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New Year’s Eve 2021: What to Do, Where

In Clubs, Music

Look at this past year with 2020 hindsight and things now don’t seem so bad. Lest we forget, last December marked COVID-19’s one-year anniversary—and the virus was going strong. Santa Clara County was stuck in the purple tier and under a stay-at-home order. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been granted emergency use authorization, but most of us hadn’t gotten the shot. Gatherings were small, celebrations muted. We were hunkering down.

Now, it’s been six months since the statewide stay-at-home order was lifted. The vast majority of the population has been vaccinated (91.3% of those over the age of 12). Is the end in sight?

Not quite, thanks to the arrival of the Omicron variant in California. But we’ve been through this before, and we know what to do. Already vaccinated? Get the booster—and a flu vaccine, for good measure. Keep those masks handy indoors, and stock up on sanitizer. And whether you’re at a club, outside in the fresh air, or socializing distantly at home, raise a glass to the future. Because we really are better off today than we were a year ago.

Making a Spectacle

Looking for a celebratory evening with some live entertainment?  Unlike 2020, there are some options available, though it’s prudent to call ahead in case of last-minute cancellations.

Need some laughs to shake the pandemic blues? Comedian Ian Bagg can help with that. The Canadian comic, creator of the podcast Ian Bagg Bought a House, will be at the San Jose Improv this week. Shows are Dec. 31 at 7 and 10:30pm and Jan. 1 at 7 and 9:30pm; tickets are $20-$75. 62 S 2nd St, San Jose; 408.280.7475.

Also getting in on the comedy action is Silicon Valley Sports, with a 10pm show on New Year’s Eve. Ring in the New Year with comedians Chris Beasley, David Dominguez, Cynthia in Public, Connor Lonsdale and Luke Moore. There’s no cover, but bring cash for food and drink. RSVP on Eventbrite. 2105 S 10th St, San Jose; 408.216.0069.

New in the nightlife scene is Immersive: Los Gatos, which took over the space occupied since 1972 by Mountain Charley’s. True to its name, Immersive aims to engage multiple senses, offering striking visuals, music, and dinner shows with acrobats and aerialists. The club has already put on lavish Halloween and “Holidaze” events; New Year’s Eve will bring Cirque performers and celebrity DJ/actor Zak Santiago. Admission is $100 and includes appetizers, an open bar from 8 to 10pm, and a champagne toast at midnight. 15 N Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos; 408.410.2630.

For those who are looking for live music, the Houserockers are playing at downtown San Jose’s Plaza de César Chávez. The 10-piece rock and soul band starts up at 9:30pm. 1 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose; svhouserockers.com.

Up in Sunnyvale, the Quarter Note nightclub brings in the funk with Brand New Cents starting at 9pm. Cover is $10. 1214 Apollo Way, Sunnyvale; 408.732.2110.

Looking for something more soulful? The Stylistics will make fans feel brand new for 2022 at Yoshi’s Jazz Club, with shows Dec. 31 at 8 and 11pm. (Or catch them Dec. 29-30 instead.) Ticket prices vary. 510 Embarcadero West, Jack London Square, Oakland; 510.238.9200.

Dress for Excess

Though costumes aren’t de rigueur for New Year’s Eve, a little fantasy can make the night more fun. If you’re throwing your own party, why not make it a costumed affair? Pick a theme that resonates with your friends and enjoy their creative interpretations. Or if you just want the fun of dressing up without the pain of the after-party cleanup, here are some places to go instead.

The Silicon Valley Capital Club plans a Roaring into 2022 Great Gatsby New Year’s Bash, where guests can dress up as flappers, gangsters and 1920s party animals in this private club 17 stories in the sky. Admission is $200, which gets you heavy appetizers, a dessert bar, live music, dancing, a champagne toast, and 360-degree views of the Valley. Reserve on Eventbrite. 50 W San Fernando St, San Jose; 408.971.9300.

Fitzgerald devotees in South County can party like F. Scott and Zelda closer to home at an “elegant speakeasy-style affair.” Guests are encouraged to do their best with the Roaring Twenties theme, or opt for semi-formal cocktail attire for a night of “nonstop dance music,” albeit not from the flapper era. Tickets to the Great Gatsby New Year’s Eve Party are $45 and include two drink tickets; party favors, hats and noisemakers; and the essential champagne toast and balloon drop. The event takes place from 7 to 2pm. 3425 Lava Rock Court, Morgan Hill; purchase tickets on Eventbrite.

The Good Spot also gets into the dress-up spirit with a Grown N’ Sexy Black and Gold NYE Party. Doors open at 9pm and admission is free until 11pm (plus one free drink for everyone wearing the right color combo). 386 S 1st St, San Jose; get tickets on Eventbrite.

Colors will be brighter at the Glasshouse, where Kilo is hosting Neon NYE. Come dressed in neon or white cocktail/formal attire starting at 9pm. Drinks, appetizers and different music every hour will keep the party going until it’s time for the champagne toast. General admission tickets ($75) are available on Eventbrite. 2 S Market St, San Jose; 408.603.9610.

The organizers of Foresight aren’t dictating any particular costume style, but they are ready to give out prizes for the best-dressed attendees. The event will begin with a cocktail mixer at 7:30pm before DJ Hotwire kicks up the dance music and keeps it going until 1am. Hyatt Centric Mountain View, 409 San Antonio Road, Mountain View; tickets ($37) are available on Eventbrite.

Downtown and Out

What better place to ring out the old than downtown San Jose? With many bars and clubs clustered together, it’s easy to make more than one stop—perhaps dinner first, then a cocktail or two at a quiet lounge, followed by frenetic dancing before the ubiquitous champagne toast. Here are some of the options; pick your favorite club or DJ, and get the party started.

At the Ritz, Basura and DJ Bit take care of the music, with doors opening at 8pm.Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 on the day of show. 400 S 1st St, San Jose; theritzsanjose.com.

SP2 Communal Bar + Restaurant is the place for the 7th Annual Black Tie NYE 2022 event. Hosted by Heavy Arsenal, the event will kick off with a live performance at 8pm featuring Tara and Lonnye, followed by Top 40 and hip-hop courtesy of Double A, Rieta and Bobby Acosta. Tickets are $15-25 on Eventbrite. 72 N Almaden Ave, San Jose; call 415.737.5772 for bottle service.

LVL 44 is bringing in DJ Musubi to keep guests moving. Doors open at 9pm; after the balloon drop and complimentary glass of champagne at midnight, the party continues until 2am. Tickets are $20 on Eventbrite. 44 S Almaden Ave, San Jose; email [email protected] for bottle service.

At the Continental Bar, Lounge & Patio, house music purveyors Joey Alaniz and Arturo Garces will “paint the soundscape” to welcome the new year. Lots of lights, a confetti cannon and balloon drop will add to the excitement. Doors open at 6pm and the party continues until 2am. General admission is $45; purchase on Eventbrite (bottle service available). 349 S 1st St, San Jose.

Dancing Around the County

Downtown San Jose is by no means the only neighborhood that knows how to get down, hosting end-of-year celebrations with drinks and dancing. Suburbanites can traverse from Campbell to Sunnyvale to East San Jose to have a host of musical options to choose from.

Get ready to get down to the joyous disco and funk sound of house music, straight from the turntables of Mr. V, Julius Papp and Rated R. Presented at the retro local hot spot Cardiff & Cocktails in Campbell, this evening’s NYE 2022 ticket ($10-15) includes a complimentary champagne toast and party favors. 260 E Campbell Ave, Campbell; 408.374.4474

Right on the edge of Santa Clara, Siamak Jastan and DJ Alireza will spin Persian and international music from center stage at the South Bay Events Hall, located at the corner of Saratoga and Stevens Creek. The $89 ticket is all inclusive, offering appetizers and a full bar whenever folks step off the dance floor. 350 Saratoga Ave., San Jose; 408.300.6011

Whether when you want to shake your booty to house, hip-hop, reggaeton or salsa, the DJs at Fuego Bar and Club have you covered in between libations on the rooftop terrace under the stars. Keep in mind: no baseball caps, white, black or red shirts allowed, and the guest list without a cover closes at 10:30pm. 140 S Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale; (650) 281-5391 or fuegoguestlist.com

Be a part of history as a team of DJs with Turbo Entertainment hosts the first “countdown” NYE event at M Sports Bar off Tully and King. In honor of the occasion, a few lucky raffle winners will leave the night with 100%, 50% and 25% off their bottle-service tabs. Tickets are $10-$30 on Eventbrite. 1654 Burdette Dr, San Jose; 408.643.3087.

Another festive spot is on Santana Row, where Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub is bringing in DJ Nate Rioz to keep the party going, topped off by complimentary champagne at midnight. 355 Santana Row, Suite 1060, San Jose; 408.247.1706 or [email protected]

Fun & Games

Who says ringing in the new year can’t be all fun and games? Here’s a few options to replace classic plans of drinking, dancing and fine dining with sports, physical exercise and leisure from left field.

Funky Alviso is now home to a branch of Topgolf. In honor of the New Year, clubs can swing from 10am Dec. 31 to 1am Jan. 1. Topgolf transforms the ancient low-tech game into high-tech entertainment, alongside a rooftop fire pit, indoorsy comfort and adult beverages such as a Topgolf Tea (emulating the kind they have in Long Island) and a Maker’s Tipsy Palmer (with Maker’s Mark in it. Topgolf supplies the clubs, and you supply the swing. There are targets on the backstop to aim for, which electronically register points. Once of the latest developments is a tie-in with the Angry Birds franchise; in this game, you club real-life “birdballs” which demolish virtual buildings. The only thing that could make it all more fun would be to honor the recent Rodney Dangerfield centennial (the comic was born Nov. 22, 1921) by cosplaying Caddyshack’s Al Czervik: “My golf game is getting real good. Last week, I got through the windmill.” 10 Topgolf Dr, San Jose; 408.404.6436.

Is there a more Hallmark(™) way to celebrate the wintertime than ice skating under twinkling stars and sparkling holiday lights? Especially stuck in a place without snow, the rink at Gilroy Gardens allows folks to frolic around in California’s unique winter chill. If possible, wearing a full get-up of winter hats, gloves, mittens, coats and boots is a good idea. 3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy; gilroygardens.org.

Skating under redwood trees at downtown Sunnyvale’s Winter Ice Rink is still emerging as a new tradition in the South Bay since COVID stifled its fun after an inaugural 2019 season. For any families, couples and parties hoping to “skate and stay,” there may still be one or two special rooms available at the Aloft Sunnyvale and fireside seats at the W XYZ bar to stretch holiday plans into the night. 230 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale; citylinesunnyvale.com/icerink.

This is the 25th year of the Kristi Yamaguchi Downtown Ice rink encircled around 32 palm trees. If you don’t want to spend your holiday bobbing, weaving and falling from 10am to 10pm, there’s plenty of dates in January to openly skate and enjoy special events like Ice Queens, the Silent Skate Party and Musical Mondays. 120 S Market St, San Jose; 408.213.8834.

Don the finest black, white or red items in the closet and travel to Monte Carlo—err, the Midnight in Monte Carlo gambling and live music event at San Pedro Square. Before the evening’s balloon drop and champagne toast, try your luck at roulette and cash wheel, or a hand of black jack, three-card poker and Texas hold ’em. Please gamble responsibly; the house always wins. Tickets are $85-100 on Eventbrite. 170 W. St. John St., San Jose.

Within the velvet roped walls of the Bay 101 Casino’s fine dining restaurant The Province, the 9th annual NYE production of Cirque promises an “extraordinary premium experience,” complete with DJs, a live band, LED glow dancers, a street magic show and more than 2,000 balloons to drop at midnight. Tickets are $50-100. Cirque @ Bay 101 Casino, 1788 N 1st St, #10, San Jose; cirquenye.com.

For anyone looking to kick off the new year in a pair of their best running sneakers, Los Altos is hosting the 20th annual Fun Run. The noncompetitive, free 5k “race” is open to run, walk and push a stroller or wheelchair. Masks and social distancing are required at all times. Downtown Los Altos; 650.947.2790.

For the Kiddos (and Kids at Heart)

Whether you’re a parent who has little ones to razzle and dazzle or simply want to avoid any hectic late-night, adult-only celebrations, do not fret. These evening events around the South Bay center on festive fun.

History Park in East San Jose is hosting a “Deck the Halls Epic Holiday Light Show,” projecting an animated production of songs and jokes onto the front of the Pacific Hotel. If a night of holiday crafts, scavenger hunts and lawn games isn’t enough of a treat, O’Brien’s Ice Cream and Candy Shop and a handful of food trucks will provide the goods. Admission is $5-10. 635 Phelan Ave, San Jose; 408.287.2290.

Feeling festive surrounded by holiday lights doesn’t have to include a chilly trek outside. Blinky’s Illuminated Holiday has decorated Lake Cunningham Park with more than 200,000 around for guests to drive through and marvel (admission is $35-75 per car). Blinky is one imaginative reindeer, putting together this musical event perfect for kids to end 2021 with a smile. 2305 S White Rd, San Jose; 408.809.9267.

Great America is putting its name where its mouth is, extending its WinterFest-ivities with a New Year’s celebration with fireworks and live music. Before the clock strikes 12, take the kids on a gentle ride around Charlie Brown’s Christmas Town, or catch some last-minute thrills on the RailBlazer and Gold Striker. Admission is $30+. 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara; 408. 988.1776.

Comfy and Cozy from Home

Before vaccines became a reality in the Bay Area, NYE plans this time last year meant cuddling up on couches or planning small circles of soirees. But as this pandemic hellscape unfortunately continues to ravage plans with variants, it’s okay to simply enjoy the great indoors. Here are a few activities for those who want to hunker down at home, avoiding the drama, germs or expenses of the outside world in 2021’s final hours.

Feelin’ Crafty

A host of DIY craft kits are available online at SJMADE, a hub for local artist wares since 2011. Want to assemble a 3D giraffe, working wind-up clock, personalized terrarium or cross stitch of Bernie Sanders’ mittens? Pick up online orders or shop in-person for these crafts and more. The store will be closed Dec. 24-27. 60 N San Pedro St, San Jose;
[email protected]

Marvel or Mourn with Martinelli’s 

There’s one must-have when grabbing bottles from the top shelf of your local grocer this New Years—the iconic green-and-white bottle filled with Martinelli Sparkling Cider. Made from as many as 12 different types of apple, this drink is the simple kind of (alcohol-free) self-care we all need. And while this historic four-generation business has roots in Santa Cruz County, San Jose’s own Gordon Biersch lent a hand in Martinelli’s 150th anniversary celebration with a return to boozy beverages in 2018. So pour a glass of your choice and honor a local drink from the comfort of home. Cheers. martinellis.com/where-to-buy.

Cooking for Luck

Swap out fine dining fares for a smorgasbord of delights at the comfort of your own dining room table—all of which have been told to bring good fortune in the New Year. Folks of Scandinavian, German and Polish descent may recall fishy smells emanating from their NYE tables, as pickled herring is seen as a lucky tradition for fertility, long life and bounty. For something savory and hearty, the Southern staple “Hoppin’ John” combines black-eyed peas, rice and pork—a dish historically prepared by enslaved Africans that developed into a good-luck meal. There’s a Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes—one to pop in your mouth with each passing strike of the clock at midnight. Make sure good luck flows by finishing the snack in time. And for a dessert to finish off the night, try your hand at a Louisiana classic King Cake—the treats sprinkled yellow, green and purple with a surprise (plastic) baby hidden inside. Whoever finds the lil babe is lucky for the day.

Sweet Streams

Thank goodness our televisions and computer screens had access to endless movie titles by the arrival of COVID-19. For a musical escape, Get Back to the years of Beatlemania by watching the newly released 8-hour documentary series on Disney+. For a nostalgic yet relevant story of a teen’s trip to a “grippy sock” mental-health clinic, It’s Kind of a Funny Story hits a cinematic soft spot. But if a specific NYE-theme is in order, queue up Carol, High School Musical or the aptly apocalyptic film Snowpiercer.

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