Romare Bearden Park
300 S. Church St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
A favorite city tradition, First Night Charlotte is family-friendly and alcohol-free. This year, it is also a completely free event, with no button or wristband required. The festival this year takes place in the city’s new Romare Bearden Park, with its ample stage and party space. The fireworks display is being expanded as well, to be similar to the skyshow on July 4th. The action begins at noon with First Night KIDS featuring many kid-themed activities. Arts groups, including dancers, magicians, clowns and musicians, will present performances representing the diverse range of talent in the Charlotte community. At 10 p.m., the 11-piece band Sol Fusion, a local favorite, takes the stage to lead the countdown to midnight, followed by the raising of the Queen City Crown and the fireworks show. WBTV, Charlotte’s CBS affiliate and a major sponsor of the event, will broadcast two hours of the festivities live.
1200 Main St.
Columbia, SC 29201
Held on Columbia’s Main Street directly in front of the South Carolina Statehouse, the Famously Hot celebration is one of the largest free events in the South, with tens of thousands gathering to greet the new year. Live entertainment on the outdoor stage begins at 7:30 p.m. with three bands, including local favorite Weaving The Fate, rising star ZZ Ward and headliners Kool & the Gang. Vendors offer plenty of food and drink, including beer, wine and champagne. Following a midnight countdown, a spectacular fireworks display welcomes 2014. Tickets are not required for the event although you can register online to be included in a prize drawing. For $125, you can get tickets to the indoor party at the VIP Crescent Lounge in the Capitol Center, with indoor seating and restrooms, open bars and fancy hors d’oeuvres, as well as dedicated parking. Several nearby hotels offer special overnight packages, including the Sheraton Columbia Downtown, where you can watch the fireworks while enjoying champagne at the Roof Top Bar. Other holiday events in Columbia include Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden (through Dec. 30), Holiday Lights on the River, a drive-through display at Saluda Shoals Park (through Dec. 31) and skating at Main Street Ice at Boyd Plaza (through Jan. 20).
1009 Sugar Mountain Drive
Banner Elk, NC 28604
One of the closest ski areas to Charlotte, Sugar Mountain celebrates New Year’s Eve in a spectacular fashion. The highlight of the evening is the traditional torch light parade down the mountain just before midnight, followed by fireworks illuminating the mountain scene. The ski lodge offers two packages for partygoers, priced from $25 to $45 per person, which include a midnight champagne toast. Dance to live music by the Johnson Brothers from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., then take the complimentary shuttle bus back to your lodging in the Village of Sugar Mountain.
With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.