NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — The curtains have finally closed on 2020, and cities across the U.S. celebrated like never before.
With canceled or scaled back celebrations, many swapped crowds for comfort on New Year’s Eve.
Here’s how major cities around the country rang in the near year:
NEW YORK CITY, NY
The ball dropped, but the entrance to 2021 was unique for New York City.
Times Square remains the center of American revelry this New Year’s Eve, but only virtually. Physically, it was closed. The only spectators witnessing the ball-drop in person were performers — part of the show, pre-screened for COVID-19.
Police had promised to vigorously enforce a ban on gatherings of any kind in New York City Thursday night, especially at its most famous intersection.
“My message to those ringing in the New Year,” said NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, “Please stay at home.”
“Don’t come. Watch it at home. It’ll be a spectacular television show. Next year, we’ll all gather together and fill Times Square. But this year, don’t even attempt to come down there to watch it.”
Different right down to the confetti. 2,000 pounds of it released at midnight Thursday included the printed wishes of people from all over the country — their hopes and dreams for 2021.
LAS VEGAS, NV
Despite pleas from Nevada’s governor to reconsider going out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, thousands of revelers visited the casino-lined Las Vegas Strip Thursday night.
While shopping, gambling, drinking yard-long frozen cocktails and gawking at the sights and lights, most everyone who went out in Sin City was wearing a face mask, though some wore them only half-covering their face.
Amer Zah and Rayif Bah, both 22-year-old college students from Louisiana State University, had been on a cross-country road trip and after visiting Seattle, and decided to head south to Las Vegas to ring in 2021.
“We wanted somewhere to spend New Year’s and Vegas seems like the perfect place,” Zah said.
But with most of the clubs still closed, live entertainment canceled and a signature fireworks show scuttled, they weren’t sure how they would spend the rest of their evening, but both said they felt safe and had seen few people not wearing masks.
“Everyone, I think, is taking it seriously,” Bah said.
Typically, New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest parties Las Vegas sees all year, with more than 330,000 revelers, almost all hotel rooms booked and hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the local economy.
But this year, New Year’s Eve was scaled down.
The fireworks show was canceled, replaced by a virtual celebration, implosion of a “2020” sign and a pyrotechnic show 15 minutes before midnight on www.VisitLasVegas.com.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority would not forecast what visitor numbers or room occupancy might be this year, with casinos-resorts limited to 25% capacity and public gatherings capped at 50 people. Las Vegas police said they too were unable to estimate what the turnout might be but guessed it could be as many as 200,000.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
For some San Francisco residents, 2020 went out with a whimper instead of a bang.
Large crowds usually fill the city’s streets to watch the annual fireworks show, but the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, NewsNation affiliate KRON reported.
San Francisco public safety officials reminded residents that big parties held for past New Year’s Eve celebrations were not allowed in order to keep hospitals from being overrun with COVID-19 patients.
The city’s Rec and Park Department also turned off the holiday lights exhibit in Golden Gate Park to discourage crowds.
Police added extra patrols in areas where people normally gather, such as the Embarcadero, the Market Street Corridor and Union Square. Officers warned the people would be cited or arrested if they didn’t comply with the health order.
Denver residents also scaled down New Year’s Eve celebrations Thursday.
Coronavirus concerns meant no crowded restaurants or bars, and even fireworks weren’t set off downtown.
But those roughly 30 miles south of the city in Castle Rock were able to enjoy a big display to welcome 2021, NewsNation affiliate KDVR reported.
Castle Rock’s Festival Park is typically busy with families around this time of year, but only a few showed up Thursday night.
Natalia Scepuyga and her family enjoyed food and drinks around a fire pit.
“This year is different and actually why we are here. Usually for the new year, we celebrate at home, but this year because of all this virus stuff and everything else around, we decided to get together outside,” she said, “It’s a safe place to see each other.”
NEW ORLEANS, LA
New Orleans adjusted their New Year’s Eve celebrations to prevent spread of the virus.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that no parties, riverfront fireworks or spectators at the Fleur de lis Drop for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve would be permitted, asking residents to ring in 2021 safely at home.
In turn, French Quarter streets were much quieter than in past years, NewsNation affiliate WGNO reported.
“The streets seem very quiet and kind of lonely,” said Caroline Ramirez, who’s visiting New Orleans from Texas.
Jackson Square was locked up, and indoor bar service was closed, along with access to many streets.
“It is a shame that we can’t do these things, but we are in a pandemic and we have to be responsible about these things,” said Caleb Hunton, who’s visiting from Atlanta.
Caroline Ramirez and Jamie Hollander said they prefer the quieter spirit.
“It is nothing like you see in TV or in movies here right now. I like that. I wouldn’t want to be somewhere that is overcrowded,” Ramirez said.
“I’m grateful to tour the city and see more of a historical perspective,” Hollander said.