By Neal Kearney
There are so many ways to ring in the New Year. From house parties to bar hopping, most everyone wants to be doing something fun and spontaneous on December 31st. If you happen to be in Santa Cruz, you’re in luck, as there’s an array of awesome adventures to partake in. Here are five great ways to welcome the New Year in Santa Cruz. Disclaimer-these suggestions do not ensure a New Year’s smooch, that’s up to you! Go for it!
1) Party Like It’s 1987: Chaminade Resort and Spa’s “1980’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” Party
The Chaminade Resort & Spa is well known, luxury, mountaintop retreat in Santa Cruz. The Mission-style resort offers breathtaking views of both the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains. Primarily a destination for executive meetings and wedding and birthday celebrations, it’s also a great place to just treat yourself to some heavenly rest and relaxation.
One of the Chaminade’s biggest events of the year, the “1980’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” party is a pretty exclusive ticket. Starting at 7PM, guests will be served appetizers and have access to a complete NYE package of beer, champagne, wine, and some select NYE cocktails. Attendees will experience a themed, strolling dinner experience, which lasts from 8pm to 10pm. After that you are free to partake in some rug cutting while the DJ plays your favorite 1980’s tunes, before a champagne filled countdown to 2017, complete with balloon drop. If you’re the type of person who wants to avoid the chaos downtown and have a taste for exclusive events, this party is one you won’t want to miss.
2) Crow’s Nest – Extra Large
The upstairs, bar/patio area of the Crow’s Nest restaurant, located in the Santa Cruz Harbor, is always a safe bet for a killer New Year’s Eve party. You can enjoy the fully stocked bar, which is sure to wet your whistle all night long. If you plan to eat before the party really gets going it would be a good idea to take a gander at their delicious appetizer menu, which contains fan favorites like fresh calamari and their mountainous Nacho plate. If you’re really hungry go for a Crow’s Nest Burger—they’re awesome and come with fries to die for.
At this end of the year celebration, come early, because things tend to fill up quickly. Being in such close quarters is unique as it makes everybody interact and laugh it up with friends, old and new. Local funk/feel good band Extra Large, who’ve been voted “Best Local Band in Santa Cruz County” nine times running. They play a mixture of funk, Latin, reggae and classic rock tunes that are sure to get the dancefloor hot and heated. Starting at 9:30, NYE at the Nest is a warm, safe place to party and boogie down with good people. The $15 cover charge is well worth it.
3) ”Griswoldia” – Light Up Your NYE
If crowds and raucous festivities aren’t your cup of New Year’s tea, there’s a more tranquil and thought provoking option that’s great for a casual date or some peaceful reflection at the climax of this holiday season. I’m talking about “Griswoldia”, a public art project at the Tannery Arts Center; a housing and studio space for artists and rehearsal and performance space for art organizations.
Instead of art being showcased inside the Tannery, this entire December, “Griswoldia” (named after Clark Griswold [Chevy Chase], who hung 25,000 Christmas lights outside his home in 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) will bathe the outside of two apartment buildings (better known as the “silos”) with LED lights and lasers. Installed by local sculptor Geoffery Nelson, and funded and sponsored by the Arts Council of Santa Cruz, the two giant “silos” will serve as a mammoth canvas of sorts.
Nelson will hang thousands of blue LED (light emitting diodes) on strings to achieve the appearance of a cascading waterfall. At the same time, mounted lasers will shoot back onto the face of the buildings and sidewalk below. The lightshow will run all of December, but will remain on until 9PM on New Year’s Eve. If you have a young family or a gap in your schedule of festivities, this is an end of the year memory that will burn itself into your memory.
4) Civil Disobedience – Last Night DIY Parade
Santa Cruz has long been known as a liberal haven, artist enclave, surf city, and home for those who inhabit the fringes of “acceptable” society. Haven’t you ever seen those, “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” bumper stickers? Embracing your oddball or inner geek just scratches the surface. There’s been a long tradition of peaceful protest and unsanctioned and spontaneous Do-It-Yourself events here (think of the yearly takeover/costumed parade downtown every Halloween). New Year’s Eve is no different.
Since its inception back in 2005, the Last Night DIY (Do it Yourself) Parade & Street Party has been marching along Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz without city permits or other bureaucratic red tape. This de-centralized Halloween celebration includes a parade of performers: Stilt walkers, circus acts, puppet shows, musicians, and revelers dressed in their most elaborate Halloween outfits.
The parade starts at sunset around 5 PM near the Saturn Cafe parking lot, Pacific Avenue and Spruce Street in Santa Cruz. Parade takes off around 5:30 pm and ends in a street party at Pacific Avenue and Cooper Street. Remember, this is civil disobedience, so act civil; don’t show up wasted and/or disruptive.
5) Downtown Clock Tower Countdown
Last, but not least, we have the Clock Tower New Year’s countdown. Downtown Santa Cruz has to be the most beloved locations for locals and visitors alike to bring in the New Year. A fan favorite approach to a successful New Year’s downtown excursion is to enjoy the warmth and comfort of one of the many restaurants-places like Assembly, or El Palomar– for some fine dining and drinks.
From there you and your crew will want to bar hop your way down Pacific Avenue-try popular spots like Motiv, Rosie McCann’s, and the Red Room-inching towards your final destination, the downtown clock tower. Every year, the masses congregate around the tower in the minutes leading up to the new year, and every year, the city does something awesome when the clock strikes midnight–from fireworks to laser shows. The crowd always erupts in merriment and New Year’s hugs and smooches are distributed; a feel-good, traditional and communal celebration if there ever was one.