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The Shepherd's 2017 New Year's Eve Guide

Dec. 26, 2016
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There’s no way around it: 2016 sucked. Geniuses and heroes died, Donald Trump won the presidency and the Cubs won the World Series. In between, there was terrorism, hatred and war. And, let’s face it: It doesn’t look like 2017 is going to be any less annoying or disheartening (especially with the Cubs still loaded).

Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is a remembrance of the year past with a hopeful eye towards the one to come. But, if you can’t wait for this awful year to end and are dreading whatever is lurking just past the horizon, all the more reason to enjoy the cozy little respite of revelry that comes in between. As usual, we’ve gathered up some of the area’s choicest New Year’s Eve parties, shows, activities and more for your convenience.


Dead Man’s Carnival

@ Irish Cultural Heritage Center, 10 p.m.

Part carnival midway, part vaudeville stage act, part burlesque show, the Dead Man’s Carnival is one of the most reliably entertaining ways to spend an evening. The Carnival’s regular First Friday shows at the Miramar Theatre are largely dependent on the money raised on New Year’s, so your support here goes a long way. The $150 VIP package includes dinner with the cast and a bundle of 11 regular season show passes. A general admission ticket is only $40 or $50 at the door.

Comedy Sportz New Year’s Eve Match

@ CSZ Milwaukee, 8 and 10 p.m.

ComedySportz is holding a pair of “matches” to bid farewell to the year, each of which will feature complimentary soda and champagne with all-you-can-eat appetizers and a free NYE goody bag. Both shows will also end with a New Year’s count-down, with the 8 p.m. show’s coming at 9:45 p.m. and mercifully sparing the audience another two hours of 2016.

The John Schneider Orchestra

@ North Shore American Legion Post 331, 9 p.m.

John Schneider and his backing quartet return to the Shorewood American Legion hall for their traditional New Year’s show. Schneider and the band will play a selection of classics from the 1930s and ’40s for an old-time romp into the new year. Light fare will be served, and champagne and party favors will be provided at midnight. Admission is free, but a $10 donation is suggested.

Direct Hit! with Bad Grades and Juiceboxxx

@ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.

Pop-punk rockers Direct Hit! and underground rapper Juiceboxxx (performing with a full band), two long-time acts on the local music scene, join with the punk supergroup Bad Grades for what Club G is calling its “Punk Rockers New Year’s Eve.” The $10 admission includes free Stone Brewing beer (while it lasts), a midnight champagne toast and other to-be-determined surprises.

Jim Gaffigan

@ Pabst Theater, 10:30 p.m.

For the 10th straight year, stand-up Jim Gaffigan will play the Pabst Theater for the New Year’s holiday. Gaffigan’s wife and writing partner, Jeannie, grew up in Milwaukee and the couple returns to the area each year for the holidays. All money from ticket sales for this show will be donated to the Riverwest Food Pantry.

Myles Hayes Jazz Trio w/ Old Shoe

@ Third Space Brewing, 7:30 p.m.

Even with about 50,000 new microbreweries opening this year, Third Space stands out, both in terms of its products and its impressive facility on West St. Paul Avenue. They will ring in their first New Year with the Myles Hayes Jazz Trio and the Americana roots rock band, Old Shoe. A $75 admission gets you light snacks and a full selection of Third Space beers.

Kane Brown with Bobby McClendon and Saddlebrook

@ The Rave, Eagles Ballroom, 8 p.m.

With his self-titled debut album just released, YouTube-famous country singer Kane Brown headlines this show with Bobby McClendon and Milwaukee’s Saddlebrook.  

NYE With Johnny Boehner

@ Comedy Café, 5, 7:30 and 10 p.m.

An alum of Chicago’s Second City and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Johnny Beehner has made numerous TV appearances over the past two years, including a spot on one of the last episodes of “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Beehner headlines a trio of shows on NYE, joined by guests Geoff LaFleur and Gerrit Elzinga.  

New Year’s Ball

@ Company Brewing, 10 p.m.

Local record labels VoodooHoney and Noh Life Music Group are teaming up to offer a full evening of electronica and hip-hop acts featuring The Quilz, Bo Triplex, Queen Tut and headliner Milo, who VoodooHoney’s Jay Anderson called the “greatest up-and-coming rapper in the world.” Between acts there will be DJ sets from Noh Life.

Raiders of the Lost Ark with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

@ The Marcus Center, 2:30 p.m.

It’s hard to image a better way to spend the afternoon before the big night out than by taking in Steven Spielberg’s classic adventure film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, on the big screen as the MSO performs John Williams’ great score live. The presentation in is honor of the film’s 35th anniversary. There will also be a Dec. 30 evening show.


Slice of Ice

@ Red Arrow Park, 10 a.m.-1 a.m.

Weather permitting, the cozy Downtown Milwaukee skating rink will again be open to the public for New Year’s Eve. The facility also includes a warming room, skate rental and sharpening services. The nearby Starbucks sells coffee, hot chocolate and bakery, while the Skate Window provides soda, candy and beer.  

Milwaukee Wave v. Chicago Mustangs

@ UWM Panther Arena, 3:05 p.m.

Six-time league champions, the local pro indoor soccer club has a small but loyal following. On New Year’s Eve afternoon, the Wave will take on their I-94 rivals with a “Kick’n in the New Year” celebration that includes a wall calendar give-away.

New Year’s Eve-Eve

@ Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Dec. 30, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Kids of all ages can ring in the New Year 36 hours early at the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Free with a regular museum admission, kids can decorate their own party hats to wear as they sing and toast the new year (with juice) and watch the Brinn’s own private ball drop.

New Year’s Eve Family Celebration

@ Mitchell Park Domes, 6-9 p.m.

A more adult-friendly family event (it’s after dark and there’s booze), New Year’s at the Domes has music by the Garlic Mustard Pickers, face painting, a magician and a fire eater to entertain the kiddies—while mom and dad hover around the cash bar. The evening will close with a balloon drop and will give grown-ups plenty of time to get the kids home before heading out for some late-night fun.

The Original Harlem Globetrotters

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

There’s not too much left to say about the Globetrotter’s annual Milwaukee New Year’s Eve game. Now in their 10th decade (!), the ’Trotters continue to amaze with their combination of basketball, circus antics and comedy. It’s also worth noting that in the 1981 TV movie, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island, the ’Trotters defeated a team of basketball robots. Don’t expect robots at the BC, though, or the Washington Generals, for that matter: The Generals folded last year.


Stellar Spark 14

@ The Rave, Eagles Club, 8 p.m.

The 14th installment of this massive annual EDM bash at The Rave will feature DJs Borgore, Kayzo, Prince Fox and many, many more. The show is all-ages, but the bar (obviously) will only serve those 21 and over.

The Get Down

@ Turner Hall Ballroom, 9 p.m.

Billed as “Milwaukee’s Biggest Dance Party,” The Get Down features an evening of soul and funk music played from original 45s and a massive midnight balloon-drop. For $65, you get access to an open bar (beer and rail drinks) and a champagne toast as midnight. An extra $20 gets you the VIP treatment, including coat check and an appetizer buffet. 

Brew Year’s Eve

@ Milwaukee Athletic Club, 8 p.m.

Promised to be “the most exclusive, private New Year’s Eve event in Milwaukee,” Brew Year’s Eve will feature two floors of dancing, colored lights and music by DJ Mighty Thor, DJ Erich, Milwaukee Airwaves and more. The all-inclusive party will run you $99 and up and offers a “premium” open bar, appetizers and party favors. 

Your Window to the World on New Year’s

@ Blu, 5:30 p.m.

In the category of “if you need to ask, you can’t afford it,” Blu, the bar and martini lounge atop the Pfister Hotel, is hosting a posh New Year’s Eve bash with reserved tables, premium champagne and bottle service. Live entertainment will be provided by Latin Jazz artists Janet O’Mahony and Mark Thierfelder and the 10-piece Afro-Cuban jazz band De La Buena. Gold, Silver and Bronze packages are available.

NYE Celebration

@ Milwaukee Art Museum, 8 p.m.

For one night only, the MAM’s atrium will become “the deluxe liner The Calatrava,” and host an extravagant evening of dining, music and dancing. A three-course dinner will be prepared by executive chef Jason Gorman, and entertainment will be provided by the Fourth Street Elevator jazz band. Ticket packages start at $225.

Midnight Kiss

@ Splash Studios, 9 p.m.

Certainly among the more unique NYE events in the city, the Third Ward’s Slash Studios adds painting to the usual mix of drinking and balloon-dropping. With packages starting at $65, you get a 16” x 20” canvass, painting supplies, three hours of instruction from a local artist, party favors and champagne. Higher-end packages include food, chocolates and a kazoo shaped like a mustache!

24-Hour New Year’s Party

@ Silk Exotic, Dec. 31, 11 a.m.-Jan. 2, 2 a.m.

For those who find the usual hours kept by Milwaukee bars to be, um, “constraining,” New Year’s Day is the day that the law forgot. The city statutes state that no bar is required to close on January 1st. Thus, Silk Exotic is hosting a “24-Hour” New Year’s party (it’s actually 39 hours when you factor in their regular operating times). While other events around Milwaukee are winding down, you can drop by Silk for a free breakfast buffet from 3-5 a.m., followed up by a two-for-one happy hour from 5-8 a.m., and by that point you might as well just hang around for the Packer game at noon, too.


@ The Event Center, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, 8 p.m.

With one of the largest dance floors in the city (2,400 square feet) and a host of local DJ talent—including DJs Goose, King James, Whyte Nite and Khek—this will be one of the largest parties in town. A $49 general admission gets you in the door, while a $600 package offers VIP admission for six, 24 drink tickets, two bottles of champagne and a $150 gaming credit to blow as you see fit.

My Drink On’s New Year’s Eve Limo Bus Crawl

@ Buck Bradley’s, 8 p.m.

This crawl will ferry you about the Water Street and Third Ward areas on a luxury limousine bus, hop-on/hop-off style. The $45 fee gets you drink specials and cover-free admission at a host of nightspots, including Buck Bradley’s, Rosie’s and Club Charlie’s. The night also includes a free post-midnight hot dog buffet and a “reflect on 2016” scavenger hunt—which presumably means you need to find a bottle of bourbon, a Bowie/Prince/Leonard Cohen album to cry to and a dark room. 


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