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Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011

Welcoming 2012 in Style

Milwaukee's New Year's Eve options

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Milwaukee has never been known for teetotalism, and New Year's Eve only gives the city more cause to drink (there's a fresh start to celebrate!) and more hours to do that drinking (there's no bar time!). The holiday is one of the city's most decadent nights, and there's no shortage of different ways to ring in 2012 this year, with a host of family-friendly events, big concerts and performances, and parties both upscale and trashy for Milwaukee revelers to choose from. Here's a sampling of some of the city's more interesting New Year's Eve options.

Family Friendly

Skating @ Red Arrow Park, 10 a.m.-1 a.m.

It isn't nearly as crowded as Times Square, but the quaint ice-skating rink at Red Arrow Park is the heart of Milwaukee's public New Year's Eve celebration Downtown, and a fine option for families looking to stay out until midnight. There will be free ice skating in advance of the countdown to midnight, when the city will literally ring in the new year from the bell tower at City Hall. (Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the city no longer launches fireworks when the clock strikes 12.)

Harlem Globetrotters @ The Bradley Center, 1 and 6 p.m.

It's anybody's guess as to why for the past several decades the Harlem Globetrotters have opted to spend New Year's Eve in Milwaukee—as opposed to, say, Harlem—but their annual appearances are one of Milwaukee's oldest New Year's traditions. The Harlem Globetrotters are on an impressive hot streak, not having lost a game since 2006—though to be fair, theirs isn't the most challenging schedule; so many games against the hapless Washington Generals have certainly helped pad their record.

New Year's Eve Family Celebration @ The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, 6-10 p.m.

Crafts, balloons, live music and roaming magicians will entertain children at the Domes' annual New Year's Eve party. There will also be food and beverages for sale. Admission is $12 for adults, $5 for children, and free for kids under 5.

New Year's Eve Pajama Party @ Betty Brinn Children's Museum, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Kids are encouraged to wear their PJs and bring along their teddy bears to Betty Brinn's pre-bedtime party. There will be pizza, party favors, dancing, story time and a juice toast, as well as a ball drop for kids too young to stay up for the real one at midnight.

Entertainment and Live Music


Jim Gaffigan @ The Pabst Theater, 10:30 p.m.

Though he's a distant second right now, comedian Jim Gaffigan appears to be mounting a challenge against the Harlem Globetrotters as the touring act with the most consecutive Milwaukee New Year's Eve appearances. For years he's been enjoying a cozy annual gig at the Pabst Theater that allows him to spend time with family in the area and perform for a Midwestern crowd he clearly relates to. Expect plenty of jokes about junk food and Gaffigan's pale complexion.

Stellar Spark 9: Skrillex @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

The Stellar Spark party's ninth New Year's Eve event will feature more than 50 DJs and electronic artists, including Skrillex, the Los Angeles producer who, after his screamo beginnings, became one of the core artists who took dubstep to the masses by punching up the bass, giving it a loud and rowdy makeover for the frat-party set. Dillon Francis, Alvin Risk, DJ JSlay, Ill Nasty and NoizePollution will also appear.

ComedySportz @ 8 and 10:30 p.m.

The ComedySportz improvisational comedy ensemble is offering $35 packages that include admission to one of two performances (at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.), all-you-can-eat hors d'oeuvres, unlimited champagne and soda, and gift bags. Each show concludes with a New Year's countdown—a real one at midnight and a fake one for those at the early show.

MSO Pops—The Gershwins: Here to Stay @ Marcus Center, 8 p.m.

Conductor Marvin Hamlisch, singer Sylvia McNair, dancer Ryan VanDenBoom, pianist Kevin Cole and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra pay tribute to the songbook of brothers George and Ira Gershwin, with a program that will include classics like “I Got Rhythm” and Rhapsody in Blue. (Also Friday, Dec. 30, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 1, at 2:30 p.m.)

John Schneider Orchestra @ O'Donoghue's Irish Pub, 9 p.m.

For the seventh year in a row, the John Schneider Orchestra will spend New Year's Eve honoring the Great American Songbook at O'Donoghue's Irish Pub in Elm Grove, with three hours of standards by Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins and the like. The $10 cover includes a large buffet, party favors and a champagne toast.

Dead Man's Carnival @ Miramar Theatre, 9 p.m.

Milwaukee's Dead Man's Carnival variety troupe has lined up more than four hours of entertainment for its New Year's Eve spectacle. Expect to see song and dance, burlesque, fire play, freaky clowns, juggling, stilt walking and feats of human endurance.

Dancing and Destinations


The Get Down @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 9 p.m.

Spinning some of the rarest funk and soul 45s from the '60s and '70s, The Get Down regularly packs Mad Planet with its twice-monthly dance parties. After the crew's spin at the Turner Hall Ballroom turned into one of last New Year's Eve's hottest tickets, The Get Down is returning to the venue for what now looks to be a New Year's tradition. Tickets are $12 and include a complimentary buffet. There will also be a midnight balloon drop.

618NYE2012 @ 618 Live on Water, 9 p.m.

Rapper Ray Rizzy and V100.7 personality Reggie Brown host 618's end-of-the-year party, which will include music from DJ Stretch and DJ O and an after-midnight performance from Chicago rapper Shawnna, a one-time Ludacris protégé. At $25, general admission includes party favors, a champagne toast and a balloon drop. Upper-level V.I.P. access is $100 and includes reserved seating, a bottle of Moscato and a buffet.

Retro Dance Party @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.-4 a.m.

Every Friday, at Mad Planet's signature weekly event, DJs resurrect the pop and dance hits of the '80s and '90s. Each New Year's Eve delivers a longer, sweatier edition of that dance party, with free party favors, food and a champagne toast. At $12, it's a budget-friendly alternative to Downtown dance clubs.

MKE NYE 2012 @ Aloft Hotel, 9 p.m.

Aloft's New Year's Eve party is a black-tie affair featuring a performance from local club-rapper Ray Nitti and music from DJ Kenny Perez, DJ L Boogie, DJ Bad Boy and DJ Stretch. There will also be dancers, appetizers, a photo booth, a champagne toast and a fashion show highlighting styles from FLOW Clothing, Nandi Collection and Swav.Design. General admission is $50, with V.I.P. packages and bottle service available.

NYE Gala 2012 @ Mo's Irish Pub, 9 p.m.

Mo's Irish Pub on Wisconsin Avenue is modeling its Dec. 31 party after the glamorous, old-school Hollywood affairs of the 1940s. There will be music from DJ Quadi (upstairs) and the band Floog (downstairs). Sixty dollars buys you all you can drink (including premium liquor and a free champagne toast), while $85 includes all that and all you can eat at a massive buffet (which will include a fondue dessert bar). After 3 a.m., $15 will buy you all you can drink and access to a breakfast buffet at an after-party that runs until 8 a.m.

NYE 2012 @ Apartment 720, 9 p.m.

DJ E.Rich will be spinning a mix of hip-hop, pop, R&B and reggaeton at this installment of Apartment 720's annual New Year's Eve bash, supported by house enthusiast DJ Wizz Kid. Cover is $20, with table reservations available for higher rollers.

White Trashed New Year's @ Cactus Club, 8 p.m.

New Year's Eve is traditionally a day where partiers dress to impress, but the Cactus Club's white trash party encourages its attendees to do just the opposite. “There will be American flags, shopping carts, cats, festive NYE wear, crystal meth, cousins, second cousins and mullets,” the organizers quip. “Lots of mullets.” There will also be music from Dude X 2, Rio Turbo and DJ Samsquamch.

NYE Groovepocalypse @ Crisp, 10 p.m.

The Brady Street pizza parlor/dance club Crisp may be the only Milwaukee venue offering fresh pizza alongside bottles of champagne and Skyy as part of its New Year's Eve V.I.P. packages. Crisp's Groovepocalypse dance party will feature a murderer's row of DJs and a two-hour set from the band Groovehut Elixir. The event caters to late-comers, since it won't end until 9:30 a.m.

Keep it Dirty @ Riverwest Public House, 10 p.m.

The Riverwest Public House hosts a New Year's Eve installment of its monthly Keep it Dirty queer dance party, a proudly raunchy affair that has been known to include DJs, sex-toy workshops, underwear Twister, feminist porn and vegan cookies. Admission is a sliding scale of $5-$10, and attendees are encouraged to dress sleazy.

NYE @ St. Francis Brewery, 9 p.m.

The Brew City DJs will be spinning a festive mix of oldies and classic rock at the St. Francis Brewery's party. The $75-per-person cover includes a buffet with appetizers and dessert, an open bar, party favors, a midnight champagne toast and a bus ride home for those who live within a 10-mile radius.
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