Sure, you can start planning for a Times Square New Year's Eve trip at least a year in advance, and spend the WHOLE DAY in the freezing Manhattan cold to witness the dropping of the iconic ball. Or, you can stay warm and cozy in your home watching the same ball drop. But you've done that before, right? It's not too late to do something a little different this year to ring in 2018. Here in the South we have our share of ball drops, sure, but we also like to show off our personality a little – especially when there's a chance that out-of-towners and newcomers might be in attendance. Read on and find out all the places throughout the South who have their own spin on saying goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018.
Mobile: The lowering of a 600-pound, lit Moon Pie is merely the finale of a full day of revelry at Moon Pie over Mobile. Other events include the cutting of the largest edible Moon Pie in the world, a second-line parade, and a music festival headlined this year by George Clinton. Why Moon Pies? They're a traditional throw during Mardi Gras, which predates New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations.
Wetumpka: This small city near Montgomery commemorates something big each New Year. A meteorite is dropped at the Old Courthouse annually in honor of the meteor that fell to earth 84 million years ago, leaving a 5-mile-wide crater and what is considered Alabama's greatest natural disaster.
Fayetteville: Eight stages of music gets the crowd pumped for the main event – the dropping of a stuffed, illuminated hog at midnight. It's all part of the Last Night Fayetteville celebration.
Florida is split between Central and Eastern Time Zones.
Eastern Time Zone
Key West: You have a couple of options if you decide to venture all the way down to Key West for New Years. At Sloppy Joe's Bar, the “traditional” dropping of the Conch Shell happens, while at theChive, it's a unicorn. The Lowering of the Pirate Wench happens at Schooner Wharf, and drag queen Sushi descends from the balcony of the New Orleans House in a giant red high heel.
Miami: The New Years celebration in Bayfront Park is called the largest free event in Southern Florida. You might think that Pitbull headlining the show would be the biggest draw, but for many locals, it's seeing their beloved and iconic 35-foot “Big Orange” (Florida is known for its orange exports, after all) rise 400 feet to the top of the Intercontinental Hotel and then drop at midnight.
Orlando: Don't want to travel all the way to Miami? Orlando has its own Orange Drop as part of a block party on Church Street.
Sarasota, Florida: A glowing pineapple is the fruit of choice in Sarasota. This annual free event, which also includes live music, concession stands and amusement rides, takes place in downtown Sarasota. A fireworks display over Sarasota Bay caps off the evening.
Central Time Zone
Panama City: Live music at this free, family-friendly celebration starts at 5:30 p.m. kids will want to stay for the 8 p.m. dropping of 10,000 beach balls and a fireworks display, even if they can't stay awake for the dropping of the giant illuminated beach ball at midnight followed by more fireworks.
Pensacola: Another free event along Florida's Gulf Coast is the Pelican Drop in downtown Pensacola. Details of the Countdown to 2018 event have not been released yet.
Atlanta: Probably one of the most well-known New Year's Eve celebrations, the Peach Drop up until last year occurred at the Underground. To ring in 2018, however, revelers will need to go somewhere else. While a new location hasn't been announced (even at this late date), rumors are circulating that it'll be just a few blocks away at Woodruff Park with the peach dropping from the side of the Flatiron Building.
Macon: The city hosts an International Cherry Blossom Festival each spring, with cherry blossom-themed events sprinkled throughout the year. For New Year's Eve, a 6-foot wide lighted ball made of metal cherry blossoms covered in pink lights is the star of the show.
Savannah: In a decidedly Savannah twist on the traditional ball drop, the ball is replaced with a to-go cup, and it's raised, not lowered. Put it all together, and you have the annual Up the Cup Countdown hosted by Savannah Waterfront Association on historic River Street.
Tallapoosa: Filed under “We have to see this once in our lives,” this West Georgian town was originally named Possum Snout. To honor their heritage, the citizens of Tallapoosa drop a stuffed possum in a ball covered in holiday lights each year instead of a ball. Oh, and there's food and music, too. But you'd come for just the possum, right?
New Orleans: Head down to Jackson Square early if you want to view the annual dropping of the fleur-de-lis. You'll also get the chance to hear live music, watch fireworks, and see a simulcast of the Times Square celebration (after the New Orleans celebration is aired as the New Years' Rockin' Eve Central Time Zone celebration) as part of the free event open to the public.
Carolina Beach/Kure Beach: A free, family-friendly celebration is scheduled, which includes a DJ, dancing, a giant beach ball drop, followed by fireworks. The Pleasure Island celebration rotates between the two beaches, with the 2017 celebration happening at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
Charlotte: The Queen City shows off its royal roots with a lighted crown that is raised, not lowered, at midnight to symbolize the “rising of a new year.”
Marion: The mountain town celebrates its Gold Rush history with a lighted gold nugget in place of a ball for its free New Year's Eve celebration.
Morehead City: The coast being the coast, the item dropped at the stroke of midnight is, well, coastal. A crab pot is dropped. A drop just for kids happens at 6 p.m., with the free celebration including stilt walkers, magicians and fireworks.
Mount Olive: Since 1999, the lighted, three-foot New Year's Eve Pickle has been lowered down the Mt. Olive Pickle Company flagpole at 7 p.m., which corresponds to Greenwich Mean Time. In addition to music and entertainment, the free celebration includes a canned food drive to benefit the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.
Raleigh: The City of Oaks celebrates the New Year with a huge downtown celebration each year culminating in the lowering of a 900-pound copper-and-steel acorn.
Memphis: A 10-foot guitar drops 100 feet over Beale Street at midnight as part of the city's music-packed celebration.
Nashville: Music City goes all out for the New Year. The free event is packed annually with musical stars, and this year is no different with a lineup that includes Keith Urban, Maren Morris and Cheap Trick. At midnight a 15-foot music note covered in 100 feet of lights is lowered 145 feet over Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in downtown Nashville.
After searching, I still couldn't find unusual NYE celebrations in Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia or West Virginia. Did I miss any in those states? And did I miss any other only-in-the-South NYE celebrations in the other states? Let me know!