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10 ways to have the best possible New Year’s Eve in San Francisco

The back of two people's heads with brown hair watch a red and pink fireworks display.
People watch fireworks during New Year’s celebrations in San Francisco in 2018. | Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling via Getty Images

Whether you had a terrific year or a terrible year, New Year’s Eve offers the opportunity to go out with a bang before trying again in 2024. Typically, the biggest problem people encounter in San Francisco is choosing from all the many ways to celebrate. 

So here are the 10 best options we found for where to be at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31. 

For the Burners 

For its 10th incarnation, the New Bohemia New Year’s Eve party is a veritable sensory explosion—including 23 immersive environments, seven dance floors, a kink lounge, circus performers and themed karaoke—all at the historic Mint building. Ahead of next year’s full calendar of art-camp fundraisers and all-day raves, here’s a stately occasion to chat about how hard the playa flooded and whether you tried to evacuate with Diplo and Chris Rock. 

A long wooden table stands under a long light fixture.
Osito's communal table will be stacked with seafood towers and fondue stations on New Year's Eve. | Source: Courtesy Osito

For the Foodie: Osito 

In a dining scene that’s as buzzy and over-the-top as they come, chef Seth Stowaway’s rustic Mission District lodge Osito nevertheless broke new ground when it opened in 2021 by cooking its food entirely over an open flame—and serving elaborate tasting menus at a long, communal table. 

The restaurant, along with its sister cocktail bar Liliana next door, is planning a New Year’s Eve party with a mid-century-themed open house that features a fondue station, seafood towers, caviar stations, a champagne tower and martinis. The $200 ticket includes a welcome punch, food and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight. This being New Year’s and all, there will also be a Polaroid station and a gratitude and resolution wall. 

A man with blonde hair sings into a microphone with a light behind him.
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem will bring the band back to the Bay Area a year after their eight-date residency. | Source: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

For Music Lovers: LCD Soundsystem 

A year after their eight-show, two-venue Bay Area residency, LCD Soundsystem returns to town with two shows in San Francisco for anyone who’s losing their edge and wants to dance themselves clean. Fans of the Brooklyn-born rock group can flock to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for shows on Dec. 30 and 31, where Soulwax offshoot 2ManyDJs and sex-positive electroclash oddball Peaches round out the bill.

General admission tickets are $125, or you can spring for the $225 ticket that includes all-night access to a VIP lounge with food and a premium viewing area.  

For the Fireworks Lover

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to have a good time on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, as one of the best forms of entertainment that evening comes for free, just after midnight, in the form of a 20-minute fireworks extravaganza along the water. 

For the best glimpse on land, go early to nab a spot along the waterfront between the Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building. If you want to drop some cash, you can always sail away on the Great Gatsby cruise—and get a view that faces the famous neon “Port of San Francisco” sign head-on, with the lit-up Embarcadero Center framing the shot. 

For the Nautically Inclined 

What’s a pleasure cruise compared to a trip on an actual aircraft carrier? Ring in the New Year on the USS Hornet, docked in Alameda. In spite of its reputation as one of the Bay Area’s most haunted spots, ghosts may have to find a partner if they emerge to dance the night away to big band music on three separate floors on the hangar’s deck. This gala includes free parking and swing lessons, plus, that fireworks show is just across the bay.

A woman on a stage in a black unitard practices a balancing act.
Junru Wang practices her balancing act during a mock performance of "Dear San Francisco" at Club Fugazi. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

For the True Lover of San Francisco

A genuine love letter to the city, the awe-inspiring Dear San Francisco brings things to life through a series of tableaus on the 1906 Great Earthquake, the Summer of Love and our ever-faithful fog. But more importantly for fans of razzle-dazzle, you’ll be treated to hoop divers, Chinese pole artists, Korean plank pros and jugglers, all performed by world-class acrobats.   

Club Fugazi has two special New Year’s Eve shows on tap: one at 5 p.m. and another at 10 p.m., the latter including bottomless prosecco and a countdown at midnight. 

For People With Deep Pockets 

For those who relish classic, old-school San Francisco—and also have plenty of disposable income—the Top of the Mark New Year’s party is for you. It’s hard to find a more beautiful view than from the historic Nob Hill hotel’s 19th-floor sky lounge, where the cityscape is a sparkling carpet before you. 

At over $400 a pop, New Year’s Eve at the Mark Hopkins isn’t cheap, but the cost of entry includes a five-course plated meal, bottomless bubbly, live entertainment by Laurent Fourgo and his Vintage Jukebox Orchestra—and those spectacular views. 

People skate on an ice skating rink with a Christmas tree behind them decorated with red and white bulbs.
Skaters can take turns on Union Square's rink until 8:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

For the Athletic 

Union Square’s ice skating rink, framed by a skyscraper-tall Christmas tree and the sparkling wreaths in Macy’s, makes for a perfectly atmospheric holiday destination. Don your red mittens and strap on your (rental) skates for the frostiest of the options on this list in our typically temperate climate. You can get tickets as late as 8:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve—enough time to get some rest before the Polar Bear Skate on New Year’s Day, when skaters will sport beachwear on the ice.

Warm your bones after all that skating with some warm tipple at nearby Pacific Cocktail Haven has a particularly spirited holiday cocktail menu. And if you miss your chance to skate on NYE, the rink is open through Jan. 15.

A trapeze artist stands on a red and blue stage with circus performers surrounding her.
Circus Bella has long been a San Francisco staple, but the troupe is back with a new production, Kaleidoscope. | Source: Courtesy James Watkins/Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

For the Pint-Sized 

Our own local circus—Circus Bella—is back with a new production, Kaleidoscope, performed in a 350-seat big-top tent at the intersection of Main and Howard streets in the East Cut. The troupe’s three special New Year’s Eve shows: a “Noon New Year’s Eve” show beginning at noon, a 7:30 p.m. show and a 10:30 p.m. show that will end at midnight Pacific Time. Guests for all the shows will receive complimentary party hats and streamers, ahead of a countdown to the year ahead and an enthusiastic rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" to carry souls across the threshold to 2024. 

A cast of 12 perform thrilling feats of balance and strength in the one-ring circus, punctuated by antics and humor. Music comes courtesy of the live, six-piece Circus Bella All-Star Band. It’s the perfect option for families with children—and kids of all ages. 

A neon sign at night that reads "Avedano's MEATS"
Avedano’s Meats in Bernal Heights is a great place to put together an at-home New Year's feast. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

For the Homebody

Not everyone wants to go out—or spend a zillion dollars—on New Year’s Eve. With some planning, you can have a just as special and celebratory holiday in your own living room. 

Create an Instagrammable charcuterie board with locally sourced meats from Avedano’s, Epicurean Trader or Molinari Delicatessen, add some bubbly (or bubbly water with a kooky flavoring), watch Netflix and chill after you do your countdown. Hint: Love Actually, Jaws and Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour all leave the streaming service at the stroke of midnight.

Julie Zigoris can be reached at jzigoris@sfstandard.com