Cheap or Free: Places to Kick off 2017 in San Antonio’s Urban Core

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New Years Eve fireworks over downtown San Antonio on Jan1, 2016.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

New Years Eve fireworks over downtown San Antonio on Jan1, 2016.

All the progress and setbacks, wins and losses, new presidents, and dead celebrities of this year will soon become memories. Love it or hate it, 2016 is almost over.

Where will you be when you ring in the new year? There’s no shortage of swanky parties downtown and on the River Walk – most of which are listed at Do210.com – but be prepared to shell out a hefty sum for most cocktail bars and hotel balconies.

Here are some of the city’s easiest and cheapest spots to pop corks, catch fireworks, celebrate with friends, and look toward a new chapter on New Year’s Eve.

Downtown Concerts and Firework Show

The San Antonio Parks Foundation always throws the biggest, free New Year’s Eve party in San Antonio: Celebrate San Antonio. If wading through more than 150,000 fellow revelers at midnight gives you no pause, then make your way to the corner of South Alamo and East Nueva streets. From here you can choose from three different lineups including the H-E-B Family Stage at Arneson River Theatre, Maverick Plaza Stage at La Villita Historic Arts Village, and the Main Stage on South Alamo Street.

Headliners include Piñata Protest, Carlton Zeus, Sunny Sauceda, and Italie Flores.

This year’s musical offerings are decidedly more hip, opening up the stage to new local bands, DJs, and hip-hop artists. Click here to find out more.

Near the stages, carnival games, and snacks that Celebrate San Antonio has to offer, Hemisfair’s Yanaguana Garden will likely be – quite literally – crawling with little ones looking to climb to the top of the rope bridge to get the best view of the fireworks that will go off at midnight at the Tower of the Americas.

If you want to be the one responsible for the bang heard throughout the city, you can enter a bid to light the fuse on the downtown fireworks display, which the SA Parks Foundation is auctioning off until noon on Dec. 30 right here.

A cotton candy vendor makes his way through thousands of New Year's Eve revelers gathered on South Alamo Street in downtown San Antonio on Dec. 31, 2013.

Iris Dimmick / Rivard Report

A cotton candy vendor makes his way through thousands of New Year’s Eve revelers gathered on South Alamo Street in downtown San Antonio on Dec. 31, 2013.

Kid’s Countdown at The DoSeum

Just because you’re too young to pop champagne and stay up past midnight doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate New Year’s Eve in style: The DoSeum’s Kids Countdown is the coolest party for the coolest kids (and their parents).

Access to the Doseum exhibit spaces, a dance party, group games, New Year’s Eve-themed crafts, goodie bags (while they last), bubbly drinks, and a ball and balloon drop will have your kids cruising into 2017 with a big ol’ smile on their faces.

The party starts at 9 a.m. and the (apple cider) corks will pop at the strike of noon. Tickets are $12, include admission to the museum, and are available here.

New Years Eve Cabaret‘ at Brick

For $5, guests can enjoy the musical stylings of local pop star Wayne Holtz (10 p.m.) and 13-piece cumbia/Latin pop group Volcán (11:30 p.m.-1 a.m.) at Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex, 108 Blue Star.

4x5 participants converse outside of Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex during the 4×5 Photo Fest.

For $10 more, bubbly and food are included. If you want to get really fancy, you can split a $200 table with three of your friends for music, food, and bottle service. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Hays Street Bridge/Big Hops

There doesn’t seem to be a formal event planned for the Hays Street Bridge but the view from the historic bridge is a good one on any night – especially New Year’s Eve. Big Hops will host its first NYE party at its second location at 306 Austin St.

Bonfire at Burleson

This is as straight forward as it sounds: The drinks aren’t free, but the entry to Burleson Yard Beer Garden, 430 Austin St., is free and there will be “S’Mores, fire, borracho beans, and drink specials” according to the near Eastside ice-house-slash-cocktail-bar’s Facebook event page. The downtown and neighborhood fireworks will be visible from the yard – or at least the parking lot – and it’s a short walk to Dignowity/Lockwood Park and the Hays Street Bridge.

Bikes at Burleson Yard. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

Bikes, brews, and friends at Burleson Yard Beer Garden.

Southern Sounds at Lowcountry

“If the artist wasn’t born in the South, they ain’t getting played,” says Lowcountry‘s Facebook event page. “To top it off there will be a pig cookin’ out back.”

Southtown’s newest watering (and eatin’) hole opened last month at 318 Martinez St. and impressed local critics with its cozy dive bar charm and high-quality food and cocktail menus.

“James Brown, Skynyrd, Elvis, Bo Diddley, ZZ Top, Doug Sahm, Sam & Dave, Aretha, Howlin Wolf, Johnny Cash, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Carl Perkins, Allman Brothers Band, and much much more,” will be on the free musical menu. “All Vinyl, All Night.”

Nectar Wine Bar & Ale House

A $10 cover gets you into the relatively new Nectar Wine Bar & Ale House at 214 Broadway St. for a complimentary champagne toast at midnight, party favors, and live broadcast of the fireworks downtown.

Doors open at 8 p.m. and (aim to) close at 1 a.m.

“Avoid the overwhelming crowds and celebrate in elegance with Nectar,” the event page states. “No reservations after 8 p.m. $10 cover starts at 9 p.m.

Alchemy Kombucha and Culture

This top-notch, locally sourced eatery in the Five Points neighborhood, 1123 N. Flores St., has some of the best $5 cocktails in town.

“You are in for a few surprises,” according to its mysterious Facebook event description. “We will keep you posted!”

Just Walk Around the City

Children play with sparklers near downtown San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Children play with sparklers near downtown San Antonio on New Year’s Eve 2015.

Neighborhood sparkler shows and backyard parties can often be just as fun as other public/private events around town.

“There are no restrictions or bans on the sale or use of fireworks in the unincorporated areas of Bexar Country,” according to the Bexar County Fire Marshal press release. “(But) it is against the law to possess, use, or transport fireworks in the City of San Antonio without a permit. Violations are Class C misdemeanors, punishable by fines from $100 to $2,000.”

Dangerous use of fireworks can be reported to a hotline (210) 335-FIRE, which will be open Thursday through Monday, Jan. 2.

Here are some firework tips from the Marshal’s office:

  • Only use fireworks outdoors. Select an area free of dry grasses and other dead vegetation.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a water hose nearby to extinguish a fire should one start.
  • Do not use fireworks when the weather forecast calls for winds above 10 mph.
  • Always read and follow manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions.
  • Have an adult present and never give fireworks to children.
  • Never experiment or make your own fireworks. Make sure you only use fireworks purchased from a reliable licensed seller.
  • Light only one firework at a time.
  • Never re-light a “dud” firework. If a firework does not work properly, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water and dispose of it properly.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Do not shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
  • Wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework.

The streets are free and, depending on the neighborhood, pretty exciting on New Year’s Eve – but please drink, ride, and walk responsibly. Call a taxi, use rideshare, designate a sober driver, hire a horse-drawn carriage. It’s cheaper than a DWI and way more fun than dying or killing someone.

Production Editor Hanna Oberhofer contributed to this report. 

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