Can’t make it to Times Square for New Year’s Eve? Hop in your car and enjoy one of West Michigan’s biggest ball drops only 90 minutes from Grand Rapids instead – the Ludington New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. Celebrating 10 years of lighting up the night on New Year’s Eve, Ludington packs a punch for its most famous annual event and one of its biggest annual celebrations.
This is your quintessential New Year's Eve celebration – complete with outdoor beer garden, live music, fireworks, and the ball drop with 6,000 LED lights – all set against the charming backdrop of downtown Ludington. Think of it as one giant street party, as Ludington’s main intersection of James Street and Ludington Avenue is open only to pedestrians that night after 9 p.m.
Book dinner earlier in the evening at one of Ludington’s many unique downtown eateries – from brewpubs like Jamesport Brewing and Ludington Bay Brewing, to fine dining standouts like Blu Moon Bistro, P.M. Steamers and Table 14. Many stores are open until midnight, so peruse the downtown and pop in for some shopping and a warm-up. At 9 p.m., head toward the large, heated entertainment tent and beer garden at James Street Plaza, featuring live music by local band White Rabbit. Domestic and craft beer, wine and champagne are available for purchase, along with commemorative light-up drink glasses. Ludington’s main street also shuts down to car traffic at that time so thousands of pedestrians can spill onto the street to get a good view of the New Year’s Eve Ball (one of the largest in West Michigan) touching down at midnight. At the stroke of midnight, look skyward to watch the ball drop, followed by confetti and a dazzling fireworks display over the rooftops of downtown. The event is free though drinks are available for purchase.
Got kids in tow? Check out Ludington’s nearby family-friendly New Year’s Eve events earlier in the evening before the ball drop. The New Year’s Eve “Balloon Drop and Stomp” 5 to 8 p.m. at Sandcastles Children’s Museum lets families with young children ring in the New Year a few hours early with an indoor balloon drop featuring more than 500 balloons plus live music, food, favors, ice cream sundaes, crafts and a photo booth ($10 per person or $35 per family). Mason County District Library hosts its free “Light up the Lake Family Party” 7 to 11:30 p.m. with crafts, games and activities for partygoers of all ages.
Make a safe, walkable evening of it and book lodging within walking distance of downtown Ludington such as Stearn’s Hotel, Ludington Beach House, or one of the historic bed and breakfasts lining Ludington Avenue. While Uber isn’t in Ludington yet, area businesses are sponsoring free rides and towing service that evening. Ludington Mass Transportation Authority provides free rides to and from downtown from 9 p.m. Dec. 31 through 4 a.m. Jan. 1 by reservation at 231.845.6218. Those wishing to have their car towed home can call one of four towing companies (Abrahamson Towing: 231.843.2990; Quinn’s Tires & Tows: 231.757.9262; Oceana Auto: 231.843.6500; and Fiers Towing: 231.757.4479). Towing and driving services are available in Ludington city limits. Taxi services also are available with Ludington Taxi (231.845.9693), and Judy’s Lakeside Rides (231.233.7200).
Start the New Year on the right foot (and burn off those partying calories) Jan. 1 with Ludington’s Resolution 5K at 11 a.m. through downtown. The $25 entry fee includes a custom die-cast finishers medal and a #RunLudington Fandana. Register online or on race day at Ludington Pub from 10 to 11 a.m.