Are you at loose ends for New Year’s Eve? If you’d rather not stay at home when the clock strikes midnight, then make plans to spend the evening partying with thousands of other revelers in the Chicago area. While you know of the parties at Navy Pier, there are a number of other events on the schedule. Those who are more early birds than night owls can find plenty of ways to celebrate the start of a new year, too. Take a look at our guide for ideas on how to ring in 2016 in style in Chicago, and plan to make reservations in advance so you can be part of the fun.

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images for Ciroc Vodka)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images for Ciroc Vodka)


Chi-Town Rising

If you can’t make it to New York City and watch the New Year’s Eve Ball drop over Times Square, then consider checking out Chi-Town Rising. The new event, which was announced in September, will be held along the Chicago River between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive, and will include include fireworks, live musical performances and art installations right through midnight. Details on the free event are available via the festival’s official website.

Catch A Show

Instead of — or perhaps prior to — ringing in the new year at your favorite bar, you and your friends can catch a live performance. The Chicago area will play host to a number of concerts and comedians on Dec. 31. John Oliver brings his biting wit to town when he performs Dec. 30 and 31 at The Chicago Theatre, while funk and soul group Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings perform at House of Blues Chicago at 8:30 p.m. on Dec.31. In addition, you can head to Thalia Hall, where rock musician Brandi Carlile will perform Dec. 30 and 31.

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images for Ciroc Vodka)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images for Ciroc Vodka)


Party In Style

There’s nothing quite like dressing to the nines and attending a stylish party with your friends, and there’s no better time to do that than on New Year’s Eve. Luckily, venues in the Chicago area will help you start 2016 with plenty of panache. You can join other revelers at the 16th annual New Year’s Eve Party at Chicago landmark The Drake, complete with a balloon drop, a DJ and more. Make your way up to the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center for New Year’s Eve celebrations at The Signature Room. And who said you have to celebrate on land? You and your friends can party on board the boats of Entertainment Cruises, which depart on New Year’s Eve from Navy Pier for a special cruise.

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Make It An Early Night

If staying up until midnight isn’t exactly your cup of tea — or, more appropriately, your glass of Champagne — then don’t despair. The Chicago area boasts an assortment of activities on New Year’s Eve so you can celebrate 2016 a bit early, with many events geared for families. Skokie Park District is hosting its Itty Bitty New Year on Dec. 31 starting at noon, with kid-friendly activities and even a countdown; pre-registration is required. Another option is visiting Lincoln Park Zoo’s famed ZooLights, where party-goers can ring in the new year with the animals.

Use Public Transportation

You know where you’re partying, and you know who you’ll see on New Year’s Eve. But have you thought about how you’ll get to and from your destinations? Leave the car at home and take public transportation. Chicago Transit Authority has the “L” and a number of bus stops, so you can travel easily within the city. If you’re coming in from the suburbs, make Metra trains part of your plans. Those who plan to party into the early hours should take a look at departure schedule information for New Year’s Day, too. For route planning information, take a look at the Regional Transportation Authority’s website.

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Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.