. These are some ideas for the best ways to kick off the new year.
New Year's Eve in Los Angeles and Southern California
I'm not going to try to fill you in on every block party, street soiree, and popping champagne cork in all of Los Angeles. Instead, let's just focus on a few things that are so much fun that they might make you pack your bags and travel to LA just to enjoy them.
New Year's Eve in the LA Theme Parks: Disneyland stays open late to bring in the New Year, but it's very crowded, sometimes so packed that they stop admitting guests by afternoon. All those people make a Ridemax itinerary not just a good idea but a necessity.
Universal Studios closes early on New Year's Eve, but you'll find a big party just outside its gate at Universal Citywalk, and admission is free. Knotts Berry Farm also celebrates New Year's Eve with fireworks, which are included in their regular admission price.
New Year's in Los Angeles: Angelenos love to party, and you'll find big events everywhere. One that looks like a fantastic time is the Party at Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles. It includes a light show downtown buildings from City Hall to the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. You can find out about more parties and events by checking this guide to New Year's Events in Los Angeles.
Rose Parade: The parade takes place on New Year's Day, but many people arrive on New Year's Eve afternoon to stake out a viewing spot along the street, as early as the local police will let them. An all-night party ensues that's hard to believe unless you see it.
Host Your Own Private Party: Here's an idea you might not have considered, but it's a perfect fit if you like a little celebration but prefer not to get out in the middle of a big crowd.
Find a vacation rental with great city views at Airbnb or HomeAway.com. Then all you have to do is hang out on the deck with your favorite beverage and enjoy the fireworks going off all over town. Party hats are optional.
New Year's on Catalina Island: The Casino Ballroom is an especially festive place to dance in the New Year, with "big band" music in a glamorous venue.
San Diego: San Diego starts celebrating early with the Holiday Bowl game near the end of the month and the Big Bay Balloon Parade which happens the same day as the game. You'll find plenty more San Diego New Year's Events to amuse you, too.
New Year's Eve in Northern California
San Francisco New Year's Eve: The big event in San Francisco is the New Year's Eve fireworks display, which goes off at the end of Market Street above the Ferry Building. You can find out where to watch it in the San Francisco New Year's Eve event guide, which also offers some great things to do for non-dancers and nondrinkers.
Monterey: The celebration in Monterey is called First Night, and it's designed to be an affordable, alcohol-free family celebration.
New Year's Eve in the Rest of California
Sacramento: The state capitol hosts two fireworks displays during their year-end Sky Spectacular, an earlier one accompanied by family-friendly tunes and a midnight show with rock music.
Yosemite National Park: The Grand Majestic Hotel (Ahwahnee) throws a New Year's Eve party in their gorgeous dining room that includes a six-course meal and dancing.
Lake Tahoe: You'll find more going on along the south shore, where you can celebrate at one of the casinos. Lake Tahoe Cruises does New Year's Eve cruises, and December 31 is also the last day of the Snowglobe Music Festival. And you'll be in perfect position to start your new year by skiing at one of the area resorts. All of that comes at a price, and in 2016 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Lake Tahoe was the most expensive place in California to ring in the new year.