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Milwaukee's 2014 New Year's Eve Guide

Dec. 23, 2013
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Belts were tight across the board in 2013, a year marked by austerity and sequestration, but that’s all the more reason to splurge a bit this New Year’s Eve. As usual, Milwaukee welcomes the new year with an array of concerts, galas and gatherings, offering a night out for any budget, so put on your finest shoes, leave your car keys at home and try your chances at hailing a cab, because it’s time to celebrate a fresh start. And if that cab thing doesn’t work out for you, there’s always the bus: all Milwaukee County Transit System busses are free on Dec. 31 beginning at 8 p.m.

Below is a healthy sampling of some of the ways Milwaukee will be treating itself during the final hours of 2013.

                                                         Family Friendly


Skating and S’mores @ Red Arrow Park, 10 a.m.-1 a.m.

For years Downtown Milwaukee ushered in each new year with a midnight fireworks display. Sadly, budget cuts killed those fireworks several years ago, but each Dec. 31 Milwaukeeans still head Downtown to enjoy free ice skating at Red Arrow Park during the rink’s extended hours from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. This year there will also be firepits where patrons can warm up and roast s’mores. Kits including chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows, a roasting stick and wet wipes will be available for $3 for a single portion, or $10 for a four pack.


Harlem Globetrotters @ BMO Harris Bradley Center, 1 and 6 p.m.

The Bucks keep finding new ways to hit rock bottom, but at least BMO Harris Bradley Center attendees will have a chance to see a winning basketball team when the Harlem Globetrotters return for their annual Milwaukee appearance, one of the city’s oldest New Year’s Eve traditions. The Globetrotters are in the middle of a typical hot streak, having not lost a game since 2006—though, in fairness, if the Bucks played most of their games against the hapless Washington Generals, they’d probably be having a winning season, too.


Milwaukee Wave vs. SYR Silver Knights @ U.S. Cellular Arena, 2 p.m.

The Milwaukee Wave invites guests to celebrate the new year with a keepsake they’ll cherish forever: a free foam noodle. OK, so maybe it’s not the most exciting giveaway the team has ever come up with—what, exactly, they expect fans to do with a pool toy in the dead of winter remains a mystery—but at least the team itself is worth watching. Milwaukee’s indoor soccer franchise, the oldest in the country, is in the middle of another winning season. Come wave your noodle as the Wave make another run for the championship.


New Year’s Eve Family Celebration @ Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, 6-9


For its holiday display this year, the Mitchell Park Domes reinterpreted The Nutcracker as an elaborate floral show, complete with a beautiful, towering Christmas tree, but kids at this family friendly party will probably be more taken with the entertainment than the surroundings. There will be jugglers, dancers, fire-eaters, face painters, storytellers, stilt walkers, hula-hoopers and a magic show, as well as a photo booth, a craft corner and opportunities to hang with the Miller Park Racing Sausages.


New Year’s Eve at Noon @ Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, 9 a.m.

Most little kids can’t stay up until the big ball drop, but that doesn’t mean they need to be excluded from New Year’s Eve. They can celebrate the holiday early—really, really early—at Betty Brinn’s morning party, which will allow kids to decorate their own party hats as they wait for the clock to strike noon, when they can welcome the final afternoon of 2013 with a juice toast.

                                                           Live Performances


Trampled By Turtles w/ Phox @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.

After taking the last couple of years off, the Riverside Theater reopens its doors to a big New Year’s Eve show, this time with first-time headliners Trampled By Turtles instead of one-time perennials Cake. Trampled By Turtles’ speedy bluegrass should help usher in the new year on a lively note. They’ll be supported on this bill by the rising Madison-area indie-rock band Phox.


Jim Gaffigan @ The Pabst Theater, 9 p.m.

Perhaps Jim Gaffigan bears some kind of bizarre comedian’s grudge against the Harlem Globetrotters, because for the better chunk of a decade he’s been mounting a challenge against them as the touring act with the most consecutive Milwaukee New Year’s Eve appearances. For years, the affable comedian has enjoyed an annual gig at the Pabst Theater, where he performs for a Midwestern crowd he clearly relates to. Will he tell jokes about food? Yes, he’ll probably tell some jokes about food.


Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra @ Marcus Center, 8 p.m.

No matter how bad your 2013 was, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s was probably worse. Budget shortfalls forced the orchestra to implement severe cuts and make some very humbling pleas for emergency support. They’ll try to keep things positive, though, as they welcome 2014 with this program of popular Viennese waltzes conducted by Gerhardt Zimmermann.


Stellar Spark 11 @ The Rave, 8 p.m.-4 a.m.

In past years the Rave’s blowout Stellar Spark New Year’s Eve bills have hosted some of electronic music’s biggest names, including bro-step king Skrillex. This year’s lineup doesn’t boast a marquee headliner of that stature, but it wins points for the sheer quantity of artists and DJs on the lineup. There are literally dozens of them, including Adventure Club, Zomboy, Candyland, The Devil From Acapulco and hordes of smaller names who would very much appreciate it if you checked out the Avicii remix they posted on their Soundcloud pages.

Rebel Grace @ Horny Goat Hideaway, 7 p.m.

The Horny Goat Hideaway brewpub teamed with local country station FM 106.1 to present its New Year’s party with the country-rock band Rebel Grace. The group covers a wide array of contemporary country, including hits by Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and Jason Aldean. A $70 ticket includes an open bar until 11 p.m., a midnight champagne toast, party favors and access to a photo booth. The venue promises its balloon drop will be the biggest in the city.

                                                       Dancing and Destinations

The Get Down @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 9 p.m.

You know how seemingly every bar in the city hosts old soul and funk spins these days? The soul enthusiasts behind The Get Down were doing it first, and they still do it the best, drawing big crowds to the dancefloor with their blends of some of the rarest grooves from the ’60s and ’70s. Turner Hall Ballroom’s supersized New Year’s Eve installment of the spin includes a complimentary buffet and your choice of two all-you-can-drink packages—err, all you care to drink packages—priced at $60 and $75.


Ever After NYE Masquerade @ Hot Water Wherehouse, 8 p.m.

The Wherehouse hosts one of the city’s most elaborate themed New Year’s Eve parties, with more than $4,000 in decorations (and a $30,000 light and LED display) transforming the venue into a fairytale wonder land. DJs Mighty Thor and First Grade, along with Kiings will supply the music.


NYE MKE 2014 @ Milwaukee Art Museum, 8 p.m.

If there’s one thing the NEWaukee crew knows how to do, it’s throw a party, and they throw one of their biggest on New Year’s Eve. This gala at the Milwaukee Art Museum will feature video DJ performances from DJ Romke and Jimmy Cababa, go-go dancers, ice sculptures, photobooths, “interactive group art creation” and a top-shelf open bar from 8 p.m. to midnight, when there will be a complimentary champagne toast.


NYE 2014 @ Dick’s, Apartment 720 and Kenadee’s, 9 p.m.

Milwaukee Street is the one part of Milwaukee that treats every weekend night like New Year’s Eve, so its clubs don’t need much of an excuse to go all out. Dick’s will celebrate the end of 2013 with two floors of DJs for a $10 cover, and then a 3 a.m. service-industry party for latecomers. For a more exclusive experience, neighboring Apartment 720 will have its own DJ and be taking table reservations; cover for that club is $25. And if covers aren’t your thing, Kenadee’s will be hosting a DJ without an admission charge. Guests there will celebrate midnight with an unorthodox Jager Bomb toast.


Food, Music and Gambling @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.

Each of the Potawatomi Bingo Casino’s three restaurants will be offering dining specials for the night, including four- and five-course meals at Dream Dance Steak; a $25 surf and turf special at the Fire Pit Sports Bar and Grill; and special seafood dishes including whole Maine lobster at RuYi. The casino’s buffet, meanwhile, will include crab legs, prime rib, roasted duck and steak to order. Starting at 8 p.m., blues musicians Al White and Jamit Duo will be playing at Bar 360, while DJ Kidd Mixx and Keep’n It Clean will spin club music at the Fire Pit’s side bar.


New Year’s Bash @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.

Every Friday, at Mad Planet’s signature weekly retro dance party, DJs resurrect the pop and dance hits of the ’80s and ’90s. Each New Year’s Eve delivers a longer, sweatier edition of that dance party, with free party favors, food and a champagne toast. At $12, it’s a budget-friendly alternative to Downtown dance clubs.


NYE 2014 @ Mikey’s, 10 p.m.

Cousin Ed of Energy 106.9 FM will be broadcasting live from Mikey’s during its New Year’s Eve bash, which will feature music from DJ Bone White. A $45 all-you-can-drink package includes appetizers and a champagne toast. Those who make it to 4 a.m. can enjoy a Bloody Mary bar and breakfast buffet at a morning after party featuring video mixing from DJ Devast8.


Burlesque Show @ Riverwest Public House, 11 p.m.

Dec. 31 may be New Year’s Eve, but it’s a Tuesday first and foremost, so the Riverwest Public House’s Taco Tuesday will go on as scheduled. Later in the night the co-op gives the stage over a lineup of burlesque, cabaret and drag performances. Those out until early in the morning can enjoy the venue’s service-industry breakfast, starting at 4 a.m. For $10 (or $13 day-of), it’s a massive meal of biscuits and gravy, bacon, scrambled eggs or tofu, potatoes, fruit, toast and French toast bake—almost all of it of the local, organic or free-range variety—with a free Mimosa. Not a bad way to get an early start battling your hangover, especially if you missed the tacos earlier that night.




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