Winter in Chicago means frosty air, warm coats, and a memorable New Year’s Eve watching fireworks light up Lake Michigan. Bundle up to sit outside at Grant Park, hitch a ride on a boat, and watch fireworks illuminate the Willis Tower, or make your way to one of the many parties that help Chicagoans ring in the New Year with style.
Here’s where to ring in 2017 in the Windy City:
To ring in 2016, Chicago decided to shake off its “second city” status and throw a party to rival the shindig in New York’s Times Square. The free event, called "Chi-Town Rising," filled the Chicago Riverfront with over 100,000 revelers ready to watch the star (not a ball) drop at midnight. There were all the trappings of a New Year’s blow-out with food vendors, bars, and live music, topped off with a performance, fittingly, by the band Chicago. Millennium Park hosted a free family-friendly countdown as well as a number of activities for the entire family. This year the city is getting ready to do it all again.
The 5th-Annual Chicago Resolution Gala at The Grand Ballroom
For the last five years, the Resolution Gala has taken over the Grand Ballroom at Chicago’s Navy Pier. Attendees can take advantage of the 30 bars and incredible array of food stations while counting down with the help of the Chicago Bulls music coordinator, DJ Metro. When midnight strikes, fireworks light up the sky over Lake Michigan.
New Year’s Eve Party at The Drake Hotel
Ring in the New Year at The Drake Hotel, which has hosted Chicago’s preeminent New Year’s Eve Party for over 16 years. Revelers from across the Midwest come to fill the Drake’s five ballrooms with revelry and merry making, dancing the night away as DJs spin tunes until the balloon drop and champagne toast at midnight. And bonus: there are over 35 fully staffed bars and a huge spread of hors d’oeuvres.
Girl Power 2017
Start your New Year’s resolutions early by ringing in 2017 while giving back. The Girl Power party bills itself as a 100 percent giveback event with a portion of the proceeds going to five great causes including She’s the First, Girls Write Now, and Girls Who Code. This celebration puts the fun in fundraiser, giving guests the chance to count down to midnight at Dave & Buster’s for a celebration filled with games, food, and prizes.
Spirit of Chicago Cruise
Spend New Year’s Eve on a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan aboard the Spirit of Chicago. Eat, drink, and be merry with a dinner cruise while the clock ticks down to midnight and then you’ll have a front row seat to the fireworks that fill the sky over the great lake. The lake is the perfect vantage point for watching the lights of the city as the new year rolls in.
Related: Things to do in Chicago
Big Night Chicago
Convince some friends to go all in on a mammoth New Year’s Eve party at the Palmer House Hilton (which is where Ferris Bueller went to party). There’s a fully stocked bar, a food buffet, multiple places to bust a move, and many bands to keep guests entertained. If you book a room at the Hilton, you won’t even have to fight for an Uber home. With so many guests on hand, there will not only always be someone to talk to, but you’ll have a chance to kick off 2017 with 3,000 brand new BFFs.
Family Friendly New Year’s Eve
Celebrate the New Year without staying up until midnight at the Brookfield Zoo’s annual party. The party features all the hallmarks of a New Year’s throw down with a DJ, games, and party favors as well as a bedtime-friendly countdown that takes place at 8 p.m. The zoo will be all decked out for the holidays with its annual light display: over a million twinkling lights lighting the paths and exhibits. Families can visit the animals, ring in the New Year, and still be in bed at a reasonable hour.
Brew Year’s Eve
If you’re tired of sipping champagne at midnight or elbowing for room to order another round of miniscule Cosmos at the bar, Brew Year’s Eve may be the alternative you’re looking for. The beer-lovers’ paradise features 10 breweries pouring 30 different varieties of craft beers. This isn’t just a college kegger, though; there’s live music, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a late-night pizza buffet (Chicago style, natch). This is all spread out over three floors of Salvage One, a 60,000-square-foot architectural salvage-filled venue. And if you somehow need a break from beer, they’ll have wine and signature cocktails on hand, too.