3 Places to Go for New Year’s with the Family

With a two-week holiday break on the horizon for most school-age kids, now is the time to plan your escape and use some vacation days for a New Year’s trip. Whether you’re looking for places to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a bustling city or for quieter New Year’s Eve celebrations just outside of town, Portland, Nashville and Atlanta offer some of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations to enjoy with the whole family. Ring in the new year with new experiences and seize the holiday spirit with a family getaway to one of these three exciting and drivable destinations in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast.

Portland, Oregon

  • Drive about 10 miles southwest from Portland International Airport to downtown.

    Best known for its biking, breweries and bridges, Portland offers even more during the holiday season, from light shows to cosmic tubing.

Glide into the New Year with cosmic tubing at Mount Hood Skibowl. Photo courtesy of Mount Hood Skibowl, skibowl.com.


Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Portland

For families, the New Year’s Eve celebrations start midday with events like New Year’s at Noon at the Portland Children’s Museum, where kids can enjoy countdowns throughout the day, try arts and crafts activities inspired by cultures around the world and join in on family dance parties. Less than 3 miles west of downtown and across from the Oregon Zoo, the museum is located in Washington Park, where you can park your rental car for $2 an hour or $8 for the day. After your daylight countdown, venture to the zoo, where families will discover holiday fun happening all month long, especially after dusk during ZooLights. The winter festival features more than 1.5 million dazzling lights that illuminate the Zooliner steam train, carousel and zoo grounds.

For traditionalists who prefer counting down to midnight, head about 5 miles south of downtown for the Rink in the New Year: All-Ages NYE Party at Oaks Park, where families can enjoy roller skating, games, party favors and a live DJ to usher in the new year.

Drive Outside of Portland for More New Year’s Celebrations

Drive about 55 miles southeast from downtown Portland to Mount Hood Skibowl for the annual New Year’s Eve Extravaganza at Skibowl, where guests can try cosmic tubing at the Snow Tube and Adventure Park (where the tubing hill is illuminated by neon lights that “dance” to fun party music), watch the torchlight parade and dance to DJ music while ringing in the new year. Kids can take a break from the cold in the Super Play Zone, a heated two-story indoor playground featuring slides and obstacles where kids can climb, run and slide.

While on the road, families should also check out Christmas in the Garden at the Oregon Garden in historic Silverton, about 40 miles south of downtown Portland. This charming, European-inspired outdoor event features ice skating, snowless tubing (a 100-foot slippery tubing track without the chill), an artisan vendor market, photos with Santa, fire pits and live music.

Bonus: If you’re feeling ambitious, make your Oregon vacation a one-way adventure that ends with a day or two exploring Portland’s sister city of Seattle in the new year. Then return your rental car and fly out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Atlanta, Georgia

  • Drive 8 miles north from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to downtown.

    As the capital city of Georgia and the cultural and economic center of the state, vibrant Atlanta turns it up a notch during the holidays with unique offerings that are more than worth the trip.

Part of the National Register of Historic Places, Ponce City Market in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward is where your family can skate together into the new year. Photo by Daniel Lobo / Flickr.


Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Atlanta

For an earlier celebration fit for younger kids, check out the New Year’s Bubble Bash at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Enjoy two midday countdowns as well as bubble-wrap fireworks, dance parties, special guests and surprises to start your new year off with a bang. Later, bring the family downtown to enjoy food and live concerts, then watch an 800-pound peach descend as the year draws to a close during the Atlanta New Year’s Eve Peach Drop, a tradition since 1989.

While you’re in town, be sure to Skate the Sky at the Ponce City Market. Lace up your ice skates and go for a twirl high above Ponce de Leon Avenue, overlooking the Atlanta BeltLine and Old Fourth Ward. The venue’s Rooftop Terrace transforms into a winter wonderland, where parents who prefer to watch from the sidelines can cozy up in life-size rink-side igloos.

Drive Outside of Atlanta for More New Year’s Celebrations

Drive about 17 miles northeast to Stone Mountain Park for the Kids’ Early New Year’s Eve Celebration, where you can ring in the new year with a magical snowfall and a 9 p.m. countdown for the kids while enjoying live entertainment and fireworks.

About 55 miles west of downtown Atlanta, a pair of taxidermists have put a unique spin on New Year’s festivities. The annual Possum Drop brings nearly 10,000 people to Tallapoosa, Georgia — a town settlers once nicknamed Possum Snout — for live tribute bands, a kids’ zone, fireworks and the midnight lowering of “Spencer” the taxidermied opossum from one of downtown’s tallest buildings.

Nashville, Tennessee

  • Drive about 10 miles west from Nashville International Airport to downtown.

    It’s no secret that Nashville is best known as the capital of country music, but did you know that the city was founded on Christmas Eve in 1779? With that holiday spirit in mind, it’s no surprise that Nashville is one of the best cities for New Year’s Eve.

Roam through the Trees of Light at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens’ annual Holiday LIGHTS, a festive winter tradition in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Caitlin Harris.


Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Nashville

For music lovers, the Music City Midnight New Year’s Eve celebration is an obvious choice. This annual event at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park downtown features live music from some of the nation’s top performers (guests in 2018 included Keith Urban and Peter Frampton) and the signature Music Note Drop at midnight. If midnight is too late for your younger kids, the Adventure Science Center offers an earlier countdown with its Happy NOON Year event, where kids can create noisemakers, delight in a balloon drop and learn all about bubbles and fireworks through engaging science displays.

While you’re in Nashville, head to Cheekwood Estate & Gardens for the Holiday LIGHTS display to marvel at the magic of 1 million holiday lights decorating the surrounding botanical garden, meet Santa and his reindeer and enjoy sweet treats in the s’mores pit.

Drive Outside of Nashville for More New Year’s Celebrations

Often named one of America’s best small towns, Franklin, Tennessee, dazzles during the holiday season, and it’s just 22 miles south of Nashville. Leading up to the new year, discover quaint holiday festivities like the Leiper’s Fork Christmas Parade, featuring cows, goats, pigs, antique tractors and floats.

Or bundle up and head outside at Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary in neighboring Brentwood. Owl’s Hill offers a series of guided, hourlong family nature hikes through the wintry woods, capped off by a marshmallow roast and hot chocolate toast to the new year.

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About the Author

Bianca Bujan is the editor for WestCoast Families magazine and a freelance travel writer for print and online publications including The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, WestJet Magazine and The Province newspaper. You can follow her adventures in travel, family and food on Instagram and Twitter.