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Travel Talk – Many options found locally for welcoming in New Year (Dec. 31, 2014 issue)

By Mary Beth Shults
A very dear and superstitious friend of mine believes the way you welcome in the New Year indicates what your year will be like. I’ve always enjoyed this superstition because it gives me a special reason to reflect on what the last year has brought and to celebrate the upcoming year. If you’re hoping to let the New Year in with a bang, here are a few local ideas of things to do and places to go.
Ball Drop, Gatlinburg
Everyone is familiar with the ball drop of New York. If you’re tired of watching it from your TV and can’t quite make it to New York this year, Gatlinburg will be hosting its 27th Annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Display. The Ball will be dropped from the Space Needle at the intersection of the Historic Nature Trail and Parkway.
The outdoor show is free and there is live music throughout the night. Crowds start gathering early. There are also food vendors and free party favors to really get you in the mood. Be prepared to stay late and be ready for a crowd. If you like the idea of seeing the ball drop without being in the thick of things, look for a hotel with a view of the Space Needle.
New Year’s Music Events, Johnson City
Local nightlife venues will be hosting an array of events for this special night and there will be a variety of musical entertainment. A few ideas include the Acoustic Coffeehouse and Peanut’s Mecca Lounge among others. 5iveMore will be playing at 9 p.m., at the Mecca Lounge, and J.W Teller, an indie musician with a beard to match his raspy voice, will play at the Acoustic Coffeehouse at 8 p.m.
If you’re looking for a more spiritually uplifting event, a local gospel group, Crystal River Boys, will be singing at the Johnson City Baptist Temple on the Milligan Highway at 8 p.m. There is no ticket price but the group’s website requests a “love offering” in lieu of an admission price.
Asheville Events
If you’re looking for something a little more special or upscale, the Grove Park Inn and Biltmore Estate will both be open for New Year’s. Biltmore is continuing their lovely candlelight Christmas tours through January 3rd and will be open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Tours start at 6:45 and 7:30 and tickets can be purchased in advance at the Biltmore Estate website. Tickets include the special tour at night along with free parking and access to the garden and Antler Hill Village and winery during the day.
The rather pricey but luxurious Grove Park Inn will also be hosting a few more holiday celebrations. In addition to a few large meals available at the hotel on December 31st, there will be a New Year’s celebration with dancing and champagne and a dueling piano bar for $10. You must be 21 or over for both events and tickets are required for the party.
If you want to visit the more eclectic and less expensive side of Asheville, there will be even more music and nightlife options including many themed parties. The 1920s appear to be a popular idea for this year as the prohibition style restaurant and bar, Lex 18, offers a variety of tickets for a meal, midnight celebration, or combination of the two.
In a similar vein, the Olive or Twist on Broad Street will offer swing dance lessons from 7 to 8 p.m., with a live band after. The event lasts from 7 to 11 p.m. and is a weekly occurrence on Wednesday nights. In addition to these roaring parties, there will be a number of musical and themed events going on in downtown Asheville.
New Year’s
If you want to start your New Year’s healthy resolutions immediately, the Wellness Center in Johnson City is organizing a New Year’s 5K and Polar Bear Plunge. Proceeds will raise money and awareness for the Children’s Advocacy Center. You can register online or at the Wellness Center or Foot Rx by New Year’s Eve for $25 or register the day of the event starting at 7:30 for $30. Race starts at 9. Bring a bathing suit for the plunge.
While all of these celebrations will surely offer new excitement for your new year, there is also much to be said for spending the evening with friends and family. Some of my favorite celebrations include game nights at home with neighbors and family. My parents love to see a movie and support our local theater on New Year’s. No matter how you choose to spend your evening, please be considerate for other drivers and mindful of how you’re getting home after a fun evening. May you all celebrate a good night to begin a new and wonderful year!