YOUR ALARM goes off and you roll over to hit snooze. As you start to drift back to sleep, a feeling of dread creeps over you. It's 9 a.m. on New Year's Eve day, and you have no plans.
It's the biggest event night of the year - and an empty square on your calendar.
Maybe you are the world's biggest procrastinator, but chances are you're still recovering from weeks of holiday madness. In the midst of the nonstop shopping, the parties, the family gatherings, somehow New Year's Eve was pushed to the back burner.
Have no fear. Get out of bed (or sleep a bit more so you're well-rested). Because we have 10 no-advance-preparation-required ways to ring in 2010. Let the countdown to midnight begin.
10. Road trip to Times Square.
It's one of the things you want to do at least once in your life. Stop reading now. Bundle up the kids, drive to Trenton and take the New Jersey Transit train (way cheaper than Amtrak) to Manhattan. Get there early to nab a spot and don't move until after the ball drops. This is no joke. Put down that book and get in the car, because although this doesn't take much planning, it's a time-consuming venture. Parking is plentiful at the Trenton Transit Center (72 S. Clinton Ave., njtransit.com), and trains run about every half-hour. The Family Super Saver Fare, good through Monday, allows up to two kids ages 11 and under to travel free with each fare-paying adult ($21.50 round-trip; $12.50 one-way). Once you get to Penn Station in Manhattan, it's an easy 20-minute walk up 7th Avenue to Times Square.
Oh, and remember to bundle up from head to toe (especially those toes). No one needs to start the new year with frostbite. Speaking of frostbite . . .
9. How about an ice-skating party at the Blue Cross RiverRink?
The crowds gathered along the Delaware riverfront for the annual Penn's Landing fireworks display will be chilly. Thankfully, the Blue Cross RiverRink at the foot of Market Street on Columbus Boulevard has a heated pavilion for keeping warm when off the ice.
The annual New Year's Eve Party on Ice kicks off earlier than normal this year thanks to the addition of a kid-friendly fireworks display. If the traditional 11 p.m.-1 a.m. slot seems a bit late, try the new, 5-to-7 p.m. party, complete with a full fireworks display at 6 p.m. Look forward to food, nonalcoholic beverages, face painting, tarot-card reading and more. Penn's Landing is easy to reach by public transportation; details at septa.org. You might want to head out early, since the party sold out last year. Remaining tickets ($30 skaters; $20 spectators) will be sold today at the rink (215-925-RINK). There were still some available yesterday, especially for the 5 p.m. party. The good news is that the fireworks display is free and doesn't require a ticket, so you can still ring in the new year with half of Philadelphia. Stay up late (or is that early?) enough, and you can dance your way over to 2 Street and watch the Mummers line up for the New Year's Day parade.
8. Throw a Wawa-themed party.
Go to your nearest HQ (don't pretend the local Wawa wasn't your hangout headquarters when you were a kid) and load up on those Shorti Hoagies, sloppy mac and cheese, Tastykakes, soft pretzels, that almost too-sweet Wawa ice tea and, of course, an extra copy of today's Daily News. Call friends to come over. Have party.
It's that simple - and the other procrastinators in your life will be happy to have somewhere to go.
7. Throw a Moroccan-themed party.
If you're looking for something with more flair (not that Wawa isn't all about the flair), start by ordering takeout from your local Moroccan restaurant.
Momen Manfa, owner of Little Marrakesh in Dresher, suggests the traditional hummus, couscous and chicken Bastilla (chicken and almonds baked in a phyllo dough and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar).
"A lot of people who have never had Moroccan food think it's spicy, like Middle Eastern or Indian, but it's not," Manfa said. "It starts with Mediterranean food and then adds a little bit of Moroccan specialty."
Next, gather all available throw rugs, pillows and footstools around a big coffee table in your living room or den and drape colorful fabrics from the ceiling (tablecloths and sheets work perfectly).
Cover yourself and fellow partyers in scarves, every last piece of glittering jewelry and flowing skirts.
Finish off the decor by lighting lots of candles and downloading some Moroccan tunes from ilike.com for optional belly dancing. (Hey, this is New Year's Eve!)
Manfa suggested something by guitarist Said Chraibi as a good introduction to the traditional music of his country.
To top it all off, when you head out to pick up your food, stop by your local video store and grab a copy of "Casablanca." You may not have Paris for New Year's Eve 2009, but you'll always have Philly.
6. Celebrate the day after.
When you have really little ones at home, it's almost impossible to get a babysitter on New Year's Eve. And even if you have one, what happens to your big (expensive) dinner plans if one of the kids gets sick?
Kristin Shields, a Bucks County resident and mother of four, is among the smart parents who gave up on Dec. 31. Instead, she planned something special for the whole family on New Year's Eve - and met up with friends for a grown-ups-only New Year's Day brunch.
"For years, we would go to the Black Bass [Hotel in Lumberville, Pa.] and have a great time," Shields recalled. "We would sit for hours and catch up. Babysitters were plentiful, and there were no late-night drunks on the road."
For some good Philly grubbing New Year's Day, try Honey's Sit and Eat (800 N. 4th St.) or Morning Glory Diner (735 S. 10th St.). If you want to toast the new year with a mimosa, check out Beau Monde (624 S. 6th St.).
5. Take the kids out - early.
If you are lucky enough to snag a babysitter for New Year's Eve, head over to the Please Touch Museum for the noon countdown party for kids. For $15 apiece, you and your little ones can spend some quality time together before you head out for the real countdown.
And since it was so much fun the first time around, there's a countdown to 1 p.m., too. Visit pleasetouchmuseum.org for more information.
4. Have a new-media Susie Homemaker party.
Raid the aisles of your local craft store. On the shopping list: masquerade masks, feathers and anything that glitters.
Check your epicurious.com recipe box for some classic cookies and get baking. (Or see the sidebar for one of my grandmother's timeless treasures.)
As you enjoy warm cookies from the oven, bedazzle the iPhone you got for Hanukkah, or the Kindle that was under the tree. Update the pictures on your Flickr accounts. Send out holiday gift thank yous on evite.com.
Finally, make your own New Year's Eve masquerade mask to don when the clock strikes midnight. And, of course, tweet the whole thing as it happens.
3. Go out on a first date.
Just hang with us here. We'll walk you through it:
Step 1: Update your status on Facebook to "Looking for a New Year's Eve Date - please spread word."
Step 2: Send it out in a tweet.
Step 3: Post it to your MySpace page and your OKCupid profile.
Step 4: E-mail friends for likely matches with any of their adventurous (and maybe slightly crazy) single pals.
Step 5: When in doubt, turn to craigslist.com. Create your own post with a subject line like: "Looking for a New Year's resolution. Are you it?" Or for something a bit more forward: "I don't normally kiss on the first date, but it is New Year's Eve . . . "
Step 6: As the responses pour in, read them carefully - maybe vet the final few with a couple friends - and, once you've connected with your date, plan to hang out in a public place. New Year's Eve can be a magical night, but that doesn't mean you should throw caution out the window.
2. Stage a "stay-in."
Don't go out - or throw a party. Have a low-key night at home and donate what you might have spent on bubbly and caviar to your favorite charity.
Hit up On Demand for a movie, throw a frozen pizza in the oven and crack open your beverage of choice.
For something different on the pizza front, try Maitre Pierre's Tarte D'Alsace from Trader Joe's. It's flatbread with ham, caramelized onions and gruyere cheese, and it is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
1. Head to Longwood Gardens.
This one fits whether you're by yourself, with friends, toting young children and visiting grandparents - or on a first date.
What could go wrong on a New Year's Eve filled with balloon artists, face painters, beautiful gardens and awesome fireworks? Entertainment will include world-famous ice skaters (2002 Olympians and national champions Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, and 2009 Intermediate Men's Junior National Champion Emmanuel Savary), a strolling barbershop quartet and a fireworks display at 9:15 p.m.
Tickets are $16 for adults and $6 for students. Find them and so much more at longwoodgardens.org.