Ten, nine, eight, seven, six — wait! Stop the clock. Hold the ball. Stuff a sock in Ryan Seacrest’s mouth. This year, don’t sit through another predictable New Year’s Eve of descending orb, half-enthused toast of champagne, home by 12:02.
We scoured North America for unconventional celebrations. Here are 10 ideas worth a countdown.
• Lehigh Valley, Pa. — The Peeps in Bethlehem don’t fly; they drop from the sky like a giant chick-shaped UFO. The free two-day PeepsFest bids 2012 adieu with s’mores, featuring the avian marshmallow treats as the main ingredient. The family-friendly event culminates on Dec. 31 with the Peeps Chick Drop: At the early-bird hour of 5:15 p.m., a 4.5-foot-tall, 85-pound lighted fowl will return to earth, followed by fireworks. www.artsquest.org/peepsfest, www.discoverlehighvalley.com
• Key West, Fla. — Grab your umbrella, because the forecast for Dec. 31 is a rainstorm of wenches, drag queens and conch shells. The Florida party town has a long history of tossing oddball items off rooftops. For example, Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street will hold its 20th annual Dropping of the Conch Shell. Also, Sushi, a female impersonator with no relation to the Japanese specialty, will float down in a 6-foot-long red high heel. And down by the water, a pirate wench will descend the mast of a tall ship at the Schooner Wharf Bar. www.fla-keys.com/keywest
• Mobile, Ala. — Don’t even try to take a bite of the 350-pound MoonPie that, at the stroke of midnight, will shoot down from a 34-story high-rise. The sweet treat is made of inedible ingredients that have more in common with a lamp than with cookies and marshmallows. In addition, the port town will host a Mardi Gras-style parade with floats and marching bands, honoring its place in history as the first U.S. city to hold Carnival, as well as three live music stages, a laser show and fireworks. The Commodores will sing and sway past the Auld Lang Syne hour. www.mobilenewyear.com
• Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada — At the binational waterfalls, the Canadians party harder than their southern counterparts. The free Niagara Falls New Year’s Eve, in Queen Victoria Park, sets off 2,000 pounds of fireworks from above the falls and below them at the Skylon Tower and in Niagara Gorge. Two countries means two sets of fireworks: at 8:45 p.m. and midnight. www.niagaraparks.com/nye
• Dallas — Big D NYE, the self-proclaimed “biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the Central Time Zone,” gives 2012 a Texas-size farewell. The free event in Victory Park, which drew 35,000 revelers last year, will be loud and large, with multiple stages featuring a full roster of bands. Gourmet food trucks will park along the periphery. At midnight, the sky will crackle with a fireworks spectacular, released from four locations and synchronized to music. www.bigdnye.com
• Boston — You’d need an entire year to fully experience First Night Boston, the oldest New Year’s Eve festival of arts and culture in North America (est. 1976). Unfortunately, you’ll have only a day and a night to squeeze in hundreds of music and dance performances, films, art exhibits, poetry slams, puppet shows, ice sculptures and more. At the cusp of 2013, fireworks will electrify the air over Boston Harbor. firstnightboston2013.sched.org
• Atlanta — After 23 years, the Atlanta Peach Drop, said to be the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in the Southeast, is still ripe for action. About 100,000 people are expected to watch the 800-pound fiberglass-and-foam fruit plummet from a 138-foot tower at Underground Atlanta. The city’s main entertainment complex will warm up the crowd with 16 hours of free special events, such as carnival-style rides, live music and fireworks. www.peachdrop.com
• Taos, N.M. — During the free Torchlight Parade at Taos Ski Valley, about 40 skiers will move like graceful glowworms down the black-diamond Snakedance Trail. Guests can get an eyeful of the illuminated procession from the base area of Peak 1. Once the mountain goes dark, the lights move upward, toward the sky, for the fireworks show. www.taosskivalley.com
• New Orleans — Les bon temps roll on and on in the French Quarter, starting at 9 p.m. with live music (funk band Brass-A-Holics, soulster Mia Borders and more) at Jackson Square and continuing way past Baby New Year’s curfew. At midnight, an 8-foot-tall fleur de lis will drift down a 25-foot pole, followed by the firecrackin’ Symphony in the Sky show over the Mississippi River. Finally, a six-foot-tall styrofoam Baby New Year (more like Teen New Year; “baby” was born in 2000) dressed in a purple-and-gold diaper and Saints football helmet will join the fete. www.crescentcitycountdown.com
• Providence, R.I. — Bright Night Providence was born out of darkness: the 2003 cancellation of the Rhode Island capital’s First Night. The packed daylong schedule features performances by more than a hundred musicians, hypnotists, dancers, storytellers, acrobats, magicians, visual artists, clowns and other entertainers. brightnight.org