No babysitter for New Year’s Eve? No problem! Why not spend it with the people you love most? Here are 14 fun (for the kids and you) ways to spend the last night of the year as a family—whether you want to go all out, or not go out at all.
Go for Broke
1. Set sail on a family-friendly cruise of NYC. A lot of cruises on New Year’s are all about the open bar, but there are a few (like the Family Fireworks Gala and New York Water Taxi’s Family Cruise) that cater to the families-with-children crowd.
2. Spend the night in a hotel. Go for a late-night swim, then come back to your room and relax with room service and your favorite New Year’s Eve show.
3. Stay at a bed and breakfast. Look for one that has nearby winter attractions (like ice skating or skiing) and accepts children.
4. Watch fireworks over the Delaware River. The Adventure Aquarium in Camden and the Battleship New Jersey are two venues from which you can view the display. (You can also catch fireworks in Metuchen and First Night Morris County—see number 10.)
Thinking of going out to eat with the kids?—>
Out of the Ordinary Restaurant Options
5. A diner with a jukebox. The Menlo Park Diner in Edison is my family’s favorite, but I also hear good things about the Scotchwood Diner in Scotch Plains. Come stocked with quarters (or just ask the cashier for change).
6. Fondue. Dipping everything in cheese and chocolate… What’s not to love? When we went this route last New Year’s Eve, I was a little worried that my then-four-year-old was too young to have pots of hot liquid on the table in front of him, but it turned out not to be a problem, and the kids really enjoyed it.
7. Benihana. If your kids have never been, they’ll have a blast watching the chef make a show of cooking their food right in front of them—not to mention wearing those schnazzy paper hats.
8. A Japanese restaurant where you take your shoes off. Finish off dinner with mochi or fried ice cream for dessert.
9. Dine-in Movie Theater. See a movie and have dinner at the same time at dine-in theaters in Bridgewater, Dunellen, Edison, and West Orange.
Prefer to stay in?—>
Local and Low-Key Revelry
10. First Night. Started in Boston, First Night events are alcohol-free celebrations of arts and culture, featuring artists in just about every genre and plenty of kid pleasers, like jugglers and magic shows. Sadly, the First Nights in Montclair and Maplewood/South Orange were canceled this year because of funding woes, but First Night Morris County is still going strong and will include fireworks, face painting, magic, and more.
11. Block Party. Invite nearby families to stop by on New Year’s Eve (at a family-friendly time if you don’t want to stay up until midnight!). Keep the kids busy with board games and hors d’oeuvres that you can pop in the microwave (pigs in a blanket, anyone?) while the grownups reminisce about the year gone by.
12. Family Slumber Party. All sleep in one bed, or camp out in sleeping bags on the living room floor. Read ghost stories, tune into the New Year’s Eve shows, or introduce your kids to one of your favorite childhood movies. Have a contest to see who can stay up the longest (or fall asleep first!).
13. Check the NJ Family Calendar. There’s bound to be an event you all will enjoy—and you know it will be at least semi-local and totally family-friendly!
14. Celebrate New Year’s Early. Kids too young to tell time but old enough to want to celebrate? Open a bottle of bubbly (cider) and a tub of ice cream, buy some noisemakers and glow-in-the-dark necklaces (and perhaps a feather boa or two), and do the countdown at the kids’ bedtime. Then put them to bed and pop open the real bubbly.