How to Have Fun in NYC on New Year’s Eve 2020

Times Square selfies, burlesque shows, hotel staycations, and more.

Let’s start with the bad news: 2020 was the worst year ever. And the good news? It’s almost 2021, baby! Although the pandemic has temporarily canceled some of NYC’s most beloved New Year’s traditions, you can still celebrate the upcoming year with virtual events, extravagant takeout meals, and even some (outdoors, of course!) parties.

Wear your 2021 novelty glasses and matching mask to a caviar-soaked staycation in a Brooklyn hotel, sip seasonal takeout cocktails while watching the ball drop in Times Square from the comfort of your couch, or splash out on a twinkly glass “outdoor dining” house overlooking the East River—we’ve rounded up some of the best ways to say “Good riddance!” to 2020 on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. And no matter how you end the year and ring in 2021, please always wear a mask and social distance responsibly.

Photo courtesy of Jamestown

Visit Times Square with your virtual avatar

Until New Year's Eve
In the absence of a One Times Square crowded with actual bodies, midtown’s most famous address has created an app for the Virtual New Year's Eve instead. To visit the party on your device, build a customized avatar to experience an augmented reality Times Square while playing games, watching virtual concerts, and taking selfies with the New Year's Eve ball to flex like you’re there in the freezing cold at the strike of midnight. On New Year’s Eve itself, you can use the app to watch the ball drop in NYC from any angle you like, then tune into celebrations around the world. 
Cost: Free can visit the party on your device

Flutter some glamour into your life with a burlesque show

December 30, 31, and January 2
New York City’s premiere burlesque supper club (which is female-owned and -operated), Duane Park, is ready to flutter some glamour into your last moments of 2020. At their space on 308 Bowery, make a reservation for their outdoor seating for a five-course meal that comes with plenty of contortion, juggling, aerial acts, and live music from a troupe who will be fabulously dressed to the nines. All the performances will commence by NYC’s 10 pm curfew, giving you enough time to try out some of those bendy moves at home before the ball drops.
Cost: $165 per person

Ring in 2021 as if it was 2022

New Year’s Eve
Pier 15
Do you absolutely insist on having a New Year’s Eve as if you’ve never even heard the word “pandemic”? Then Watermark’s Winter Wonderland is the NYE destination for you. Their twinkly, heated waterfront “glasshouses” are considered outdoor dining, so you can rent one for your crew with no complaints from Cuomo. Reserve a greenhouse for afternoon or evening seating—if you want to party after dark, tables for 2-4 people start at $800 and include a bottle of champagne, a bottle of liquor, four hours of open bar, and a tasting menu. 
Cost: Packages start at $800

Say "Bonne année!" to your amis

New Year’s Eve
Upper West Side
If you would have gone out somewhere super-special for New Year’s Eve, French bistro Bar Boulud’s takeout Porchetta Box is the perfect substitute. With roasted porchetta, a fresh-baked baguette, caesar salad, fingerling potatoes, and choux a la creme for dessert, there’s enough food to feed four to six people (or two very hungry people), with plenty of leftovers to nurse a hangover. If you don’t want to mix your own drinks, add on a seasonal “Twinkle Bell” cocktail for two with cognac, winter spices, and benedictine.
Cost: $250; cocktails for two are $28

Photo courtesy of Ariel Arce

Have a caviar-covered staycation

New Year’s Eve
The Hoxton hotel is having a bubbly-and-caviar special for those of us who kind of want to leave the house for New Year’s Eve. Book The Hoxton x CaviAIR: Happiness Meal package (with code: EXTRAFANCY), which includes one night in the Williamsburg Hoxton, an ounce of Kaluga Osetra Extra Fancy Caviar (complete with mother-of-pearl spoons, creme fraiche, and potato chips), and a bottle of sparkling wine for the perfect combination of staying in and going out on New Year’s Eve. 
Cost: $175/night

Dress to impress at NYC's virtual club

New Year’s Eve
Eschaton, a “virtual nightclub,” is hosting The Dissolution, a celebration fit for the end of the world. Although the party’s on Zoom, festive attire is still requested. And haven’t you been waiting to wear that sparkly dress you got last February, anyway? The party starts at 11 pm and ends at midnight, but feel free to keep your camera on and head to the after-party. After that, head to the after after-party and order some bottle service (AKA drinking something warm and bubbly that you bought from the bodega.)
Cost: Tickets start at $25

Photo by Adam Friedlander

Have sushi for two without leaving home

New Year’s Eve
East Village
Rosella, the newly-opened sushi spot, is offering pickup sushi for two on New Year’s Eve. With ceviche, an assortment of hand rolls and nigiri, soup, and a Japanese cotton cheesecake for dessert, it’s all the fun of a night out on the town without having to put on pants. For an additional $100, you can order the optional wine pairing of two bottles of Riesling or sparkling rosé. One bottle each should get you in the New Year’s Eve spirit (and guarantee a New Year’s Day hangover.)
Cost: $150 for dinner for two; wine pairing is an additional $100

Watch a virtual concert for peace

New Year’s Eve
After a, shall we say, contentious end to 2020, the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace might make us all feel a little better. Tune into the livestream of St. John the Divine’s annual concert, which has been performed for over thirty years, and let the comfort wash over you. While this NYC New Year’s Eve tradition (like many others) might look a little different this year, it’s just the thing to play while you sip your champagne and ready yourself for the year ahead. 
Cost: Free

Have a messy Midtown New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve
If, despite everything, you’re looking to get a little messy on New Year’s Eve, head to Haven Rooftop for their socially-distant party. A $125/person ticket includes a prix fixe menu and a bottle of prosecco for two guests—but if you want to hit up the open bar, that’ll be $215. Seatings are at 2, 4, 6, and 8 pm, and the two-hour limit is strictly enforced, so be sure to drink fast to get the most bang for your buck at that bar. 
Cost: Starts at $125 per person

Watch the ball drop from the comfort of your couch

New Year’s Eve
One good thing about NYE in Times Square being canceled: No crowds, no cops, and no wearing an adult diaper to make it through a bathroom-less night. Instead of fighting thousands of tourists for a spot behind the police barricades, you can watch the ball drop in your PJs from your very own apartment (2021 glasses and noisemakers are still encouraged!). After a year unlike any in history, the familiar routine of that sparkly ball ushering in the new year is gonna feel so good. 
Cost: Free

Feed the crew without cooking a meal

New Year’s Eve
Milu, which just opened in October of this year and will also be participating in Thrillist Ghost Kitchen in early 2021, is a fast-casual Chinese restaurant from Connie Chung, formerly of Eleven Madison Park. You can skip a day spent cooking and order Milu’s dinner for four, which includes their dry-aged duck stuffed with mushroom sticky rice, confit duck legs, duck fat pancakes, veggies, potatoes, and chestnut cream-filled pineapple buns. Order ahead for pick up on December 30, and come New Year’s Eve, simply pop it in the oven for one last meal of 2020 that you didn’t have to make yourself. 
Cost: $168

Start your resolution to "read more" right away

New Year’s Day
If your pandemic resolution to read a book every week quickly dissolved into a seventh rewatch of Gilmore Girls, the Poetry Project’s 47th Annual New Year’s Day Reading Marathon lets you restart 2021 on a more intellectual note. Usually held at St. Marks Church but virtual this year, on this 24-hour livestream, you can tune in to hear more than 200 writers, artists, musicians, and dancers hosting the wildest poetry reading you’ve ever seen. Kicking off at 11pm on NYE, the broadcast will take you into New Year’s Day with hypnosis, DJ sets, cooking demonstrations, and other virtual surprises. 
Cost: Free

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Rachel Pelz lives and writes in Brooklyn.