Things to do in Seattle: New Year’s Eve edition

12 ways to celebrate the start of a new decade, from singing along with Donna Summer to chanting ‘om,’ from pajama parties to polar plunges.

People dancing

Let the Conga line carry you into the '20s, at the New Year's Eve party at SODO's Orient Express. (Manny Dann)

a party scene from the movie Moulin Rouge
Nothing says 'Bonne Année' like 'Moulin Rouge!' (SIFF)

Moulin Rouge! New Year’s Eve singalong

The glitz! The glamour! The dancing and doomed love! Baz Luhrmann’s musical movie is tailor-made for New Year’s Eve extravagance, and SIFF’s Uptown screening is an excellent way to get amped up for the Space Needle’s fireworks show. (Or go home immediately afterward and beat the traffic.) Nominated for eight Oscars, the 2001 film stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as star-crossed Bohemians who fall in tumultuous love during the creation of a Spectacular Spectacular — all to a slammin’ soundtrack of reimagined pop hits from Madonna’s “Material Girl” to Nirvana’s “Teen Spirit.” SIFF’s screening of Moulin Rouge! includes a New Year’s countdown (a few hours early) and free “bling rings” to flash around as you sing along with the screen antics. Reminder: “The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” –B.D.

If you go: Moulin Rouge! at SIFF Cinema Uptown, Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. ($15)

Two people at a bar in pajamas
At the Clock-Out Lounge, guests are encouraged to ring in the new year in sartorial comfort. (Kelly O)

‘Hey Babe’ New Years Eve Pajama Party 

Unlike some record spinners, Seattle DJs Lelah and Vinnie don’t take themselves too seriously. Case in point: their New Year’s Eve Party at the Clock-Out Lounge in Beacon Hill. For one, it’s a pajama party. Yes, literally. The dress code is “not a requirement,” the DJ duo specifies, but “a playful way to bypass the traditional pomp and circumstance of NYE.” Another case in point: the DJs actually encourage the audience to request “bangers” — huge dance hits frowned upon in certain musical milieus — as “a way to give anyone the opportunity to submit their favorite song without facing humiliating backlash from the ‘very serious DJs.’ ” With bangers, free bubbles at midnight plus a photo booth operated by Seattle photographer Kelly O, there won’t be much slumber at this party. –M.V.S.

If you go: “Hey Babe” New Years Eve Pajama Party, Clock-Out Lounge, Dec. 31, 9 p.m. ($12 - $15)

Stayin’ Alive New Year’s Eve at Orient Express

As we celebrate the dawn of this century’s ’20s, roaring ’20s-themed New Year’s Eve parties are a dime a dozen. But if you prefer a different decade of sequins and would rather dance to four-on-the-floor rhythms, head to Stayin’ Alive at Orient Express, Seattle’s cult-favorite Chinese and Thai restaurant housed inside a series of old-world train cars. With the help of booze, glitter, drag queens, a magician and live saxophone performances weaving through the disco beats, you can stay glamorously stuck in the ’70 — at least for one night. –M.V.S.

If you go: Stayin’ Alive New Year’s Eve, Orient Express, Dec. 31, 10 p.m. ($50)

People walk along a painted labyrinth
On New Year's Eve, visitors walk the indoor labyrinth (a replica of one found in the Medieval cathedral of Chartres) at Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill. (Kevin Johnson)

New Year’s labyrinth walks

Walking a labyrinth is like a wandering meditation. The spiritual custom has been practiced for ages, and proponents say it has a calming effect. Following a longstanding tradition, on New Year’s Eve, Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle pushes back the pews, lights the candles and places a “portable” labyrinth (a replica of the one found in the medieval cathedral of Chartres) in the center of the nave so people of all — or no — faiths can walk the path to live music. For the more outdoorsy (or loner) types: the cathedral also boasts an outdoor labyrinth on the front lawn. And that’s just one of the 21 labyrinths in Seattle, according to the handy World-Wide Labyrinth Locator. Choose from the multitude of labyrinth options for a personal outdoor meditation, such as Cottage Grove Park, the Seattle Center playground or St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. –M.V.S.

If you go: New Year's Eve Labyrinth Walk, Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Dec. 31, 6 p.m. - midnight. (Free)

NYE 2020 on The Hill 

An inconspicuous warehouse on a corner of Beacon Hill draws street artists from across the country to South Seattle. The 6,000-square-foot Dozer’s Warehouse is known for being covered in murals and graffiti. It’s also known to host some insane underground dance parties; art shows and other events (such as skateboarding pop-up competitions) get swamped. But the building’s future is uncertain as gentrification looms over many south end neighborhoods. In 2017, Dozer’s Warehouse was slated for demolition. Two years later, it continues to “go hard in the paint.” Dozer’s will celebrate another year of survival this New Year’s Eve with a party featuring local rap crew Operation Take Over the World (OTOW), plus local musicians Glendal Tuatua, DJ Kween Kaysh, Kramergdot and Razberry Beretta spinning beats and dropping bars in one of Seattle’s funkiest art spaces — one that celebrates both the beauty and fleeting nature of graffiti and street culture. –A.P.F.

If you go: NYE 2020 on The Hill, Dozer’s Warehouse, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ($25)

A stage with a big band
At The Royal Room, experience jazz the way it’s meant to be heard: live in an intimate venue. (The Royal Room)

New Year’s Eve with The Royal Room Big Band 

Nothing says New Year’s like the blare of trumpets, trombones and saxophones, accompanied by the boom of bass and drums, and mighty chords struck on a piano. That’s what you can expect at Columbia City’s Royal Room on New Year’s Eve, where the house big band will play music by Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. Experience the pizzazz of jazz the way it’s meant to be heard, loud and live. Fifteen musicians will pack the stage to play popular tunes from the ’30s to ring in the ’20s. Even if you plan to swing the night away on the Royal Room’s intimate dance floor, be sure to reserve a seat (and a dinner reservation) before they run out. –A.P.F.

If you go: New Year’s Eve with the Royal Room Big Band, The Royal Room, Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. ($25 - $75)

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

Real talk: Critics say the “plot” of this jukebox musical, built around the iconic disco singer’s biggest hits, is at best thin (and at worst, disjointed and confused). But they also say there’s just something about it, like Donna Summer herself, that is compelling. The setup is similar to recent Broadway hit The Cher Show, in that three different singers portray Summer in different periods of her life — the teen church choir singer, the disco goddess and the older/wiser diva — often on stage at the same time. The singers are indisputably good and the songs are legendary. “I Feel Love,” “Love to Love You Baby,” “MacArthur Park,” “On the Radio,” “Dim All the Lights,” “Last Dance” — I mean, come on, is there a better New Year’s Eve soundtrack? For those of us who spent many youthful (OK, sure, and some adult) hours dancing around our bedrooms to these songs with a hairbrush as a microphone, it might just feel like a homecoming. –B.D.

If you go: Summer: The Donna Summer Musical at The Paramount Theatre, Dec. 31 - Jan. 5. ($30-$85)

When NYE = New Yoga Experience

Instead of bells and whistles or exhilarated cheers, why not peacefully ring in the New Year by chanting om as the clock strikes midnight? At 8 Limbs Yoga in Phinney Ridge, a two-hour yoga and mindfulness class from 10 p.m. to midnight gets yogis ready for the new decade ($45-$55). At Ritual House of Yoga, a Decade Destroyer Community Magic class of yoga, breathing exercises and group and personal rituals celebrates “that ever unfolding cycle of creation and destruction” from 10 p.m. to midnight (sliding scale, $15-$50). For those who want to get their down dogs in before getting down at a party: Seattle Yoga Arts on Capitol Hill offers a special NYE yoga and meditation class from 6 to 8 p.m. ($40). And if you prefer to hold your intention-setting until after the festivities, choose from plenty of New Year’s Day yoga classes, including a special, 2.5 hour “burning bowl ritual” at Fremont Abbey, where teacher Sada Simran combines Kundalini Yoga and a ritual of writing down old feelings, ideas and thoughts in order to burn them ($29). What a way to let go of the old! –M.V.S.

If you go: See links embedded above.

Two people swing dancing
The Century Ballroom's red velvet curtains, chandeliers and grand dance floor form the perfect backdrop for kicking off the roaring '20s in style. (Jose De La Torre)

New Year’s Eve at Century Ballroom

Kick off the roaring 20s with a glass of champagne in an appropriately elegant environment boasting red velvet curtains, chandeliers and a grand dance floor. The Century Ballroom on Capitol Hill begins its New Year’s festivities with a full course meal, then a group salsa lesson — so you can start the new year with a burst of rhythm and, if you so choose, a side of tapenade, candied kumquats and truffle lasagne. If salsa isn’t your thing, the West Hall ballroom (just down the hall from the main dance floor) offers “Out Dancing,” one of the Pacific Northwest’s longest-running dance nights for the LGBTQ community, where you can move your booty to anything from salsa and tango to West Coast swing and disco and, of course, tunes to twerk by. Everyone is welcome. –A.P.F.

If you go: New Year’s Eve at Century Ballroom, Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. ($20 - $120)

New Year, New Wave

New Wave music is famously melodramatic, but for hopeless romantics, ’80s bands tell stories of love, rejection and heartbreak in ways that make me — er, I mean you! — feel seen (and inspired to dance). This New Year’s Eve, Fremont’s High Dive music venue has philophiles (people who love love) covered with three tribute bands playing music from The Smiths, Joy Division and New Order. Dance away 2019’s feelings of failed romances and become reborn with a new sense of optimism guided by synthesizers, pop melodies and lyrics like Good time for a change / See, the luck I've had / Can make a good man / Turn bad (from the king of melancholy, Morrisey). After all, misery loves company — and this music is definitely good company. –A.P.F.

If you go: New Year’s New Wave Celebration, High Dive, Dec.31 at 9 p.m. ($25 presale, $35 at the door)

Chef Shota looks at order in kitchen
Chef and owner Shota Nakajima at Adana in Capitol Hill preps for dinner on Feb. 28, 2019. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

One Night in Osaka 

Earlier this year, Shota Nakajima, the local chef at Capitol Hill’s Adana restaurant, earned a James Beard nomination as a “rising star” in the world of fine dining. He went on to become a semifinalist, but lost to a chef in Washington D.C. Here’s hoping his new restaurant, Taku (set to open in 2020), can rocket him beyond the nomination and into a full-fledged food star. Nakajima will preview the menu for his forthcoming restaurant during his New Year’s Eve party, alongside cuisine by chefs such as Mutsuko Soma of Kamonegi, pop-up chef Jose Garzon, and south end supplier Umami Kushi, famous for its yummy rounds of stuffed “pans.” The party theme calls for black and gold attire and certain tickets include the red carpet treatment. It’s a swanky opportunity for Seattle foodies to get a sneak peek of a new hot spot, plus a promised appearance by an undisclosed special guest. –A.P.F.

If you go: One Night in Osaka, 415 Westlake, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ($167)

People rushing into open water
Hundreds of people brave frigid temperatures to take part in the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Matthews Beach. (Seattle Parks and Recreation) 

Polar Plunges

Polar (Bear) Plunges are a bit like running. You either loathe the thought of subjecting your body to the experience (in this case, hurling your half-naked body into the frigid water) or you’re hooked on the exhilarating euphoria — and maybe the droll costumes. For centuries people across the world have practiced versions a Polar Bear Plunge ritual, though perhaps without the cute name (which may hold new meaning, given the climate crisis). Of course, you can leap into the water solo from any public beach, but there’s less of a chance you’ll chicken out if you do so with a group. This year, Seattle Parks and Rec holds its 18th annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day at Matthews Beach. Another group plunge into Lake Washington happens in Renton’s Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park (and will be followed by a warm cup of clam chowder from Ivar's Restaurant). Want to warm up first? Head to Golden Gardens in Ballard or Magnuson Park, where the plunge is preceded by an (optional) 5K run. –M.V.S.

If you go: Polar Plunge, various chilly locations around Seattle, Jan. 1. (Free)

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About the Authors & Contributors

Agueda Pacheco Flores

Agueda Pacheco Flores

Agueda Pacheco Flores is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where she focused on arts and culture.