One of the best things you can do on New Year’s Eve in New York is 100 percent free. I’m not taking about waiting six hours in an overcrowded Times Square to see a crystal ball drop. No, much better than that is waiting for maybe ten minutes in Prospect Park to see an exuberant midnight fireworks display. You can watch from Grand Army Plaza, the Park’s West Drive, and along Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 9th Street, but at Grand Army Plaza there’s also a homey little bash, with live music and free hot cocoa (if you want to brave the line).
Weave in past the crowds, toward the Long Meadow. Bundle up and get there early for a spot on the grass, or just stand with your neighbors until you hear the countdown—usually kicked off by a fellow spectator watching the clock on their phone. The midnight fireworks hit the sweet spot in terms of size and fanciness, far less showy than the Macy’s display on July 4th, but I love them for that, too. (I also love that ending my night with the fireworks means I’m home by 12:45.) You’ll want to do something festive leading up to the show, and what better thing to do than eat a lovely dinner? Here are the best spots within a ten-minute walk of the park to get your New Year’s Eve dinner.
605 Carlton Ave.
One of the more upscale of Prospect Heights’ ubiquitous New American spots, James offers two options for New Year’s Eve: a 3-course for early seatings or a 4-course menu with a Champagne toast and party favors at 9:30 and 10 p.m. for $115. The menu is wintry and rich, with a crispy pork belly appetizer with pickled kumquats and entree options like duck breast with brandied cherries. Your best bet is the 9:30—see if you can get your Champagne before you sneak out a bit early for the park.
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606 Vanderbilt Ave.
Since you’re not staying for midnight, you’ll want one of the “mid” seatings for Faun’s 4-course menu, which will run $110, service included. The star is course number two, with pastas including guinea hen and foie gras agnolotti, and smoked sturgeon ravioli. You can also order a wine pairing, with 3.5-ounce pours for each dinner course, plus a dessert wine or digestif.
348 Flatbush Ave.
Fausto, one of the very closest restaurants to Grand Army Plaza, in the former Franny’s space, will be serving their Italian-inflected à la carte menu on New Year’s Eve. There are reservations at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.—go for the later seating, and don’t miss the vegetable showcase that is the appetizer list, with cauliflower in anchovy caper vinaigrette and shredded chicory with bread crumbs and pecorino. Fausto’s excellent Champagne menu means you don’t have to wait until a midnight toast for your bubbles.