New Year’s Eve is one of those holidays that changes drastically once you become a parent. Any kind of grown-up fun usually involves weeks of planning. Who can babysit? How much do we pay on New Year’s Eve? Do we let the tweens stay up until we get home? Unless you truly need an adult night out (in which case, GO for it!), how about a happy compromise? Read on to get the scoop on events in NJ for families who want to ring in the New Year together, from a bash at an indoor amusement park to an aquatic countdown at the aquarium.
Looking for pre-new year fun? We rounded up 25 great things to do this holiday break, and even more fun events happening this week for the kids.
The Funplex – East Hanover & Mount Laurel
A mega entertainment center for older kids and adults, The Funplex is a perfect choice for families that want to let loose on New Year's Eve. Admission includes unlimited use of indoor attractions from 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., great music, a buffet dinner, refreshments, and 40 tokens for the game room. Although The Funplex is family-friendly, most of the attractions are geared toward older kids (7 & up) and even the pre-teen set would enjoy a night here. 973-428-8772
iPlay America – Freehold
iPlay America's annual bash for all ages features hours of fun from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., with unlimited rides like Go Karts, Bumper Cars, Kite Flyer and Skyscraper, plus attractions including the 4D Theater and Laser Tag. The Party Pass includes rides, attractions, game card, party favors, live DJ, and countdown to midnight. Admission is free for toddlers. Dining options can be added for an additional cost.
Kids will delight in a foam dance party at Sahara Sam's.
Sahara Sam's – West Berlin
Bathing suits and swim goggles might not be the first things that come to mind when making New Year's Eve plans, but you can get your swim on at Sahara Sam's Midnight at the Oasis. Kids (and fun-loving parents too) can splash the night away at all of the indoor water attractions, including the awesome Nile Mile body slide. When midnight draws near, the whole family can dance and sing in the foam party. Round out the celebration with champagne for mom and dad, and sparkling cider for the kids—noisemakers and party hats included!
Adventure Aquarium – Camden
This family-style New Year's Eve Splash is a daytime event, so it's great for even the wee ones. Aquarium Manager Kimberly Walker says: "We're excited to once again host the New Year's Eve Splash, where families can ring in the New Year together and enjoy the beautiful fireworks celebration over the Delaware River, and still make it home in time to get the little ones to bed!" Aquarium mascot Gill the Shark will be decked out in a tuxedo for his duties as the evening's host. You can marvel at the beloved hippos in the African exhibit or check out sharks in their 760,000 gallon tank before the New Year's Eve "Countdown" Dance Party, complete with a fireworks display, at dusk.
Pump It Up – Hamilton
Kids need an outlet for all that post-holiday energy! Reserve a spot at Pump It Up and they can bounce and climb their way into 2017 at four special open-jump sessions. And if that's not enough excitement, try the New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop Bounce, featuring a celebratory balloon drop and holiday-themed karaoke.
Sesame Place – Langhorne
Bring your child to join the Count and all of his friends as they count down to the New Year! Dine with the whole Sesame Street gang in one of three seatings: 12 p.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.
First Night Ocean County – Seaside Heights
If you’re going to be down the shore this New Year’s Eve, be sure to stop by the Seaside Heights Boardwalk for a fun family day celebration. Games and businesses along the boardwalk will be open, and there will be fireworks at 5 p.m. The fun starts at noon. Bracelets can be purchased at participating boardwalk arcades, including Casino Pier Arcade, Coin Castle, and Lucky Leo’s Arcade.
Battleship New Jersey – Camden
Have a New Year’s Eve like you have never before—with a sleepover on an actual battleship. You will enjoy dinner and breakfast in the crew’s mess hall, a tour of the ship, and a ride on a flight simulator. Not to mention the greatest view of 6 p.m. fireworks and a non-alcoholic toast at the midnight fireworks for $79 per person. If staying on the ship doesn’t interest you, you can still ring in the New Year on Battleship New Jersey for a $10 donation per person. 1-866-877-6262
Rizzo's Reptile Discovery is one of the fun acts at First Night Morris.
First Night Morris – Morristown
For a unique family-friendly New Year’s Eve event, look no further than First Night Morris. This year marks the 25th anniversary of this celebration, and they are doing it big. Entertainment includes Illusionist Benjamin Lipman, Rizzo’s Reptile Discovery, hula hoop artist Whirled Revolution, Nai Ni Chen Dance Company, Art 4 Kids, and Children’s Fun Festival. Admission includes access to these programs and others that feature dance, theater, fine art, music, and cultural performances and exhibits, more than 80 in total. Tickets also include a free shuttle ride to more than 26 different venues and two sets of fireworks. 973-455-0708
Shannon Rose – Clifton
Celebrate when the clock strikes midnight… in Dublin. From 4–7 p.m. at the Shannon Rose in Clifton, you and your family can enjoy face painters, bagpipers, balloons, and a celebratory toast. This family celebration requires reservations, so call 973-284-0200.
Stryxe – Madison
Bowl the early evening away at Stryxe. From 5–7 p.m. enjoy two hours of unlimited bowling, bowling shoes, unlimited soft drinks, juice, and an open table featuring: tapas, pizza, and sweet treats. Reserved lanes cost $175 and allow for up to 6 bowlers.
Fireworks – Various
There are several fireworks displays happening throughout the state, including at the First Night celebrations in Morristown, Haddonfield, Ocean City, and Seaside Heights. You can also catch them on Battleship New Jersey, as well as in New Brunswick, Sea Isle City, and Atlantic City.
Happy New Year!
Top photo: Enjoy the fireworks and then sleepover in a real battleship. All photos courtesy of the events/venues.
Originally published 2011; updated 2016.