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New Year's Eve festivities promise to cater to variety of tastes and styles

So it's New Year's Eve.

Right now, there are two types of people reading this story: the ones who already have plans, tickets and/or directions programmed into their GPS for New Year's Eve festivities -- and the rest of us.

For procrastinators, out-of-towners and the Type B uncommitted types still searching for a fun way to ring in 2011, be assured that there is still plenty of time and plenty of room for would-be revelers to join the celebrations.

For those looking to celebrate big, read on for the shortlist of the top New Year's celebrations in the region. For those looking for something smaller, hipper and groovier, check out our Gusto section for stories and calendar listings.

More than three dozen music, restaurant and entertainment venues are hosting New Year's Eve parties in the area, catering to every taste and style. Outdoor events might land a sprinkle or two, but partyers should otherwise enjoy balmy (well, above freezing) Buffalo temperatures. Beyond music and dancing, there are activities to suit the harder-to-please, from arcade action for tweens at Adventure Landing in Amherst to torchlight parades for skiers and their families at Kissing Bridge and Holiday Valley in the Southern Tier.

But for the rest of us traditionalists imagining a glittering ball drop or similar excitement, consider these top draws:

>Buffalo ball drop

This headliner, which culminates in the ball drop and fireworks show at the historic Electric Tower downtown, draws tens of thousands of partygoers every year. Tonight's festivities are expected to exceed standard attendance levels, with the World Junior Hockey Championship in town.

Where: Electric Tower, 535 Washington St., Buffalo. See parking ramp and Metro Rail information under First Night Buffalo.

When: 10:30 p.m. until the fireworks after midnight.

Cost: Free.

What: Live music by local band More Than Me, which opened for Paul McCartney this summer in London, will headline the stage performances scheduled for the 23rd annual event.

The event also will feature Dennis George, "The Quizmaster," who is scheduled to take the stage at 10:30 p.m. in Roosevelt Plaza outside the Electric Tower.

There will be temporary street closings today to make room for the event, including sections of Washington Street and East and West Huron streets.

>First Night Buffalo

Though there is no ball drop, this annual event is perfect for families with younger children in need of some indoor fun and who probably won't be up until midnight, anyway. Alternatively, you could spend family time at First Night, then migrate over to the ball drop.

Where: Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St., near Court Street and Lafayette Square Metro Rail Station. Free parking at Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps: Main Place Mall, Fernbach Ramp and Turner Ramp. Metro Rail service extended until 2 a.m.

When: 5 to 10 p.m.

Cost: Tickets, $8 per person, are available at Wegmans supermarkets, or $10 at the door.

What: This alcohol-free event at the Convention Center is considered one of the largest in the country, with numerous activities designed to appeal to a broad range of ages.

Family-friendly entertainment features rides, music, laser tag, a scavenger hunt, Boris the comedy hypnotist, ice skating, Storybook Land, reptiles, birds of prey and other featured shows. For more event details, visit: firstnightbuffalo.org.

>New Year's Eve guitar drop

Hand it to Niagara Falls for coming up with a unique twist to the standard ball drop. At the Hard Rock Cafe, it's a 10-foot Gibson electric guitar that drops on the countdown to midnight, capping off afternoon and evening events. The band Smash Mouth will headline this outdoor party.

Where: Hard Rock Cafe (American side), 333 Prospect St. and Old Falls Street, Niagara Falls.

When: Family activities from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Old Falls Street; street festival from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Cost: Free.

What: Family activities in the afternoon give way to a full street festival in the evening, with a special welcome to teams from the World Juniors, including Norway.

This year, the impressive guitar is dropping 120 feet -- 30 feet more than last year. Fireworks and confetti cannons top off the event at midnight.

>Concert by the falls

OK, this one's in Canada, but we would be remiss not to give it a mention. Five bands, two fireworks displays, all free of charge at Queen Victoria Park.

Where: Queen Victoria Park, Niagara Falls, Ont.

When: Starts at 6:30 p.m.

Cost: Free.

What: Five groups, including Great Big Sea, Barenaked Ladies and Kardinal Offishall; fireworks at 9 p.m. and midnight. This popular event draws about 30,000 people a year.

>Revelry at Gateway Park

This celebration in and around Gateway Park in North Tonawanda has it all -- alcohol-free fun zones for kids, a pub crawl for adults, ball drop and fireworks.

Where: Gateway Park in North Tonawanda, ball drop at 15 Webster St., corner of Sweeney Street.

When: Children's activities from 6 to 9 p.m.; all other entertainment from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Cost: Ball drop and fireworks are free. Kids Fun Zones are $6 per child; pub crawl is $15.

What: A series of activities that culminate in a ball drop and fireworks at midnight.

Kids Fun Zones and Merchant Scavenger Hunt in North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda run in the early evening. Live music from the Eric Spahr Band in a heated tent on Sweeney. Adults can fill their mugs at a pub crawl through nine historic buildings, with live music and prizes at most locations. For more information, visit www.gatewayballdrop.com.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com