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How to have a low-key New Year’s Eve in Chicago

December 19, 2017 / Chicago

New Year’s Eve is a time that most people associate with lavish parties, well-intentioned resolutions that are usually forgotten by February, and enough champagne to make the Chicago River overflow. But not everybody’s idea of fun is being at a New Year’s Eve party with hundreds of strangers while spending just about that many dollars to do it.

If you count yourself among that group, you’re lucky that you live in Chicago. With tons of chill options for an understated New Year, you can celebrate without going wild in the Windy City.

Where to go in Chicago for a chill NYE

Fireworks at Navy Pier

Navy Pier is an iconic destination in Chicago, and while it might be chilly at the end of December, this is an ideal place to get a view of the spectacular fireworks. Best of all, it’s kid-friendly, so the whole family can celebrate together. Get there early to stake out the best spot and enjoy the live entertainment and champagne.

Where: 600 E Grand Ave

Zoo Year’s Eve at Brookfield Zoo

Another family-friendly location for NYE, Brookfield Zoo does it right every single year. Take the kids, look at the animals—those that aren’t asleep by sundown, anyway—and enjoy the numerous activities available for visitors of all ages.Make sure you arrive early to see the animals and catch the countdown for kids at 8pm.

Where: 8400 W 31st St, Brookfield

Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration at Studio5

A world-class dance, music, and live theater venue, Studio5 isn’t exactly the kind of place where most people would think of celebrating NYE. With its unique cocktail and entertainment program, Studio5 is an inspiring location to spend the big moment while soaking in some culture.Get your tickets early—they tend to sell out!

Where: 1934 Dempster St, Evanston

Ice-Skating at Millennium Park

Ice-skating is fun for the whole family, and it can be a wonderful start to your evening even if you’re on a date with that special someone. Come early for afternoon skating as the sun goes down, or stay for the closing ceremony at 10pm. You’ll still have time to catch the ball dropping and celebrate with the adults—if you want.

Where: 201 E Randolph St

Logan Theater

Watching the ball drop on TV is a grand tradition for kids who get to stay up extra late once a year, but for adults the countdown can be just a little trite. Instead of watching the NYE festivities at Times Square on TV, head down to the Logan Theater and check out a premiere cut of Die Hard. Take all your friends and see how many of the iconic lines you know. Oh, did we mention that the theater has a full bar?

Where: 2646 N Milwaukee Ave

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge

Featuring an old-school vibe with real jazz, big band, and bossa nova almost every night of the week, Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is your kind of place if you’re going to wear a vintage dress or Al Capone–inspired fedora in 2018. Get a table and enjoy the live music and drinks at this top-tier establishment. It may get crowded on NYE, but it won’t be a madhouse like other popular celebration destinations.

Where: 4802 N Broadway

Holiday Club

Known for serving quality cocktails and comfort food that delights regular visitors, the Holiday Club is a must-stop destination on NYE if you want to stay ultra-low-key. Reserve your spot now and enjoy the retro vibe of this unique establishment. It’s also a great place to take a date if you haven’t been together long enough for a big celebration but ringing in the new year without each other just seems strange.

Where: 4000 N Sheridan Rd


A hot, high-class joint with some of the best Korean-inspired food in town, Parachute is an ideal place to celebrate the passing of another season if you’re a foodie. Come for the set menu—$85 per person—and stay for the cocktails after. Neighborhood bars, pubs, and watering holes will be open if you need a change of scenery as well.

Where: 3500 N Elston Ave

Use these 8 destinations to plan your perfect chill NYE. You can skip the crowds and crazy prices but still have fun with the people you love, including the little ones.