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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, July 31, 2014

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In Holiday Guide

A jam-packed Times Square party atmosphere isn't appealing to everyone.

Staying in on New Year's Eve


New Year's Eve is the biggest party night of the year. It is a commonly accepted reality that drinking, dancing and similar debauched delights will carry on from late evening into early morning, and a lot of people wake up in the New Year with a screaming hangover and a hazy memory of the night before.

But there is a sizable amount of people who forgo the stereotypical revelry in favor of a quiet night in – even here in Milwaukee, a city known for its hard partying. And no, these people are not shut-ins, antisocial, friendless or lonely. In fact, most of them turn down plenty of party invites in favor of spending the night on the couch, letting the rest of the city go crazy on what many consider to be "amateur night."

Jane Lyons of Cudahy has always preferred staying at home on New Year's Eve and considers quiet time on a holiday as a welcome break.

"When I was younger, I went out so often that New Year's Eve was like any other night, with the exception that the bars were more crowded than usual," she says. "So actually, staying in was something I looked forward to. My bowling team and I used to order pizza and watch Dick Clark."

Now that she's married, she keeps an even more conservative schedule if the holiday falls during the work week. "By the time my husband and I get home, both of us are pretty tired. The evening consists of ordering pizza and at least making an attempt to make it to midnight," she says. This year the Lyons will be "staying in" in Ohio with family.

It's a similar situation for Bill McDonough, a Milwaukee native who currently makes his home in Denver. His social schedule is busy the rest of the year, but he and his partner Rob Munger are always careful to keep the night of Dec. 31 free of any engagements.

"I used to go to Barcelona every holiday," he says. "When I was there, we would have New Year's Eve dinner with friends and would be doing things at home with them. But when I'm here in Denver, it just seemed like New Year's Eve was a reason to go out and get drunk. And I'm not into that. To go out just because it's New Year's Eve?"

Maggie Nettesheim agrees. "The options of 'go to a house party with one friend and 100 random people I don't know' and 'pay an absurdly high cover to go out to a bar with a few friends and hundreds of strangers' are both pretty unappealing," she says.

For Nettesheim, New Year's Eve always falls over winter break, when she comes home to Fox Point from Washington, D.C., where she is studying law at George Washington University. "My family loves sushi, so we started doing that for dinner years ago. The last several years my dad has been out of town, so it's turned into a mother-daughter thing," she says. And that's fine with her.

"I'd rather start the New Year off by spending a relaxing night with someone whose company I know I enjoy rather than spending hours in a drunken crowd, worrying about being able to drive home and feeling vaguely bored."

She agrees that going out to bars and restaurants is fun any other night of the year – but on New Year's Eve, it's just too crowded, too loud and too crazy.

"I think some people really like those big party scenes, but I just don't enjoy bars on the big occasion nights where it feels like everyone and their uncle is out trying to get bombed," she says. "I love going out in D.C. with my friends, but we tend to frequent low-key bars."

The headache of finding a designated driver is also a frequent complaint for party-goers on the holiday – and for many, it's just easier to do the drinking at home in the first place.

"I'll be going out this year because I'm visiting Milwaukee, and I think it's going to be a blast," says McDonough. "We're going to Mitchell's Fish Market for dinner and staying around there 'til midnight. And as long as I've got somebody driving for me, I might even have a drink … or three!"

But next year? "We'll be back at home, most likely," he says.

It's tradition, after all.

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