Evanston hosts the largest arts-oriented New Year’s celebration in the state. First Night Evanston, (847) 475-NITE, www.firstnightevanston.org; is an alcohol-free, smoke-free celebration with more than 200 artists performing in multiple venues, all for a flat fee. Starting at 6 p.m. Dec. 31, families can ride a trolley among the 19 stages offering opera, symphony concerts, bands, dance and theater. This year’s highlight will be the Chicago premiere of the musical "The Journey of Sir Douglas Fir," readers-theater style.
For families who prefer to get into the act, Des Plaines hosts a New Year’s Eve on the Plaza—the library plaza, that is. Put together by volunteers for the city’s Special Events Commission, this free event includes crafts for kids at the History Center, live music and free pizza at the Des Plaines Library, carriage rides, bowling and family karaoke. Participants receive gift certificates from local businesses and the alcohol-free atmosphere means fun for all ages. Call (847) 922-0556 or visit www.desplaines.org/Community/NewYearsEve.htm.
There are even daytime and indoor celebrations for the very young. The Oak Lawn Ice Arena, 9320 S. Kenton Ave., (708) 857-5173, www.olparks.com; hosts an open skate and balloon drop at noon.
DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, 301 N. Washington St., (630) 637-8000, www.dupagechildrensmuseum.org; has themed its fourth annual New Year’s Eve Bubble Bash "Locomotion with LEGO." Kids can create LEGO villages and hear from a Metra train engineer about trains and train safety. Before the noon countdown, families can dance in the bubble ballroom and create a personalized clay bell for ringing in the New Year.
The end of the year is also the perfect time to catch the final days of holiday specials such as the village of Vernon Hills’ Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show at the Cuneo Museum and Gardens, 1350 N. Milwaukee Ave., (847) 362-3042, www.cuneomuseum.org; where visitors drive through historic grounds filled with more than 250 animated light displays. And Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic Nights offers a Zoo Year’s Eve celebration in the Discovery Center on the north side of the zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., (708) 485-2200, www.brookfieldzoo.org.
Indoors or out, large or small, ring in the New Year in your family’s style.
Ring in the New Year Celebration. Celebrate New Year’s traditions from a different continent each day. Lake County Discovery Museum, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Dec. 27-29. Families with kids ages 4-12. Free with museum admission. Route 176 and Fairfield Road, Wauconda. (847) 968-3400, www.lakecountydiscoverymuseum.org.
Bubble Bash 2005—The Ultimate New Year’s Eve Party for Children! Features a train and LEGO theme and activities. DuPage Children’s Museum. 9 a.m.-noon. Families. $15, $10 members. Registration required. 301 N. Washington St., Naperville. (630) 637-8000, www.dupagechildrensmuseum.org.
First Night Evanston. Illinois’ largest arts festival, with 19 stages hosting opera, circus performers, magicians, puppeteers and more. At midnight, see fireworks at the lake off of Church Street. 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Families. $14, $8 kids 6-12, free kids 5 and under. Davis Street and Orrington Avenue, Evanston. (847) 475-NITE (6483), www.firstnightevanston.org.
Homewood’s New Year’s Day Celebration. Celebrate with hats, horns, a balloon drop and snacks in a smoke-free and alcohol-free environment. Village Hall Auditorium. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Families. Free. 2010 Chestnut Rd., Homewood. (708) 798-3000, www.homesweethomewood.com.
New Year’s Eve Celebration. Music, punch, cookies, hats and noisemakers. Wonder Works Children’s Museum. Noon-4 p.m. Families. $5, free members. 6445 W. North Ave., Oak Park. (708) 383-4815, www.wonder-works.org.
New Year’s Eve Kids Countdown. Music, a balloon drop, party hats and noisemakers—all on the ice. Oak Lawn Ice Arena. 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Families. $7, $2.50 skate rental. Extra costs for food. 9320 S. Kenton Ave., Oak Lawn. (708) 857-5173, www.olparks.com.
SciTech’s Annual New Year’s Eve Party. Ring in the New Year with hands-on activities and snacks. SciTech Hands On Museum. 2-5 p.m. Families. Free with museum admission. 18 W. Benton St., Aurora. (630) 859-3434, www.scitech.museum.
Zoo Year’s Eve. A special countdown, crafts and carolers. Brookfield Zoo. 8 p.m. Families. $8, $4 kids 3-11 and seniors, free kids 2 and under. $8 parking. 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield. (708) 485-0263, www.brookfieldzoo.org.