Whether you like to kick off the New Year with a big street party, snuggle up for a little romance on the beach or make a splash in the polar bear plunge, Pensacola is the perfect place to ring in 2016 If you like celebrating the New Year with 50,000 of your closest friends, (and who isn’t a friend in a champagne-induced haze?) then Pensacola has the 2016 street party for you. The Pensacola Pelican drop brings thousands of locals and visitors to the streets, restaurants and bars of historic downtown for a night of sparkly paper hats, loud music and fireworks. High above the intersection at Palafox and Garden streets, a glimmering, handcrafted pelican covered with more than 2,000 hand-cut, shining feathers and 2,500 twinkling lights carries in the New Year on its 20-foot wingspan. Throughout the evening the Pensacola Pelican hangs suspended on its cables, waiting for the countdown to cue its descent to a base of four-foot numerals (this year’s being 2016) that burst into light at the stroke of midnight amid a shower of glittering fireworks and cheers and a blizzard of confetti, welcoming everyone in Pensacola to the New Year. Fun Fact: Since the Pelican Drop event launched in 2009, the Pelican’s multi-sized lights have only been lit for a total of about 30 hours, but the wear and tear of moving and weather mean each bulb needs to be checked every year for maximum sparkle and glow. By 7 p.m. Pensacola’s downtown main drag, Palafox Street, is packed shoulder to shoulder with revelers. The usually traffic-filled street becomes a giant dance floor as the live music begins, creating a cacophony of joyous noise bouncing between storefronts. Kids are welcome, too! The popular kids' area features games, music and fun up until the special kids' countdown and Pelican lighting at 8 p.m. The musical headliner for New Year's Eve will be The Chee Weez, a high-energy cover band out of New Orleans. There will also be five "up-and-coming" country acts yet to be announced playing throughout the night as well as Pace, Fla. singer and “America’s Got Talent” standout Chloe Channell singing the national anthem. If you’re a little bit cultured, and a little bit rock and roll, you can start your New Year’s evening off with the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra at the Saenger Theater. Pensacola’s historic downtown venue will be host to “Piano Men: The Music of Elton and Billy,” a tribute to the music of Billy Joel and Elton John. Fronted by a pop quartet and backed by the full Pensacola Symphony, with Peter Rubardt, Conductor, this concert will feature best-loved hits such as Rocket Man and New York State of Mind. The concert event begins at 7 p.m., but parking may be tight downtown so plan to arrive early. Those who prefer a quieter night can watch the midnight fireworks reflected in the waves at the New Year on Pensacola Beach. The beach’s fireworks display is visible for miles up and down the island and from local hotels, restaurants and bars. Count down with a crowd or find your own a spot on the sand and enjoy a private New Years celebration. The dazzling fireworks display begins at midnight. Fireworks on Pensacola Beach New Year’s Day New Year’s Day in the south means celebrating with collard greens and Hoppin’ John, a dish that includes black-eyed peas and rice. Southern tradition dictates that whoever finds the dime that is tossed in each pot will have will have good luck for the coming year. And while real polar bears would be sweating in a Pensacola January, taking a “polar bear” dive into winter waters is a good way to shake off the night’s celebrations. There are Polar Bear events on Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key, but the only ice you’ll find is in whatever hair-of-the-dog cocktail you choose to nurse along on New Year’s Day. With water temps typically hovering at about 65 degrees, it’s a pleasant enough swim for anyone hailing from north of the Mason Dixon, but of course Pensacola natives put on scarfs when temps hit the low 70s. Scientific accuracy aside, it’s a fun tradition paired with live music, black-eyed peas and a crowd of shivering Floridians. In Perdido Key, folks are running headlong into the Gulf of Mexico at high noon for the Polar Bear Dip at the Flora-Bama. The Flora-Bama provides the traditional feast with black-eyed peas, cornbread, ham and more for those who take the plunge. The Polar Bear Plunge at the Paradise Bar & Grill on Pensacola Beach is an annual event that sees those that dare braving the waves of the Santa Rosa Sound, with registration beginning at noon and the run for the water at 2 p.m. Party in the streets, party on the beach, take a dip, find a dime – whatever way you like to celebrate – there’s no bad way to start off the New Year in Pensacola.