I n the week between Christmas and New Year’s, all’s quiet—unless it isn’t. Count music venues, as you’d expect, and libraries, as you wouldn’t, among the noisemakers. Then make some noise during the biggest party night of the year.
Monday, December 26 – Kwanzaa begins
In America, December 26 is the start of Kwanzaa, a weeklong “African-American and pan-African” cultural celebration of seven principles. But in Irish pubs in America, it’s Boxing Day, which is basically a secular echo of Christmas observed in the UK and Canada. Anna Liffey’s (17 Whitney Ave, New Haven; 203-773-1776) is celebrating the holiday by screening live soccer and offering drink specials starting at 10 a.m. A few blocks away, Christy’s (261 Orange St, New Haven; 203-624-0811) hosts a public-facing “holiday party” for the New Haven Gooners, a local group of diehard soccer fans who root for the London-based team Arsenal. With TVs tuned to the day’s Arsenal match, which starts at 10 a.m., the party includes a raffle prize drawing at 12:15, a complimentary lunch buffet at 12:30 and an Arsenal trivia game—plus “FIFA and party games”—at 1.
Tuesday, December 27
Featuring the hit Finding Nemo follow-up Finding Dory (2016), and providing “light snacks” to go with it, the Mitchell Branch Library (37 Harrison St, New Haven; 203-946-8117) hosts a free “family movie afternoon” today at 3 p.m. Tomorrow, by the way, the Fair Haven Branch (182 Grand Ave, New Haven; 203-946-8115) shows The Jungle Book—possibly the live-action 2016 remake—at 1 p.m., while, at 2 p.m., the Wilson Branch (303 Washington Ave, New Haven; 203-946-2228) screens Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015). Both of those occasions are also free to attend.
Wednesday, December 28
New Orleans hits the back room of BAR tonight as headliner Funky Dawgz Brass Band and opener Tracy Jo & The Toads play this week’s free 9:30 show. FDBB’s connection to the Big Easy is its style: “a mix of traditional New Orleans R&B, original music and today’s top hits with a brass twist.” Tracy Jo’s connection is less audible and more biographical: The singer “lived and studied music” in the city, and while her team-up with The Toads incorporates “a blend of blues and gritty soul,” the band really considers its stuff “true rock ’n’ roll.” 254 Crown Street, New Haven.
Thursday, December 29
Christmas doesn’t have to be over. Christine Ohlman, the beehive-haired, long-resume-ed SNL band singer—whose buttery-smooth “doo”s and “dow!”s populate the theme song to 30 Rock—and her backing band, Rebel Montez, come together tonight for their annual—and “very glittery”—“holiday blow-out” at Cafe Nine (250 State St, New Haven; 203-789-8281). The show starts at 8 p.m., with tickets costing $10 in advance or $12 at the door.
Friday, December 30
After those kid-oriented film screenings earlier this week, the New Haven Free Public Library system throws a bone to the adults with the Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd comedy Trading Places (1983). Screening for free at 2 p.m. inside the Ives Main Library, it “tells the story of an upper-class commodities broker and a homeless street hustler whose lives cross paths when they are unknowingly made part of an elaborate bet,” getting good laughs while asking some serious and ever-relevant questions.
Saturday, December 31 – New Year’s Eve
We’ve got a dozen options for you to consider, so let’s get right into it.
If food and drink are your top priorities:
116 Crown (116 Crown St, New Haven; 203-777-3116) celebrates the end of ’16 with a decadent menu of “rotating edibles” and dinner courses, with service starting at 7 p.m. and a “sparkling” toast at midnight. Reservations required; $75.
Amarante’s Sea Cliff (62 Cove St, New Haven; 203-467-2531) is partying from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., offering a “full-service open bar,” a “social hour” with eight items to nibble, 12 varieties of passed hors d’oeuvres, a four-course dinner, a dance floor, “party hats and favors” and champagne at the big moment for $100.
Casual, craft beer-heavy Barcade (56 Orange St, New Haven; 203-889-2966) is collating “rare aged drafts and specialties” and offering a “complimentary champagne toast” at midnight. No cover.
The Beer Collective (130 Court St, New Haven; 203-507-2602) is hosting a limited-size affair, where $75 gets you four drink slips,“special cellar pours throughout the night,” a champagne toast as the clock strikes 12 and an “all-you-can-eat coursed buffet,” the latter of which can be had by designated drivers for $45.
From 8 p.m. to midnight, Elm City Social (266 College St, New Haven; 475-441-7436) is offering a “007”-course meal paired with cocktails that are “shaken, not stirred.” Yes, there’s a James Bond theme here, which extends to the names of the menu items. The first course, for example, is an egg and caviar concoction dubbed “From Russia with Love,” while the last, a sticky toffee pudding, is named “Goldeneye.” $85.
Across the street, ROÌA (261 College St, New Haven; 203-200-7045) is adapting its beautiful, historic space to both (a) people who want to sit at a table and enjoy a nice meal and (b) people who want more of a cocktail party vibe laced with nibbles. For the former crowd, there are two dinner seatings, of which the first, at 5 p.m., offers four courses for $75 and the second, at 8 p.m., offers five courses for $90, each with a $45 set of wine pairings available. For the latter crowd, there’s a freewheeling “all-night happy hour” “featuring signature cocktails, oysters on the half shell, bar snacks and live music,” with “no cover!”
If live entertainment is what you’re after:
Themed around the 1920s, Cafe Nine’s annual Great Gatsby New Year’s Eve party, starting at 10 p.m., features a slew of entertainers performing “burlesque, magic, sideshow [and] cabaret.” The theme goes for attendees, too, who are encouraged to “come dressed in [their] finest ’20s attire.” Tickets cost $20 apiece, with hors d’oeuvres and a midnight toast included. 250 State Street, New Haven.
At 9:30, the Italian restaurant Consiglio’s (165 Wooster St, New Haven; 203-865-4489) serves up one of its specialties: “murder mystery dinner theatre.” For $65, guests are promised “fun and games, great food, a champagne toast at midnight and, oh yes, a murder!”
The Shubert Theater (247 College St, New Haven; 800-745-3000), meanwhile, hosts four seasoned comics for its “First Night of Funny.” Featuring Ross Bennett, Paul Virzi, Ric McMahon and Sean Donnelly, the show lasts from 8 to 10 p.m. and costs $35 in advance or $40 at the door.
If dancing is your jam:
Some of the other places have dance floors tonight, but 168 York’s Soul Haven New Year’s Eve party is all about it. Promising “everything that is guaranteed to make you move”—like “disco, house music, soulful house [and] classic dance tracks from the ’70s, ’80s [and] ’90s mixed with new jams from today!”—organizers also promise that “you can come as you are, however you are; there will be no judgement, just love and appreciation for the character of your soul where it meets the music.” $5 cover. 168 York Street, New Haven. (203) 789-1915.
If you’re celebrating with young families:
Based on the conviction that “grown-ups shouldn’t be the only ones to enjoy… New Year’s Eve,” Creative Arts Workshop (80 Audubon St, New Haven; 203-562-4927) is throwing a free, family-oriented Noon Year’s Eve party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fueled by cookies, cupcakes and cocoa from Katalina’s Bakery plus danceable music, attendees are encouraged to help decorate CAW’s “own version of the Times Square Ball”—a “piñata filled with all kinds of goodies”—scheduled to drop at noon.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, recovering from a recent fire at its main campus, is holding its second annual “First Night” New Year’s party at Congregation B’Nai Jacob (75 Rimmon Rd, Woodbridge). The three-hour family-friendly party charges right out of its 6 p.m. gate with a “DJ, dancing, food, games and more,” followed by an ice cream bar that opens at 8 and a ball drop and toast at 8:45. Thanks to the holiday’s coincidence with Chanukah this year, there’s also a candle lighting at 6:30 and a dreidel tournament at 7.
Sunday, January 1 – New Year’s Day
Held at Lighthouse Point Park (2 Lighthouse Point Rd, New Haven), the Elm City Parks Conservancy’s annual run-into-the-cold-ocean fundraiser—called either the customary “Polar Plunge” or the new “Plunge for Parks”—includes “tours to the top of the lighthouse, kids’ activities, [a] tasty brunch” and, of course, the plunge. Taking a dip and eating costs $25, while only eating costs $10.
Written and photographed by Dan Mims. Readers are encouraged to verify times, locations and prices before attending events.