If you're someone who typically enjoys a week on the island during peak season, maybe Chincoteague wouldn't be your first idea of the perfect getaway for New Year's Eve. Admittedly, many of the shops are closed, some restaurants curtail their hours, and the breeze across Assateague beach might convince you to add another layer instead soaking up the rays for an extra hour - but the change in season allows for some of Chincoteague's long-lasting traditions to emerge from the woodwork.
The Island actually has an incredible spread of activities from Thanksgiving all the way until the New Year - the annual Deborah Waterfowl show/auction, the tree lighting in Robert Reed Park, a children's tea party with Mrs. Claus, the list goes on. However, there is something incredibly unique about being on the island in the winter. Local watermen, costumed in waders, are harvesting those succulent oysters in the bay; clear skies open for some of the best bird watching, as peregrines, bald eagles, and dozens of duck species migrate through; duck hunters wait patiently in the blinds that line the causeway; our connection with the landscape comes easier as we walk towards Little Tom's Cove or through the Woodland Trail - fewer people, and mosquitoes, are in sight.
There's plenty to absorb during the day, in fact you'll gain a whole new perspective of Assateague Island if you've only been here in the summertime. During December, the Wildlife Loop provides ideal habitat for a variety of bird species, including snow geese. They flock here in the thousands and on first glace could be mistaken for banks of snow. If you get chilly, warm up with an herbal tea or espresso from Island Jewelry & Java - they're open year round and have a wide selection of baked goods and warm treats. We'd suggest calling ahead to make reservations at your favorite restaurant for New Year's Eve - Bill's Seafood, The Jackspot, and AJ's on the Creek are always good options.
At 8PM the Island Theatre and Chincoteague Island Arts Organization hosts their annual New Year's Eve Concert, this year featuring Bill Tom's & Hard Rain. Beginning at 10PM the Pony Island Horseshoe Drop & Costume Promenade becomes the place-to-be. Folks dress according to the theme (this year is saltwater cowboys and seaside angels) and there are awards for best costume before the horseshoe crab drops at midnight. On New Years Day there is a Polar Pony Plunge, where some thick-skinned 'tigers will brave the cold the the bay. Many of the locals have a tradition of walking the Wildlife Loop today, also.
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