New Year's Eve in San Francisco

Ways to Celebrate New Year's Eve in San Francisco, California

New Year's Eve in San Francisco
••• New Year's Eve in San Francisco. Christopher Michel/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

If you want to celebrate New Year's Eve in San Francisco, you can find plenty of things to do. This guide highlights a few of them, with a focus on alternatives to buying an expensive ticket to a big party in a hotel or other large venue.

New Year's Eve Fireworks in San Francisco

The Embarcadero Fireworks Show goes off at midnight above the Ferry Building. To view it from the street, head toward the end of Market Street at The Embarcadero.

You can also watch from inside at hotels with a good view, especially the Hotel Vitale, Harbor Court and the Hyatt Regency, but you'll need to make reservations well in advance.

Celebrate the New Year for Free

Join San Francisco residents and build a bonfire on Ocean Beach. You have to bring your firewood - and a few blankets might be nice for staying warm.

Also popular among San Francisco residents is a New Year's Eve late picnic in Dolores Park. They usually show up at sunset with champagne and beer to toast the end of the year while enjoying the park's gorgeous city views.

New Year's Eve Cruises

Take a sail around the bay, have dinner and dance the night away on a Hornblower New Year's Eve Cruise, aboard paddle wheeler San Francisco Belle or the Commodore New Year's Eve Fireworks Dinner Cruise, which departs from Alameda's Mariner Square.

The Speakeasy New Year's Eve Cruise is one of the first San Francisco celebrations to sell out every year, with music and black jack tables to keep you entertained when you aren't looking at the scenery.

New Year's Eve Parties

The most exciting and interesting thing about the  New Bohemia New Year's Eve is the location. Now at the Old San Francisco Mint, built in 1874, the gold vaults and 30-foot ceilings of this historic building, set the perfect background for a party. The thing that makes this event special is the staging by Vau de Vire, who draw edgy artists whose works would be at home at Burning Man, along with a great lineup of musical performers.

 , set the perfect background for a party. The thing that makes this event special is the staging by Vau de Vire, who draw edgy artists whose works would be at home at Burning Man, along with a great lineup of musical performers. 

Another fun idea is the annual celebration on the USS Hornet. The old aircraft carrier is docked in Alameda, where you can countdown to midnight from the Flight Deck, with a gorgeous San Francisco view.

If masquerade balls are more your style, try the San Francisco Symphony annual gala. It starts with a concert, followed by beverages and snacks, then dancing until midnight.

Many big San Francisco hotels host New Year's Eve galas, including the Westin St. Francis, Top of the Mark at the Intercontinental Mark HopkinsStarlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake, Hyatt Regency, and the Westin.

The annual Streets of San Francisco at Fort Mason is known for booking some of the best DJs in the world. 

San Francisco Station has a listing of lots more parties, too.

More Ways to Celebrate

It's not exactly a party, but you can also get a jump on the celebrations by going to the New Year's Eve performance of Beach Blanket Babylon

Plan ahead for this one - and be sure you know how to paddle a kayak.

 City Kayak takes just 30 experienced paddlers out for midnight outing. The lucky 30, led by guides in a motorboat, paddle out for a front-row fireworks view and a glass of ice-cold champagne.

Getting Around San Francisco On New Year's Eve

BART extends their service until 3 a.m. on New Year's Eve, with extra trains running right after the fireworks show ends. Caltrain also provides free service, with four post-fireworks trains. 

AAA provides a complimentary ride and vehicle tow up to 7 miles from the point of pickup to drivers who have consumed alcohol. Ask for a Tipsy Tow by calling 1-800-400-4222. This service is available whether or not you're an AAA member.