NYC’s Best Kid-Friendly 2021 New Year’s Eve Celebrations

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Wondering what to do with the kids in NYC on New Year’s Eve? We’ve rounded up kid-friendly New Year’s Eve activities where families can celebrate together, from in-person light shows and ball drops at noon, to dance parties, the virtual New Year’s Eve in Times Square experience and more! Read on to find the NYC kid-friendly New Year’s Eve event perfect for your family!

(Editor’s note: The current surge in Covid cases in New York City is resulting in many last-minute cancellations and closures. We are attempting to keep things as updated as possible, but please confirm info before heading out!)

A reminder of new proof-of-vaccine protocol: Starting December 14th, children aged 5-11  will be required to show proof of one vaccination dose for indoor dining, fitness and entertainment. Starting December 27th, New Yorkers aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.)

VNYE

Celebrate in Times Square Virtually with VNYE

For obvious reasons, last year a virtual gathering in Times Square took the place of the usual over-the-top celebration. This year's live event will be scaled-back, with vaccinations and masks required—and now the new mayor, Eric Adams will be sworn in shortly after midnight!

But the online party is back in a big way, and includes the ability to watch the Ball Drop and crowds from numerous angles, as well as New Year's celebrations as they take place around the world. 

Download the VNYE app to enter the Times Square Metaverse and celebrate virtually as well! 

For an idea of what to expect, last year's online experience "gamified" the Ball Drop experience via a personalized avatar and a downloadable app. Users could check out a Remembrance Hall, a look back at the past year; explore Times Square Plaza, and head to an observation deck where you can take in the sights of the city and Times Square’s iconic billboards. Plus: a gaming lounge, performances by emerging musical artists, a dance floor, and an art gallery of 60 works by contemporary artists.

At midnight, a live-streamed Ball Drop event will top it off—and you can attend with friends and family from anywhere! 

Online: vnye.com

To Celebrate the New Year With a Ball Drop at 12 NOON

[Editor's note: Out of an abundance of caution CMOM will not be holding its ball drop and dance party this year.]

The Children's Museum of Manhattan is once again hosting its popular daytime ball drop and party on New Year's Eve day—perfect for those who can't, or don't want to stay up for the Times Square event at midnight. Visit on Thursday or Friday for New Year-related crafts, and enjoy the museum's afternoon ball drop on December 31; it happens several times so there are many chances to catch it! 

You must reserve a play session in advance. 

Tickets: $15/adults and kids; $12/seniors, free/kids one and younger 
Dec. 30 & 31, time slots throughout the day
212 W. 83rd St.
Upper West Side
212-721-1234
Online: cmom.org

iStock

To Celebrate at Noon With CAMP

Head to one of CAMP's locations (choose from Fifth Avenue, Hudson Yards, Columbus Circle and City Point in Brooklyn) to ring in the "Noon Year" at 12 p.m. (Above, a shot from a 2019 party set up.) Expect New Year's Eve crafts, cookies, sparkling cider, a dance party and some special CAMP surprises. 

Tickets: $30/person 
Fri., Dec. 31, 11 a.m.
CAMP 
Online: camp.com

To Party with Celebs, Superheroes, and Presidents

It's all possible at Madam Tussaud's, of course. From 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., you can take in more than 85,000 square-feet of space filled with the lifelike wax figures of all kinds as a top DJ spins tunes and you nosh on passed appetizers and drink from the open bar (from 8 pm. to midnight). Interactive entertainment includes the 4D cinema. For an upgrade go for the Family VIP ticket, which grants you access to a roped-off area with private tables, or the Inside View package, which gives you a view of the ball drop live! Note that strollers must be checked and are not allowed into the venue. 

Tues., Dec. 31, 8 p.m. - 1 a.m.
Tickets: Starting at $149/person
234 W. 42nd St. 
Times Square
212-201-0735
Online: balldrop.com

Story Pirates

DJ Squirm-a-lot's New Year's Bash

Also returning after a successful online bash in 2020, are the Story Pirates and DJ Squirm-a-lot. 

Squirm-a-Lot is hosting the second annual Story Pirates New Year's Eve Party ... from the moon. Kids everywhere are invited to join the interactive adventure, which will involve story creation, songs, games and special guests from the award-winning Story Pirates Podcast. Think festive comedy improv fun for all ages. The out-of-this world Zoom party starts at 3 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Ticket holders receive a downloadable VIP party pass that doubles as a coloring sheet to commemorate the celebration. 

Can't get enough Story Pirates? Join the Top Secret Planning Committee Creator Camp ($75). Kids can join Story Pirates teaching artists in a smaller zoom session (no more than 15 kids) before the livestream on Dec. 29, 30 and 31st. Kids will work as a team to go on secret moon missions, while also helping DJ Squirm-a-Lot plan for the big party. Kids will help make real decisions about planning the party and work on projects that will actually find their way on-screen during the final New Year's Eve bash.

Tickets: $15/family
Dec. 31, 3-4 p.m.
Online: storypirates.com

 

Winter Lantern Festival

To Shine a Lot of Light on the New Year

You may have noticed that this holiday season brought so many light and lantern shows to the New York City area, and all of them are sticking around at least until January 9. Options include Illuminate the Farm at the Queens County Farm Museum, Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo, Escape at Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Glow at the New York Botanical Garden and Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

See all of your choices here!

Big Apple Circus

To Celebrate in the Big Top

Swing your way into the new year with the Big Apple Circus, which has returned to Lincoln Center with a new show, “Making The Impossible, Possible!" It's helmed by world-renowned aerialist, high wire artist and Guinness World Record holder, Nik Wallenda; acts joining Wallenda include Johnny Rockett, a combination of Evel Knievel & Charlie Chaplin (shown here), and Alan Silva from America’s Got Talent who will act as the circus' Ringmaster. Plus: an incredible cast of circus acts from around the world. 

Dec. 31, 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $65 and up
Lincoln Center 
Upper West Side 
Online: bigapplecircus.com

To Get Centered at the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace

[Editor's note: This event will now be entirely online.]

Feeling the need for some unity and peace? Take the whole family to this annual NYC tradition of music, candlelight and goodwill, which was founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1986. This year's concert will feature the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra led by Director of Music Kent Tritle, Bryan Zaros & Jie Yi. Handel's Water Music Suite in D kick things off; a medley of Asian composers will include Chen Yi, with the choir singing in Chinese and Jamet Pittman will lead the crowd in singing “This Little Light of Mine” after J.S. Bach’s timeless setting of Dona Nobis Pacem from his Mass in B Minor. Harry Smith hosts.

Fri., Dec. 31, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Tickets: General admission: $40/person; $100-$150/reserved—on sale now (A limited number of tickets will be free the night of the event.)
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St.
Upper West Side
1-866-811-4111
Online: stjohndivine.org

To Roll Into the New Year

[Editor's note: This event has been canceled.]

Welcome the new year on January 1 with a rousing bowling match at Brooklyn Bowl. The alley will host Family Bowl from Noon - 5 p.m. There's no cover, just pay per game.

New Year's Day Family Bowl
Jan 1, 2022, Noon- 5 p.m.
Online: brooklynbowl.com

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Ave.
Williamsburg
718-963-3369
Online: brooklynbowl.com

To Dive Into the New Year at Coney Island

After a pause last year, the famous Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge—during which dozens of lunatics run into the icy waters of the Atlantic for a bracing start to the year—is back! We kid: they're amazing. It's a tradition that's been going on since 1903!

In case you want to join the brave masses, it's free to plunge but you must register. Registration begins at 10 a.m. at Stillwell and the Boardwalk and you must be there by noon if you plan to plunge. (FYI, even though there is no fee, the event is also a fundraiser for Coney Island organizations such as the New York Aquarium, The Alliance for Coney Island, the Coney Island History Project, and others, so donate a few bucks! They are even offering incentives as thank-yous!)  (If you are plunging with a child under 18, you must sign a waiver for them.) Don't forget some old sneakers for plunging! 

Polar Bear Club New Year's Day Plunge
1-2 p.m.
Registration starts at 10 a.m. at Stillwell Ave. and the Boardwalk.
Online: polarbearclub.org

—Mimi O’Connor

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