Between presents, travel and Yuletide indulgences, the holidays can get expensive. So you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling a bit Scroogey by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around.
Fortunately, you don’t need to pawn your prized pocket watch or sell your luxurious locks in order to afford some year-end revelry. Here are a few low-cost New Year’s Eve ideas we’ve cobbled together that’ll go soft on your pocketbook. We’ve tried to keep all our recommendations under $30—or better yet free!
Word to the wise: Some of these are early bird specials, so be sure to grab the cheap tickets fast.
Fireworks Over the Bay
Embarcadero | 🕚 11:59 p.m. 🎟️ Free
The Fourth of July isn’t the only time for dazzling displays over San Francisco Bay. SF also hosts a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. The pyrotechnics are launched from a boat between the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge just before midnight, so be sure to snag a spot along the Embarcadero’s eastern edge, preferably along the waterfront and south of the Ferry Building. Rincon Park also offers unobstructed views of the 15- to 20-minute show. And if you have friends in high places, Standard staffers say that the rooftop decks of North Beach buildings can have killer view, too.
Fisherman’s Wharf | 🕚 2 p.m. 🎟️ Free
While popping a bottle of Champagne can be fun, it can also be dangerous. A flying Champagne cork can reach 50 mph, and that’s a lot of impact if it goes straight in the eye. To help preserve NYE revelers’ vision, the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye, the world’s only free, public museum dedicated to the science of sight, hosts a free workshop to educate partiers on how to properly–and safely–uncork a bottle of bubbly. Hear from a medical doctor who has treated eye-injury patients firsthand and watch a demo of proper popping technique. Finish off the workshop with a complimentary glass of bubbly.
RSVP here for this free, 21+ event that’s a slightly more educational than your standard NYE fare.
NoPa | 🕚 9 p.m.-1 a.m. 🎟️ $10
Grab your mateys and head to Emporium arcade and bar’s pirate-themed play night. Snag $10 presale ticks, and you’re in for a night of gaming with 10 free gold tokens, plenty of “pirate’s booty” giveaways, “walk the plank” drink specials and a treasure chest full of other surprises.
Oakland | 🕚 9 p.m.-2 a.m. 🎟️ $10
Get your groove on at this NYE dance party that won’t break the bank. Scene-y Oakland bar First Edition hosts a New Year’s Eve installment of Hot Mess, featuring electronic music mixers Mega Hostile, DJ Sunsoul, Young Ella Baker and DJ Ignacia. Grab tickets here.
Mission | 🕚 8:30 p.m. 🎟️ Free-$50
This end-of-year blowout celebrates the POC/LGBTQ+ community with music from rapper Micahtron and DJs Young Ella Baker and Trilce. Admission is free, but a $50 ticket is required if you’d like to take part in the food and open bar. If you decide to spring for these extra perks, know they’ll be going to a good cause: 10% of proceeds will be donated to local LGBTQ+ youth centers. But if you’re keeping a tighter grip on your purse strings, you’re also welcome to just dance and hang.
SoMa | 🕚 8 p.m. 🎟️ $20+
Feel posh and bookish among Novela’s glowing bookshelves and stacks for the price of one very fancy San Francisco cocktail. Escape into this library-themed bar’s literary world with a wintry twist, where DJ Junebug will spin Top 40 songs, ’80s hits and contemporary hip-hop amid the swanky bars’ glowing bookshelves.
Tenderloin | 🕚 7 p.m. 🎟️ $30+
With admission to some New Year’s Eve shows and parties creeping into the $100s or more, 30 bucks for a fun night out seems like a steal in pricy San Francisco, especially for an out-of-the-ordinary option. For this boozy performance, one comedian takes five shots of whiskey and tries to improvise with five sober performers. Watch the hilarity ensue. An added bonus? This ticket also gets you into PianoFight’s NYE 2023 Dance Party from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., plus a complimentary Champagne toast at midnight. A drunken show plus a party? Now that sounds like some bang for your buck. The fancier $50 tickets are already sold out, so be sure to snag the cheaper ones fast.
The Richmond | 🕚 8:30 p.m. 🎟️ $20+
Toast the new year with some laughter and lively music at this two-for-one deal. Bay Area comedy collective HellaFunny hosts a lineup of local comedians to tickle your funny bone. Chris Riggins—Dave Chapelle’s Bay Area opener—emcees. Your ticket also includes entry to Neck of the Woods’ NYE afterparty featuring ’90s hip-hop and R&B, plus a complimentary glass of champagne.
Oakland | 🕚 6 & 8 p.m. 🎟️ $20+
Hosted by Oakland’s speakeasy-style Copper Spoon, this intimate night of standup will feature some of the Bay Area’s funniest comedians. Cozy up on comfy couches, with a roaring fireplace, funky furnishings and lots of plants setting the mood for an evening of belly laughs. Only 35 tickets are sold per show, so be sure to snag them fast. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show include entry to a New Year’s Eve afterparty.
Sunsets & Stargazing
The Bay Area has no shortage of parks and outdoor spots to enjoy a meal with a sunset or the stars as the backdrop. There’s no need to worry about pricey cover fees or dinner reservations, and you can pick your own food, view and al fresco dining spot. The latest addition to San Francisco’s popular parks, Tunnel Tops, is a great spot to watch the sunset over the San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge as backdrop, but you can check out more of our recommendations here. And be sure to check park opening and closing times.
Various Locations & Prices
San Francisco’s dive bars may be the last bastion of the drink for under $10. So why not forgo the fancy cocktail lounge or trendy bar where you need to scream to be heard? We’ve highlighted a few our favorite bars where you can actually carry on a conversation here. The intimate cash-only circular bar at Zam Zam as well as this cozy Amy Winehouse-themed wine bar on Fillmore are among a few of our more mellow favorites. You can also find some of SF’s chillest wine bars here. But be sure to check on hours and cover fees for New Year’s Eve.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at [email protected]