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14 Sober New Year’s Eve Ideas

6 minute read

New year, new you! Wondering what to do this New Year’s Eve now that you’re sober? There are plenty of fun ways to celebrate without alcohol or other substances. Many activities that you found enjoyable before your recovery are also enjoyable sober; yet, careful consideration and planning are necessary to prevent relapse. While it’s important to navigate sobriety by taking it one day at a time, the risk of relapse on a holiday like New Year’s Eve requires pre-planning. Certain social settings, family members, and friends may all have the potential to trigger addiction. Identifying new activities and surrounding yourself with members of your support network (family, friends, Alcoholics Anonymous [AA] or Narcotics Anonymous [NA] members) are important to help you get through this season. Being sober doesn’t mean this New Year’s Eve will be boring. Get creative with some of these unique ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Note: Due to COVID-19 in 2020, a few of these ideas may need to be modified or would be better saved for next year.

New Year’s Eve Ideas When You Just Want to Stay In

1. Break Out the Games

A game party is a great way to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home. Get a small group together to play games that offer up plenty of laughs, like:

Or play games that get you using your imagination, such as charades.

There are even games that let you play the detective, use your skills to solve cases or puzzles. Unsolved Case Files® and Escape Room: The Game are great options.

Host a Dinner Party

Use a free mystery game for adults like Jazz Age Jeopardy, set in a 1920s jazz club in New York City. The free file includes all you need to help you and your guests play the game, and up to 15 people can play! Assign characters in advance and have participants dress their parts.

Have a Cooking Competition

Create a little competition this New Year’s Eve with a cook-off.  Include your closest friends and family, select a cooking category, and let the food wars begin. BBQ, chili, spaghetti, burgers, pizza—the possibilities are endless! Include a prize for the tastiest dish, and name a champion.

Host a Theme Party

Create a tropical paradise with an indoor luau. Include luau drinks like alcohol-free Mai Tai, blue Hawaiian punch, or other non-alcoholic tropical drinks. Include some Hawaiian roast pork, shrimp, or grilled fish for an entrée. Complete your spread with pineapple upside-down cake for dessert. Grass skirts, leis, and other Hawaiian-themed decorations will round out the tropical party atmosphere.

Other fun New Year’s Eve themes include:

  • Disco
  • ‘80s music
  • Rock ‘n’ roll

Ask participants to bring their favorite mocktail and celebrate New Year’s Eve sober. For additional fun, make it a contest by having everyone vote for their favorite drink or outfit.

Get Fancy

Host a holiday ball or winter formal. To make it a little challenging and extra amusing, ask participants to shop at thrift stores for their evening wear. Turn up the tunes and play music and classic games like limbo or musical chairs. Mix it up with a copycat dance game where participants recreate dance moves from old music videos or times in history.

Keep It Comfy

Why not keep this New Year’s Eve low-key? Host a pajama party! For added thrill, turn it into a pillow fight party.

If you’re not looking to entertain guests, consider staying in and bringing the movie theater to your living room. Watch some of your favorite holiday-themed movies. Don’t forget the popcorn and candy!

Go Camping Indoors

Spend New Year’s Eve camping indoors. Put up a small tent, get out the sleeping bags, light up the fireplace, and roast marshmallows. Don’t have a fireplace? Use the oven for nicely toasted marshmallows. If you live in a warmer-weather climate, get the outdoor firepit going, and pair the experience with apple cider, toasted marshmallows, or hot chocolate. Listen to the crackle of the fire, and take turns sharing favorite stories from the past year or what you’re thankful for.

Have a Ladies’ Night

An in-home spa party is a great way to bring in the new year. Check your area for a local mobile spa, or create your own using homemade beauty treatments. Ask your guests to bring their favorite retro-themed attire. Then after your spa treatments, get dolled up and turn the living room into a glamour shot studio. End the night with crafts like jewelry- or candle-making, painting, or creating bath bombs.

Have a Men’s Night

For a men’s night, slow cook some mouth-watering grilled meats. Serve them up buffet-style, and play card games like euchre, rummy, or penny poker. Pool, darts, and foosball are also fun! Host a video-game tournament party, or if you’d rather all play at once, check the availability of mobile gaming trucks near you. Concerned about cost? Ask your buddies to chip in to help cover the expense.

New Year’s Eve Ideas When You Want to Go Out

Take a Weekend Trip

Get away from home and travel for the weekend. Visit a new place, learn something new about your state, stay at a bed-and-breakfast, or give glamping a try. Travel to the famous Times Square in New York City to join the celebration of watching the ball drop, counting down the seconds until the new year begins. Visit the snowy mountains of Colorado or the sunny beaches of Florida. Wherever your travels take you, experience new things and explore the surrounding area.

Travel Overseas

Pack your passport, take a trip overseas, and experience how other countries celebrate New Year’s Eve. See the glowing Eiffel Tower; watch a cabaret at Moulin Rouge; or catch the world’s largest fireworks display in Sydney, Australia. Take a ride on a Ferris wheel in London, or observe their New Year’s Day parade. Visit the sugar sand beaches and pristine blue waters of the Caribbean where you can snorkel famous colorful reefs, learn to salsa, and savor Caribbean jerk. Send off the old year by experiencing the wonders of the world!

Go Retro

If you are craving an atmosphere with music and flashing lights, visit a retro arcade, roller skating rink, or cosmic bowling event in your area. Music, black lights, and glow-in-the-dark everything make for a bright way to enjoy these retro activities.

Give Back

Attend a local charity celebration. These often include dinner, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts. Celebrate your New Year’s Eve by giving back to a good cause. Classy and elegant events like galas and masquerades are holiday fundraising opportunities that will get you dressing up and looking your best as you ring in the New Year.

Attend a Show

Go to a concert, attend an open mic night or visit a local music venue.  A comedy show or theater performance will also offer entertainment. If you aren’t sure what’s happening in your area, event pages like and offer listings of events near you.

Celebrate Socially Distanced

For a COVID-safe way to celebrate the new year with friends and family while maintaining social distance, have a driving scavenger hunt throughout your city. End the hunt at a favorite park or scenic overlook, or meet where you can  view the New Year’s Eve fireworks. Bring in the new year together from your own cars. To share a toast, bring along a bottle of sparkling grape juice and give cheers to saying goodbye to 2020 and hello to the new you!

Trying new things and celebrating in new ways is a great way to start off a new year. Whether you are going out or staying home this New Year’s Eve, planning ahead will help you feel more prepared to celebrate in a safe and sober way.


David Szarka
Medically Reviewed by David Szarka, MA, LCADC
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