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10 Party-Friendly Cities to Spend New Year’s Eve on a Budget

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner and now’s the time to decide where you’re going to spend it.

We decided to round up the ten best places to enjoy the New Year’s Eve festivities that won’t leave you feeling broke once January 1st rolls around.

The cities we selected represent the ones that offer the best value and the widest variety of things to do and see on the big night. Some of the cities on our list may seem like surprising choices (Jacksonville, anyone?) but they outshine places like New York and L.A. when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck.

10. Memphis

Memphis arches over the Mississippi. Photo: http://bit.ly/1SOoWo4

• Alcohol tax rate: $4.40
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 5.6
• Base taxi fare: $2.25
• Average one-night hotel stay: $110

If you’re looking for a combination of great music, even better food and friendly people then look no further than Beale Street. There are dozens of bars and restaurants nearby but if you want to explore the city a little more, head to Earnestine & Hazel’s for a Soul Burger or see what’s on tap at Young Avenue Deli. If you’re planning to crash here for the night, a room won’t cost an arm and a leg. Memphis ranks second overall for the cheapest hotel stay.

9. Charlotte

Charlotte is the third fastest growing major city in the United States. Photo: http://bit.ly/1NMtJ4N

• Alcohol tax rate: $1
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 7.2
• Base taxi fare: $3
• Average one-night hotel stay: $166

Over the last few years, Charlotte has earned a reputation for being a great place to launch a career but it’s not too shabby when it comes to its nightlife scene. If it’s bars you’re interested in, you can sip cocktails in style at The Punch Room or take a dive at the Thirsty Beaver Saloon. Charlotte tied with two other cities in our rankings for the lowest alcohol taxes so you don’t have to worry about your tab breaking the bank.

8. Philadelphia

Philly is the the fifth-most-populous city in the United States. Photo: http://bit.ly/1TB7Ytg

• Alcohol tax rate: $1
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 6.7
• Base taxi fare: $2.70
• Average one-night hotel stay: $207

The City of Brotherly Love certainly knows how to celebrate the New Year. From fireworks on the Waterfront to an all-night party at the SugarHouse Casino, you won’t have to look far to find something to do. Like some of the other cities in our rankings, the alcohol tax rate is rock bottom and if you need to hail a cab, the base fare rate is pretty reasonable. If you want to grab a bite before you kick start the evening’s fun, try the wallet-friendly fare at Stogie Joe’s Tavern.

7. El Paso

The DEA has a headquarters in El Paso.. just sayin'. Photo: http://bit.ly/1YZ9dGs

• Alcohol tax rate: $2.40
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 4.2
• Base taxi fare: $2.20
• Average one-night hotel stay: $123

El Paso may not seem like an obvious choice for your New Year’s Eve plans but it offers a great combination of low cab fares and reasonably priced hotel rooms. Every year, there are dozens of events planned around the city so there’s no shortage of entertainment. If you want to avoid the huge crowds you can, while away the evening at one of the city’s low-key hangouts like The Hoppy Monk or Hope and Anchor.

6. Jacksonville

Jacksonville loves its bridges. There are seven over the St Johns River. Photo: http://bit.ly/1NGttZB

Jacksonville loves its bridges. There are seven over the St Johns River. Photo: http://bit.ly/1NGttZB

• Alcohol tax rate: $6.50
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 7.6
• Base taxi fare: $2.00
• Average one-night hotel stay: $128

Jacksonville Landing draws a big crowd each year with live music and fireworks along the waterfront. Alcohol taxes are a bit higher here compared to some of the other cities on our list but the base taxi fare is the lowest and hotel rooms aren’t too much of a budget-killer either. There are plenty of upscale places to have a cocktail but if you want to grab a cold beer on the cheap Birdies in Five Points is the place to go.

5. Seattle

Low temperatures in Seattle are consistantly above freezing all winter long. Photo: http://bit.ly/1PZV9uP

• Alcohol tax rate: $14.27
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 9.1
• Base taxi fare: $2.60
• Average one-night hotel stay: $122

While it has the highest alcohol tax rate overall, Seattle ranked second for the number of restaurants and bars per capita so you’ve got lots of choices about where to spend your New Year’s Eve. You won’t have to pay a fortune for a hotel room which may leave room in your budget to purchase tickets for Indulgence, the city’s annual New Year’s Eve bash held under the Space Needle.

4. Detroit

Despite its population decline, it's still the most populous city on the Canadian border. Photo: http://bit.ly/1Qwei5W

• Alcohol tax rate: $1
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 6.8
• Base taxi fare: $2.50
• Average one-night hotel stay: $157

Motor City made our list thanks to its dirt-cheap alcohol taxes and affordable cab fares. One of the biggest public celebrations is the ball drop in downtown Detroit and tickets for this year’s event are just $25. If you’re feeling lucky, you can play the slots at the MGM Grand while you wait for the countdown to midnight.

3. Washington, D.C.

There is only one "national" Christmas tree. Photo: http://bit.ly/1M3mQuO

• Alcohol tax rate: $1.50
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 6.9
• Base taxi fare: $3.12
• Average one-night hotel stay: $116

Washington has a low alcohol tax rate and the hotel rooms don’t come with an outrageous price tag. You can take a cruise down the Potomac, catch a fireworks display or browse the affordably priced beer selection at Bier Baron Tavern.

2. Houston

January in Houston gets up to 61 degrees on average. Photo: http://bit.ly/1ORajRL

• Alcohol tax rate: $2.40
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 18.8
• Base taxi fare: $2.75
• Average one-night hotel stay: $123

Houston comes in at number two on our list, with the highest number of bars and restaurants per capita. Alice’s Tall Texan is a favorite with beer-drinking locals, while Poison Girl has one of the best whiskey selections around. Head to CityCentre for New Year’s Eve happenings or check out one of the dozens of private events held at bars and hotels around town.

1. Denver

With the legalization of marijuana, the "Mile High" city offers some interesting options. Photo: http://bit.ly/1M3nqbV

• Alcohol tax rate: $2.28
• Number of bars and restaurants per capita: 8.1
• Base taxi fare: $2.55
• Average one-night hotel stay: $105

Denver made it to the top of our rankings with the least expensive hotel stay overall and it also rates well in the other three categories. The city’s many hotels offer a variety of black tie events for New Year’s Eve and the Roaring 20s-themed White Rose Gala is one of the highlights of the evening. If you can’t afford to splurge on tickets you can still have a great time without spending a lot at My Brother’s Bar or Matchbox.

Methodology

To come up with the best big places for budget-conscious New Year’s Eve partygoers, we started by narrowing our scope to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. by population.

We drew on data from the U.S. Tax Policy Center to get the information for alcohol tax rates in each city. The rates included here reflect the state excise tax per gallon of alcohol. City Observatory provided the data for the number of restaurants and bars per capita. Base taxi fares came from Numbeo. We used Expedia to determine the average one-night hotel stay for a three-star hotel in each city.

In each category, we assigned the cities a ranking from 1 to 25, with 1 being the highest. The final list reflects each city’s average rank across all four data categories.

CityAlcohol Tax Price Per GallonNumber of Bars and Restaurants Per CapitaBase Taxi FareAverage One-Night Hotel Stay Rate
Denver$2.288.1$2.55$105
Houston$2.418.8$2.75$123
Washington$1.56.9$3.12$116
Detroit$16.8$2.5$157
Seattle$14.279.1$2.6$122
Jacksonville$6.57.6$2$128
El Paso$2.44.2$2.2$123
Philadelphia$16.7$2.7$207
Charlotte$17.2$3$166
Memphis$4.45.6$2.25$110
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