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. Just don't forget to reserve your spot soon!
Looking for pre-new year entertainment? 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 an ideal choice for families that want to let loose on New Year's Eve. Admission includes a buffet dinner, a DJ-led music party, unlimited rides, and a $10 arcade game card. The fun kicks off at 7pm, culminates with a midnight countdown, and clears out at 12:30am. 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.
iPlay America – Freehold
iPlay America's annual bash for all ages features hours of fun from 7:30pm to 1am. Kids can use their included iRide Plus Pass and $10 game card to keep entertained throughout the night. They'll also enjoy lots of prizes and giveaways, party favors, a cool light show, and a rockin' DJ. There's even a cocktail area for adults. To cap off the celebration, watch the ball drop on one of five large-screen TVs as confetti cannons are set off. Admission is free for toddlers. Dining options can be added for an additional cost. Book your reservation by Dec. 15 and you'll receive a free iRide Plus Pass for future use.
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. From 7pm to 12:30am, families can splash away at all of the indoor water attractions, including the 350-foot Nile Mile body slide. Nosh on appetizers, entrees, and desserts while a DJ spins tunes. When midnight draws near, don't miss the super-fun foam party. Round out the celebration with champagne for mom and dad, and sparkling cider for the kids—noisemakers and party hats included. Children under 2 are free.
Adventure Aquarium – Camden
This family-style New Year's Eve Splash is a daytime event, so it's great for even the wee ones. Doors open at 10am, and extended hours allow visitors to tour the aquarium until 6pm. In addition to enjoying exhibits, live shows, and feedings, a DJ keeps things festive throughout and guests can view a spectacular fireworks display over the Delaware River at dusk. All activities are included in the admission price. Best of all, you can get the kids to bed on time to start the new year off right.
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 2018. The New Year's Eve Balloon Drop Bounce runs from 1pm to 2:30pm and is billed as a Noon Year's Eve Jump. In addition to all the inflatable fun, kids can enjoy a special holiday theme that includes "jump n jam" karaoke, special lighting effects, and a festive balloon drop. Glow necklaces and party hats are also included.
Sesame Place – Langhorne
Join Count von Count and his friends as they count down to 2018! Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Abby Cadabby will join the purple puppet in a musical celebration of favorite songs to accompany a 6:25pm fireworks show that's viewable from inside the park. For an additional cost, purchase a fireworks grab bag in advance. The souvenir tote includes snacks, two souvenir drink bottles, one souvenir popcorn bucket, two glow wands, and two bottles of water. Park admission is required.
First Night Ocean County – Seaside Heights
If you’re down the shore this New Year’s Eve, stop by Seaside Heights Boardwalk for a fun family celebration from noon to 5pm. Arcades and businesses will be open. Caricatures artists, face painters, balloonists, magicians, jugglers, and crafts are sure to entertain all ages. There's also a Jenkinson's Aquarium show and fireworks at 5pm. Bracelets can be purchased at participating boardwalk arcades, including Casino Arcade, Coin Castle Arcade, Shake Shoppe Arcade, and Lucky Leo’s Arcade.
Battleship New Jersey – Camden
Don't mistake the fireworks for bombs bursting in air during a visit to the Battleship New Jersey on New Year's Eve. The ship invites guests to come onboard to watch two pyrotechnic shows from its deck, at 6pm and midnight. Music, food, and drinks (including alcohol) will be available for sale. If you're lucky, you might be chosen to set off the historic 5-inch gun onboard to cap off the night. The $10 donation per person goes toward the ongoing restoration of the ship. Doors open two hours before each show, and each party lasts for about 45 minutes after the fireworks begin.
Rizzo's Reptile Discovery is one of the fun acts at First Night Morris.
First Night Morris – Morristown
For an action-packed family-friendly New Year’s Eve, look no further than First Night Morris, New Jersey's largest First Night event. The alcohol-free evening, which kicks off at 4:45pm, features 85 events, including dance, theater, comedy, music, visual arts, and cultural and children's programming. Though everything is within walking distance from the Morristown green, a free shuttle can also get you around. The night includes two fireworks shows, at 9:15pm and midnight, so you can choose the celebration that works best for your family.
Rainforest Cafe – Menlo Park
Animal lovers can celebrate among the wild wonders of the rainforest this New Year's Eve. Kids 10 and under can enjoy a knee-high buffet dinner for $11.99, which includes a sundae bar. Then they can work off all their energy on the dance floor. There's a countdown to the new year culminating with a balloon drop and a sparkling cider toast at 9pm. Hats and horns are provided.
Crystal Springs Resort – Sussex County
If you're looking for an overnight getaway this New Year's, Crystal Springs offers a variety of party options. Book a room at the Grand Cascades Lodge or Minerals Hotel to get special access to a three-course dinner that includes a cocktail hour, live entertainment, and dancing from 8pm to 1am. There are also two family-style buffet options offered from 5pm to 8pm that don't require an overnight stay: The Copper Room presents dinner with a DJ and dancing, while the Diamond Ballroom features a DJ, dancing, games, strolling magician, and balloon artist.
Stryxe – Madison
Bowl the early evening away at Stryxe. From 5:30pm to 8:30pm, enjoy three hours of unlimited bowling. An open table featuring tapas, specialty Tabisca-style pizza, and sweets; unlimited soft drinks; and a champagne toast for guests age 21+ are also included. Lanes cost $275 each, with a maximum of six bowlers per lane. Bowling shoe rentals are part of the deal, too.
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 2017.