Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates New Year's Eve with a huge celebration. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates New Year's Eve with a huge celebration. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Universal Studios Hollywood

New Year's Eve with Kids: Ringing in the New Year as a Family in LA and OC

It's New Year's Eve 2020, and maybe old acquaintance really should be forgot—if seeing them costs $40/hour in babysitting. Better to find some fun that can be shared with the kids, and see those old acquaintances some other night. Los Angeles rings in the new year in fine family fashion from noon to midnight and beyond; check out some of the memorable Southern California outings on our radar!

1. Skating

Skating Plus invites kids and teens to roll into 2020 with both an afternoon and an all-night skate party. If al fresco skating is more to your taste, Pershing Square (until 11pm), and Ice at Santa Monica (until 10pm) are open on New Year's Eve for late skating, but still get you home in time to say "Happy New Year" in PJs.

2. Universal Studios

Kids who have the energy for a big night out can ring in the new year Hogwarts style, at Universal's all new EVE at Universal Studios celebration. Festivities include music and dance areas, late hours on the rides, and lots of extra Lights over Hogwarts shows leading up to fireworks at midnight.

3. Noon Year's Eve

Local children's museums Kidspace, The Children's Museum at La Habra, and Pretend City all celebrate with balloon drops, live music, sparkling cider, and a countdown to 2020 at 12:00 noon instead of midnight. It's the best of both worlds for little ones: a New Year's Eve bash and an early bedtime.

Make your own noise maker at Kidspace. Photo courtesy of Kidspace Children’s Museum

4. Cele-brick-tion

Legoland hosts its annual gala celebration, with character encounters, movie screenings, and a dance party, culminating in a brick ball drop at 6pm followed by fireworks.

5. Family Festival

Shoreline Village in Long Beach offers a free, early evening, family-friendly celebration featuring all manner of entertainment for kids. The ball drops and the fireworks fly at 9pm, timed to coincide with the east coast, and sensible bedtime. Make even more of a Long Beach day of it by adding a stop at Queen Mary Christmas in the afternoon (open 12n-6pm on New Year's Eve).

6. Enchanted Forest of Light

Descanso Gardens' de-LIGHT-ful woodland holiday display is open for business on the holiday. No need to stay up until midnight to enjoy some beautiful lights as a family; a walk in the woods with hot cocoa is the perfect recipe to get everyone to sleep with smiles on their faces and a great way to close the chapter on 2019.

7. LA Zoo LIghts

If holiday lights need a few reindeer thrown in to pique your interest, LA Zoo Lights' New Year's Eve is the outing to choose. The evening zoo activity includes the same elaborate light display as other nights this season, and as usual, the only animals on display are Santa's visiting reindeer. For NYE, the fun is paired with a buffet dinner, a DJ dance party, and live broadcast of the NYC Times Square ball drop.

8. Knott's New Year's Eve

We feel the same way; it's Knott New Year's Eve already, is it? But apparently it is—and happily, the Knott's New Year's Eve party definitely is a party, with family entertainment everywhere you look, all day and way into the night. We did this last year and had a ball; and by the time it started getting really crowded, the kids were ready to call it a year anyway.

Skate the year away at ICE Santa Monica. Photo courtesy of Downtown Santa Monica

9. Arcade Night

Dave & Busters invites the whole family to play video games and count down to 2020 at the Northridge location. Bubbly drinks for parents and soda for kids are all-you-can-drink at the open bar, and food is included in the ticket price, too. 

10. Jousting

How about some good old-fashioned fighting? No, really, old-fashioned—as in knights in armor jousting and clashing broadswords. Medieval Times Dinner Theater has a family-friendly New Year's Eve bash planned (with the emphasis on bash).

11. Old Town Music Hall New Year's Eve

El Segundo's Old Town Music Hall hosts a family friendly celebration to ring in the new year. Music, performers, classic shorts, and one feature film help guests count down to midnight and toast 2020 with sparkling cider.

12. Cabaret

Santa Monica Playhouse offers its family-friendly New Year's Eve show, the Annual All-New, One-Time-Only New Year's Eve Review (which performs twice!). The theater, in the heart of Downtown Santa Monica, has a hometown feel, and the annual variety show includes a buffet dinner, champagne, and party favors; early and late seatings are available. It's even walking distance to the ice rink, where the skating party we already mentioned goes until 10pm.

Photo courtesy of Grand Park LA

13. Party Downtown

If your kids are old enough to stay up until midnight in the heart of DTLA, Grand Park is hosting a free party, with public art installations, face painting, performances, food trucks, and a midnight countdown projected right onto city hall.

14. Disneyland

If you want the closest you can get to that Times Square crowd energy, the Happiest Place on Earth is also one of the most popular places on Earth. Disneyland fireworks are grander (and happen twice) on New Year's Eve, and the party is all around, as you ring in the new year with every Disney character your kids normally dream of at this time of night.

15. Winter Fest

Orange County has another family-friendly, large-scale celebration option this year, if the theme parks are not your thing. The holiday festival at the OC Fair & Event Center rings in the new year at 6pm for the early-to-bed set, then stays open late to do it all again at midnight, with snow, fireworks, a parade, and a ball drop.

There's lots to do at WinterFest. Photo courtesy of Winter Fest OC

16. Early Fireworks

Kids can get the full-on New Year's Eve experience without staying up much past their bedtime in Marina del Rey, at a perfect compromise celebration in Burton Chace Park. The big countdown starts at 8:59, as everyone watches the Times Square ball drop on a big screen. A big fireworks display is then fired off the south jetty in the Marina, at the civilized hour of 9pm.

17. Late Fireworks

Kids who can make it till midnight can huddle close to their parents in the crisp night air and enjoy fireworks over the Queen Mary in Long Beach, or up above Universal Studios when the grown-up bash reaches its climax with synchronized fireworks displays throughout the park.

18. First Night Fullerton

This family-friendly, alcohol-free event will be celebrating its 28th year from 7pm to midnight. The free event features live musical performances, food vendors, games, activities, and a fireworks show at midnight.

19. Ferris Wheel Fun

Pacific Park will be lighting up its famous Ferris wheel with over 174,000 LED lights (it's the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel), and visitors can watch an outdoor screening of the Times Square ball drop at 9pm and midnight, and you can watch fireworks from the Ferris wheel or the beach. Pacific Park will be staying open until 12:30am.

20. Torchlight Parade

And now for something completely different: Two of the Southland's nearby ski resorts have an annual tradition of a Torchlight Parade, in which hundreds of skiers head down the mountain after dark in a row bearing torches. It costs nothing to watch the spectacle at either Mountain High or Snow Summit, or to participate in the accompanying festivities. Of course, once you're there, why not go skiing? Especially if you have a 5th grader who can ski for free?

There are plenty more options on our daily events calendar!

Originally published December 28, 2011

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