DOWNTOWN — My quintessential New Year’s Eve came when I was 15 years old.
My friends and I gathered in the lower floor of my parents’ split-level house in Northern California with a small card table piled high with store-bought cookies, vegetable platters and chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs.
As the clock rang midnight, we celebrated outside, raising plastic champagne glasses full of sparkling apple cider into the night as we climbed on top of our parents’ cars, intoxicated by freedom and promise as we would never be in a post-21 evening.
Santa Monicans have the opportunity to make this New Year’s the best of their lives, and the city by the sea has an evening for every taste and fancy.
Early bird catches the cocktail
At 4 p.m. on Dec. 31, many people will be eyeing their shiny dresses and shined shoes, ready for an evening of they can later say they’ve forgotten.
Not at Ye Olde King’s Head Pub, a British ex-pat refuge where those with a zest for the homeland can ring in the New Year with Big Ben as they celebrate on British time.
“It’s the best party in town,” said Lisa Powers, the operations manager at the pub. “It’s a really great atmosphere. It’s upbeat, everybody’s happy, there’s great music. It’s a really good way to celebrate.”
As in years past, the pub will hire a bagpiper to give a touch of the old country in the new, and guests can party until midnight in California.
The age in which the sun never set on the British Empire may be over, but it need never set on a good time this New Year’s.
The high life
Just a few blocks down at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, it’s a whole different kind of party.
The hotel boasts one of the most expensive New Year’s celebration packages in town, with prices beginning at $850 for a room, dinner for two at the Fig restaurant, VIP access to The Bungalow club, brunch and a massage the next morning at the Exhale spa to rub away that hangover.
The package deal is sold out, as is access to the Bungalow’s exclusive party, but guests can still snag a prix fixe dinner at Fig — bacon wrapped bacon, anyone? — for $80 each, brunch the next day for $35 or a room starting at $479.
Of course, the Fairmont isn’t the only hotel in town that knows how to throw a New Year’s Eve bash.
For anywhere between $110 and $140, stop by the Viceroy Hotel for its Black & White Ball, a rocking evening featuring the musical stylings of KCRW’s Jason Bentley, Anthony Valadez and Valida. Guests will have access to a hosted bar, “heavy” hors d’oeuvre and two dance floors to help you work it all off.
If that’s more in your price range, The Misfit bar on Santa Monica Boulevard is offering reserved tables from 10 p.m. to close for $150 a head. Chef Jordan Lynn is putting together a seven-course tasting menu capped with a champagne toast as guests watch the ball drop in Times Square.
Coming in at a slightly more economical $85 is the Charleston restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard and its Lucky Number 13 New Year’s soiree.
The ticket buys you a liver-busting all you can drink from 9:30 p.m. to close with a champagne toast at midnight. DJ GC will provide the soundtrack for the evening as revelers dance in the New Year.
On the lower end
Maybe that fabulous dress you bought already has your budget maxed out on the night; don’t worry, your New Year’s can still rock.
Zanzibar asks only $20 for entry into its “Circus of Shadows” event. It’s anyone’s guess what an “adult carnival” entails, but with KROQ’s DJ Jeremiah Red at the turn tables and free-flowing champagne at midnight, it can only entail good things.
Possibly the best deal in town remains at Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the iconic Santa Monica Pier.
Party favors, a champagne toast and the ska band FuDogs can be yours for only $15 at this Santa Monica classic, so grab your noisemaker and head down to the pier — it’s going to be a good time.
Just the kids
Family-friendly fun can be hard to come by on New Year’s, no matter where you turn. Kids are welcome at Magicopolis, where husband-wife team Steve Spill and Bozena Wrobel will delight and amaze all ages with their magical arts.
Many parents have been forced to redefine their New Year’s Eve traditions after kids have come into the picture.
Tracy Collins and Kimberly Kern, both Santa Monica residents, have found that pricey nights out no longer have the draw they once did. Instead, champagne has been replaced by a cold glass of Martinelli’s and Ryan Seacrest’s Dick Clark impression on the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special.
“We sit back and enjoy,” Collins said. “We get party favors, everyone picks a color and we watch the ball fall.”