Remember the run on generators and dry goods last year? It’s hard to believe that 12 months ago the threat of Y2K computer failure had many of us either working all night or staying at home with full cupboards and barred doors, expecting the worst. Sure, there were those fearless few who tempted fate and partied the night away, but as one event planner told me, “Everyone got killed with the millennium last year.” This time around most places have toned down both the rhetoric and the price tag. Which is a good thing since, technically, this January 1–not last–marks the beginning of the new millennium. And this time around you can bet your bubbly you won’t see a single soul moving to the Milly.

Like last year, the CTA costs just a penny tonight. There are free trolleys that run to and from Navy Pier for most of the night, and several radio stations are sponsoring free taxi rides home for the inebriated. If you absolutely must get behind the wheel, there’s free coffee at Illinois toll booths. For updates check the New Year’s Eve listings on our Web site at

–Cara Jepsen



Heartland Cafe

7000 N. Glenwood, 773-465-8005

Last year this group’s annual end-of-the-year run took place at night and drew 187 people; this year it’s back to its usual time, 8 AM, and its usual starting place, the Heartland Cafe. The 5K course weaves through Loyola Park and along Lake Michigan, and then returns to the Heartland for breakfast. The race fee is $20 in advance, or $25 on race day ($15 for those 13 to 21, $10 for kids under 12). Check out for more info.


Grant Park

Columbus and Congress, 312-747-2558

If you can’t make it to Navy Pier this year, the city’s winter pyrotechnic sky show at Buckingham Fountain should do the trick–provided you can stand the cold, of course. (The fountain, by the way, is dormant this time of year.)


Garfield Park Conservatory

300 N. Central Park, 312-746-5100

There’s nothing like an over-the-top display of twinkly lights–nearly one million of them, if you believe the Park District’s count–to lift one’s sagging holiday spirits. Garfield Park Conservatory’s free event is open today from 9 AM to 8 PM (and runs through January 7) and includes free all-ages entertainment. (Santa, who would ordinarily be in attendance, has the day off.) A free trolley that goes between the conservatory and the Drake Hotel (140 E. Walton), the Chicago Marriott (540 N. Michigan), the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington), and the Chicago Hilton & Towers (720 S. Michigan) runs hourly from 10 to 6.


Museum of Science and Industry

57th and Lake Shore Drive, 773-684-1414

Approximately 50,000 lights were used to illuminate the 43 trees and 3 creches in the Museum of Science and Industry’s annual Christmas Around the World exhibit. They were decorated by different ethnic organizations from around the city, a tradition that started during World War II, and feature handmade crafts and ornaments. The Holidays of Light exhibit honors holiday traditions of “light or enlightenment” with displays representing the Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanza, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day, and Saint Lucia Day. Other museum features include demonstrations of winter solstice rituals from around the world and the Station, a 700-square-foot model railroad that boasts more than 25 trains, 1,000 feet of track, 200 buildings, 23 animated scenes, a 27-foot clock tower, a computerized day-to-night lighting cycle, and a tiny movie theater showing Citizen Kane. The museum is open from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $3.50 for children under 11. See for more.


Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier, 312-595-5441 or 312-595-5446

Upscale dress and reservations are required for this buffet, which includes an open bar from 8 PM to 1:30 AM, a midnight champagne toast, and dancing to the Dick Judson Orchestra. At midnight guests can watch the Ferris wheel countdown and fireworks from inside the warm, glass-enclosed Gardens. Tickets are $150.


Navy Pier

Festival Hall, 312-595-5200

For indoor types, this “World’s Fair of Dinosaurs” offers a unique look at the largest collection of dinosaurs, fossils, minerals, precious gems, and robotic dinosaurs ever assembled, including the world’s largest collection of dinosaur eggs and a mile-long display of dinosaurs, together with a collection of 34 skeletal remains. The exhibit will be open from 10 AM until 12:30 AM. Tickets are $15.60 for adults, $14.30 for seniors, and $11 for children 12 and under. Kids two and under are free. See for more.


Navy Pier


Navy Pier is the ideal destination for folks looking for free all-ages activities. Today the pier boasts roving entertainers (including improv penguin duo Clyde & Montague), horse-drawn sleigh rides, holiday window displays, an arts and crafts corner, and the free outdoor skating rink, which provides a spectacular view of the skyline. It’s open from 10 AM until just past midnight tonight; ten seconds before the clock strikes you can turn around and watch the lighted countdown on the pier’s giant Ferris wheel, and then view a 15-minute fireworks display. Skate rental is $3 for kids and $3.50 for adults.


Hyatt Regency Chicago

151 E. Wacker, 312-552-2000

The Hyatt is trotting out its 500-pound pyrotechnic ball again this year; it will drop 200 feet from the top of the hotel at a rate of 50 feet per minute. The party (actually three parties) starts at 8 PM and includes two drinks, ball drop, party favors, and music by the Pink Flamingos, the Joseph Vessia Orchestra, and a 70s/80s DJ, all for $99. Add a five-course dinner in Stetson’s Chop House and the price per person goes up to $199 (for the 6 PM seating) or $224 (at 9). The Hyatt’s Room & Party Package is $499 a head and includes the celebratory high jinks, a bottle of champagne, and breakfast, but not dinner. You can also stay at home and listen to the festivities on WCKG FM (105.9) or watch them on WBBM Channel Two.


McCormick Place (south building)

2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312-744-3315

The mayor’s new athletic event takes the annual Holiday Hoops basketball tourney and adds floor hockey, soccer, volleyball, and Nerf football to the mix. It’s free to watch the kids show their stuff today from 10 AM to 5 PM. From 11 to 4, folks can show up and play four-square, badminton, kickball, and (of course) Ping-Pong. There’s also a climbing wall, a fishing pond, boxing, a toddler area, and fitness stages, plus clinics with local professional athletes. It’s all free. See for details.


American Indian Center

1630 W. Wilson, 773-275-5871

The 47-year-old American Indian Center hosts one of the most unique end-of-the-year celebrations in the city–a traditional, all-ages powwow that promises plenty of drumming, singing, and dancing. The $5 admission fee ($2 for kids and seniors) also makes it one of the best deals around. It starts at 8 PM and runs past midnight. See for more.


Navy Pier

600 E. Grand, 630-990-0800

This year’s Odyssey cruise is $99 less than last year, though you don’t get a memento photo and souvenir frame. But the $300 ticket does include a premium open bar, unlimited champagne, hors d’oeuvres, a four-course dinner, live entertainment, party favors, and a view of the city’s midnight pyrotechnics. Boarding is from 8 to 9:30 PM, the cruise is from 9:30 to 12:30, and you can hang out dockside until 1:30.


Navy Pier

600 E. Grand, 312-836-7899

The Spirit of Chicago’s New Year’s Eve cruise takes the luxury 600-passenger craft on a nighttime jaunt to McCormick Place, Montrose Harbor, and back to the pier. The $199, semiformal event includes champagne, hors d’oeuvres, a four-course dinner, a five-hour premium open bar, two dance bands, funny hats, a midnight balloon drop, and a primo view of the city’s fireworks. Boarding starts at 8 PM and the cruise runs from 9 to 1. It’s the first boat docked at the pier.


Navy Pier

600 E. Grand, 312-396-2220

Unlike the used-car company, the name of this lakefront vessel does not indicate dents or other unsightly imperfections. On the contrary, the craft was built in 1998 and boasts three bright enclosed decks, room for 500 passengers, and, thankfully, seven rest rooms. For tonight’s casual $93.75 cruise you get hors d’oeuvres, a buffet dinner, champagne, and dancing to a DJ (but it’s a cash bar). Boarding begins at 8:30 PM and the cruise runs from 9:30 to 12:30.



First Night Plaza at Orrington and Davis, plus other Evanston locations, 847-289-4248

This year there won’t be any midnight fireworks at First Night Evanston because, says a spokesperson, “all of downtown Evanston is being redeveloped, and they’ve taken away the big parking lot” where they’re usually staged. Instead, the appropriately named Midnight Circus will perform an outdoor aerial show and there will be a confetti drop. Organizers have also added a winter bike carnival to this annual event, which starts at 6 PM. The evening’s entertainment includes performances by Todd Herbert and Willie Pickens, 60s folk tribute band Weavermania!, Minna Bromberg, the Punjabi Cultural Society, the Organic Theater, ImprovOlympic, and Mariachi America. Activities range from bingo and face painting to ice carving and a poetry slam. It all happens at 22 venues in downtown Evanston; parking is free. Access to a shuttle bus is included with admission, which will set you back $8 before December 14, $10 after. Children under five are admitted free. See for the complete schedule.

South Side Jitterbug Club Dance Party

American Legion Hall

6050 S. Harlem, Summit, 708-597-5867

The SSJC’s annual semiformal dance party is “not necessarily for couples”–stags are welcome. Admission is $20, which includes a buffet with carving station, champagne toast, party favors, and DJ’d music. The rug-cutting will range from ballroom and country line dancing to the fox-trot, cha-cha, and (of course) jitterbug. It starts at 8.


Nineteenth Century Women’s Club

178 Forest, Oak Park, 708-385-2729

The Nineteenth Century Women’s Club is one of the few local groups that believe–correctly–that the new millennium starts in 2001. Despite the name, period attire isn’t required at their New Year’s Eve dance; in fact, even black tie is optional. Tickets to the fin de siecle fete are $100, which gets you a string quartet and hors d’oeuvres at cocktail hour, a surf ‘n’ turf dinner, an open bar, and dancing to Nick Schneider’s seven-piece swing band. It all starts at 8 PM. Proceeds benefit the club’s scholarship fund.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tom Bachtell.