New Year’s festivities go beyond the party

Staff Writer

Year after year, when the main-event holiday hubbub dies down, the ageold question persists: “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?”

Sure, the region is rife with bars and restaurants serving up the traditional party fare of prix fixe menus and open bars. But those seeking a different way to ring in 2015 need not fret. This year’s slate of New Year’s Eve activities include a little something for everyone. Revelers looking to include the little ones in their plans for the big night — or anyone who likes good, old-fashioned fun, for that matter — may find what they’re looking for at iPlay America in Freehold Township. The entertainment mecca will host its fourth annual New Year’s Eve celebration starting at 7 p.m.

“iPlay America’s New Year’s Eve party offers the best of the best — family-friendly fun, a great meal, music and prizes in a celebratory environment,” said Jessica Schwartz, director of marketing for iPlay America.

For $39.95 per person and free entry for toddlers, the night features unlimited rides and attractions, a $10 game card and favors. Attendees also get the chance to win prizes and giveaways throughout the night. Not just for the young crowd, the event will include a DJ and light show. A countdown to midnight and ball drop will be followed by a confetti cannon blast. A cocktail area for adults will keep spirits flowing until 1 a.m. iPlay is offering two dining options for those who come hungry. New Year’s Eve Party Pass holders can partake of a prix fixe menu by “Chopped” TV show champion chef Joe Raiola, complete with appetizer, entrée and dessert with soda, coffee and tea included for $39.95 for adults or $19.95 for the kids’ menu. For more casual fare, attendees can hit up one of iPlay’s eateries for à la carte offerings.

Groups of partyers who want the VIP experience can reserve one of the facility’s seven private brownstones for the night. The private, decorated celebration rooms come with 12 party passes and favors for all. Call for pricing.

Over the years, many have grown used to entering another dimension as they welcome the coming year. Instead of staying home for the annual “Twilight Zone” marathon on TV, however, lovers of the spine-tingling sci-fi classic can indulge their passion at Raconteur Radio’s “The New Year’s Eve LIVE Twilight Zone Marathon: A Staged Radio Play Parody & Themed Party” at Metuchen’s Old Franklin Schoolhouse.

“I think it’s the most unusual New Year’s Eve event,” said Alex Dawson, the man behind Raconteur Radio. “So, for somebody looking for something a little bit different, this really stands out.”

The evening will feature four classic “Twilight Zone” episodes — “Eye of the Beholder,” “The Dictator,” “Third from the Sun” and “Mirror Image” — presented as staged radio plays, with theatrical lighting, vintage commercials, costumes, radio equipment and sound effects.

“We’re really underscoring the staged part of the radio play,” Dawson said, noting that costumes and masks will add to the production.

Tickets are $55, or $65 at the door if the event doesn’t sell out as it did last year. While a full dinner and champagne toast are included, themed cocktails, wine, beer and nonalcoholic beverages will also be available.

Doors open at 8:15 p.m., with dinner and drinks at 8:30. The performance starts at 9 p.m., with two episodes, then a 30-minute live musical interlude with period-appropriate selections. Two more episodes follow, and the event ends with an 11:30 toast that leaves time for attendees to stroll downtown and catch the midnight fireworks and ball drop.

The sky will also light up at midnight in New Brunswick, where a DJ will provide music for partiers starting at 11:30 in Monument

Square. The setting provides the perfect viewing spot for the fireworks set off from atop The Heldrich Hotel.

The city provides a number of ways to while away the hours before the main event, including the State Theatre’s “Salute to Vienna,” a festive concert featuring 75 musicians, European singers and costumed dancers in a lighthearted blend of popular Strauss waltzes, polkas and famous operetta excerpts from “Die Fledermaus,” “The Merry Widow” and more. Tickets range from $47 to $107, and the show starts at 6 p.m.

From there, check out any number of restaurants, bars and lounges in town.

Farther flung fireworks with an unbeatable view are in store for those seeking a truly unique experience to ring in the new year.

Battleship New Jersey, Camden, hosts an award-winning overnight encampment program that allows families to spend the night in the bunks where the crew of the USS New Jersey — the nation’s most decorated battleship — once slept.

The package, at $72 per person, includes dinner and breakfast served from the chow line in the crew’s galley, a tour of the ship and a ride in the 4-D flight simulator. Reservations are necessary, and families must consist of at least one adult and one child, age 6-17.

Music, food concessions and bar service will add to the festivities. At 6 p.m. and midnight, guests will view fireworks over the Delaware River.

“Watching fireworks from the battleship is a great family experience for New Year’s Eve, plus the proceeds go to restore our nation’s most decorated battleship, now a museum and memorial,” said Jack Willard, spokesman for Battleship New Jersey. “The views of either the 6 p.m. or midnight fireworks are outstanding, and we shoot our 5- inch and signal guns after the finale to truly end the show with a bang. In fact, guests on the battleship can buy a chance to pull the trigger and fire one of our guns at the conclusion of either show.”

Those who aren’t looking to spend the night can come just for the party. The ship will open at 4 p.m. for the early fireworks display, and at 10 p.m. for the midnight show. A $10 donation is requested.

A blazing fire in Lawrence Township will warm the winter chill and give people a chance to leave behind the bad and welcome positive things for the coming year.

Hosted by the Lawrence Historical Society since 1997, the Hogmanay Bonfire takes its roots in a Scottish Pagan tradition. Hogmanay is synonymous with the last day of the year, and part of the holiday’s observation involves symbolic fires to mark the leaving behind of the old and bringing in of the new.

At the Hogmanay Bonfire, attendees are asked to write down or bring a list of bad things they would like to leave behind in the new year, and toss the list into the fire to watch it burn. Set in the Great Meadow behind the Brearley House, 100 Meadow Road, the event also offers tours of the historic structure, along with a bagpiper and free refreshments.

The fire will be lit at 6 p.m. Parking is available at the Brandywine Trust complex on Lenox Drive. Signs and attendants will direct arriving cars, and visitors can either follow a lighted trail to the bonfire site or hop aboard a free shuttle bus. While the event is free, visitors can donate to the historical society in the Brearley House.

While New Year’s Eve is most often a spectacle, for some it is a chance to look within. A group of local yogis is offering the opportunity to do just that in a festive atmosphere.

The New Year’s Eve Maha Sadhana — which translates to “the great practice” in Sanskrit — at Rumson Presbyterian Church is a free or by-donation event that welcomes all to practice yoga and other paths to enlightenment, and then celebrate the new year with dance.

“This is going to be a very beautiful event,” said Matt Becker, one of the eight teachers who will guide attendees.

The evening will start at 9 p.m. with kirtan, or chanting, then move on to pranayama, or yogic breathing. Next, attendees will get physical with some asanas, or poses. An “asana jam” will follow, allowing participants to dedicate their practice by taking turns offering a pose in the center of the group.

According to Becker, newcomers to yoga need not be hesitant.

“If you’re looking for an introduction to yoga, this is where you want to be,” he said, adding that the practice will be conducted in the classical Hatha-Raja style of Sri Dharma Mittra.

Live music will ensue from there, with drumming, clapping and other jubilant sounds. Savasana, also known as “corpse pose,” will bring participants further into a state of calm relaxation as they prepare to enter a silent, seated meditation to take them through midnight.

“It’s all ways to see through the senses and see through to your real self,” Becker said, adding that many people see yoga as only the physical poses when it is truly an eight-limbed practice that also involves pranayama, moral and ethical rules, and other aspects. “They all kind of tie together.”

Throughout the practice, a DJ will spin ambient beats, and the music will continue after midnight.

“There will hopefully be blissful dancing and soulful kissing going on afterwards,” Becker said.

Potluck vegan desserts will be there for the grazing, and attendees are welcome to bring an animal-free snack to share. In line with that theme, all donations made for admission to the event will be given to Farm Sanctuary, which protects and advocates for farm animals, especially those in factory-farm environments.

New Year’s Eve is a reminder that time marches on, but the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan will offer a chance to travel back in time with “The McCartney Years.” Attendees can relive Sir Paul’s top hits from the 1960s and ’70s at the concert, which provides a note-for-note recreation of a mid- 1970s Paul McCartney show.

Yuri Pool leads the band, which is committed to accurately reproducing the beloved Beatle’s performances.

Shows are at 6 and 9 p.m. Premium tickets are $63 and include two drink vouchers; regular tickets are $50.

If the idea of being out and about on New Year’s Eve seems unappealing, the New Jersey State Park Service offers a different way to mark the occasion for those who have saved up their energy.

Its free First Day Hikes throughout the state traverse a variety of terrains and range from easy to strenuous. Along with 19 hikes, the program offers two bike rides and a horseback ride.

iPlay America,

New Year’s Eve LIVE Twilight Zone Marathon: A Staged Radio Play Parody & Themed Party,

New Brunswick,

Battleship New Jersey,

Hogmanay Bonfire,

New Year’s Eve Maha Sadhana, First Presbyterian Church of Rumson East River Road at Park Avenue

First Day Hikes,