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The Best Places to Ring in the New Year in Pensacola
by Jennie McKeon

Whether you need a crowded bar to find a stranger to kiss at midnight, or you want to indulge in a four-course dinner, Pensacola is where you want to make those New Year’s resolutions Friday, Dec. 31.

Pensacola Pelican Drop
The most popular of the events will likely be the Pensacola Pelican Drop in downtown Pensacola. The party begins at 5 p.m. on Intendencia Street at the CAT Country/International Paper Stage. At 8 p.m. the 13-foot pelican, with more than 1,500 lights, will make its appearance. Once the clock strikes midnight, the pelican will drop from 100 feet above the ground and fireworks will begin.
According to the Pensacola Pelican Drop press release, the event brings 40,000 people to downtown Pensacola. If you’re afraid of being trampled, you can catch live footage on WEAR-TV 3, but it won’t be the same. For more information, visit pensacolapelicandrop.com.

Seville Quarter
The party starts at 7 p.m. at Seville Quarter, where you can choose just how crazy you want to get with various New Year’s Eve events. Live entertainment will be at Rosie O’Grady’s, including the world famous dueling piano show, and DJ Trey will be spinning at Phineas Phogg’s. You can purchase the Membership Party Package in advance for $30 ($35 at the door), which includes a 2011 membership card and entry to all four stages. For $20, you can dance the night away—the cover charge gives you access to all the rooms in the main complex. All Seville Quarter guests will receive party favors and a Cristalino Brut Cava toast at midnight.

With the Stay and Play Package, you get a room at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown and the Residence Inn by Marriott, two Membership Party Packages, complementary shuttling to and from the parties, breakfast at your hotel, a “morning after” survival kit and late checkout to boot. The Stay and Play Package is $189 per couple. To make your reservation, call Courtyard by Marriott at 439-3330 or Residence Inn by Marriott at 432-0202.

As if Seville wasn’t celebrating enough, Heritage Hall will be hosting a gourmet wine dinner prepared by Executive Chef Brandon Melton at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. The cost is $99 per couple. Afterwards, you can dance off your dinner at any of the rooms in Seville Quarter. For more information, go to sevillequarter.com.

Pensacola Symphony
Orchestra at Saenger Theatre
Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Chris Vadala will join the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra as part of the POPS! Concert Series. Jazz and big band favorites will help ring in the New Year on a good note. The event starts at 7 p.m., and tickets range from $20-$67. To purchase tickets or to find out more, visit pensacolasymphony.com.

The Fish House
The Fish House is celebrating with its double threats: great food and dancing. Starting at 6 p.m., The Fish House will offer a special menu for the New Year created by Chef Billy Ballou. The four-course menu will be paired with wines selected by Beverage Director William Morris and Premier Beverage Company. The menu includes sweet and spicy shrimp over a fresh thyme and fried green tomato stack finished with a crawfish butter sauce paired with Alexander Valley Vineyards New Gewürz, North Coast Gewürztraimer 2008. There are two seating times for the dinner, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., and the cost is $100 per person.

After dinner, check out The Fish House Deck Bar. Video DJ V-J D-MIXX will provide the entertainment. Complementary party hats, noisemakers, streamers and a champagne toast will be provided. For those who skip the dinner, the dance party is free. To make a reservation, call the Events Coordinator at 433-9450.

Jackson’s Steakhouse
Jackson’s will be hosting a three-course dinner at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. in the President’s Room. Chef Irv Miller will be preparing the menu, which includes entrées such as grilled grouper with seared diver scallop, Zinfandel mustard and pine-nut-crusted filet mignon and sumac, and rosemary-rubbed grilled rack of lamb. Bottomless champagne and pianist Al Martin, who will be taking requests all night long, will complement the dinner.

The cost per person is $125 and includes party favors and valet parking. To accommodate those with early New Year’s Eve plans, Jackson’s will be open at 5 p.m. serving from their fall/winter dinner menu. After the Pelican drops, you can catch Al Martin’s final set and receive complementary Hoppin’ John. To make a reservation, call 469-9898.

Sluggo’s/The Handlebar/McGuire’s Irish Pub/Flora-Bama
Many of the bars in Pensacola will be celebrating the New Year in their own special way. A few that may be worth checking out include Sluggo’s, which is hosting a local showcase all night long. For details, call 791-6501.

At The Handlebar, you can celebrate “New Year’s Evil” featuring Parabellum. Call 434-9060 for more information.
You can always count on McGuire’s to throw a great party, but it may be worth noting that this party involves black-eyed peas, champagne, party favors and of course live entertainment. For more details, call 433-6789.

If you’d like to spend New Year’s Eve in two places at once, Florida and Alabama, join the Flora-Bama Lounge for their New Year’s Eve celebration. For $35, you will have admission to the Flora-Bama and Silver Moon, party favors, champagne split, dinner buffet and breakfast. You can purchase tickets by calling 492-0611 or 251-980-5118.

Pensacola Beach

On Pensacola Beach, you don’t have to cross the bridge to party. At Bamboo Willie’s, Acoustifunk will be playing. The show starts at 9 p.m. and there is no cover charge. There will be a balloon drop at midnight and a free champagne toast and party favors. For more information, call 916-9888.
Across the street at Sandshaker Lounge, the New Year’s Eve Bash is from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. featuring Buzzcutt. Call 932-2211 for more details. No matter where you are, be sure to look up and check out the fireworks which will be displayed at the end of the Gulf Pier.

Polar Bear Plunge/Polar Bear Dip
To wake up from whichever party you decided to attend, you can brave a dip in the Santa Rosa Sound at the Polar Bear Plunge Saturday, Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. Those brave enough to swim to the finish line will receive generous portions of warm black-eyed peas. The entry fee benefits the Pensacola Beach Chamber. Cheering is free. The race takes place at Paradise Bar & Grill. For sign-up information, call 932-1500.

The Flora-Bama Lounge will be holding its annual event for polar bears as well. The race starts at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 1. Call 251-980-5118 to sign up.