While we won’t be gathering with groups of friends to ring in the new year, there are still so many ways to celebrate the end of the longest year ever. Check out our picks for the best family-friendly New Year’s celebrations, starting with New Year’s Eve and through the holiday weekend.
Consider creating things with your kids that signal a brighter new year, like making and displaying luminaries outside your home. Check if your town is planning a display, or if a nearby town like Ridgewood, West Orange, Clinton or Cranford has a display you can drive through. You can also make DIY noisemakers, which can be made out of household items like food containers, coffee containers and rice. Don’t forget to celebrate with something sweet, like these peppermint bark cookies that combine chocolate and candy cane bits into a treat that’s easy to bake with your kids. Prepare a dish with foods that symbolize good fortune based on different cultural traditions. Local restaurants are also serving up special menus for New Year’s, so be sure to check your favorite spots and support local eateries if you can.
In addition to traditions like New Year’s resolutions (also a great time to talk to your kids about volunteer activities), consider making a time capsule—it can be a great way to remind your family of the good memories made in 2020 and we know there were some good ones, too. Try breaking out old Halloween costumes and set up a photo booth for some funny family photos. The State Theatre’s annual Salute to Vienna and Budapest performance, filled with singing and dancing meant to ring in the new year, is available on-demand through January 3, as well. Your family can also view fireworks from across the world (since the clock strikes midnight in many countries before the US), like Sydney, Australia (16 hours ahead) before catching this year’s virtual drop in Times Square.
If you have little ones who won’t make it to midnight, try a countdown clock that’ll allow your kids to celebrate before hitting the hay. Netflix has a few countdown programs, like Skylands Academy: New Year’s Eve Countdown, a minute-long episode that allows kids to count down to midnight with the show’s characters. You can also read them an NYE-themed book like Happy New Year, Spot! by Eric Hill, a story about a dog named Spot who isn’t old enough to stay up until midnight, but finds a way to celebrate early.
In-Person New Year’s Eve Activities
New Year’s Eve at iPlay America
Where: iPlay America, 110 Schanck Rd., Freehold, noon-1 am
With a NYE pass, kids will have access to unlimited rides and four hours of unlimited video games. While indoor dining isn’t allowed past 10 pm, the outdoor patio will be open and your family can visit the Miracle pop-up Christmas bar and Game Time Bar & Grill. Igloo rentals are also available from 6 pm-1 am and VIP suites are also available to rent.
PEEPSFEST 2020 Celebration
Where: SteelStacks, Bethlehem, PA, 4:30-5:30 pm
Price: $25/lawn square
The annual PEEPS Chick Drop will still be an in-person event, and families can reserve a socially-distanced Levitt lawn square, which accommodates four guests. The chick, which weighs 400 lbs., will descend to a New Year countdown at 5:15 pm, followed by a fireworks display. There’ll also be a DJ and socially-distant competitions, plus a fire pit for roasting s’mores. This year’s activities also include virtual events like a PEEPS diorama competition, where families can create and vote for their favorite PEEPS dioramas.
Six Flags Holiday in the Park
Where: Six Flags, 1 Six Flags Blvd., Jackson, 1-9 pm
Make an online reservation and experience the last few days of Six Flags’ holiday magic. This year, the adventure park added two new themed areas (its biggest winter festival yet!) in addition to its 30 rides, ranging from rollercoasters to pint-sized thrills. Festivities and rides will be socially-distant and masks are required when not eating or drinking.
New Year’s Camp
Where: Fairview Lake YMCA
Price: $135/adults, $115/ages 12-17, $92/ages 5-11, free/ages 4 and under
During the day, take your family on a hike, work on crafts and try archery. At night, sit around the campfire or try a night hike, then celebrate New Year’s Eve. Families will stay in a year-round cabin, which has heat and bathrooms. Meals are served in the dining hall, following the latest guidance and regulations. If you’d like to stay longer, you can add January 1-3 family camp when you register.
New Years Eve Bubbly Bash with The Rave-Ons
Where: Surflight Theatre, 201 Engleside Ave., Beach Haven, 5 and 8 pm
Reserve seats for your family at this concert, with two shows featuring tunes meant to say good riddance to 2020 and welcome 2021. Champagne and sparkling cider will be served.
Where: STRYXE, 300 Main St., Madison, 3:30-6:30 pm
Reserve a lane for three hours of unlimited bowling with your family (max of eight people per lane). Included in the price are shoes, three hours of unlimited play on more than 25 games and a personal dining table (with its own private sanitization station), as are four classico tabisca style pizzas, Bavarian pretzel bites, unlimited soft drinks and vanilla bean gelato. An NYE ball drop simulation will be projected onto 110’ screens, and guests can celebrate with a champagne toast or Shirley Temple. To continue the fun in 2021, a $25 STRYXE gift card will also be included. Face coverings are required except when eating and drinking, and one vacant lane will be left between parties.
Virtual New Year’s Eve Activities
First Night Morris County
This annual event, which typically sprawls throughout Morristown, will ring in the new year with a night of dance, theater, comedy, children’s programs and more online. The program features more than 40 performances with streaming and on-demand services, which are accessible until January 3.
Bye 2020 New Year’s Eve Virtual Run
Make a break for 2021 with this virtual run, whether you choose to complete a 5K, 10K, half-marathon or marathon, you can run the distance anywhere at your own pace. Based on the package you choose, you can also receive a medal, t-shirt, sweater or mask.
Noon Year’s Eve with Miss Jolie
Kids ages 1-6 can join Miss Jolie from the Whippanong Library on Zoom for stories, music and more fun. Miss Jolie will add some twists to classic children’s music and encourage singing, dancing, clapping and more during the session. Kids can count down to noon and ring in the new year.
New Year’s Eve Virtual Trivia Night
Price: Free, $5/suggested donation
Ready to test your knowledge of all things performing arts? SOPAC will host an informal competition and of course, give out prizes. Play with family and friends for bragging rights, too.
Noon Year’s Eve Family Fun Party Hosted by Girl Scouts
Girls in grades K-5 and their family members are invited to celebrate the coming new year with a STEM activity, create party favors, and learn about the Girl Scouts. At noon, kids can count down without staying up late.
Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!
Join the Schulz Museum for its annual NYE festivities, featuring a Peanuts-themed craft, special appearances by Snoopy and Woodstock and a countdown to the museum’s annual up-down balloon drop. Advance registration required.
Baby Rave – New Year’s Eve
The Bay Area Children’s Theatre is bringing NYE to little ones with a dance party and countdown at noon. All ages are welcome and participants are encouraged to dress up.
Rockin’ Rockfish Noon Year’s Eve
Join the Seattle Aquarium for a NYE celebration that doesn’t require your kids to be up past their bedtime. Listen to music from Mikey the Rad Scientist, jump around during the dance party, learn how animals spend the winter season, join the count down at noon and more. Registration required.
DJ Squirm-a-Lot’s New Year’s Bash
Story Pirates’ New Years Party Pass will give your kids access to this New Year’s Bash, which follows a story. DJ Squirm-a-Lot’s old nemesis, Yorma the ice dragon, plans to use her ice magic to spoil the big party. DJ Squirm-a-Lot and the rest of the story pirates will have to foil Yorma’s plans, plus play games, sing songs and more to ring in the new year.
NYE Virtual Family Game Night
Compete in this virtual game show, where one team will win a $500 grand prize. Families will compete in live games and trivia hosted by Two Bit Circus, which is also offering a $250 virtual birthday party prize. Reservations required.
If you’re looking for more activities to keep your kids busy after New Year’s Eve, we found some other ongoing events to keep your family entertained through the holiday break. On Friday, January 1, Ocean City is hosting its First Day Shopping Extravaganza, with downtown shopping specials and free horse and carriage rides. (Sadly, Ocean City will not be hosting its annual First Night this year.) On Saturday, January 2, take your family to the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham Twp. for a tranquil nature walk where your little ones will learn about the wildlife and plants living in the swamp.