You could say 2010 was a defining year for Memphis in the eyes of the rest of the country. Forbes ranked us the third most miserable city in the nation, and visitors to Memphis voted us the least attractive and intelligent of the 35 cities ranked in a Travel + Leisure survey.
But far from bringing down our morale, these labels have spurred a host of fired-up responses from people defending our fair city, flaws and all. And when it comes to all-night holiday partying, we have to ask: What better place to ring in the new year than the most overindulgent city in the nation?
If our city's new brand manager is any indication, 2011 will be about reassessing those unflattering rankings. So turn your dials all the way up, and let's finish the year by teaching the rest of the country about a few superlatives they left off the list.
The key to any great, long night is successful pre-gaming. Whether your night will be alcohol-soaked or a little less sloppy, Memphis offers the chance to start early.
DAC Fitness Collierville has first dibs on New Year's Eve, kicking off its third annual 10K race at 9 a.m. The race benefits Page Robbins Adult Day Care Center and is open to individual and two-person relay teams. Registration is $25 in advance, $35 on the day of the race. Call 861-2110 for more information, and visit racesonline.com to register.
Since New Year's Eve happens to be the last Friday in December, patrons of the monthly South Main Art Trolley Tour will be able to get the party started. Drop by the arts district between 6 and 9 p.m. for a special New Year's Eve-themed night of gallery shows, live music, and (often free!) cocktails and finger food. Visit southmainmemphis.com for details.
Most Decadent Diners
With a bevy of New Year's Eve dinner options around the city, there's no chance your belly will go unstuffed in the final hours of 2010.
The Peabody's Capriccio Grill will have a three-course dinner from 5 to 11 p.m. for $60 per person. Elsewhere inside the hotel, Chez Philippe will offer a five-course dinner from 6 to 11 p.m. for $125 per person (price includes admission to the hotel's "Scene" party). Visit peabodymemphis.com for more information and reservations.
For a less expensive option, South of Beale will offer a three-course prix-fixe dinner (featuring a decadent Guinness and elk chili) for $45 per person. Visit southofbeale.com for a full menu.
Harbor Town's Currents at the River Inn will host a New Year's Eve gala dinner (highlights include local butternut squash bisque and strawberry champagne soup) from 5 to 10 p.m. for $89 per person. For a more budget-friendly meal, visit Tug's, also inside the River Inn, for a special menu from 5 p.m. to midnight. Visit riverinnmemphis.com for more information.
Paulette's will serve an early three-course dinner from 4 to 4:45 p.m., then up the ante for a four-course dinner from 5 to 9:30 p.m. The late menu features crab meat and spinach crepes and their signature Filet Paulette's, along with homemade desserts. Prices for the early dinner range from $29 to $39 per person, and the late dinner ranges from $40 to $60. Call 726-5128 for details and reservations.
Grill 83 at the Madison Hotel will offer a four-course prix-fixe meal with options that include crab and sherry soup and a fried-banana spring roll for $80 per person. For those looking to make a night of it, the Madison also is offering a New Year's Eve "Indulgence" package, which includes the dinner along with breakfast in bed, a bottle of champagne, and other luxuries. Visit madisonhotelmemphis.com to learn more or to book a reservation.
Cordova's Bert Ferguson Community Center will host a catered dinner buffet and dance with door prizes for $20 per person. To purchase tickets, call 624-3535.
Most Affordable Music
One thing we've got on just about every other metropolitan area is consistently cheap covers for great live music, and New Year's Eve is no exception.
At Midtown's Nocturnal, $5 will get you five bands: Bearfeat, Sudden Organs, Kat Malone, Frankie LaFemme, and Sadie J. Byrd. 9 p.m., 21 and over. Call 726-1548 to learn more.
New Year's Eve at Hadley's Pub features Brian Johnson for free! Show starts at 9 p.m. Call 266-5006.
Rock Sugar takes the stage at Beale Street's Handy Pavilion around 10 p.m. Free admission, 21 and over. Visit bealestreetmerchants.com for more details.
Local favorites Harlan T. Bobo and Jack Oblivian & the Tennessee Tearjerkers will grace the Hi-Tone with their presence for a mere $8. All ages, doors open at 9 p.m. Visit hitonememphis.com to learn more.
DJ Willow will take the Poplar Lounge into the new year — for free! Call 324-6550 for more information.
Classic Memphis restaurant Huey's will host free shows in three locations: Funk de Ville play in Cordova from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., Earl "The Pearl" Blues Band play Midtown from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Beat Generation play on Poplar from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Visit hueyburger.com for details.
Memphis venues also offer variations on the classic New Year's Eve: high-class drinks and dancing into the wee hours of the morning.
The Peabody will throw two all-night parties on New Year's Eve — and you can attend both for $55 in advance, $75 at the door (price includes a glass of champagne). The first, "The Wild Side," will go down in the Grand Ballroom, featuring New Year's favorites Lord T & Eloise along with Garry Goin & G3, Alexis Grace, and DJ Mark Anderson's Party Train. 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., 21 and over, $35 in advance, $45 at the door (price includes a glass of champagne). The second party, "The Scene," will spread out over the Continental Ballroom, Grand Lobby, and Corner Bar. Andy Childs, DJ Cody, and the John Felix Trio will play among themed cocktail bars, party favors, and a balloon drop. 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., 21 and over, $25 in advance, $35 at the door.
B.B. King's All Stars and the Will Tucker Band will be at B.B. King's Blues Club, where $75 gets you party favors and a champagne toast along with a seat in the house. $25 tickets are available for standing-room-only. 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Visit bbkingclubs.com for more information.
Most Welcoming Partygoers
If there's anything that can kill a celebratory buzz, it's discrimination. These venues make sure that no one gets left out of the party.
New gay/straight friendly venue Club Spectrum (616 Marshall) will host its grand opening on New Year's Eve. The night will feature live music, a drag show, a balloon drop, and a dance-off. Festivities run from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. $5, 18 and over.
And for the kids, there's the Memphis Zoo's Zoo Snooze, a sleepover with lots of animal-centric fun. Kids ages 6 to 12 can be dropped off for the night — the event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 10 a.m. on New Year's Day — and enjoy crafts, games, and a moonlight safari. $75 for members, $85 for nonmembers. (Price includes a pizza dinner, evening snack, breakfast, a T-shirt, and zoo admission on New Year's Day.) Visit memphiszoo.org for details.
Leave it to Memphis to put a kooky spin on some old standbys.
The Death Du Jour Mystery Theater has been hosting interactive mystery dinners at Spaghetti Warehouse since 2003. This New Year's Eve, it will present Toasted! from 7 to 10 p.m. for $38 per person. For more information or to make a reservation, call 210-0545.
New York may drop a ball on New Year's Eve, but we drop a Gibson guitar. Gather 'round the Hard Rock Café on Beale Street before midnight to see the yearly event, complete with fireworks.
Combining energetic dance music with an intense light show, Zoogma headline the second annual Zoo Year's Eve at Newby's. The show starts at 9 p.m. $15, 21 and over. Visit newbysmemphis.com for more information.
Dan McGuinness Irish Pub on Spottswood is starting a tradition of its own this year: a night of partying to benefit longtime Rock 103 radio host John "Bad Dog" McCormack, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year. Tickets are $10, and door prizes will be drawn throughout the night at the first annual Bad Dog Ball. Visit danmcguinnesspub.com to learn more.
Southland Park Gaming & Racing will host its third annual Big Top Bash, featuring DJ Tommy Austein, free carnival games and food, champagne stations, musicians, jugglers, and a Ferris wheel. Whew! The party starts at 8:30 p.m. (21 and over). Visit southlandpark.com for details.
Most Comprehensive Celebrations
These New Year's parties come with everything from hotel accommodations to post-party brunch, giving you a great reason to stick to one location for the long haul.
The Memphis Bop Club will host its annual New Year's party at the Marriott Memphis (on Thousand Oaks Blvd.). The $45 ticket includes party favors, champagne at midnight, and breakfast at 1 a.m., and the Marriott offers a special room rate of $79. Call 494-0016 for more details or to make a reservation.
Harrah's Casino in Tunica will host Butch Mudbone & the Wolfpack Band along with the New Orleans Jazz Ramblers Band. Party favors, a balloon drop, and an ice bar are also in the mix. The casino's '37 Fine Dining will offer a prix-fixe dinner for $90 per person. And in the Event Center, you'll find the "Fire & Ice Party" with host DJ Benny C for $20 in advance, $30 at the door. (For $400, five people get VIP tickets and two bottles of liquor.) Visit harrahstunica.com to learn more.
Tunica's Horseshoe Casino will have party favors and hourly line dances on the casino floor, with Terry Mike Jeffrey, Rob & the Rage, and Soul Shockers playing onstage from 12:30 p.m. to 4:40 a.m. Jack Binion's Steakhouse will serve a prix-fixe dinner for $90 per person from 5 p.m. to midnight. The Village Square Buffet will be open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. ($30 per person) and serve brunch on New Year's Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ($23 per person), with music by the Brian Breeze Cayolle Trio. Visit horseshoetunica.com for more information.
The Tunica Roadhouse's River Stage Bar will feature One Shot Rising, Living Daylights, and Mudflap Kings, starting at noon and ending at 3:30 a.m. On the casino floor, there will be party favors and a balloon drop. The Range Steakhouse will serve a prix-fixe dinner for $75 per person from 5 p.m. to midnight. The Big Kitchen Buffet will be open from 3 p.m. to midnight ($15 per person) and will serve brunch on New Year's Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ($11 per person), with the Garrison Trio performing. Visit tunica-roadhouse.com for details.
Bonne Terre (in Nesbit, Mississippi) will host a New Year's Eve gala with a buffet dinner, champagne toast, and entertainment by Hudson & Saleeby. The gala will run from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., and tickets are $65. Overnight stays are available. Call (662) 781-5100 for more information.
Laziest Wind down
There's nothing like eating barbecue, listening to soul, and watching some football to ease you into post-party bliss. This year's AutoZone Liberty Bowl features the O'Jays and Pig-n-Whistle barbecue. So, relax your way into the new year: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., $30. Visit libertybowl.org for details.