new Year’s comes but once a year, so it’s worth it to make the festivites memorable. But where’s the best place to be when the clock strikes midnight on December 31? We’ve scoured the world for the best annual celebrations, from the beaches of Rio de Janeiro to Berlin’s Brandenberg Gate. The fun doesn’t have to stop after New Year’s Eve, though, because many cities offer a wide variety of New Year’s Day activities as well. Epic fireworks displays, all-night dance parties, one-of-a-kind cultural traditions—you’ll find all these and more in the world’s best places to celebrate New Year’s.
NEW YORK CITY
It may not be for everyone, but there’s no denying that New Year’s Eve in New York City has an atmosphere that few other cities can rival. Most famous, of course, is the annual gathering of a million people in Times Square to see famous musicians and the ball drop, in which a 12-foot-wide crystal ball weighing nearly 12,000 pounds descends atop One Times Square. For a slightly less chaotic experience, book a reservation at one of the bars or restaurants overlooking Times Square. And for something completely different, consider a nighttime boat ride on New York Harbor, which offers the best views of the midnight fireworks display on Liberty Island.
RIO DE JANEIRO
If Rio is best known for its Carnival festivities, its New Year’s Eve celebration comes in a close second. Iconic Copacabana Beach hosts the world’s largest (and arguably wildest) New Year’s Eve party, in which more than two million people cram onto the two-and-a-half-mile stretch of sand. Known as Réveillon, this uniquely Brazilian celebration that blends religious, traditional, and superstitious beliefs: Locals dress head to toe in white (believed to bring good luck) and toss handfuls of flowers into the ocean as gift to Yemanjá, goddess of the seas. The celebration also includes large oceanfront stages for live musical and dance performances, and a colorful fireworks display at midnight completes the scene.
Sydney has two claims to fame for its New Year’s Eve celebrations: first, because of its location, it’s the first major city where the clock strikes midnight; second, Sydney puts on the largest fireworks display in the world, with one at 9 pm and another at midnight, with the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House making for a striking setting. More than a million people attend the waterfront show, which also includes an air and water show featuring aerial acrobatics, an Aboriginal smoking ceremony that is said to cleanse bad spirits, and the Harbour of Light Parade, a flotilla of more than 50 illuminated boats in the harbor.
Hogmanay translates to “last day of the year,” but the annual festivities in Edinburgh actually last three days. Things kick off on December 30 with a torchlight procession through the city that culminates in a fireworks finale, while New Year’s Eve is all about massive street parties and outdoor concerts, including a massive, open-air Kelidh (traditional Celtic party). At midnight, 4.5 tons of fireworks explode over Edinburgh Castle while the streets ring out with revelers singing “Auld Lang Syne.” New Year’s Day brings competitive dog sledding across Holyrood Park; brave souls jumping into the ice-cold waters of the River Forth at the conclusion of the Loony Dook parade (a charity event); and Scot:Lands, a multivenue music and arts festival.
Londoners ring in the New Year as only they can, to the chiming of Big Ben at midnight. More than 250,000 people crowd the banks of the Thames and its numerous bridges to see the spectacular ten-minute lightshow and fireworks display, with the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament (also known as the Palace of Westminster), and the Shard among highlights of the urban scenery. The fun doesn’t end there, though: There are many after-parties, and on New Year’s Day the streets of central London see a parade that features colorful floats, marching bands, costumed dancers, and a procession of the Queen’s horses.
- HONG KONG
One of the world’s most dramatic skylines lights up every year with a display of fireworks that grows more impressive every year, concluding with a dazzling finale: a pyrotechnic dragon that dances across the sky. The events kick off in Hong Kong’s Times Square shopping mall, where a replica ball drop takes place in homage to New York City’s famous festivities. Victoria Harbour is the center of the evening activity, though, so savvy locals party on boats, rooftop terraces, or at theAvenue of Stars in Tsim Tsa Shui for the best views of the dazzling lightshow.
The German capital has a reputation for being a party city year-round, so you can imagine what New Year’s Eve (known as “Silvester”) is like here. The centerpiece of the celebration is “Party Mile,” a two-kilometer stretch of bars, international food stalls, laser shows, video screens, party tents, music stages, and more between Brandenburg Gate and Victory Column. After the fireworks show at midnight, the crowds head to the city’s many dance floors, where they stay out until dawn or later. To somewhat counteract the debauchery, locals partake in the Berlin Silversterlauf (a “pancake race” in which runner flip flapjacks as they head toward the finish line) during the day, or participate in the annual, free four-kilometer New Year’s Run the next day.
More than 300,000 revelers descend on this party capital for the big night, when the Las Vegas Strip becomes car-free and transforms into a giant street party with live bands, pyrotechnic displays, and laser shows. The city also hosts a mind-boggling number of concerts, shows, and parties in clubs, hotels, and casinos, meaning there’s no shortage of evening entertainment options. Come midnight, fireworks are launched from seven rooftops along the Strip, so chances are you’ll see them whether you’re on the street or in an over-the-top hotel suite.
New Year’s Day is just as exciting as New Year’s Eve in the Bahamas, where the locals follow Junkanoo street parades that conclude with informal beach gatherings and fireworks displays around the islands. Featuring music, street performers, and colorful costumes, these parades, a sort of Bahamian take on Mardi Gras, also take place on January 1. The notable New Year’s Day Junkanoos can be found in downtown Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, along Bay Street in downtown Nassau, in Nicholls Town on North Andros, in Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay, and in Alice Town in North Bimini. Alternatively, big properties such as the Atlantis and the Grand Lucayanoffer their own parties, some of which are family-friendly.
It may not be Mardi Gras, but New Year’s Eve in New Orleans is just as memorable. The main event is a thrilling 15-minute fireworks show on the Mississippi River, along with the Fleur de Lis drop, where “Baby New Year” is dropped from the roof of the Jax Brewery in Jackson Square. Of course the night doesn’t end there, as visitors and locals flock to Bourbon Street and the Latin Quarter, where music booms from bars and nightclubs, and the streets remain bustling until the wee hour
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