New Year’s Eve is a day of grand celebrations in major cities all over the world, especially those on our list of top 20 NYE destinations. In the cities listed below, locals and those who travel from far and wide come to witness riotous extravaganzas that grace the streets, pubs and restaurants every year ranging from immense firework displays to roaring parties and carnivals.
1. New York City
New York City’s magnificent New Year’s Eve festivities are one of the most well-known in the world. Famous for its traditional — but ever-futuristic — Times Square ball drop display aired live on such television specials as “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” New York’s events large and small attract over a million people to take part. Hundreds of thousands usually wait hours in the cold throughout New Year’s Eve in order to secure a spot to witness the iconic ball drop, but others opt for a more comfortable situation by reserving tables at bars and restaurants overlooking Time’s Square. Other events occur at the Brooklyn Bridge and Prospect Park as the clock strikes 12.
Speaking of clocks, London brings in its new year with the help of its iconic clock tower, Big Ben. Right as midnight hits, hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors gather around the tower to witness a spectacular 10-minute fireworks display as Big Ben chimes. Viewers can gather along the Thames River or opt for a rooftop view in order to see the delightful display. New Year’s after-parties keep the celebrations going throughout the night, as well as a central London parade complete with floats, musical performances, dancers and a unique procession of the Queen’s sturdy horses. Those looking for alternative NYE destinations in London should check out the Tower Bridge, Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill and Greenwich.
3. Hong Kong
New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong is unlike any other. The bustling city’s Victoria Harbor illuminates the night as midnight approaches with thousands of revelers witnessing an eight-minute pyromusical display over the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. If you want to be even closer to the action, taking a New Year cruise down Victoria Harbor may be just the activity to bring in a new set of 365 days. Hong Kong also produces a ball drop similar to that in NYC’s Time Square.
This U.K. destination puts on one of the more lengthy New Year’s Eve celebrations with the party starting Dec. 30 and ending Jan. 1. Edinburgh calls its unique event “Hogmanay,” which means “last day of the year,” and consists of a city-wide procession, massive outdoor parties, musical performances and a great fireworks finale over the Edinburgh Castle. Some brave celebrators jump into the freezing waters of the River Forth at the end of a charity parade put on during this three-day celebration.
Because this Australian gem is the first major city to strike midnight in the world, it is right to put on the largest fireworks display on the planet as well! Like New York’s New Year’s Eve celebration, Sydney’s event attracts over a million audience members who see not only a single pyrotechnics display over the Sydney Opera House at midnight, but an early one over the Harbour Bridge at 9pm to keep the excitement going. The outdoor celebration also includes an air and water show, an Aboriginal smoking ceremony and an illuminated parade in the harbor.
6. Las Vegas
What happens on New Year’s in Vegas gets tweeted, Instagrammed and posted all over the Internet, because it’s that fantastic. On New Year’s Eve, Vegas shuts down all vehicle traffic to open up the streets for outdoor parties, concerts, laser shows and ultimately a huge fireworks display lighting up the classic skyline from seven famous rooftops along the city’s four-mile strip. For those who’d rather spend New Year’s inside, Vegas visitors would be wise to rent a hotel room overlooking the skyline in order to make the best of the celebration.
The renowned Eiffel Tower becomes a beacon of glittering magnificence on New Year’s Eve as it becomes the hub of a stunning laser light show. Champagne and sparkling white wine are the drinks of choice during this joyous event; for snacks, there are “papillottes” or tiny sweet treats that crackle and pop as you tear off the wrapping. Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower only happen on extremely special occasions although its high-tech light show is always a crowd favorite. To see a pyrotechnics show on NYE in Paris, head over to the city’s Disneyland.
Speaking of Disney, Orlando’s Walt Disney World is a magical place to be for New Year’s Eve. While the park extends its hours until 1am, family-friendly activities make sure no one gets bored while waiting for the clock to strike 12. At midnight, revelers crowd along the theme park’s harbor and congregate in its center to get a great look at its fireworks display. On top of that, the attraction’s Magic Kingdom theme park puts on a lively Jingle Jungle Parade while the park Epcot hosts a crazy light show just before midnight.
Feel like a royal when you step into the New Year’s Eve ball in Vienna’s Imperial Palace dressed in your best gown or suit. If you’re not feeling up to taking part in a throwback event, the Austrian capital offers an extravagant array of more contemporary activities for the NYE celebrator. The last days of the year in Vienna cause the city to burst into a colorful fair of parties, carnivals and musical fun. The city’s old center transforms into a vibrant fair full of delicious food and sweet treats to assure you are fed and ready to experience a memorable fireworks display at midnight.
The Dutch capital of Amsterdam is the place to party on New Year’s Eve due to its unique and exciting layout and opportunities for large-scale fun. This city bursts into a firework heaven in multiple locations at midnight, while ever square is filled with revelers from all around. Amsterdam’s countless bridges make for perfect perches from which to watch the sky light up as the new year begins. Areas such as Nieuwmarkt, Oosterdok, Dam Square, Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein all offer special experiences from close encounters with fire crackers to a chance to drink to your heart’s content under a beer tent.
The warm sea air of Miami beckons thousands of partygoers to the Floridian metropolis every year to celebrate the Earth’s latest rotation around the sun. From exclusive VIP parties to free outdoor celebrations, Miami offers activities and attractions for all. Bayfront Park is a go-to for many locals and visitors alike as it overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and provides ample space for all to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display. The city’s high-end hotels and rentable condos make for perfect private party locations, and for those who’d rather live it up in one of South Beach’s famous clubs, there are always plenty to choose from.
12. Cape Town
This scenic South African city blossoms into a bustling and exciting zone as night descends on Dec. 31. The city’s Victoria & Albert Waterfront becomes the hub of a huge concert and fireworks display while visitors and locals lounge and party on Table Mountain and other scenic spots. A New Year’s holiday carnival takes the streets and includes a dressed-up train and dozens of must-see sights. The party doesn’t end at midnight either in Cape Town — on New Year’s Day as well as Jan. 2, the local beaches become the center of more lively parades and thousands of street performers.
This Thai metropolis is the place to go to be part of yet another out-of-this-world New Year’s Eve experience. Join hundreds of thousands of people as they gather in Central World Square to witness throngs of entertainment, light shows and an ultimate fireworks display over the river. Some go-to activities in the great city also include a visit to Asiatique, (events at which are broadcasted on live television), a relaxing Loy Nava River Cruise and a trip down Royal City Avenue for the city’s best clubbing.
Hawai’i is surely a perfect place to bring in the new year. With its scenic beaches, year-round attractions and special New Year’s Eve celebrations, the island of Oahu is sure to bring the best the isolated U.S. state has to offer. Fireworks will take place on Waikiki Beach alongside a simulcast of traditional Hawaiian music while others can witness the Aloha Tower Marketplace fireworks celebration, which makes space for all to dance and party. The island’s Wet ‘n’ Wild waterpark is also a crowd favorite, as it puts on a fantastic display of fireworks during a celebration fun for the whole family.
15. New Orleans
What’s a better place at which to live it up on New Year’s Eve as the home of America’s Mardi Gras celebration? New Orleans never disappoints as a celebratory destination, and during New Year’s Eve, the party gets even better. Instead of a traditional ball drop, this Louisiana city drops a Fleur de Lis as well as a “Baby New Year,” dropped from the roof of the historic Jax Brewery in Jackson Square. Take a stop at some of the French Quarter’s famous bars or see one or more of the exciting live concerts from musicians playing a range of tunes from jazz and blues to contemporary pop music.
Iceland knows how to throw a party on New Year’s Eve. The city of Rekjavik glitters every holiday as locals are encouraged to put on their own extravagant fireworks displays, resulting in one of the most remarkable sights for any NYE reveler. A grand banquet is also put on within the confines of the city’s landmark Perlan water tower for those willing to spend a little extra cash. A more casual alternative may be found at one of the city’s large bonfire parties, continuing a centuries-old tradition as midnight creeps up. After midnight, bars and clubs don’t close until 5am Jan. 1, leaving room for anyone to get their fill of NYE celebrations.
17. Rio de Janeiro
If you want a wild party in arguably one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, head to Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro on New Year’s Eve. This city puts on a crazy celebration right on its Copacabana Beach for well over two million people every year. Fireworks begin at midnight from offshore barges and end 15 to 20 minutes later. If you want to do as locals do, wear all white to bring good luck as the clock strikes 12 and celebrate with a glass of bubbling champagne.
Spain celebrates “Nochevieja” in style at the Montjuic’s Magic Fountain in Barcelona. This young celebration was launched in 2013 for the public and includes an array of exciting performances and a satisfying fireworks display. In order to celebrate to your best ability in Barcelona, make sure to buy tickets to post-midnight parties at one of the city’s vibrant clubs. For those wanting a more low-key experience, Barcelona restaurants host their own special parties and banquets for a ticket fee.
It’s impossible to have nothing to do on New Year’s Even in Toronto, Canada. Over 100 hotels, bars, clubs, restaurants and more are sure to host extravagant celebrations fit for any taste as the new year comes forth. The city also hosts a skating and dance party at Nathan Phillips Square for the whole family that ends with a memorable fireworks display. DJs and other Emcees always make a point to put their best foot forward on New Year’s Even in Toronto, so be ready to experience some of the best music and parties in Canada.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve, or “Silvester” in German’s capital of Berlin this year, and get ready to be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of delight it offers. At every turn in the city’s center, including the strip between Brandenburg Gate and Victory Column, you will have access to eclectic clubs, bars and restaurants all bringing in the new year in their unique ways. Home to one of Europe’s largest outdoor street parties, Berlin offers beautiful fireworks displays, laser shows and music fit for the greatest of NYE revelries. (Marilyn Malara)