upper waypoint

New Year's Eve For $20 and Under: Yes, It's Possible

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

MC and vocalist Aima the Dreamer hosts NYE at the Elbo Room.

There’s a particular gag that gets passed around every year during the last week of December that kills me, though I’ve seen it a hundred times. It’s a flyer for a typical New Year’s Eve party — AKA overpriced, full of obnoxious drunk dudes who seem to have never learned bar etiquette and irritating, wasted girls falling over in the street because they’re wearing impractical shoes. It speaks to a few sad truths about the holiday: Nearly everyone’s trying to take someone home and/or have the best night of their lives; nearly everyone wakes up the next day staring down a new year with a champagne headache, a boatload of regrets, and many fewer dollars than they woke up with on Dec. 31.

That particular joke flyer I was talking about
I mean, they’re not wrong.

That said, let’s get excited for New Year’s Eve!!

No, really. Truth be told, it is entirely possible to have a good — dare I say great — last night of 2015. It just involves being willing to go with the flow, having no expectations of it being the Most Perfect Night Ever, and (on the planet where I live, at least) minimizing New Year’s Day remorse by not spending a bajillion dollars on a prix fixe menu and “complimentary” glass of champagne.

Here are some $20-and-under options around the Bay that will help you do just that.

Hella Saucey New Year’s Eve Bash hosted by Aima the Dreamer at Elbo Room, SF. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for this beloved Mission Dive, culminating in the happy announcement that she’ll live to see 2018. Celebrate with a killer lineup of local DJs, emceed by underrated hip-hop maven Aima the Dreamer.  $10; details here.


New Year’s Eve Afternoon Balloon Drop Celebration at the Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland. Having little ones doesn’t mean you have to stay home — let ’em in on the fun (and be home in time for dinner) with one of these afternoon countdowns and balloon drops, with different times for different age groups. $5; details here.


Sweater Funk NYE Boogie Bash at the Knockout, SF. Live performances from PLAZA and K-Maxx plus the classic Sweater Funk DJ crew. $7 – $10; details here. 

Gene Kelly double feature at the Castro Theater, SF. Hide from the future with the help of Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Debbie Reynolds at their finest, courtesy of Singin’ In the Rain and On the Town. $10; details here. 

New Year’s Eve Fireworks, SF. Bundle up, grab a beverage for the stroll, and cross your fingers for another one of these clear, cool nights we’ve been having, as it will all help you take in this fabulous (and free!) fireworks display all along the Embarcadero. Details here. 

New Wave’s Eve at the Nightlight, Oakland. Partying like it’s 1984 never gets old, right? The Cure, The Go-Gos, David Bowie, Joy Division, Gang of Four, Flock of Seagulls, Flock of Seagulls haircuts…you get the idea. $10; details here.

New Year’s Eve Bash with Lecherous Gaze, Pins of Light at the Hemlock Tavern, SF. Because nothing says “this is gonna be a great year” like starting it off sweaty while throwing yourself around to local punk/metal bad-asses. $12 – $15; details here. 

Saturday Night Soul Party at Virgil’s Sea Room, SF. Sure, NYE is on a Thursday, but why mess with a classic? Soul tunes spun all night; a Fernet-Branca toast at midnight, just to keep things interesting. $5; details here. 

lower waypoint
next waypoint