12 Creative Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Without Alcohol
Skip the alcohol and try these 12 unique ways to ring in the New Year, from booking an island escape to doing a midnight meditation.
For many, the song Auld Lang Syne and a chug of champagne are an inextricable pairing to herald in a brand-new year. By some estimates, 360 million flutes of bubbly flow into revelers’ maws in the U.S. each New Year’s Eve. But bucking that time-old tradition and skipping the alcohol on New Year’s Eve has its benefits, including being hangover-free on the first day of the new year or getting a an early start on Dry January.
In a 2018 study, University of Sussex researchers looked at 816 UK residents who tried a Dry January, which is when people abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January. Eight months later, researchers found the participants were drinking less alcohol. ( On average, about one less drinking day per week.)
Even if Dry January isn’t your thing, wiping away the peer pressure of drinking on New Year’s Eve can be done, says Carrie Wilkens, PhD, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Motivation and Change in New York. The eve is “that one night of the year where everybody does something crazy,” says Wilkens, who specializes in substance abuse treatment.
“If you unpack that a bit, what that is, is something novel. So, if you want to do something nice for yourself, think of something novel, stimulating, and exciting that you can do. Maybe take a trip, rent a cabin in the woods, go camping, go ice skating, go sledding, wear yourself out so you want to be home and cozy by the end of the day. Just do something fun and exciting that feels celebratory, but take the alcohol out of it. You don’t need alcohol to have a great time.”
Need a few ideas? We got you covered.
Book an island escape
A change of scenery may be all you need to take a hiatus from drunken revelry. Brooklyn, New York-based realtor Ritchie Numa fondly recalls an impromptu, solo 2014 trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. “It was like, literally last minute,” says Numa. “I decided the day prior and landed on December 31.” Rather than elbow her way through a crowded, boozy venue, Numa, “spent the night walking around watching the fireworks.” And even though her return flight got canceled (because, snow), stranding her for an additional five days, Numa says she never once reached for a mojito or otherwise. Instead, “I got to explore even more.”
Take a hike
Go off the beaten path—literally—and grab your hiking boots. Melissa Cronin, a Palm Springs, California-based marketing executive, says she and her fiancé are fans of “midnight hikes.” While she cautions that the jaunts require a flashlight or two, the hikes are, “So peaceful and fun to look down at the city revelry.” Cronin may be onto something: She says she’s celebrating seven years of sobriety.
Give Netflix a break—actually, GO to the movie theatre
Give Netflix a night off. No, really. Seeing a flick the old-fashioned way with lots of snacks from the concession stand can beat a liquor-filled night out. “My first dry New Year’s Eve [happened] when I was pregnant,” recalls New York-native and mom-of-two, Jessica Gourdet-Murray. With her husband in tow, the two indulged in a cozy pre-baby date night. “We went to see a late movie,” she says, “so midnight came and went without any real acknowledgment.” You can check your local listings for a midnight flick.
Run an epic race
Love being in New York City on New Year’s Eve, but you wouldn’t be caught dead watching the ball drop in Times Square? We get it. Lace-up your running sneakers and take yourself to Central Park, where you’ll join thousands at the New York Road Runners’ Midnight Run. The four-mile race begins at the stroke of midnight, and you’ll get goosebumps as fireworks light up the night sky while you stride into the New Year. Bonus: If running the TCS New York City Marathon is on your bucket list, you’ll be one step closer: The fun run counts toward the qualifying 9+1 Program.
Vegas, baby, Vegas
Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to have fun, sans booze, in Sin City. You can book a 12- to 15-minute helicopter ride over the Las Vegas Strip, or keep your feet on terra firma by letting others do the high flying onstage at Cirque Du Soleil. If R&R is your vibe, there’s plenty to indulge in, like a sumptuous spa day at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas or decadent steak dinners.
Throw a sky lantern party
Rally a few friends, find a wide-open space and release sky lanterns. The lanterns, also known as Kongming lanterns, are an ancient Chinese tradition dating back to 3 BC. Finding some are a breeze; plenty of modern-day iterations await on Amazon. Simply write your wishes for the new year on them, light the candles and watch your hopes soar! Check sites like Eventbrite to see if your local city is hosting a lights festival on New Year’s Eve.
A dinner party—with a twist
Ever daydream about taking on Gordon Ramsay in a kitchen cook-off? Make like a Masterchef, pick a cuisine, sharpen your knives, and challenge your foodie friends to a delicious duel. “We love to have cooking contests,” says Dr. Wilkens of her personal family favorite, “and also have everybody contribute a mocktail—you can get quite elaborate with mocktails, and they can be really fun!”
Power up the PlayStation or Wii, or, better yet, go old school and play card games. Charades are an easy way to liven up the party fast. And there will be no thoughts of vino when you’re too busy rolling on the floor over side-splitting celebrity impersonations. “That’s a great game where everyone’s laughing and participating and teasing each other,” says Dr. Wilkens, “and you can have big prizes after that.”
Visit the most magical place on earth
Whether you’ve got kids or not, there’s plenty of fun to be had at Walt Disney World, and that will be especially true this New Year’s Eve. All four of the resorts’ theme parks will have plenty of action to get into, including live music and dance parties. Plus, eye-popping midnight fireworks at Epcot.
It’s a bird; it’s a plane—no, it’s you in a flight suit airborne inside a giant wind tunnel. iFly, which has locations nationwide, will be open New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The venue, which does not serve alcohol, allows for guests to customize a pretty fly party of their choosing, complete with catering and dry bartending options. Not only will the fun-for-all-ages activity send your pulse racing, but you’ll also straight-up win social media with your airborne Boomerangs. Boing! You can also find other indoor skydiving centers here.
Stay and play in a winter wonderland
If frolicking in the snow is your thing and you have the budget for it, make Aspen your oyster. You can spend the eve’s day partaking in a slew of winter activities, including sledding, skiing, snow biking, and tubing, on and around all four peaks. After you’ve worked up an appetite, end the year with a memorable meal. Duck into Element 47, and you’ll have to choose from caviar, lobster, truffles, scallops, wagyu beef, and fresh pasta. Decisions, decisions indeed.
If your local yoga studio has any New Year’s Eve offerings (like this one, in Washington, D.C.), you can greet the new year with plenty of zen. “I think it’s much nicer to use the eve as a way to reflect on the last year,” says Dr. Wilkens. “Examine it for yourself. What were you proud of? What did you experience? What did you learn? And there are ways that you can set intentions for the next year by waking up the next day feeling great about yourself.” Plus, she adds, you’ll thank yourself for starting 2020 hangover-free. “I don’t know of anybody who feels really good about themselves after they’ve gotten really intoxicated.”