Times Square might be known as the best place to bring in the New Year, but Austin does a pretty great job of it, too! With the city’s annual celebration at Auditorium Shores and countless parties and live music performances at downtown venues, you’ll have plenty of choices for activities to bring in the new year.
On that note, we happen to think that watching fireworks is one of the better ways to bring in the new year. There are a number of fireworks shows scheduled across the city for December 31, so we have identified 10 of the best primary and alternative locations to watch them as you usher in 2017…
1.) For an epic fireworks panorama, climb Mount Bonnell
As the tallest natural viewpoint in Austin, there’s no question that Mount Bonnell would be an excellent place to watch multiple fireworks shows taking place across the city. Technically, the viewpoint closes at sunset, but the parks service generally extends hours on special occasions. You’ll want to lug a blanket or lawn chair up the hill with you unless you’re cool with parking it in the dirt or on a rock. Just be sure to get there early because lots of folks will set up camp on Mt. Bonnell.
3800 Mt. Bonnell Rd. 512-974-6797. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.
2.) The 360 Bridge Overlook provides amazing views, too
Offering a perfect view of area fireworks, the 360 Bridge Overlook is another popular viewpoint to celebrate the new year in style. The overlook is located along North Capital of Texas Highway. Head south on Loop 360 from 2222. As you pass the neighborhood at West Courtyard Drive, you should see a roadside parking lot (just before a bridge) nestled against a cliff side on the right. That’s the one! Arrive early to secure an optimal spot and don’t forget a blanket or chair.
5300 N Capitol of TX Hwy. 512-567-0122. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.
3) If you’re the quiet type, celebrate the New Year from St. Edwards
The sports fields at St. Edwards University offer quiet, crowdless views of the Auditorium Shores fireworks. Since St. Edwards is a lesser-known viewpoint, it probably isn’t crucial for you to show up early, but if you’re late, do expect the field to be populated with locals and students in the know. Bring a picnic blanket or lawn chair, or plan to commandeer the bleachers.
3001 S Congress Ave. 512-448-8400. Open 24/7. Website.
4) Barton Creek Square Mall is another lesser known spot
Barton Creek Square Mall’s northeastern parking lot area provides a lovely view of Austin’s skyline, which also makes it a perfect location for fireworks ogling! Since this relatively quiet viewpoint also doubles as a parking lot, tailgating is A-OK, although you can certainly pack a blanket or chair to watch from the grass.
2901 S Capitol of Texas Hwy. 512-327-7040 or 7041. Open 24/7. Website.
5) Zilker Park will put you right in the action
Zilker Park provides one of the best close-up viewpoints of the Auditorium Shores fireworks, but if you want to fully enjoy your experience, be sure to arrive early to stake your claim for blanket space. Additionally, be sure to check out the other city parks with downtown views: Shoal Beach, Sand Beach Park, Butler Park, Rock Island, Lamar Beach, Redbud Isle, and Deep Eddy Park. Show up early or scout locations the day before to ensure that you have a great view.
Expert Tip: Be mindful of tree cover as you select your viewpoint.
2100 Barton Springs Rd. 512-472-4914. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.
6) The Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge is a good (albeit crowded) bet
You’ll really need to arrive early if you want to get anything out of this location, but the viewing from the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge is so good that it would be remiss of us not to fill you in about it. By 10 p.m. when the Auditorium Shores fireworks start, the bridge will be crammed full of people, so be considerate of your neighbors and leave your blankets and chairs at home.
7) Join half of Austin at Auditorium Shores
For those who don’t mind crowds, Auditorium Shores is probably the best place to watch fireworks, hands down. Hundreds of thousands of folks show up each year to watch fireworks, celebrate the new year, and get plugged in with the Austin community. As with all of the other viewpoints, bring a blanket or fold-up chair unless you’d rather sit in the grass. And arrive early, since basically half of all of Austin’s inhabitants will be watching from Auditorium Shores with you.
Expert tip: Make sure trees don’t block your view!
920 W Riverside Dr. 512-974-9408. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.
8) You can’t go wrong with the South 1st Street Bridge
As long as you can tolerate crowds — that is, concert-esque crowds where you’re rubbing elbows and practically spooning with strangers — the South 1st Street Bridge will give you an excellent view of the Auditorium Shores fireworks, and you’ll probably be able to see distant artillery shells from other local shows from the bridge as well. Plan to stand the whole time!
9) And don’t forget about the Congress Ave Bridge
Besides being home to almost two million bats, the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge serves as a wonderful fireworks viewpoint. Now, inevitably, the bridge will be crammed full of people celebrating the new year, but as long as you plan ahead and show up early to find parking and pick the place you’re going to stand, you’ll do just fine!
10) If none of those spots seem right, try rooftops and residential towers
2012 fireworks from 360 Condominiums. Video: YouTube user Perry Henderson MBA
If you’re already planning on ringing in the new year downtown, you should keep an eye out for bars, parking garages, and condominiums that offer rooftop access to paying customers or residents. The Chase Bank parking garage at 5th and Guadalupe has been known to offer free or inexpensive fireworks viewing and if you know anyone who lives in The Austonian or 360 Condominiums, we definitely recommend setting up camp at their place.
Featured photo: Flickr user Perry Hall, CC licensed