Time flies huh folks? Can you believe that this year is almost over!? I used to be shocked when I walked into a store and saw them displaying Christmas stockings next to Halloween costumes, but now I get it. October 31st turns into January 31st in the blink of an eye. You've got to act fast or plan well if you want to make the holiday season a success. And all of this planning takes a lot of work. By the time the holiday season is over don't you feel like you've earned a break? I do. So when the wrapping paper is in the trash and all of the leftover ham has gone into the dog's bowl we give ourselves a little break...a little fun...all in the way of a little trip. Every year the hubby and I travel to a different city (within driving distance of wherever we might be living at the time) to ring in the new year and party like a local for two or three days. It's the perfect way to cap off the hectic holiday season and I recommend everyone try it at least once. This will be our 6th new year together and since we now live 5 1/2 hour north of where we used to live in Richmond, VA, a new world of drive-able destination possibilities has opened for us.
In the past we've spent new year's eve in places like Baltimore's inner harbor, Washington DC's Georgetown and Philly (before we moved here of course). They were all easily drive-able from our home in Richmond and made for a stress free getaway (oh...and one year in Cancun *that explains the Feliz Ano Nuevo picture at the top of the page*, but that was for our friends' wedding so we were happy to disregard the "drive-able" rule for that one!). This year we're heading to Niagara Falls, Canada to ring in the new year. It's 6 1/2 hours from our home, it offers plenty of sightseeing opportunities AND there will be a huge firework display, free outdoor concert and festival area...complete with beer gardens. I expect this location to be darn near perfect for a new year's eve trip (fingers crossed!). After years of hits and misses I've compiled a list of things to look for in a new years eve destination to ensure you'll have a great time. So if you're interested in trying something new to start off 2010, here are a few tips to make it a wonderful experience:
1.)Be sure to seek out some sort of entertainment prior to 11pm and have a plan or destination for midnight...lest you want to fall asleep and miss everything:
It's not always better to burn out than to fade away. If you party a little too hard prior to, say, 8pm and then find yourself just waiting around for midnight, you may not make it. The hubby and I always spend most of new year's eve day sightseeing and being active (we are in a new city after all). Find an ice skating rink (this one was in DC but there was one in every cold city we've been to during new year's), visit the historic section of town or do some shopping. Then we rest in the hotel and don't even think of going out on the town before 7pm. A good way to keep having fun all the way up 'till the ball drops is to seek out a "happening" area. The inner harbor in Baltimore was chock full of entertainment. In Philly you might want to go to South Street or Old City where there are bars and restaurants every 10 feet and PLENTY of interesting people. What I don't recommend is going to one bar/club and staying there all night. What's the point of going to a new city if you never see it. Washington DC can be tough for this. Many of the clubs and bars in the "happening" area of Adam's Morgan had $100 (plus) cover charges so bar hopping wasn't exactly feasible. But that's the first time I had ever encountered such a phenomenon.
Many cities offer a lovely firework display at midnight...but many don't. Be sure to know where the fireworks will be held and plan to work your way in that direction during the night. Bar hopping isn't a bad way to travel in such a situation. One of the more memorable fireworks displays we saw took place in Baltimore's inner harbor. This place was perfect for a new year's eve celebration. It had plenty of bars and restaurants all in a small area...perfect for bar hopping. And all of said bars had large patios and outdoor areas that made watching the firework display easy as pie. The close proximity also allowed for everyone to enjoy the many bands and various sorts of entertainment, and, you were never far from your "inner harbor" hotel...a MUST for getting back to your bed safely and efficiently at 1am. Philly also has a great show that can be seen from the South Street pedestrian bridge and you can bar hop yourself silly on the way there.
2.) Don't get caught in a stuffy bar with no escape plan OR stranded outside with no bathroom:
I hear that spending new year's eve in Time's Square is hell for anyone not wearing a diaper...and I suppose hell for anyone standing next to someone who is in fact wearing a diaper. It's a caged in area with no bathrooms and little access to booze. No thank you. The polar opposite of this would be spending that $100 to be stuck in a bar and still have to pay for your drinks. The perfect location to start the new year would be somewhere that has good "open container" laws such as New Orleans, Las Vegas or Key West, where you're free to stroll the sidewalks wearing a damn beer helmet if you like (my kind of place). We've spent ample time in all three of these places and they all offer that "new year's eve feel" every day of the year. But we don't all live within driving distance of these gems so our best bet is to find a part of town with lots of options AND entertainment, or seek out a festival like the one we'll be attending in Niagara Falls.
3.) Don't overpay for your hotel:
After buying hundreds of dollars worth of Christmas presents I know the last thing you think you can afford is a trip. But if you're driving there and only staying a few nights the trip can be downright cheap! Please, pretty please with a cherry on top, bid for your hotel room if you're planning a new year's trip. Go to Hotwire.com or Priceline.com and you'll be able to find lodging for close to 1/2 of what you would pay on an Orbitz.com type place. People get scared that they don't know what hotel they'll be staying at until after they pay for it but a 4 star is a 4 star no matter how you slice it. Here's how to do it:
1.) Go to www.biddingfortravel.com
This site has allowed me to get 4 star hotel rooms in places like San Francisco for as little as $69/night. Bidding For Travel is a bulletin board of sorts. Since priceline only allows you to bid once per 24 hour period on a specific star rated hotel in a specific area you need to make your bids count. This site allows you to read people's posts on what worked and what didn't work for them so you know how high or low to bid. Just find the city you're looking for on the bulletin board and read away.
2.) Once you're ready to bid research the "areas" on the priceline map carefuly to be sure you're bidding for a hotel in the exact area you're looking for. Priceline doesn't let you choose a specific hotel but it does let you choose a specific area. And after all, it's really all about location, location, location at the end of the day. Look for things like access to subways or trolleys and bars/restaurants/entertainment when choosing your area.
3.) Bid. Ok. This is the part that scares people but fear not. It's not scary after you do it just once. Priceline is going to ask you to choose your city, the exact area in that city and the star rating of the hotel you want. Then it's going to have you put in all of your credit card info and click to bid. At this point you've basically told them if they can find a, say, 4 star hotel in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco that will take your bid of $69 for one night, that they can charge your credit card immediately. It's scary...but a rush too :) Keep in mind that you cannot get a refund on this room so be sure you're plans are set. If you win the bid then you're all set and I promise you'll enjoy your trip more, knowing that you paid next to nothing for your luxury accommodations. If you lose the bid wait 24 hours and bid a bit more, every day, until you win.
So get out there and treat yourself to a little getaway for the new year. After all of the holiday hubbub is said and done, getting away can be just what the doctor ordered.