New Year's Eve celebrations
Big easy new year
What: Seminole Casino Immokalee will celebrate the new year with a $25,000 giveaway, music, food and more
When: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Dec. 31
Where: 506 S. First St., Immokalee
Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa
What: New Year’s Eve dinner, entertainment and Champagne toast
When: 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Dec. 31
Where: 560 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
Naples New Year’s Eve fireworks
When: 7:30 to 8 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: Naples Pier, 12th Ave. S., Naples
Fort Myers New Year's Eve Downtown Countdown
What: Fort Myers New Year's Eve Downtown Countdown featuring six stages of music, drink and food specials, and a ball drop and fireworks at midnight.
When: Dec. 31, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Where: The Fort Myers River District
Fort Myers Beach Birthday Party and New Year's Eve Celebration
When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. for the town's 16th annual birthday party. Ball drops at midnight at Time Square.
Where: 1031 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach
SWFL LATIN New Year’s EVE Gala
When: 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Dec. 31
Where: 13051 Bell Tower Drive, Fort Myers
Cost: $40 ahead; $50 at door; free for active duty military personnel
Naples Phil’s New Year’s Eve
What: A performance by three tenors who starred in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway and a trio of Broadway’s Christines
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 31
Where: Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts,
5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples
Cost: Sold out
What: New Year’s Eve Gala
When: 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.Dec. 31
Where: 550 Port O Call Way, Naples
Cost: $175 per person
Information: 239-649-2275, naplesprincesscruises.com
Fort Myers Princess
What: New Year’s Eve Gala
When: 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Dec. 31
Where: 645 Old San Carlos Blvd., Fort Myers Beach
Cost: $54.97 in advance; $64.97 dockside
Information: 239-765-8500, fortmyersprincess.com
Tony’s Off Third and the Courtyard Bar at Ridgway
Where: 1300 Third St. S., Naples
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Bamboo Café French Home Cooking
Where: 755 12th Ave. S., Naples
Hours: 5 to 10:30 p.m.
What: New Year’s Eve dinner and Champagne toast
When: Three seatings 5, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Where: 4236 Gulfshore Blvd., Naples
Cost: $90 per person
Buffalo Chips Restaurant
What: New Year’s Eve party featuring late-night buffet and Champagne toast
When: Opens at 11 a.m. Free buffet 11 p.m., toast at midnight
Where: 26620 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs
Dave Cranor 5K
When: 7:30 a.m. Jan. 1
Where: Lowdermilk Park, 1301 Gulfshore Blvd. N., Naples
When it comes to New Year's Eve celebrations, the granddaddy of them all is in New York City. If you want to go all the way, and go for the gold standard of "Auld Lang Syne," you go to Times Square in Manhattan to watch the ball drop.You'll be joined by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and, says the Times Square Alliance, "about a million of your closest friends." Manhattan resident Teri Hagedorn, vacationing on Marco Island, when asked whether she had ever made the pilgrimage across town for the event, was succinct.
"No," she said. "We're sane."
Naples resident Barb Vasallo took up that challenge. Three years ago, she took her two teenagers to the Big Apple for the big ball drop.
"We got there at lunchtime, and stayed until after midnight," she said. "Yes, it was freezing cold, but it was magic, inspirational."
Seeing the celebration on TV year after year, said Vasallo, she had always wanted to be there in person — but once was enough.
In Southwest Florida, watching the ball drop on the tube represents the other end of the spectrum, the least ambitious path for those who spend the night at home with friends or family, or are shaken awake in time to watch the countdown. In between those two extremes, though, there is no shortage of options.
For a chance to get lucky on New Year's Eve, head to the Seminole Casino Immokalee for a Big Easy New Year Celebration, a Bourbon Street-style party it's billing as "the area's largest NYE party." Starting at 3:30 p.m., they will be giving away $2,012 every hour, capped off by a $25,000 grand prize at 2 a.m. It might be the only time when casinos, which are known for having no windows and no clocks, makes a point of letting you know the time.
The City of Naples will kick things off early, with fireworks blasting off from the Naples Pier between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Expect a crowd for the prime viewing spots up and down the beach, but don't worry, there's room for everyone who wants to start the New Year with a bang.
If you'd like to watch the fireworks, but don't want to get sand in your shoes, or are looking for a spot to fortify yourself afterward for the evening's festivities, check out Tony's Off Third, which just opened an outside bar on the deck, or the Bamboo Café on 12th Avenue South, where you can view the fireworks from the front lawn and listen to live entertainment by Bob Terri.
Wherever you go New Year's Eve, you'll want to call ahead, make reservations, and make sure your choice of event is still available. The Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts is offering an evening called "The Phantoms at the Phil," with three tenors who starred in "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway joined by three of their "Christines" for the music of the night. If you don't already have tickets, though, you're out of luck — the show is sold out.
The Marriott on Marco Island is offering a special New Year's Eve entertainment and room package for Collier County residents, but expects to sell out before the evening arrives.
"We sold 30 packages the first weekend," said Jada Shigley, director of reservation sales at the Marriott. "It kind of flew off the shelf."
Like many hotels throughout Southwest Florida, the Hilton Marco Island offers evening soirees that do not include overnight accommodations. The party in the Hilton ballroom goes from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., with dinner, live entertainment and Champagne at midnight.
For a Feliz Año Nuevo with a Latin flair, head to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Fort Myers. The S.W. Florida Latin New Year's Eve Party promises "a dazzling spectacle of fireworks, music, and magic," with live salsa bands plus merengue, bachata, with pre-party salsa lessons and the party scheduled to rock until 2 a.m.
Many restaurants would like to show you a good time New Year's Eve, with parties available for every taste and price range. For something elegant, try MiraMare Ristorante on Gulfshore Boulevard in Naples, where they will have three seatings at a $90 flat fee, with complimentary Champagne toast. For something a little more down-home, stop by Buffalo Chips in Bonita Springs, which will offer a free buffet at 11 p.m., and free Champagne at midnight.
You don't have to stay on dry land. To get out on the water and leave the driving to someone else, take advantage of the excursion boat tours offered out of Naples, Marco Island and Fort Myers Beach.
The Fort Myers Princess features a three-hour tour from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 31, with an open bar for the entire trip, sailing from Old San Carlos Boulevard in Fort Myers Beach with boarding at 9 p.m. On ship or ashore, party with a designated driver, or get a taxicab if you even think maybe you shouldn't be behind the wheel.
Whatever you do New Year's Eve, or if you overdo it and want to undo a little of it, head down to Lowdermilk Park bright and early next morning. The Dave Cranor 5K, known as the "Alka-Seltzer Run" for obvious reasons, kicks off at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 1, followed by Big Dave's Polar Bear Swim.
"This is a free run," said Mitch Norgart, president of Gulf Coast Runners, who sponsors the event. "Just show up" — and get started on that New Year's resolution.