For 15 years Evanstonians made merry by flocking to performances in downtown venues that will be dark again for the second time this New Year’s Eve.

But although the public celebration called First Night has disappeared, the RoundTable found plenty of ways for local residents to spend the holiday. We called aRound Town and discovered a kaleidoscope of entertainment – from meals to music to movies and more – that should light up the night and help people usher in 2010 in style. Most events require reservations and a bit of advance planning.

♦ Families can work up an appetite with an afternoon outdoors – ice skating at Ackerman Park, the Dawes Park lagoon, Larimer Park, Baker Park and the former Kendall College property or sledding at the small and intermediate hills at James Park.  

♦ Welcome in the New Year with shonas and rath (happiness and prosperity) at the Celtic Knot Public House. Cozy up to Moira’s Afternoon Tea from 2 to 4 p.m. Then stay for Hogmanay!, a Scottish New Year’s Eve party that includes either a three-course dinner package or regular menu, accompanied by music and surprises. Call 847-864-1679.

♦ Koi is ringing in the New Year early, with children and families in mind. They will be counting down to 2010 at 7:59 p.m. – with hats, favors and a champagne toast for grown-ups.
Call 847-866-6969.

♦ Parents and children 6 and older can join the dashing Pirate King, the
bumbling Sergeant of Police and the Modern Major General for a swashbuckling good time with Light Opera Works at “The Pirates of Penzance,” at 8 p.m. at Northwestern’s Cahn Auditorium. Call 847-469-6388.

♦ For an alternative look at the holidays, the socially provocative, artistically adventurous Next Theatre presents the dark musical satire “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” at 7:30 p.m. Call 847-475-1875.

♦ For live entertainment at one of Evanston’s liveliest musical venues,
head to S.P.A.C.E. for “The Jill & Julia Show,” featuring the singer-songwriters
at 6 p.m. and, at 10 p.m., “BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet,” a Cajun-zydeco-
Tex-Mex blend to be served with a glass of champagne. See S.P.A.C.E. website,

♦ Merle’s #1 Barbecue is a great place to take the family for New Year’s, as kids eat for free from the Merle’s children’s menu. Call 847-475-7766.

♦ Get a glimpse of the future with “Avatar,” projected at the CineArts on the theater chain’s only Xtreme digital screen between here and Alaska.

Some of Evanston’s restaurants are staging gala dinners for discerning patrons:

♦ Jacky’s on Prairie, with seatings 5-8 p.m. and then 8:30 p.m.-midnight, will tempt diners with a multi-course menu that includes vegetarian options as well as delicacies such as foie gras terrine and Maine lobster. $65 per person, $95 with wine. Call 847-733-0899.

♦ Quince at The Homestead will features a five-course dinner with regular or vegetarian items available – and a complimentary glass of sparkling wine. Sturgeon with sweet potatoes and ribeye with mushrooms are among their menu items. $75 per person. Call 847-570-8400.

♦ Va Pensiero has two seatings for their annual gala: five courses of traditional Italian cuisine and champagne with dessert at 6 p.m. ($55 per person) and a decadent seven-course degustation menu at 9 p.m. ($85 per person), with dancing and free-flowing champagne from 11:30 p.m. on. Call 847-475-7779.

♦ Chef’s Station will have three New Year’s Eve seatings: 5 p.m. (5 courses, $50 per person), 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (7 courses, $75 per person). Homemade mamey sorbet will cleanse palates between the pan-seared Australian barramundi with a ragout of bluepoint oyster, baby carrot, artichoke and black trumpet mushrooms and the beef tenderloin with organic faro and golden chanterelle mushroom soufflé. Call 847-578-9821.

♦ Stained Glass Bistro offers two seatings. Celebrate early in the first seating, 5-6:30 p.m. In addition to the regular menu, there will be a three-course dinner at $45 per person. The second seating begins at 7 p.m. Order from the regular menu or the five-course chef tasting menu at $85 per person. Call 847-864-8600

♦ Pete Miller’s in Evanston, Bobby Broom’s Deep Blue organ trio will lead
the festivities and classic American fare
of prime aged steaks and fresh seafood. Deep Blue is on a short break from its world- wide tour opening for Steely Dan. Mr. Broom, when not playing with Deep Blue, can also be seen touring with jazz legend Sonny Rollins. No cover charge. Call 847-328-0399.

♦ Davis Street Fishmarket will offer up Chef Eardley Firth’s best-of-the-year seafood specials including blue-corn-encrusted walleye pike, herb-encrusted halibut and the crab rrio of king, snow and Maryland crab cake. Call 847-869-3474.

♦ At Oceanique, Chef Mark Grosz has prepared a six-course menu to celebrate 2009 and welcome 2010. Wine director Philip Grosz says, “I will also be pouring the ’97 Laurent Perrier Vintage Brut that evening, because I think it’s only appropriate that we celebrate with outstanding Champagne.” Call 847-864-3435.

♦ For those who prefer the quieter comforts of a hearth fire and a movie, Video Adventure suggests the much-loved “ET” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Order from Panino’s take-out or delivery menu. Call Panino’s at 847-475-6200.

Even though Evanstonians may miss the music, entertainment and midnight fireworks of First Night, many will welcome 2010 by saying “good-bye” to 2009, in some ways a tough year for all.