New Year’s Eve is a time for self-reflection and resolutions, and of course, celebrations. This Dec. 31, immerse yourself in the culture of Wyoming by celebrating with your whole family. From torchlight parades, to First Night events, to dinner parties, here are the eight best New Year’s Eve events to enjoy in Wyoming.
An orange, fiery line descending the nighttime ski slope is something to behold. It winds down the hill, snaking and switch-backing like an awaking dragon. The torchlight parade at the Jackson Hole Ski Resort is stellar. The Glow Worm procession for kids under age 15 precedes the primary event and is ideal for those with earlier bedtimes. Come 6 p.m., this beautiful winding-path of “torches” (glow-sticks, actually) slithers down the hill, into town and culminates in a spectacular firework display. A day of eating, sledding and even skiing is best chased with a fun, torch-lit evening ringing in the New Year.
While the majority view New Year’s Eve through a champagne flute, this family-friendly night at the Lyric in Casper takes the opposing tact. Centered on preventing and treating substance abuse, this alcohol-free gathering is pure wholesome fun. It’s a guilt-free cavalcade of live music, performers, food, and kid-friendly games. There’s a scavenger hunt, board games, a photo booth, and a barrage of dancing, singing and laughing that won’t only keep the little ones entertained, it’ll actually make parents smile as well. And a New Year’s Day hangover-free is a resolution worth celebrating.
As with comparably gorgeous Jackson Hole, the Grand Targhee Resort hosts an impressive and kaleidoscopic torch parade on New Year’s Eve. With pristine vistas unimpeded by light pollution, the stars are neon-bright, tiny celestial bulbs backlighting a descending train of glow-stick oranges & reds. Fun-seekers, tourists and families of all stripes smile and wave as they snake towards the town center, a climax accented with high-altitude fireworks. The parade ends in the bucolic center of the resort, where masses of happy families and even happier service staff are ready with food and drink.
Begun in 2011, this NYE tradition is an admirable small-town rendition of the Big Apple event. Kids’ events start at 3 p.m. (they’re free!), and cover a range of indoor and outdoor activities to keep families entertained well into the evening. The outdoor plaza sports all the fun snow-centric fun, including skating and horse-drawn carriage rides. Inside, children and parents can build some crafts, play a few games and meet the costumed seasonal celebrities. Once the little ones are tuckered-out, countdown to the New Year, Cheyenne style.
While certainly more raucous than a strict family affair, the conviviality, carefreeness, and history emanating from this establishment is incredible. In the town named for the Buffalo Bill Cody, the Irma is a (hopefully) permanent relic of the idyllic West and favorite watering hole of cowboys past and present. This renowned building served as a headquarters for visiting dignitaries and well-funded outfitting expeditions, embedding itself into the memories of its many famous guests as much as its entwined itself in the state’s history. For NYE, the venue erupts in a party atmosphere, with loads of food & drink specials (lobster, prime rib and halibut!) and entertainment galore that celebrate the excesses of its most famous patrons.
Like many places in Wyoming, Gillette is very proud its cowboy/rancher heritage. For 15 years, these Buck & Ball has merged the area’s important attachment to cattle & buckin’ broncs with that volatile mixture of rambunctiousness and self-reflection underpinning New Year’s celebrations. Hosted at the Cam-Plex, home to the region’s livestock and folk fairs, this venue provides ample space and sports-arena gravitas to the festivities. The event attracts the best bronc riders in the national, who come to show-off and partake in the festivities: a dinner, auction and rodeo events preceded the Final Countdown.
It’s almost unfair that Wyoming boasts both Yellowstone and Teton National Parks. And even in the coldest stretches of winter, they’re some excellent (and actually cozy!) festivities in which to partake. A number of private outfitters and wildlife guides are available: view Old Faithful via snowshoe, go on a snowmobiling tour of the park, and jump on a snow coach and interact with the park’s vibrant fauna. If only for an afternoon, or overnight and beyond, and number of tours and treks are on offer, be one a dedicated outdoor photographer or relaxation-seeking retiree. And afterwards, cozy up to a fire at any number of hotels and bed & breakfasts, all of which perfectly frame themselves around their inimitable environs.
As the preeminent national park, Yellowstone is worth mentioning at least twice, on any list. But if carriages, snowshoeing, and experiencing the stark beauty of a Wyoming winter outdoors isn’t exactly enticing for New Year’s, perhaps a more laid-back option is preferable. There are innumerable opportunities to view the park’s wonders from the comfort of a fireplace and local steak dinner at Rib and Chophouse. While Cody is known for its unabashed cowboy heritage, it’s also a charming, approachable and welcoming community in which reflecting on the past year (and planning the upcoming) comes easily. Perhaps this ease is aided by crackling pine charring in the hearth, meat sizzling over open flame and the comforting burn of a stiff drink: all before the tinging of glasses. “Happy New Year!”