The tax bill, the election, the DREAM act, Sarah Palin's Alaska—sheesh! When even Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds break up, you know it's time to throw in the towel on 2010 and kiss the year goodbye. Here's a ton of ways to make the turning of the calendar an intoxicating, confetti-filled, high-kicking, get-down relief.
Let's start during the day—early in the day. In Santa Rosa, it's basically part of city law that before tucking in every night, everyone's last thoughts will be, what would Charlie Brown do? Simple: attend the Schulz Museum at 10am and have a root beer toast and balloon drop at noon—the "other" 12 o'clock. Why root beer? It doesn't make sense? Of course it all makes sense! It's for the families and sobriety. See how it all works together?
Sure, we often wake up on New Year's Day thinking, "What is this beast sleeping next to me?" For a truly unforgettable New Year's Eve, Safari West is making that question quite literal with its second-annual Romp with the Beasts party. For $100, guests can dine, dance and drink the year away at a party befitting the wilderness; or, for $377, two adults can do all of the above and spend the night with wild animals in a luxury safari tent-treehouse with full accoutrements. Morning breakfast consists of mimosas and a walk with the exotic wild animals. No, it's not a joke! Yes, it's advance-reservation only.
The Chicago Sun Times called him "a tremendous talent with a poet's soul." We call him our longtime homeboy who just keeps getting better, especially with this year's record Between Motion and Rest. On New Year's Eve, Eric Lindell brings his unique brand of country-infused jazz to his stomping grounds at the Forestville Club, one of Sonoma County's favorite dive bars, for just $35.
Blues hounds can open wide and pop some beer bites to the free electric vibe of the Aces at the Russian River Brewing Company. The band's many interests include spontaneous human combustion—a scientific possibility—to go along with New Year's fireworks. By the time New Year's Day arrives, you might end up wondering where all that heat is coming from. Hint: it's the Aces, combusting all over 2010. (Yes, you just read that.)
If 2011 promises an upswing in the economy, let's hope for an upswing in world peace as well. Sebastopudlians channel their inner gods and goddesses for the New Year's Eve Dances of Universal Peace at the Sebastopol Community Center. A $20 admission gets you sacred circle dancing, singing and more peace on earth than a Bing Crosby and David Bowie duet.
One can experience the redwood forests and Gulf Stream waters without ever having to leave Petaluma on the big night. The Cinnabar Theater celebrates the new year with the opening of 'Woody Guthrie's American Song,' last seen in flash-mob form at the local Whole Foods Market. Featuring two dozen of the beloved folk musician's songs, the show is a musical journey into American life. And with tickets only $35, who wouldn't want to tag along? The show runs through Jan. 23, but before the opening performance, a New Year's Eve gala gets attendees in the spirit with dessert, Champagne and some dancing tunes for $60.
In Petaluma, celebrants can welcome 2011 with a greasy-plate helping of the blues with a side of rock. For $50, the bash at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma features the Tommy Castro Band as they play a special 20th anniversary show with founding members Randy McDonald and Shad Harris, as well as Billy Lee Lewis, playing songs from every record they've ever recorded. NorBay winners Frobeck open with their unique coleslaw of rock and pop.
Twenty-eleven goes strip-style for Viva Las Vegas at Chrome Lotus in Santa Rosa with DJ Beej and John Huntington. The night includes music, dancing, drinks and a balloon drop—but wait, there's more! If you make your way through the balloons and find the "golden ticket," you win a trip for two to Las Vegas, which includes a stay at the Palms resort, a tour of Sin City with the owner of Huntington Ink, and returning to California with a brand-new tattoo. For reals.
Valley Ford's Rocker Oysterfeller's has not only a name that's fun to say, but a $65 four-course dinner featuring Dungeness crab as well as options for the non-seafoodies. After dinner, guests can wander across the street to the Fish Bank where DJs will be spinning dance tunes with a full cocktail bar as well as an oyster and caviar bar for just $10.
Out in Guerneville at the recently renovated River Theatre, there's a quadruple bill of Stone Crow, Broken Ties, Ice and Wasted Morality. Just kidding! Those are all bands from 1986. But to those who used to frequent the theater when it was a haven for metal and punk bands, the news that Jerry Knight this year bought the building and fixed it up is a tug on the sentimental heartstrings of the hesher world. The big New Year's Eve party this year features Peggy Day & the Gypsy Knights, the Detroit Disciples, the Samuka carnival dancers and the Buddy Owen Band. At just $15, it's a great way to check out the hallowed hall in its reopened glory.
Sebastopol's Hopmonk Tavern features Melvin Seals and JGB in homage to the greatest nine-and-a-half-fingered guitarist that ever lived with a full balloon drop and, in a distinctly brewpub-style twist, an IPA toast for just $40. Take that, Dom Pérignon! . . . At Aubergine in Sebastopol, it's Funk in the Temple with Diego's Umbrella, Zuh G., belly cancers, Chango B and more for $25 . . . Over in similarly laid-back Cotati, the Pulsators take over the Tradewinds while the cheap shots flow for only $15. . . . The French Garden in Sebastopol hosts the Susan Comstock Swingtet for $25 and an optional dinner beforehand for $75. . . . At the Last Day Saloon in Santa Rosa, the Fast Eddie Band plays hits from the '60s through the '80s with the requisite bubbly pour and balloon drop for just $12. . . . And up near the SRJC, Jayne, Russell & Wilson take over Gaia's Garden for a small crowd of 50 people at $20 a head. . . and the Sebastopol Community Center features their ninth-annual NYE bash with the Hoytus Quintet, One Heart Band, Love Choir, Kate Price Band and Luv Rustlers for $15-$20.
Part of the show's description warns that "this show contains adult material," but unfortunately, the chances of Bill Maher stripping to Superman Underoos at the Marin Center in San Rafael are slim. Instead, the comedian and TV host is more likely to deliver a healthy booty call to gut-busting laughter. The show's sold-out, and so is the New Year's Day appearance at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, but miracles can happen (for a price, on Craigslist).
For $30, revelers can laugh in the new year with the Best of the SF Comedy Competition in the Showcase Theater at the Marin Center in San Rafael. Producers Anne and Jon Fox have a lasting record of top-quality comedians; this year features Paul Ogata, Maureen Langan and more for the laugh factor. . . . At the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, Michael Davis and Geoff Bolt bring comedy, juggling and who knows what else to support the main act, Kevin Meany, who even looks like Jonathan Winters! Wear your big pants and make sure not to lost the house on the $55 admission.
At 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, the jokes continue with resident funnyman Mark Pitta as he "pits" his laugh-ola skills against Orny Adams in a year-end yukfest for $50. Marin musicians Austin de Lone and Jimmy Dillon provide the tunes for glass refillin', and at a venue where Robin Williams and Sammy Hagar are known to show up out of the blue, there's no telling what might happen.
Designated drivers rejoice! The San Geronimo Golf Course knows how valuable you are on this night of nights. For safe and sober drivers attending San G's New Year's Eve Bash, free unlimited soft drinks are offered as well as a discounted price of $50 for dinner. Otherwise $55 gets partiers a dinner menu featuring such items as spinach bacon salad, medallions of salmon with capers and, of course, the requisite glass of champagne at midnight. Sky Blue takes the stage until the big countdown; foregoing dinner, guests can dance in the shade of the 18th fairway for just $18.
The brand-new, closed-due-to-fire and then recently resurrected George's Nightclub isn't going to let a little fire get it down, though Lydia Pense and Cold Blood threaten to get the place burning again with rousers like "I Just Want to Make Love to You" in a $65 party session at the Fourth Street hotspot in San Rafael. . . . And at Fairfax's 19 Broadway, who better to bring down the house than Hot Buttered Rum? It's a relatively small venue for the boys, it's in Marin's most 420-friendly town and it's only $25.
Allow midnight to fly by in a haze of hilarity at San Rafael's Palm Ballroom, where Emmy winner Rita Abrams takes over the harbor-side venue with a star-studded group of friends for her Five-Star Revue. For $45, partiers can bust a gut as Abrams offers her witty and satirical take on topics like aging, relationships and current events with Valentina Osinski, Darlene Popovic, Joe Osborn and Sean O'Brien.
Button up, bring your single—by choice!—self out to Embassy Suites Hotel in San Rafael and celebrate with other similar relationship-status peers. Footwear and dressy clothing are requirements, so no bare feet, y'all, and the entry fee of $20 nets a party hat. Top it all that off with DJ Darryl K for some extra fizzle to go along with your fruity drink.
Right before it's set to temporarily close for renovations, the Woods in Mill Valley rolls out the red carpet for an evening of vaudeville madness featuring El Radio Fantastique. Burlesque dancers, fire performance and circus freaks? Yes, please. Leave your stuffy Champagne toasts at home, and instead break out the absinthe for this free spirited, $50-a-head shindig.
For a Tuscan-style New Year, welcome the stroke of midnight at Castello di Amorosa, a gigantic castle and winery hosting a Masquerade Ball. For $275, masked faces, winetasting, a five-course candlelit dinner and owning the dance floor with Nepata & the Chocolate Kisses can be yours. Finish the night with bubbly and the removal of masks to reveal who you just made out with in the stone-wall courtyard.
All aboard! The Old World romance of a moonlit train ride can't be beat, unless a better train ride features alcohol and masked faces. That's right, masks. Drink it in Phantom of the Opera–style for the party on wheels that is the Midnight Masquerade with the Napa Valley Wine Train. With wine, seafood, music and dancing, it's $225 for the Gourmet Express and $255 for the "Vista Dome" car. The afterparty? It's in the station till 1am.
It may be a little early in the year for Carnival, but Domain Chandon in Napa throws caution (along with a handful of feathers and sequins) to the winds as it hosts its annual Glitter Ball. This year's Carnival-themed party features a five-course dinner, live music and dancing. $275 gets you a formal portrait, party favors and a Champagne toast at midnight.
At Silo's in Napa, shake a tail feather to Amato and Vinson, "simply the best Blues Brothers tribute today." There's a $30 early show for buzzkills and a $75 late show for diehards; by the time "Minnie the Moocher" plays and the confetti drops, see if you can find your own fedora.