The city’s official way of celebrating New Year’s Eve, Austin’s New Year, is a free (and alcohol-free), family-friendly extravaganza at Vic Mathias (aka Auditorium) Shores. The event, which opens at 3 p.m., includes numerous stages with music and other performances, art and art vendors, kids activities, a food court, and other fun stuff. It’s also the best place to watch the fireworks close-up, although crowds will no doubt be quite large all day. They’ll start and 10 p.m. and will cap off the festival.
Barring a stray storm or tornado (not currently in the forecast, but things can change), there will be scads of people at the event, as well as quite a few road closures (and partial closures) for most of the day and evening; the event site has detailed information about those as well as advice on parking and how to get around the festival in general.
If you want to avoid the traffic and parking nightmare around the big event and don't have friends in high places (a downtown condo, a mansion just down the road from Mount Bonnell) or tickets to a pricey party, you might find this map of other watching spaces helpful.
Finally, our sibling site Eater Austin has the scoop on the best restaurants, bars, and parties for ringing in the New Year, from dinner spots to midnight bashes to the next day’s brunch.
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