10 Cheapest (and Most Expensive) Cities to Celebrate New Year’s Eve

Times Square during New Year's eve

People celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square | Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

A lot of people are going to be glad to kiss 2016 goodbye, but before you put your party hat on, you better make sure you can afford the price of your celebration. Ringing in the New Year in style can be expensive with inflated hotel room prices, spendy open-bar parties, and sky-high Uber surge rates. Though the typical American invests less than $200 in their New Year’s Eve celebrations according to Mint, depending on where you live you might end up spending much more, especially if your plans don’t involve sitting on the couch in your PJs watching the ball drop.

Personal finance website WalletHub ranks the 100 largest cities in the United States to find out the best (and worst) places to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They grade each city in three categories: entertainment and food (such as the number of restaurants per capita, the length of the fireworks show, and the number of New Year’s Eve events); average costs (such as the average price of a party ticket, beverage, meal out, and three-star hotel room); and safety and accessibility (such as walkability, pedestrian fatality rate, and traffic congestion). Then, they average the scores.

Orlando is the best overall city for New Year’s Eve, followed by San Francisco and Atlanta. The absolute worst places to celebrate are North Las Vegas, Nevada; Newark, New Jersey; and Garland, Texas.

In terms of costs, you might think the most expensive cities to celebrate were also some of the most popular New Year’s Eve party destinations, but that’s not necessarily the case. New York and Las Vegas both ranked in the top 10 most expensive places on December 31st, but so did smaller cities like San Bernardino, California, and Anchorage, Alaska.

Whether you’ll be celebrating on the Las Vegas Strip or staying home in Anchorage, WalletHub’s experts have some tips for saving money. Willy Aroca, a lecturer at the International School of Hospitality and Tourism at Fairleigh Dickinson University, suggests avoiding the pricey hotels in favor of cheaper Airbnb rentals, and substituting expensive Champagne for cheaper sparkling wines like prosecco or kava. Bottle service is a waste of money according to Joel Feigenheimer, an instructor in restaurant management at Florida International University. You should also watch out for Uber surge pricing, since you may end up paying 10 times the normal fare at peak times.

Here are the 10 best (and worst) spots for a budget-conscious New Year’s Eve, ranked according to WalletHub.

10. Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama marked on a map with a pin

Birmingham, Alabama is a good place to celebrate the New Year | iStock.com

Alabama’s largest city is a good place to celebrate if you’re looking to keep costs down, but it came dead last in terms of safety and accessibility. The city ranked 18th for food and entertainment options.

9. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati downtown early in the night

Consider Cincinnati for the holiday | iStock.com/AndreyKrav

Cincinnati offers big-city fun at a small price, according to WalletHub’s ranking. The city has a good mix of restaurant and nightlife options, but drinks, food, and a New Year’s Eve hotel room won’t break the bank.

8. Orlando, Florida

orlando cityscape

Enjoy the warmth in Orlando, Florida | iStock.com

Florida’s theme-park city is the best overall place to ring in the New Year, according to WalletHub. Not only does it rank highly for food and entertainment options, it’s also one of the cheapest cities to celebrate. Orlando has more restaurants and nightlife options per capita than most other cities and tickets to New Year’s bashes in the city are among the cheapest in the country.

7. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach is a great place to ring in the New Year| Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

You don’t have to spend a lot to celebrate the end of 2016 in Virginia Beach. Cash-strapped revelers can head downtown to the city’s free all-ages New Year’s Eve celebration, which will include a performance by Smash Mouth, as well as fireworks.

6. Tulsa, Oklahoma

tulsa city skyline

Tulsa, Oklahoma is a bargain for the budget-conscious | iStock.com/alex grichenko

The second-largest city in Oklahoma is a bargain for revelers, but you may want to plan to party at home. Tulsa ranked in the bottom 10 when it came to safety and accessibility. Or, you could splurge on a hotel room, since the city has some of the lowest-priced New Year’s Eve room rates of any city.

5. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

oklahoma city

Two Oklahoma cities made our ranking | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Oklahoma City was the fifth-cheapest city for New Year’s Eve. If you want to celebrate on a budget, you can head downtown to the Opening Night 2017 celebration, where eight dollars gets you admission to a city-wide party featuring musical performances and a midnight fireworks show.

4. Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis skyline

Indianapolis is great for cheap wine | iStock.com

Indiana’s capital city is a cheap place to ring in 2017, but the entertainment and food options leave something to be desired. But if you prefer to celebrate at home with a little bubbly, you’re in luck. Indianapolis has the cheapest wine of any city in the U.S.

3. Laredo, Texas

laredo texas

Laredo may not be on your radar, but it should be | Visit Laredo

We doubt many people move to Laredo — a city holding a little less than 250,000 people on the U.S.-Mexico border — for the nightlife. Though celebrating New Year’s here is affordable, the city came in second-to-last on WalletHub’s ranking of food and entertainment. It has fewer restaurants per capita than all but one other city. But it did snag fifth place for safety and accessibility.

2. Scottsdale, Arizona

scottsdale, arizona

Scottsdale is one of the cheapest cities to celebrate in | iStock.com

Scottsdale, part of the Phoenix metro area, is the second-cheapest city for New Year’s Eve. Though it’s possible to spend a bundle celebrating here (tickets for a party at Topgolf Scottsdale go for $225 to $450), affordable hotels, wine, and party packages mean you don’t have to go all-out to have a good time.

1. Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Arizona with its downtown lit

Phoenix is the number one most affordable city for New Years | iStock.com/Dreamframer

Phoenix is the most affordable place to spend New Year’s Eve, according to WalletHub. Tickets to New Year’s parties are cheaper here than in almost every other city, and you’ll also find good deals on hotels and wine, though America’s sixth-largest city scored poorly in terms of food and entertainment.

If you don’t mind splurging on New Year’s Eve, head to these 10 cities ranked by how much you’re likely to spend. 

10. Nashville, Tennessee

nashville new year's eve

New Year’s Eve in Nashville is expensive | Jason Davis/Getty Images

Ringing in 2017 in Nashville will be costly, according to WalletHub. Hotels in Music City USA are the priciest in the U.S., according to CheapHotels.org, and there’s no shortage of parties and live music happening on December 31, though you’ll shell out big bucks for most tickets. The exception is the city-sponsored New Year’s bash, which is free and will feature performances by Keith Urban and Styx.

9. Fremont, California

A lake in Fremont, California

Expect to spend big bucks in Fremont | iStock.com

The Bay Area city of Fremont probably isn’t at the top of your dream New Year’s Eve destinations list. The city ranks poorly in terms of food and nightlife options and is expensive to boot. You’re probably better off hopping on the BART and celebrating elsewhere in the region.

8. Newark, New Jersey

Newark, New jersey

Newark, New Jersey isn’t a good place to celebrate New Years | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Celebrating the New Year in New Jersey’s largest city is expensive, and you won’t find many options for dining and entertainment (the city ranked in the bottom 20 for that category). In fact, Newark is the second-worst place to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the U.S.

7. San Francisco, California

San Francisco Cable Car

Expect to spend a lot in San Francisco | iStock.com/batuhanozdel

San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the country, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Though it scored better in terms of entertainment and food than any other U.S. city, according to WalletHub, you’ll need to open your wallet to enjoy most of those amenities. Expect to spend $100 to $200 if you want a ticket to one of the more exclusive events, according to Time Out.

6. Anchorage, Alaska

anchorage alaska skyline

Celebrating in Anchorage? It’ll cost you | iStock.com

The largest city in Alaska is an expensive place to celebrate New Year’s Eve, even if you plan to relax at home. The city has some of the most expensive wine prices in the country, according to WalletHub — bad news if you want to sip some bubbly with friends and family rather than venturing out. The city earned middling scores for its food and entertainment scene and for safety and accessibility.

5. San Bernardino, California

Champagne in glasses in restaurant

San Bernardino will be fun for New Years, but pricey | iStock.com

The most expensive place to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Southern California isn’t Los Angeles or San Diego, but rather the Inland Empire city of San Bernardino. The city also had the third-worst score for safety and accessibility. The big event in town this New Year’s is the Insomniac Countdown, a two-night party with appearances by Chainsmokers, Steve Aoki, and Diplo, among others. A two-day pass costs $199.

4. Las Vegas, Nevada

nicki minaj

There’s always a party to be found in Las Vegas | Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

You can blow a lot of money on New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas, but you’ll probably have a good time doing it. The city came in fourth as far as dining and entertainment options. But hotel rooms and wine are among the most expensive in the country. And getting into the parties will cost a pretty penny. A ticket to the New Year’s Eve party on the High Roller Ferris wheel is $450. The Stratosphere VIP Tower Party is $473. The Hard Rock Café New Year’s bash is a comparatively affordable $175.

3. Henderson, Nevada

view of las vegas

This Vegas suburb may cost you more than the party city | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Surprisingly, you may end up spending more to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, than you would to party on the Strip itself. The city tied with Honolulu for the most expensive three-star hotel rates in the country on New Year’s Eve, WalletHub says.

2. New York, New York

times square new year's eve

Times Square is a giant party on New Year’s Eve | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, the Big Apple is a high-priced New Year’s Eve destination. Tickets to New Year’s Eve parties are among the most expensive in the country, but the city’s sheer size means you can probably find something to fit your tastes and your budget. And if you’re really broke, there’s always the famous ball drop in Times Square, which is free.

1. North Las Vegas, Nevada

bottle of champagne

North Las Vegas has insane rates for New Year’s Eve hotels | iStock.com/dolgachov

North Las Vegas probably isn’t a place you’d think to go to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but if you do happen to be there, expect to spend a lot to celebrate. The city has some of the most expensive New Year’s Eve hotel rates in the country, as well as the highest wine prices (along with its neighbors Las Vegas and Henderson). It also has few restaurants per capita, and managed to come in dead last in the entertainment and food category. WalletHub declares it the worst place to be when the ball drops at midnight.

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