Festive New Year’s Eve lineups aren’t merely for the New Yorks and L.A.s of this country. Cities across the South put on some seriously impressive shows — in the skies and on the streets — to usher in a new year in style. From galas in aquariums and black-tie yacht parties, to free street festivals and beachside family fun, this list of Southern cities and their New Year’s Eve happenings will get you booking one last trip in 2019!
Whether you’re looking for a low-key beachfront party or yearning to break out your black-tie garb, the low country offers every type of New Year’s Eve celebration. Let’s start with the glitz and glam. The Yorktown Countdown is regularly named one of the city’s best events of the year, and it tops lots of nationwide New Year’s Eve lists, too. This swanky black-tie affair takes place aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown, which has been transformed into a spectacularly decorated, multi-level, indoor-outdoor party palace. Another fab option is the Snyder Grand Ball at the expansive South Carolina Aquarium, where guests don their most festive attire and enjoy open bar revelry amidst the aquatic exhibits. What’s more magical than a New Year’s Eve party under the sea?
If you’ve got little ones or simply don’t want to stay out late, the annual Happy New Year, Charleston event in Marion Square is a free celebration filled with family-friendly activities and street performances for some alcohol-free fun. If you want to get slightly away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Charleston, The Tides Hotel on Folly Beach is the place to be. Anyone over 21 is welcome at this ticketed party that includes a lavish dinner buffet, live music and a DJ, and a midnight champagne toast under their fireworks display — all with your toes in the sand.
New Orleans, LA
It should come as no surprise that New Orleans has its own quirky traditions surrounding New Year’s Eve. This city’s unique fusion of cultures, unmatched food scene and legendary music venues makes it an ideal destination for travelers seeking a special celebration. Before the Sugar Bowl every year on January 1, college football fans descend on New Orleans as it comes alive with a mix of activities, highlighted by free New Year’s Eve performances, parades and pep rallies held by both teams.
The party heats up early on the fabled Bourbon Street strip before crowds flock to Jackson Square for the real New Year’s Eve celebration in the historic French Quarter. This year, Sheryl Crow and Usher will headline the free Allstate Fan Fest. The iconic tradition of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve expanded its coverage to New Orleans a few years ago to give us the first Central Time Zone countdown. Bands and entertainers play throughout the night, culminating in the famous fleur-de-lis drop and fireworks booming over the Mississippi River at midnight. Then, the party continues at bars and nightclubs up and down Bourbon Street. For a unique option, hop on the Creole Queen or Steamboat Natchez for a fireworks cruise, many of which have ticketed open bar parties. Friendly locals, warm weather, bars that stay open late and open containers in hand make an ideal climate for party seekers.
This is the perfect time to experience all that Tupelo, MS, has to offer — and it’s a lot. Tupelo’s city-wide New Year’s Eve party kicks off a year of revelry surrounding the Sesquicentennial Celebration of Tupelo and Elvis’ 85th birthday. Ring in the New Year on the streets of downtown Tupelo, and at Fairpark from 6 p.m. to midnight, with a diverse lineup of free live music on two stages starting at 8:15 p.m. On top of the music, watch the ball drop in a beautiful, secure environment and enjoy the impressive fireworks show. There are also some fun options for kids earlier in the night, including ice skating at BancorpSouth Arena until 9:00 p.m.
If you’re really into the King, head to Elvis Presley Birthplace for a concert by David Lee, a world champion Elvis entertainer. There will be dinner, party favors, a champagne toast and, of course, some of the best music in Tupelo. There are lots of other festive food and drink events throughout the city. For more dining options, accommodation recommendations and package deals, click here!
RELATED: Tupelo, MS: A Family Vacation Must
Savannah and Tybee Island, GA
This one might come as a surprise, but Savannah and its nearby beach, Tybee Island, have a lot going on this New Year’s Eve. City Market in historic downtown Savannah transforms into a nucleus of outdoor merriment, and this year promises to be better than ever. Live outdoor music fills the air from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m., and restaurants are open to help you celebrate (don’t forget to make reservations). Pop in and explore the market all evening long. Share some sweet Savannah memories and taste some delicious food from local vendors … no ticket required! For a fun night on the water, Savannah Riverboat Cruises sets sail for three different New Year’s Eve parties: a dinner cruise, a booze-centric party cruise and a black-tie gala (if lobster and tuxedos are more your speed).
We also love this destination because of the famous beachside firework display that’s launched annually from Tybee Island’s Walter W Parker Pier and Pavilion at the stroke of midnight. Thousands watch the show from the sand around the pier, as well as at many Tybee Island restaurants or on hotel balconies. Then, on January 1 at noon, join thousands of daring souls who take the plunge into the brisk Atlantic Ocean for the annual Tybee Polar Plunge. It’s a shockingly great way for the entire family to start the New Year together — and a great excuse to cozy up together later on, during a restful day off.
This one should come as no surprise. Music City is home to one of the country’s largest fireworks displays, and the sheer volume of downtown and midtown spots to watch the spectacular show makes Nashville a very hot city each New Year’s Eve. Of the dozens of parties, one of the most sought after tickets is to L27’s Après 2019 party. Forget the Alps; this rooftop hotspot transforms into a ski chalet outfitted with festive après ski vibes, disco music and delicious food and libations to create a perfect New Year’s Eve wonderland.
For some free fun, join in on the city’s wildly produced Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, between downtown and Germantown. This popular open-air party is filled with all-night live music, an impressive fireworks show and the televised Music Note Drop® at midnight … all against the backdrop of the iconic State Capitol. Keith Urban tops this year’s lineup that also includes Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, The Struts, Amanda Shires and the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
San Antonio, TX
With an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, and an average temperature of 70 degrees, the only ice you’ll find in San Antonio is at the bottom of the margarita you’ll be toasting with at midnight. This vibrant, walkable Texas city is one of our favorites year-round, but we’ve got a few reasons you should add it to your New Year’s Eve travel bucket list. Walk, dine or catch a boat ride on the world-famous urban waterway, The San Antonio Riverwalk, along which a slew of hotels and eateries are hosting some serious parties. The Observation Deck at Tower of the Americas is throwing a huge New Year’s Eve party 750 feet in the sky, where guests can marvel at spectacular views of the downtown fireworks, take some red carpet photos, push their luck at casino games and dance all night to live entertainment.
For the kids and kids at heart, what better way to send off the old year than with big thrills and new traditions? Six Flags Fiesta Texas is open until 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve for their enchanting Holiday in the Park. Ignite your night on the world’s first 4D free-fly coaster, BATMAN: The Ride! If huge coasters aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other rides, plus funnel cake and hot chocolate galore. The park has one more trick up its sleeve: the entire sky will be illuminated with colorful fireworks choreographed to musical favorites. If these reasons aren’t pulling you to Alamo City already, we urge you to check out this video of the city skyline at midnight last year …
For more exciting events taking place all over the South, check out our Happenings. Click HERE.