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New Year’s Eve for East Bay Kids

Let children ring in the New Year before bedtime at Chabot Space and Science Center.


Photo courtesy of Chabot Space and Science Center

The mention of New Year’s Eve brings to mind glittery parties, champagne, and the ball drop in New York’s Times Square. But if you’re looking for a more family-friendly celebration, Oakland’s Chabot Space and Science Center offers a festive, colorful alternative well before midnight.

Since 2001, Chabot has hosted annual New Year’s Eve balloon drops for youngsters, providing parents and kids the opportunity to fete the occasion together. Three drops are held over the course of December 31—at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m.—when 600 balloons suspended in a net fall over children as they stand in a ring in the museum’s rotunda.

During each event, an emcee leads a countdown and, to teach the kids about time zones and geo-graphy, names countries that are celebrating the turn of the clock at that moment. Pakistan and Turkmenistan feature at the morning drop, with Madagascar, Syria, and Iraq at 1 p.m. and Great Britain and Portugal at 4 p.m. “It’s a neat way to tie it in that … there are other people having midnight right now,” says Jessica Hicks, Chabot’s programs and community partnerships manager. “It makes the world feel a little bigger.”

In past years, the center has welcomed more than 700 children, along with their families, to join in the fun. “Counting down and watching the balloons fall is really awe-inspiring,” Hicks says. “They fall slowly, and … we have music going. There’s drama involved. It’s a magical experience for kids.” chabotspace.org.


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