Tag Archives: New Year’s Eve

Cheyenne’s Midnight Ball Drop Highlights New Year’s Eve

Wyoming’s capital reprises its low-key midnight ball drop

Cheyenne's Depot Plaza shines on New Year's Eve. [Photo: Plains Hotel]
Cheyenne’s Depot Plaza shines on New Year’s Eve. [Photo: Plains Hotel]
Last year, my husband and I rang in the New Year in Cheyenne. I wrote a post about the experience, and this year, I’m suggesting it for anyone who doesn’t have plans — especially for those whose bucket list includes the New Year’s Eve ball drop at Times Square but really doesn’t want to face New York’s crowds or cost should head for Cheyenne. Two years ago, Wyoming’s capital and largest city hastily put together a New Year’s Eve celebration on the expansive plaza in front of the landmark Union Pacific Railroad Depot. New York’s big party attracts something on the order of a million revelers – roughly twice the population of the entire state of Wyoming.

The highlight of Cheyenne’s festivities at its s third annual Times Square-inspired ball drop. Despite last-minute organization and fierce winds that first year, it was successful enough to result in an expanded version last year, when it was cold but not windy. And that was so successful that Cheyenne is repeating it this year, and historic Plains Hotel across the street from Depot Plaza is ramping up the festivities with a six-hour party (see below).

Following in optional fund-raising dinner inside the depot (now a museum and function facility), people bundle up for the outdoor festivities that are free to all. And all show up — families with little kids, groups of friends, canoodling couples and seniors milling around under the canopy of the night sky. The Depot Plaza is brilliantly lit, rocks with a DJ selection. The nearby stores are not boarded up. There are no mounted police or officers in riot gear lurking on the perimeter, just a mellow multi-generational crowd milling around (there’s no milling room in New York).

As midnight approaches all eyes dart between the laser countdown beamed onto the depot tower and the lighted ball dropping from a high crane set p nearby. The countdown clock and the regular clock on the dept tower weren’t in sync in December 31, 2012, but everyone knew it was midnight when the ball reached the ground.  Happy New Year greetings, hugs, kisses and fireworks light the night sky. What a wonderful way to start a new year.

New Year’s Eve 2013 – New Year’s Day 20014

This year, the celebration gets even better. As I mentioned, the historic Plains Hotel is putting on its first annual Capital Countdown Party. From 8 p.m. on the 31st to 2 p.m. on the 1st, the hotel ballroom will be will be transformed into a premier dance venue with epic lighting and bass thumping sound! For those who want to see  the New Years Eve Ball Drop (and who doesn’t?), the hotel promises a VIP red carpet viewing area with outdoor heaters. The hotel is suggesting that guests “come dressed to impress!”  Buy tickets online for  just $45 per person or $80 per couple. Or, make it a getaway (as we did last year) and stay the night. Two packages are available. For twosomes who want to take the elevator home, the Plains Hotel’s  Capital City Countdown Package, starting at $210 per couple, includes accommodations and the party and the New Year’s Out Package starting at $300 for two includes lodging, the part and dinner at the Capitol Grille, the hotel’s restaurant. Reserve by calling 307-638-3311.

Cheyenne Shines on New Year’s Eve

Second annual ball drop signals the start of 2013

P1010529Last year, Cheyenne hastily put together a New Year’s Eve celebration on the expansive plaza in front of the landmark railroad depot. The highlight was a Times Square-inspired ball drop. Despite last-minute organization and fierce winds, it was successful enough to result in an expanded version this year. I had to be there!

And so it was that my husband and I happily had our passports stamped as we crossed into Wyoming (just kidding!) and checked in to the Historic Plains Hotel. Being at the intersection of Interstates 25 and 80, there is no shortage of places to stay in Cheyenne. But the Plains Hotel was absolutely the best, because the celebration was just across the street in the beautifully restored Cheyenne Depot Museum and on the plaza in front of the landmark. Inside the  great hall, a waiting room in the heyday of passenger rail traffic, were festively set tables, a generous buffet, good company and a celebratory and completely unpretentious mood. That is my idea of how to ring in a New Year.

Festively set tables in the great hall of the Cheyenne Depot Museum.
Festively set tables in the great hall of the Cheyenne Depot Museum.

We crossed the street from the hotel to the Depot Museum for festive New Year’s Eve buffet dinner. Darren Rudloff, executive director of the Visit Cheyenne, had not only invited us to town in the first place but also invited us to join him, his wife Nicole who is marketing director for Cheyenne Frontier Days, two Bobs (one the civil engineer who was instrumental in the depot’s restaurant and the other who works for the city and, among many other things) who enabled the ball drop to take place, and their wives. It was great to spend the evening with locals who had such large parts in making both the depot restoration happen and New Year’s Eve so bright.

P1010514

After dinner, we bundled up for the real festivities outside – free to all. And all were there — families with little kids, groups of friends, canoodling couples and seniors. It was cold but wind-still, so being outside under the canopy of the night sky was wonderful. The Depot Plaza was brilliantly lit, rocked with a DJ selection, the mellow multi-generational crowd milled around (there’s no milling room in New York), followed the laser countdown on the depot tower and watched the lighted ball drop from a high crane. The countdown clock and the regular clock on the dept tower weren’t in sync, but everyone knew it was midnight when the ball reached the ground. Then, it was 2013. Happy New Year greetings, hugs, kisses and fireworks lighting the night sky. What a wonderful way to start a new year.

The dinner was the highlight of and a fundraiser for Lights On!, a local initiative to bring more traffic to downtown after sunset. It sure worked last night, with the plaza full and surely spillover elsewhere in the city. I’m all for that — in 2013 and always, because I think real towns with real histories and independent businesses trump indoor malls anytime. I don’t know where we’ll be 364 days from now, but I could happily spend another New Year’s Eve in Cheyenne.

2nd Ever New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Cheyenne

Magnificent Depot Plaza is site of classic turn-of-the-calendar celebration

Once upon a very long time ago, friends and I went to Times Square for the New Year’s Eve ball drop. That came off my bucket list before I knew there was such a thing as a bucket list. We almost lost each other in the massive crowd, but it was in the main, a fine celebration and restrained by today’s standards. No sequined celebrities on large platforms, singing such amplified songs that the music could have been heard on the moon. No Jumbotrons. No aggressive commercialism. Over the years, I have watched the Times Square doings on television during someone’s party (sometimes a gathering in our own home), and it doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Too much play-by-play commentary, too much contrived anticipation, too much shameless commercialism. No thanks.

Cheyenne’s Depot Plaza during the first annual Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve.

If you drive west on Interstate 80 from the George Washington Bridge for roughly 1,670 miles, you’ll reach Cheyenne, Wyoming, whose second New Year’s Eve Ball Drop promises to have the same feeling that I remember from New York back in the day. It is estimated that roughly 1 million people show up in Times Square every December 31 to watch the ball drop — that’s about twice the entire population of Wyoming, where Cheyenne’s beautiful Depot Plaza is the site of the festivities. Last year, some 4,500 people rang in 2012 there — and unlike New York’s congested gathering, which can be scary for kids, Cheyenne’s truly welcomes families.

The celebration is part of Cheyenne’s LightsOn! initiative to revitalize historic downtown Cheyenne. Expect music, food vendors and “other surprises” — the biggest surprise of all would be if I could persuade my husband to drive anywhere for New Year’s Eve. Initial music and festivities will begin at approximately 11:00 p.m., and before the clock strikes midnight, there will be fireworks, a laser countdown on the Depot landmark tower. Then, a 75-ton crane will gently lower a 300-pound steel ball with more than 200 pounds of LED lights. When the ball reaches the plaza floor, it will be 2013.

Cheyenne hotels offer low winter rates (though New Year’s weekend won’t be the lowest), and parties other events fill the long weekend calendar. For details, click here or call 307-778-3133 or 800-426-5009.