I received this e-mail the other week from an LGS reader:

Can you give us your thoughts on a good New Year’s Eve party this year? We are all single, professional women, different ethnicities, and in our 30s. All suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

That’s a question I’m plagued by every year—along with just about everyone I know. “I’ve never had an amazing New Year’s Eve here,” one friend said to me recently. “How sad is that?”

It’s probably because we put so much emphasis on the occasion, making it the year’s most anticipated night out—and, subsequently, the most overrated. Some might say it’s the ultimate amateur night. Which is why a couple of years ago my friends and I tried a different approach. Instead of paying too much to attend a party where getting a drink is as difficult as getting into the packed restrooms, we went to the Eve of the Eve party at Union Station, which takes place the night before NYE; this year it’s a Sunday. Tickets ($125) are already on sale for the party, which usually brings out a diverse group of 2,000-plus single, professional people—much like my dear reader and her girlfriends—who appreciate the benefits of an open bar, food, and live music on a night when cabs are plentiful.

Or, if you’re like my 26-year-old friend Carrie, you’ll save your energy for the day after. “In 2005 we partied at a friend’s house, and a ton of us slept there,” she recounts. “The next day, the place was a mess, so we all decided to go to brunch to cure our hangovers instead of cleaning. Next thing you know, we are at Kelly’s Pub for 12 hours, drinking and dancing, then ended up at the Hangge Uppe until 4 a.m. Needless to say, New Year’s Day beat New Year’s Eve!”

If you’re still hell-bent on going out on December 31st, it’s not too early to start planning. Clubs, promoters, and event planners are already sending out party invites, and the earlier you buy your tickets, the lower the price usually is. Unless you’re traveling somewhere warm—which is always a better option; South Beach 2004 was probably the best NYE I’ve had—figure out who’s in your group, what kind of a night you want to have (low-key or upscale), and commit to buying your tickets now. But keep in mind: Most parties aren’t refundable should you change your mind (or meet The Man of Your Dreams—i.e., potential NYE date) beforehand. Below are a few preliminary suggestions. Feel free to post other events you’ve heard about in the comments section and keep checking back for updates.

Avenue M: NYE options include regular dining hours and a cash bar downstairs; upstairs, an exclusive lounge event includes hors d’oeuvres, an all-you-can-drink package from 8 p.m. until close, and a Champagne toast at midnight for $75.

Plan B: Goodies include a premium open bar from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., light passed apps, a Champagne toast at midnight, and party favors. Bonus: coat check! Tickets are $120 and go on sale next week. For reservations, e-mail ticket@planb-chicago.com or call Kerby at 773-252-2680.

Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier: Alife Group hosts this NYE bash featuring a premium open bar from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., a buffet by Stefani’s, a Champagne toast at midnight, a private terrace for watching the fireworks, an NYE countdown on the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, party favors, and wristbands for the afterparty (location TBD). Coat check is available. DJ Jumpin’ James spins. The best part: 25 additional restrooms this year. As of now, tickets are $110 but the price will go up. Word is more than 300 tickets have already been sold; attendance is usually about 1,500. Get tickets here.

Moe’s Cantina: Chicago Sport and Social Club brings the flair of Hollywood to Wrigleyville. A professional photographer will shoot you and your friends on the red carpet; other goodies include a live DJ, a select premium open bar from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., an appetizer buffet, and a Champagne toast and balloon drop at midnight. Early tickets are $125. Private booth reservations with bottle service are available; call 312-335-9596 ext. 508 for pricing and more information.

Rockit Bar and Grill: Festivities include an open bar—excluding shots but including select premium liquors, house Champagne, and house wine—from 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Note: All drinks will be poured in plasticware; bottles (wine and Champagne) will be available for an additional fee. Eats include passed apps and a buffet from 8 to 10 p.m.; a limited menu (burgers, sandwiches) will be available at an additional cost. Other amenities include DJ-spun beats, and a Champagne toast and balloon drop at midnight. Tickets are $125 a person via tickets.com. Table packages are also available; contact cary@rockitbarandgrill.com.

Swirl Wine Bar: A couple of options here. The “wine dinner package” includes four courses paired with sparkling, white, red, and dessert wines. First seating is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; second seating is 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. Tickets for either are $99 a person. The “hors d’oeuvres and cocktail package” includes live jazz, a DJ, passed apps, passed wines (two sparkling, two red, and two white), a premium open bar, party favors, and a Champagne toast and dessert station at midnight. Tickets are $95 a person. The “VIP package” combines the two for $150 a person, though the open bar will not be available during dinner.

The Underground: Purchase the whole-shebang package (205 “general admission” tickets are available at $125; 95 VIP tickets, including table seating and a bottle of Champagne, are available at $250), and you’ll get a premium open bar from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., passed apps from 8 to 10 p.m., and a dessert buffet from 10 to 11 p.m. If you plan on showing up late, cover charge from midnight to 1 a.m. is $40 with one hour of open bar; cover charge from 1 a.m. to close is $30 with no open bar. Get tickets at tickets.com or make VIP reservations by contacting bo@rockitranch.com.