San Francisco

The Absolute Best Ways to Celebrate New Year's Eve in Denver

Toast to the end of 2020.

Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center
Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center
Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center

We’ve finally reached the end of the longest, weirdest year ever, so it seems fitting that saying goodbye to 2020 will also be a bit weird. The annual downtown NYE fireworks have been canceled, and your best bet is to keep your celebrations at home and low key. Bonus: no huge bar bill when you wake up on January 1. But even though the traditional decadent parties aren’t happening, you can still get out for some less traditional ways to celebrate. From a staycation in a suite to ice skating and mini golf, here are the best ways to welcome 2021 in the Mile High.

Adventure Golf and Raceway
Adventure Golf and Raceway
Adventure Golf and Raceway

Play a round of Holiday Lights Mini Golf

Now through Sunday, January 10
Adventure Golf and Raceway, Westminster
Kick off your NYE celebrations with a festive round of mini golf on one of Adventure Golf’s three courses decorated with over 100,000 holiday lights. They’ve got plenty of safety protocols in place including a limit of four people per hole while playing. Masks are also required during your visit. On NYE, they’ll be open 5 – 9 pm.
Cost: $10 per adult for 18 holes
 

Take a staycation and enjoy the immersive I Love Christmas Movies experience

Now through Sunday, January 3
Gaylord Rockies, Aurora
Near DIA, Gaylord Rockies is the ideal close-to-town getaway with tons of amenities including the I Love Christmas Movies experience where you can check out 13 interactive scenes from holiday faves like Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Right now, they’ve also got holiday packages available so you can spend New Year’s enjoy the festivities complete with overnight accommodations, tickets to I Love Christmas Movies, snow tubing, and more.
Cost: Varies by date and package
 

Stay in a suite and enjoy a three-course tasting menu

Thursday, December 31
The Source
Over in RiNo, The Source Hotel is offering another staycation option ideal for foodies. Available online on New Year’s Eve, this one night only experience includes overnight accommodations in one of the hotel’s suites plus a three-course meal from The Woods and champagne for your midnight toast delivered right to your room.
Cost: Packages start at $389 and must be booked by December 27; reserve your package online 

Local Jones
Local Jones
Local Jones

Have an epic at home feast with a take-home party platter

Thursday, December 31
Local Jones
Opting for an at home celebration? Spend the last night of 2020 relaxing, not cooking, with a party platter from Cherry Creek’s Local Jones. Loaded with cheese, charcuterie, shrimp cocktail, crudites with an assortment of dips, and an olive and salad bar, these take party snacks to a new level. Plus the package also includes a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne for your midnight toast.
Cost: $250; serves 6
 

Check out the Mile High Tree music and light show

Now – Saturday, January 2
16th & Welton
After a successful debut in 2019, this huge, illuminated tree which is the largest installation of its kind in North American is scheduled to make a grand return this weekend. Masks and social distancing are required as you watch the light show coordinated with holiday tunes. The five minute show runs every 15 minutes from 5 – 9:30 pm most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and from 5-8pm on select Sundays.
Cost: Free
 

See the Parade of Lights in a whole new way

Now – Thursday, December 31
Downtown Denver
Instead of one (typically super cold) night watching the parade, this annual tradition has gotten a COVID-era makeover that you can experience on NYE. The illuminated floats are displayed throughout downtown so you can take a festive stroll as you say goodbye to 2020.
Cost: Free to attend or watch

Christmas in Color
Christmas in Color
Christmas in Color

Drive through an animated holiday light show

Now through Sunday, January 3
Water World
If you just want to say bye to 2020 in a haze of holiday lights, this is the place to go. Immerse yourself in seasonal cheer as, from the socially distant safety of your car. The Christmas in Color drive through features millions of lights synchronized to holiday music. They’ll be open 5:30 – 10 pm on NYE and tickets must be reserved in advance.
Cost: $30 per vehicle
 

Go ice skating at an outdoor rink

Now through Sunday, February 28
The Shops at Northfield
Ice skating is an essential winter activity and if you’ve been binging Netflix instead of getting outside to enjoy the Mile High winter, then make sure your NYE plans include a skating sesh. The Shops at Northfield have an old-fashioned outdoor rink that’ll be open from 11 am – 7 pm on New Year’s Eve. Walk up tickets may be available but it’s best to book your time slot in advance online.
Cost: $10 (includes skate rental)

Cherry Creek North
Cherry Creek North
Cherry Creek North

Take a stroll through a Winter Wanderland

Now through Sunday, January 3
Cherry Creek North
Cherry Creek’s created the perfect spot for NYE photo opps with their 16 blocks of holiday lights. The display includes more than a half million lights with eight displays choreographed to music. Plus, over in Gart Plaza on 3rd & Milwaukee, you can also check out Prismatica, a unique light art installation with 25 colorful pivoting prisms.
Cost: FreeSign up here for our daily Denver email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.Molly Martin is a freelance writer in Denver who loves a good balloon drop. Follow her Mile High adventures in the new decade @mollydbu on Twitter and Instagram.

San Francisco

Where to Eat in SF's Chinatown, According to Local Experts

Just in time for Lunar New Year.

Photo by Brian John Godfrey
Photo by Brian John Godfrey

Last February, when there were only a handful of COVID cases in the United States, throngs of people stopped going to San Francisco’s Chinatown out of an unfounded fear that the neighborhood was more likely to have people with the virus. Business for bars and restaurants almost immediately dropped 50 to 70%. Unfortunately, despite our Chinatown being the oldest in North America and an important part of Chinese culture in the city since it was established in 1848, the tourists stopped going there. And then so did locals outside of the neighborhood. And soon, the bars and restaurants were mostly empty and the owners uncertain of how they could survive.

Joceyln Tsaih, an artist who made her way to Oakland by way of Taiwan and Shanghai, saw what was happening to SF’s Chinatown and other Chinatowns in the Bay Area and decided she needed to do something about it. In March of 2020, she created Save Our Chinatowns, an initiative to support Chinatown communities in the Bay Area through art, conversation, and shared love of food.

Courtesy of Joceyln Tsaih Instagram
Courtesy of Joceyln Tsaih Instagram

“I created it as a direct response to the COVID-related racism that was impacting Chinatown businesses in a negative way. I wanted to use my platform as an artist to create a way for people to support them.” Save Our Chinatowns originally launched as a GoFundMe fundraiser (eventually raising over $40,000), and soon, a few more women joined Tsaih’s grassroots efforts to create art and culture-focused initiatives to benefit their beloved Chinatowns.

Because here’s the thing. While Tsaih and the rest of her team believe San Francisco’s Chinatown is an important part of the city’s cultural makeup, it’s more than just that. It’s also personal. “I’m not originally from the Bay Area,” Tsaih explains. “I grew up in Shanghai, China, so Chinatowns across the US have served as a slice of home from me. Being in a Chinatown environment makes me feel immediately like I’m closer to home even though my family is in Shanghai and Taiwan and I’m very far from them.”

“I feel like in Chinese culture and in Chinatown, everything is largely centered around food. That is a big part of how we come together as families and the community and I want people to experience that,” she adds. Not sure where to start? Tsaih recommends the famous Dragon Gate. “That area has been kind of tailored to tourists. It’s very flashy and fun and an eye-opening way to start your journey.” (And it makes for a great Instagram photo as well.)

Want to know where to go from there? We asked the women behind Save Our Chinatowns about their favorite spots and what makes them their go-tos. After all, who better to get recommendations from than people who are using their free time to help save the neighborhood? Here are their picks:

Photo by Christine Calara
Photo by Christine Calara
Photo by Christine Calara

Kam Po Kitchen

“Kam Po Kitchen is an old-school Hong Kong style eatery that I adore. The staff has a no-nonsense attitude and service ethos that is actually kind of endearing and somehow comforting. It’s a spot that is beloved by locals as well. The roast duck over rice is my personal go-to, but everything I’ve had there has been delicious. As an added bonus, the portion sizes are huge!” Maya Kulkarni, a Berkeley-based artist and designer who is “very inspired by how food can shape identity.”
How to order: Call 415-982-3516.

Photo by Telstar Logistics
Photo by Telstar Logistics
Photo by Telstar Logistics

Sam Wo

“Sam Wo is a classic SF staple since it opened in 1907. Its casual, no-frills community has always been my favorite to go to late at night when the lines weren’t stupid long. Nothing beats ending your night out more than orders of BBQ pork rice noodle rolls and waiters forgetting to give you water after asking multiple times. Feels familiar and like home.” – Linh-Yen Hoang, a Vietnamese-American artist and designer whose work is “informed by her identity and experiences, both ordinary and nuanced.”
How to order: Use UberEats for delivery.

Lucky Creation 

“Lucky Creation is paradise for vegans. Everything is plant based and affordable, with a wide range of fake meats. The seasoning is subtle but complex, as opposed to in-your-face flavors of more tourist-oriented spots. You can’t go wrong ordering anything with bean curd.” Megumi Tanaka, an interdisciplinary designer, artist, developer, and expert on obscure information.
How to order: Call 415-989-0818.

Photo by Gary Soup
Photo by Gary Soup
Photo by Gary Soup

R&G Lounge

“When I think of R&G Lounge, I think of sitting at the round tables with family for special occasions. I also think of their signature salt and pepper crab and other Cantonese banquet style dishes. It’s a whole experience we’ve certainly taken for granted in the past.” Daphne Wu, an Oakland-based freelance web designer who is passionate about community building through food, drinks, and storytelling.
How to order: Use Caviar for delivery.

Lai Hong Lounge

“You can’t go wrong with Lai Hong Lounge if you’re looking for dim sum. All my favorite dim sum dishes are great here and even their egg tarts are the classic dim sum ones that can be hard to find nowadays! If you’re feeling fun you should order the custard buns because they come in the shape of little pigs.” – Jocelyn Tsaih
How to order: Use GrubHubPostmates, or UberEats for delivery.

Photo by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo
Photo by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo
Photo by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

Golden Gate Bakery and Dragon Papa

“I’m obsessed with egg tarts, so when I’m in Chinatown, I always try to see if Golden Gate Bakery is open (their hours are very unpredictable), and if not, sometimes I’ll get a snack called Dragon Beard Candy. It kind of looks like floss, which is why they named it Dragon Beard, but it’s a sweet pastry. I like getting a box of that candy from there.” Jocelyn Tsaih, an Oakland artist by way of Taiwan and Shanghai, interested in utilizing art as a tool to amplify voices, raise awareness, and give back to communities. Her work is a reflection on human connection and identity.
How to order: Golden Gate Bakery is temporarily closed. Call 415-539-7728 for Dragon Papa.

Want to help save the Bay Area’s local Chinatowns? There’s a list of things you can do on the Save Our Chinatowns homepage, and right now, you can donate money and get a digital copy of their limited-edition zine for the Lunar New Year, titled “Have You Eaten Yet?” that includes recipes from Oakland Chinatown businesses.

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who was lucky enough to grow up going to the famous Chinese New Year Parade most years. She’ll miss it this year. Gung hay fat choy! 

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