Chicago's downtown and Lake Michigan waterfront give the budget-conscious partyer a New Year's Eve playground with plenty of options. Check out family stuff at Navy Pier, celebrations that reflect the city's Hispanic and Irish heritages, a plethora of bars and restaurants, or the traditional lakefront fireworks show to ring in the New Year without breaking the bank.
Latin New Year's Eve
If you'd like a Latin touch to your New Year's Eve in Chicago, go to Nacional 27 at 325 W. Huron. Enjoy tapas, entrees and desserts from 6:15 to 8:45 p.m. Listen to live Latin music and entertainment throughout the evening. The restaurant waives the evening's cover charge for people who dine there during those hours.
New Year's Eve at the Bars
Start at Finn McCool's and the upstairs Loft at 15 W. Division, where you can celebrate the New Year in Dublin and Chicago styles. Ring in the New Year with the Irish at 6 and then with fellow Chicagoans at midnight.
If you stay for only the 6 p.m. celebration, consider going to Wabash Tap, 1233 S. Wabash Ave., which has no cover charge and offers dancing and music to bring in the New Year.
Finally, for $20 a person or $30 a couple at 2009 prices, you can see the ball drop in New York City on the big screen at Fadó Chicago, 100 W. Grand Ave. Cost of admission includes champagne and party favors.
New Year's Eve Fireworks
Head downtown to watch the fireworks along Lake Michigan to ring in your New Year with a bang. Navy Pier has a family fireworks show that usually starts about 8:15. The traditional show at midnight takes place at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.
If all else fails, stay home and have your own house party on the cheap. Chicago TV stations do New Year's countdowns beginning about 11 that take you around town.