It's a matter of hours now before Calgarians get ready to ring in the new year around the city.

Because New Year's Eve is often celebrated with alcohol, Calgary police are warning people to plan ahead.

Sgt. Ken Richards says that means not getting behind the wheel if you have been drinking.

"We want to make sure that everybody is safe, has a safe night, plans ahead," he said.

While planning ahead is easier for some, catching late-night cabs in Calgary continues to be a challenge.

Taxi wait expected

"I live downtown, I can walk home — that's a bonus," said Reid Fisher.

Fisher is well aware of the worst-case scenario.

"I lost my aunt when I was a kid, so — nope — not a thing for me," he said. "A drunk driver hit her, and my best friend was 18 [when] he died from the same situation."

Bailey Cipot will be driving home after a long shift of bartending, but she knows most of her patrons won't be able to do the same.

"It's really hard to get cabs in the city, especially this time of year," she said.

Free C-Train, bus service

Susan and Robert Morris already have a safe ride home.

"We're just hanging out, going over to a friend's house and playing board games and taking it easy,"

"We have the grandparents in town so we're going to get some free babysitting and a ride home."

It's expected to take up to a couple of hours to get a cab tonight, but Calgary Transit is offering free C-train and bus service after 6 p.m.

There are also companies, like Keys Please, which send a sober driver to take you and your car home.

Taxi tips

It's going to be a busy night for cab drivers in Calgary and a bit of a gamble for people hoping to get home from New Year's parties.

Kamal Hamel, a cab driver in Calgary, says there are things you can do to improve your chances.

"Book it an hour or two before ... that's the best tip," he said, adding there is always the possibility of flagging a taxi down.

"If somebody stops for you that's another chance."

Hamel says it usually takes more than an hour to get a cab on New Year's Eve — and that's if you're lucky enough to get through on the phone.

There are also other services like 1-888-TAXIGUY, or the new mobile app called FastCab, which connects Calgary customers to available cab drivers.

New Year's Eve events

There are plenty of festivities planned to ring in 2013 around the city, including three events put on by the City of Calgary.

Down at City Hall there will be a New Year's Eve glow-in-the-dark dance party where families can play games, watch fire dancers, snap pictures in the photo booth and participate in the kid's countdown at 9 p.m. MT.

The free event runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and families are encouraged to dress in white or bright neon colours.

Calgarians are also welcomed to gather at Olympic Plaza for a family-friendly concert featuring Johnny Reid, Serena Ryder, Victoria Duffield and Massari.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi will help ring in the new year with a countdown to 2013, followed by fireworks at midnight. The free event starts at 9:15 p.m., but there will be no public skating during the festivities.

Tons of family-friendly festivities

There will also be a family pool party held at the Village Square Leisure Centre starting at 4:30 p.m. 

The event, which runs until 6:30 p.m., features a DJ pumping music as families enjoy the wave pool, nuclear balls, inflatable toys, bouncers, arts and crafts, treats and prizes.

The Calgary Zoo is celebrating its 15th year ringing in the new year from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with Zoolights, fire pits, hot chocolate and "animal-friendly" fireworks planned for 8:30 p.m.

If you head to Calgary's only real jazz bar on New Year's Eve, don't be surprised to find a band that's not really jazz at all. Cowpuncher calls itself "paranoid country with a stinking wool mitt of rock and roll."

This band throws a pretty wild live show, which starts at 9 p.m. at 811 First St. S.W.

Closures and transit schedules

Macleod Trail from Seventh Avenue to Ninth Avenue will be shut down from 6 p.m. Monday to 3 a.m. Tuesday for the New Year's Eve festivities downtown.

The last buses will leave the downtown core at 12:20 a.m.

The last trains leave City Hall anywhere from 12:50 a.m. to 1:50 a.m.

The last Crowfoot train leaves the station at 12:51 a.m., with the last Somerset train heading out at 1:45 a.m.

The last Saddletowne leaves at 1:49 a.m. and the last 69th Street train leaves at 1 a.m.