All About Eve: New Year's Eve is Friday, and there are big events on both sides of the bay. First Night in St. Petersburg has called in hometown American Idol Michael Lynche to sing us into the new year at the family-friendly and alcohol-free event. It's held at 25 venues (mostly along downtown's waterfront Straub Park) and features two fireworks shows (one at 9 and another at midnight). Badges are $10 adults, $5 children 6-12, free for children 5 and under in advance; $12 adults, $6 children day of. Check firstnightstpete.com for where to buy tickets and a schedule. In Tampa, free fireworks are once again the big draw at Channelside Bay Plaza. Live music and other special entertainment begin at 2 p.m., and the big bang show choreographed to music is at midnight.
Bowl fever: And because it's New Year's week, that means the Outback Bowl festivities are going into full swing. Watch for sightings of Joe Paterno or Urban Meyer (in his last game as the Gators coach), or just enjoy the fun of seeing the Beach Bash competition at Pier 60 in Clearwater starting at 11 a.m. Thursday or the parade, complete with cheerleaders, mascots and marching bands, at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The game itself has only a few package tickets available and will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
KIDS AND FAMILY
Free puppy hugs: If you've got kids at home bouncing off the walls, this could be the perfect road trip. The newly opened Southeastern Guide Dog Discovery Center in downtown Sarasota is inviting the public to come in from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday to pet their new puppies to help with their socialization. The little bundles of energy are 6 to 9 weeks old. Call (941) 953-2892; or go to guidedogs.org (click on the Puppycam!). The center is at 1618 Main St.
Rockin' in 2011: Several acts will descend to help us get down that night, including K.C. and the Sunshine Band at the Club Treasure Island, Sister Hazel at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the Guess Who at Busch Gardens and the Dead Kennedys at the State Theatre.
Speaking of idols: Season 8 third-place finisher Danny Gokey has gone a little bit country, and he'll be performing after the Lightning-Rangers game Saturday as part of the Volkswagen Concert Series. The stage is outdoors on the West Plaza of the St. Pete Times Forum, but you'll still need a game ticket (starting at $31.45) to get in.
more to explore
This is just the tip of the ice carving for New Year's Eve events. Find more, plus restaurant suggestions for that night, under the Quick links label at tampabay.com/things-to-do.