26 of the Best New Year’s Eve Celebrations Around the World
How many New Year’s Eves have you spent in your hometown, drinking the same beverage, having the same conversations with the same friends? If you’re ready to expand your horizons (literally), follow the lead of these adventurous revelers and find yourself a new backdrop for the proverbial ball drop.
For Melissa Erickson, January 1st isn’t just the start of a New Year, but it’s her birthday, signaling a new lap around the sun and another candle on her cake. And while she calls Minneapolis home, her been-there, done-that mentality encouraged her to shift her new-year-new-age parties to Chicago, where the Windy City offers a multitude of options. “We went to the Navy Pier where we spent around $150 for the ticket, but it was totally worth it. We got unlimited food, drinks, toast at midnight, and amazing view. We watched a ship light off fireworks without having to go outside in the cold. It was the best New Year’s and best birthday ever,” she shared. Don’t miss the top 10 destinations to ring in the New Year.
For travel writer Nate Hake, the most meaningful New Year’s Eve took place in the beauty of South America. And no, not in Santiago, Medellin, or Lima, but in a smaller coastal town that’s far removed from guidebooks, yet overflowing with culture. “Valparaiso’s many colorful buildings are set on the side of a hill that slopes down dramatically towards the Pacific Ocean,” he says. “Every year, it fills up with millions of Chileans who pour into the city for its famed New Year’s Eve fireworks and celebration. The city’s narrow streets in many places are more staircase than sidewalk, and all night long you’ll find the stairs and the surrounding homes filled with people dancing, drinking, and celebrating the New Year.” He adds, “I spent much of the evening accepting invitations of various Chilean families to join them dancing and drinking in the street. Many of them would even invite us into their homes, where I vividly remember dancing salsa with an elderly woman who had to have been pushing 90 years.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy destination to ring in the New Year, director of Craft Travel Group Julia Carter suggests Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Along with her boyfriend, Carter savored the all-white wardrobe that this Brazilian town requires during this once-a-year celebration. “We headed toward Copacabana Beach and found a great spot on the sand, with neighbors playing Brazilian bossa nova and samba on their guitars. After the clock struck midnight, the most impressive and mesmerizing display of fireworks captivated the crowds for nearly 30 minutes,” she explains. “From there, everyone headed toward the ocean to make an offering to Iemanjá, the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé Goddess of the sea. Seeing so many people from so many different backgrounds engaged together in this unique and beautiful tradition creates an energy for the New Year like no other.”
South Beach, Miami Florida
For a no-passport-required beachy getaway, pack a wardrobe of sparkles in your carry-on and head to Miami. Here, New Year’s Eve doesn’t just have ideal temperatures, but plenty of parties and friendly new pals to meet, according to founder of Travels with Talek Talek Nantes. And while it’ll be crowded, you won’t’ have to face as much traffic unless you’re on foot. “The city of South Beach closes the main avenue, Ocean Drive, to traffic, transforming it into a lively, mile-long pedestrian walkway. On one side of Ocean Drive restaurants and live bands spill onto the avenue, which is festooned with streamers and balloons. On the other side is the beach and the vast Atlantic Ocean. As midnight approaches people begin to gather on the beach in anticipation of the fireworks spectacular,” he says. “The countdown begins and at the stroke of midnight, the multi-colored flares explode in the night sky and the celebrations really begin.” Make sure to eat one of these 13 New Year’s Eve food traditions that will bring you luck.
Suan Mokkh Forest Monastery, Thailand
For those seeking solitude and a fresh start for January 1, Kristin Addis, the CEO of Be My Travel Muse, suggests the challenge of a 10-day meditation retreat in the secluded, lush destination of the Suan Mokkh Forest Monastery in Thailand. “The meditation takes place in silence, without any substances, and is very much an individual journey. It takes place at a gorgeous, mostly open-air monastery in a palm forest. At the beginning, each person turns in their cell phones and money for safekeeping, and is given a basic room in the dormitory with a concrete bed and wooden pillow. It sounds extreme, but it’s meant to remove all distractions so that each participant can focus solely on being present, and meditating in complete silence for 10 days,” she explains. “Each day begins with a sunrise yoga session, followed by meditation in the open-air meditation hall, then breakfast, chores, followed by walking meditation, and with some dharma talks led by the monks thrown in. It was a chance to bring in the New Year by setting an intention to be more mindful, and to heal. Though it was difficult at first to quiet my mind, it was the most amazing New Years I’ve ever had.”
When travel blogger Meg Frost and her brother were exploring Europe at the end of the year, they decided to select France for their New Year’s celebrations. After spending the day in the Normandy region visiting the infamous cemetery and memorial and other sites, they made their way back to Paris for the official city-wide spectacular. The City of Lights definitely didn’t disappoint, even if getting to the best spot in town was a tall order. “Security was extremely tight, with all side streets blocked off by police. Once we got through the security line, which included a pat down, we joined the crowds to count down to midnight and watched fireworks over the Arc de Triomphe with thousands of people. It was absolutely exhilarating to ring in the New year in a different country and with so many people,” she explains. Here’s what to wear to get through holiday party season in style.
Walt Disney World, Florida
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You can make your children’s wishes come true—and inspire a fairytale romance of your own—when you choose Walt Disney World as your New Year’s Eve celebration spot, according to travel agent Greg Antonelle. “Spending New Year’s Eve in Walt Disney World with my wife and three kids was the most magical place in the world we could have been. Disney goes above and beyond to make their guests feel special every day of the year,” he says, “but on New Years Eve, Disney goes beyond their regular fireworks display with extended park hours that let you spend more time celebrating. We’ve spent a couple of New Year’s Eves at Walt Disney World, and we always arrive early and stay late to maximize our fun.” Use these tricks to beat the holiday crowds at Disney World.
For freelance expat writer Amanda Walkins, there’s no better place on the map to ring in January 1 than Edinburgh, Scotland, which she says makes the holiday feel magical from start to finish. The gathering, locally known as “Hogmanay,” lasts for three full days, with family-friendly activities during the day and adult-only celebrations at night. “The Torchlight Procession on December 30 attracts thousands of people to the streets for a fantastic illumination to get the party started, complete with vikings, pipers, and drummers to lead the procession. You can participate or just snag a sideline spot to watch it all unfold. NYE itself is a massive street party with multiple stages for live music and ceilidh dancing, with fireworks every hour on the hour starting at 9 p.m.,” she explains.
There are plenty of wacky New Year’s Eve traditions around the world, but one that Spaniards hold dear is the idea of eating 12 grapes in the first 12 seconds of the New Year, which is thought to bring you luck and health for the 12 months ahead (get it?). Even visitors partake of the fun. As president of Miles Into Memories Travel Malena Wilson recalls, “the celebration in Barcelona was amazing. We attended a very nice dinner with traditional Spanish food, and at midnight we rushed to eat 12 grapes in the first 12 seconds of the New Year,” she says. “It was really fun to participate in this unique tradition. The real party got started after midnight, and the streets were filled with partiers. Just watch out for grape seeds!”
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Want to be among the first to watch a ball drop or toast with champagne? Make the long haul to Asia, where a time difference means your party gets started way earlier than your pals’ back home. Dr. Cacinda Maloney from Points and Travel’s favorite NYE memory was in Hong Kong. “Going to dinner late at Aqua in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, was the perfect way to spend New Year’s Eve. We made reservations well in advance and were completely happy with our choice, as we had a place to sit, eat, and relax. With a fantastic view of Victoria Harbor, it can’t be beat! We opted to do this versus walking among the street parties along the Avenue of the Stars since we had heard about the huge crowds it draws,” she shares. “If you choose to see the fireworks in Hong Kong for New Year’s Eve, I would suggest staying away from the some of the busier areas such as the Avenue of the Stars. Also, the higher the better, as the views of the harbor from above are gorgeous.” Don’t miss these subtly sparkly New Year’s Eve outfits for a little glitz and glam no matter where your New Year’s takes you.