Best Places to Celebrate the New Year
Auckland, New Zealand
For those trying to ring in the New Year first, getting to the tiny island of Kiribati in Micronesia will undoubtedly be a hassle. Auckland clocks in a close second, with thousands of locals congregating around the Auckland Harbour to watch as fireworks shoot from the city’s massive Sky Tower.
Taking a cue from New York’s Times Square, Bangkok’s Central World Mall has a 69-foot ball drop at midnight—but with an infinitely better climate and with Thai pop stars subbing for Dick Clark. It’s customary to make offerings of food, candles and flowers to monks at the nine sacred Buddhist temples, like Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho.
Wine lovers should get a kick out of Spain’s strange Nochevieja tradition of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight—each grape ensuring good luck for the months to come. The ritual started in 1909, when Alicante wine makers needed to come up with a way to sell grapes they couldn’t use in production. Catalonians keep the tradition alive, then pop the corks on bottles of cava and dance at Plaza Cataluña.
Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year’s Eve fêtes in Europe, with more than a million visitors forming the Party Mile near the Brandenburg Gate. Freezing temperatures require a substantial amount of Champagne and dancing to stay warm while watching the city’s massive fireworks and laser shows.
As one of the world’s most opulent travel destinations, it’s hardly surprising that Dubai goes all out on New Year’s Eve, with a sea of two billion spectators gathering in front of the city’s towering Burj Khalifa skyscraper to watch as stunning pyrotechnics cascade from each floor of the 160-story building. This display follows a four-hour show of lasers, fire, water and music at the Dubai Fountain.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (or "last day of the year") is such a big New Year’s event that it spans four days. A massive street party in Edinburgh’s city center is only part of the madness. Events include concerts, a Viking-led torchlight procession and the Scottish version of the Polar Plunge—called the Loony Dook—in the freezing Forth Estuary waters.
In India’s premier party city, the beaches of Anjuna, Calangute and Candolim are transformed with raves as revelers sip on the regional liquor feni (made with coconut or cashew-apple juice) and dance to electronic music until dawn.
Though New York celebrates New Year's Eve 13 hours behind Hong Kong, the region drops a reproduction ball first at its very own Times Square Apple Countdown. The biggest party, however, takes place at Victoria Harbour: The city's magnificent fireworks display shoots off from almost every skyscraper.
One of the world’s more unusual New Year’s destinations, Kitzbühel celebrates on New Year’s Day when instructors from the Rote Teufel ski school light their poles and entertain thousands with a daredevil ski show on the Hahnenkamm downhill race course.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Vegas puts on an even bigger spectacle than usual on New Year's Eve, when the whole four-mile Strip shuts down to accommodate a massive outdoor bash complete with a blinding display of neon lights and fireworks from every casino.
Londoners ring in the New Year using the world's most reliable clock—the monumental Big Ben. If you can't hear the chimes at midnight, there's always the helpful reminder coming from roaring crowds of thousands of people who have taken over the streets to celebrate, plus the blasts of an eight-minute fireworks display at the London Eye.
Manhattan, New York
For more than a century, Times Square has been considered the quintessential place to ring in the New Year. Millions of people wear obnoxious hats, blow party horns and guzzle Champagne until the iconic Ball Drop at midnight—and continue until the early hours of the morning.
Moscow's snowy Red Square transforms into a wild party as thousands brave the cold—with the help of vodka. Famous landmarks like the Kremlin and Saint Basil's Cathedral are illuminated by a blaze of fireworks.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Booze flows freely in New Orleans's famous French Quarter, which is already well known as a destination for Mardi Gras and Halloween debauchery. Partygoers hit the strip of bars on Bourbon Street, which fills with the sounds of music, festive horns and fireworks.
Niagara Falls, Canada
A little off the beaten path from the usual metropolitan bashes, Niagara Falls is illuminated by the Winter Festival of Lights and a spectacular fireworks show.
The quintessential destination to take kids, it’s not a shocker that New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest days of the year at Disney World. Theme parks are often maxed to capacity, staying open late with family-friendly parties and thematic fireworks shows like Epcot’s globetrotting water, fire and video show "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" and the Magic Kingdom’s "Wishes" show, in which Tinker Bell zips through the sky, Jiminy Cricket narrates and fireworks light up the sky to a musical score. The after-hours party is at Hollywood Studios, where Walt Disney World Resort guests can party until 3 a.m.
A glittering fireworks show illuminates the world-famous Eiffel Tower, best seen from the high viewpoint of Sacré-Coeur cathedral or with the masses on the Champs-Élysées.
Prague, Czech Republic
Undoubtedly Prague's most scenic views for New Year's Eve fireworks are on the Vltava River facing the Prague Castle and Charles Bridge. But the real party lies within the labyrinth of Old Town and Wenceslas Square, where mulled wine and dancing are plentiful.
The land of fire and ice, Iceland celebrates New Year's Eve with blazing bonfires. This is also the only time of year that locals are permitted to purchase fireworks, so revelers take advantage by lighting firecrackers throughout the night.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
More than two million people flock to the beaches of Copacabana for Rio’s renowned Réveillon—one of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world. With everyone dressed in white, it’s traditional to pay homage to the Afro-Brazilian goddess of the water Iemanjá with offerings of flowers—followed by partying until the early hours of the morning.
Seoul, South Korea
The Bosingak bell pavilion in Jongno is the place to be on New Year's Eve in Seoul. The entire city comes to ring in the New Year (33 times, to be exact). Hundreds of blazing Roman candles are only overshadowed by the spectacular fireworks and laser light show in front of the Samsung Building.
Sydney is known for having one of the world's most fantastic New Year's Eve fireworks shows. In fact, there are two of them—an early show aimed at families, which starts at 9 p.m., and the grand finale at midnight, with glittering pyrotechnics rising from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Plan the best space to camp out for the show using this interactive vantage-point map.
New Year's in Tokyo is a week-long celebration, with the best place to watch the countdown at the Zojo-ji Buddhist temple, followed by an all-night street bash in front of the Tokyo Tower. Make amends by participating in Hatsumode at the Meiji shrine on New Year's Day, where thousands line up to purchase lucky charms and pray for a prosperous New Year.
The most Venetian way to celebrate La Festa di San Silvestro is simply to eat. To prep for a late night of partying, locals eat a traditional feast of lentils, cotechino (spicy sausage) and zampone (stuffed pig's trotter) before heading to the Piazza San Marco for fireworks and dancing in the streets.