New Year’s Eve, among other things, is the ultimate excuse to party. However, it’s also a time to close out the old year in style, setting the standard for the New Year to come. What better way to welcome 2013 with a bang than by celebrating NYE at one of our top 10 New Year’s Eve destinations? Get started on your resolution to be fabulous and well-traveled in the New Year by ringing it in at one of the most spectacular New Year’s Eve parties on the planet.
Times Square in NYC is the quintessential New Year’s Eve destination. Only here can you watch the ceremonial Times Square Ball countdown and drop, which has been taking place for over 100 years, in-person instead of on your television. The annual event is attended by about a million people, all of whom start gathering in a designated area of Times Square on the afternoon of December 31st to be a part of this world-famous, celebrity-studded celebration. Although it’s not for everybody – temperatures on NYE in NYC usually hover around freezing, alcohol is banned, and there are no public bathrooms available to the event-goers – celebrating NYE in Times Square is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experience that might just be on your bucket list. Of course, if you want to avoid the freezing temperatures and lack of alcohol, there is plenty of other excitement to be found on NYE in The City That Never Sleeps, including exclusive parties, clubs, shows, and just about anything else.
If you want to be in one of the first locations in the world to greet the New Year, Australia is the place to be. One of the first and best New Year’s celebrations on earth takes place at Sydney Harbour, a full 16 hours before the party in New York. More than 1 million people gather each December 31st at Sydney Harbour for celebrations centering around the world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. In addition to two huge, music-synchronized fireworks displays (one at 9pm and another at midnight), the Harbour Bridge is lit up each New Year’s Eve with a unique lighting display known as the “Bridge Effect,” in which various symbols and images related to the current year’s theme are displayed on the bridge itself. Various smaller pyrotechnic displays also occur on the bridge as the night progresses. Like the Times Square Ball drop in the U.S., the Sydney New Year’s Eve event also features celebrity appearances and is televised to more than 1 billion people worldwide.
Despite near-freezing temperatures, Germany’s capital hosts the one of the largest outdoor, open-air New Year’s Eve parties in the world, rivaling those in New York and London. Berlin’s Silvester (the German word for New Year’s Eve) revelries take place under a laser-lit sky, and are centered around the historic Brandenburg Gate, where the enormous fireworks display takes place at midnight and the main stage for musical acts is centered. The “Party Mile,” lined with numerous bars, stages, party tents, and dance floors, stretches out for 1.2 miles between the Victory Column Brandenburg Gate. Along the Party Mile, besides drinking and dancing, you can rest on free heated benches and enjoy specialty sausages, including delicious, inexpensive bratwurst. At the stroke of midnight, be sure to toast your neighbor with Sekt, German sparkling wine, and salutations of “Guten Rutsch!” (Happy New Year!)
In addition to the Thai New Year that takes place in April, the people of Thailand also celebrate the Gregorian calendar NYE on the last day of the year. The country’s largest event takes place in front of CentralWorld square in the notoriously hedonistic capital city of Bangkok, with celebrations centered around the 69-foot tall Greeting Ball Tower. Half a million revelers attend this event to watch the fireworks, dance to live music, and indulge in cheap (but delicious) Thai beer. As midnight approaches, members of the crowd join hands to count down the seconds till the New Year arrives. The enormous party continues into the wee hours, both in swanky clubs and in the streets. After the sun rises, you can participate in the local tradition of “making merit” to ensure a happy and prosperous year by paying your respects at one of the city’s spectacular Buddhist temples.
A richly historic city known for its epic nightlife, London is one of the best cities to spend New Year’s Eve in. In addition to the massive pub and nightclub turnout, roughly 250,000 people gather in the streets and bridges around the River Thames to watch the giant fireworks display taking place at the London Eye, the 40-storey-high Ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames. If you don’t want to brave the crowds of central London, a luxury cruise on the Thames provides a more romantic and private view of the fireworks display, which is also broadcast live on TV. Additional celebrations take place in Trafalgar Square, where the ceremonial New Year’s Day chimes of Big Ben have traditionally welcomed in the New Year for England. On New Year’s Day, stake out a spot along the route of the city’s New Year’s Day parade, which stretches from Westminster to Green Park and features more than 10,000 performers.
Want to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a huge beach party in the middle of summer? Then head south of the equator to herald in the New Year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. New Year’s Eve is a major time of celebration in Brazil’s bustling capital – the second-largest celebration after Carnaval — so people will be partying in the streets pretty much anywhere you go in Rio on December 31st. However, the largest and most spectacular of Rio’s NYE celebrations takes place on Copacabana Beach. In fact, the Copacabana Beach NYE party is the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in the world. Every year, more than 2 million people gather on this 2.5-mile stretch of beach to ring in the New Year in their all-white garb for good luck. This massive NYE beach party is complete with live music, a massive fireworks show, and loads of chilled champagne, freely shared among total strangers and traditionally sprayed into the air at midnight.
The United Kingdom loves a good party, and Scotland is no exception. In fact, the Scots have their own word for New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay, a term dating back to mid-winter Pagan celebrations. Besides being one of the longest, Edinburgh’s four-day-long Hogmanay celebration is one of the wildest and most famous New Year’s celebrations in the world. The festivities begin on December 29th with the Torchlight Procession snaking the city’s historic center to culminate with the ritual bonfire burning of a Viking Long Boat. The “Night Afore,” the night before Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve), celebrations include cultural events, such as theater and art displays, while the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party on December 31stis the main event. A crowd of roughly 100,000 revelers gathers along Princes Street for live music, Celtic dancing, and drunken sing-a-longs. The climax of Hogmanay is the when the cannon at Edinburgh Castle is fired at the stroke of midnight, proceeded by an enormous fireworks display. If you’re up for it, sober up the next morning by joining the Grand Parade through the town, followed by an invigorating dip into the icy waters of the River Forth.
Few places can match the intensity that is Sin City on New Year’s Eve. Each New Year’s Eve, hundreds of thousands of people gather on the Vegas Strip, which is closed to traffic on this holiday. While Vegas is a place where you can easily go through a lot of money in a short period of time, merrymakers can attend the NYE strip street party completely free of charge, while enjoying their own alcoholic beverages and watching half a million dollars’ worth of fireworks light up the sky at midnight, when eight different strip hotels launch simultaneous fireworks shows for one breathtaking display. If sexy VIP parties are more your thing, Vegas clubs offer an unrivalled experience. The chic, celebrity-hosted (and celebrity-attended) NYE events at world-class Vegas nightclubs like Pure, Rain, LAX, Tao, and Ghost Bar are extremely popular, so make sure you reserve your table far in advance.
In Italy, various traditions are observed on Vigilia di Capodanno or Notte di San Silvestro, including wearing red underwear and eating lentils for good luck in the coming year. Fortunately, more dangerous Italian New Year’s Eve traditions, such as throwing items you no longer need out of your window, have mostly fallen by the wayside. Venice is an especially magical Italian city to ring in the New Year, as it is a city steeped in tradition and romance. Thousands of mask-wearing partiers gather in St. in Mark’s Square to enjoy spumante, prosecco (Italian white wine), waterfront fireworks against a backdrop of Venetian architecture, and a communal kiss at midnight. That’s right, as the clock strikes 12 and the chime of bells is heard around the city, you have a free pass to kiss anyone in sight. Just remember that others can do the same! If you don’t want anyone to steal a kiss from your partner, a romantic New Year’s Eve gondala ride might be a better idea. The revelry continues through ‘til morning, when locals gather to watch the sunrise and take a “quick dip” at Lido Beach.
A haven for hippies in the 1960s, the gorgeous Indian island state of Goa maintains a counter-culture reputation and is a popular location for psychedelic trance raves. New Year’s Eve is an especially wild time in Goa, and particularly on Anjuna Beach, with parties at multiple beach resorts converging to create one major celebration. Backpackers, spiritual pilgrims, electronic music fans, and all-around party animals alike will thrive in this otherworldly NYE setting. Goa on NYE means dancing on white sand, taking in the sights of sacred cows and fire eaters, and drinking feni, a Goan spirit made from coconut or the juice of the cashew apple. If you arrive several days early, you can catch Sunburn, a three-day electronic dance music festival that takes place on Goa’s Candolim Beach in late December. (Sunburn was ranked by CNN as the ninth-best festival in the world.) While in Goa, you might also catch sight of some Bollywood stars that regularly flock to Goa over New Year’s. For a calmer vibe, spend your Goan New Year’s Eve at one of Goa’s many beach shack accommodations.