8 Creative Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Without Alcohol
Skip the alcohol and try these 8 unique ways to ring in the New Year, from a virtual dinner party to doing a midnight meditation.
For many, the song Auld Lang Syne and a chug of champagne are an inextricable pairing to herald in a brand-new year. By some estimates, 360 million flutes of bubbly flow into revelers’ maws in the U.S. each New Year’s Eve. But bucking that time-old tradition and skipping the alcohol on New Year’s Eve has its benefits, including being hangover-free on the first day of the new year or getting a an early start on Dry January.
In a 2018 study, University of Sussex researchers looked at 816 UK residents who tried a Dry January, which is when people abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January. Eight months later, researchers found the participants were drinking less alcohol. ( On average, about one less drinking day per week.)
Even if Dry January isn’t your thing, wiping away the peer pressure of drinking on New Year’s Eve can be done, says Carrie Wilkens, PhD, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Motivation and Change in New York. However, things are inevitably different during Covid-19, such as no crowd gatherings to see the Times Square ball drop. The eve is “that one night of the year where everybody does something crazy,” says Wilkens, who specializes in substance abuse treatment.
“If you unpack that a bit, what that is, is something novel. So, if you want to do something nice for yourself, think of something novel, stimulating, and exciting that you can do. Maybe take a trip, rent a cabin in the woods, go camping, go ice skating, go sledding, wear yourself out so you want to be home and cozy by the end of the day. Just do something fun and exciting that feels celebratory, but take the alcohol out of it. You don’t need alcohol to have a great time.”
Need a few ideas? We got you covered.
Take a hike
Go off the beaten path—literally—and grab your hiking boots. Melissa Cronin, a Palm Springs, California-based marketing executive, says she and her fiancé are fans of “midnight hikes.” While she cautions that the jaunts require a flashlight or two, the hikes are, “So peaceful and fun to look down at the city revelry.” Cronin may be onto something: She says she’s celebrating seven years of sobriety.
Give Netflix a break—actually, GO to the movie theatre
Give Netflix a night off. No, really. Seeing a flick the old-fashioned at a drive-on or your local movie theatre can beat a liquor-filled night out. “My first dry New Year’s Eve [happened] when I was pregnant,” recalls New York-native and mom-of-two, Jessica Gourdet-Murray. With her husband in tow, the two indulged in a cozy pre-baby date night. “We went to see a late movie,” she says, “so midnight came and went without any real acknowledgment.” You can check your local listings for a midnight flick.
Throw a sky lantern party
Rally a few friends, find a wide-open space where you can socially distance, and release sky lanterns. The lanterns, also known as Kongming lanterns, are an ancient Chinese tradition dating back to 3 BC. Finding some are a breeze; plenty of modern-day iterations await on Amazon. Simply write your wishes for the new year on them, light the candles and watch your hopes soar!
A virtual dinner party—with a twist
This year, due to Covid, you can put a virtual twist to the classic dinner party and cook with friends and family and make your own mocktail recipes. Ever daydream about taking on Gordon Ramsay in a kitchen cook-off? Make like a Masterchef, pick a cuisine, sharpen your knives, and challenge your foodie friends to a delicious duel. “We love to have cooking contests,” says Wilkens of her personal family favorite, “and also have everybody contribute a mocktail—you can get quite elaborate with mocktails, and they can be really fun!”
Power up the PlayStation or Wii, or, better yet, go old school and play card games. Charades are an easy way to liven up the party fast. And there will be no thoughts of vino when you’re too busy rolling on the floor over side-splitting celebrity impersonations. “That’s a great game where everyone’s laughing and participating and teasing each other,” says Wilkens, “and you can have big prizes after that.”
Stay and play in a winter wonderland
If frolicking in the snow is your thing and you have the budget for it, make Aspen your oyster. Remember to check Covid-19 travel restrictions and verify with your place of lodging. You can spend the eve’s day partaking in a slew of winter activities, including sledding, skiing, snow biking, and tubing, on and around all four peaks. After you’ve worked up an appetite, end the year with a memorable meal. Duck into Element 47, and you’ll have to choose from caviar, lobster, truffles, scallops, wagyu beef, and fresh pasta. Decisions, decisions indeed.
If your local yoga studio has any New Year’s Eve offerings (check your local area for Covid-19 restrictions), you can greet the new year with plenty of zen. Or, if a yoga studio is not available to you, try a virtual at-home meditation with friends and family to ring in the new year.
“I think it’s much nicer to use the eve as a way to reflect on the last year,” says Wilkens. “Examine it for yourself. What were you proud of? What did you experience? What did you learn? And there are ways that you can set intentions for the next year by waking up the next day feeling great about yourself.” Plus, she adds, you’ll thank yourself for starting 2020 hangover-free. “I don’t know of anybody who feels really good about themselves after they’ve gotten really intoxicated.”