26 of the Best New Year’s Eve Celebrations Around the World
New York City might get the most press, but there are plenty of other great spots that throw some incredible New Year's bashes for an unforgettable night.
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Time for a new New Years’s Eve?
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. Speaking of, find out why we drop a ball on New Year’s in the first place!
For blogger Melissa Erickson, January 1st isn’t just the start of a New Year—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. Even if it’s not your birthday, try out these lucky New Year’s traditions from around the world to start the year right.
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.” You won’t believe what strange and silly things people “drop” to ring in the New Year instead of a ball.
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 ten-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 ten 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.
Walt Disney World, Florida
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.”
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!” This grape tradition is just one of the fun New Year’s Eve food traditions to try that will bring you luck.
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 Harbour, 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.” (Of course, you may want to avoid traveling to Hong Kong this year as the ongoing protests make it a less-than-ideal, potentially dangerous travel destination.)
New York City
Ranked as the top place to spend New Year’s Eve in the United States, New York City is home to the epic Times Square countdown and ball drop, which draws over one million people annually. If you don’t feel like dealing with the masses, there are tons of other entertainment options—including the midnight fireworks on Liberty Island.
Ready to rage? Berlin boasts one of biggest open-air soirées in all of Europe. The legendary event, which runs between Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, lures rockers, rollers, and regular folks alike. Even better? It’s free of charge! And the jubilation doesn’t stop when the sun comes up. The after-party goes until noon the next day. Try these tricks for keeping your New Year’s resolutions (from people who did).
Say what you will about Russia, but Moscow throws one heck of a shindig. Pyrotechnics illuminate the sky over the Red Square and vodka flows like water. The atmosphere is further enhanced by heaps of fresh powder that transform this ever-enchanting capital into a real-life winter wonderland. With temps dipping below freezing, be sure to bundle up!
It’s no secret that Montreal has tons to offer regardless of the season. But winter is particularly magical. So, what makes Montreal one of the top spots to ring in the New Year? Snow-covered streets are the perfect backdrop for family-friendly festivities in Old Port. Searching for adults-only fun? Unleash your wild side at Carnavalesque, a kinky-themed bash with live circus and burlesque performances. If you are with the kiddos, check out these other great options for family-friendly New Year’s celebrations.
Bangkok has a reputation as an epic party city. For a once-in-a-lifetime adventure head to Sukhumvit 11, where DJs spin tunes till the wee hours. Of course, if you’re not fan of clubbing, there’s still lots of enjoyment to be had between the buzzing night market and the magical fireworks. For a unique vantage point, book a river cruise.
From street parties to mega clubs, there’s no shortage of ways to kick up your heels in Madrid. Want to do it up like a local? Engage in the festivities at Puerta del Sol. Don’t pass up the opportunity to imbibe in one of the most well-established traditions (and superstitions), the eating of 12 grapes at midnight. Of course, toasting with Cava is a must, too.
London is among the most dynamic cities on the planet and NYE doesn’t disappoint. The chiming of Big Ben ushers in a fresh start as thousands gather to watch the spectacular fireworks display over the London Eye and Palace of Westminster. That’s not all: The celebrations continue with parades and street parties on January 1. When making your resolutions this year, think before making these 19 trendy resolutions that experts advise against.
Shōgatsu is big deal in Tokyo, but not necessarily in the way you might expect. Many places are closed as residents make pilgrimages to reflect, feast, and pray for good fortune at local temples. Of course, the city is not without the requisite festivities. Join the crowds at Shibuya Crossing or boogie all night at ageHa, the biggest club in Tokyo.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires turns up the heat for the holidays. No surprise given its propensity for never-ending parties. Travelers can look forward to dancing til dawn at discos and local fiestas throughout the city. Craving something a bit more low key? Venture to the revitalized docklands area of Puerto Madero and view the fireworks from Puente de la Mujer. If travel is one of your New Year’s resolutions, Buenos Aires is also one of the places we predict will be cheaper to fly to in 2020.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is prized for its glittering skyscrapers, luxury shops, upscale resorts, and wow-worthy nightlife. So, if you’re looking for a glamorous locale to ring in the New Year, it’s a no-brainer. Last year, the Burj Khalifa unveiled a record-breaking laser and light show in the heart of downtown. The second annual spectacular will take place on December 31. Arrive early (around 6 p.m.) to snag a good spot.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas—the land of hedonism—is synonymous with clubs, casinos and world-class entertainment. Not shockingly, the epicenter of excess goes all out for New Year’s Eve. The Strip turns into a giant block party where you can expect live performances, laser shows, and choreographed fireworks. And, throughout the city, there are also concerts and star-studded soirées galore. If you’d rather have a low-key evening, don’t miss these movies that take place around New Year’s Eve.
South Lake Tahoe, California
Why spend NYE in South Lake? Well, for starters, it can be either rowdy or relaxed. So whatever mood you’re in, there’s a celebration to suit. Winter sports, gambling, and après-ski revelry is a given in this powdery paradise. EDM enthusiasts will go crazy for the SnowGlobe Music Festival, an annual three-day event with headliners like Above & Beyond and Diplo. If you like snowy pursuits, brush up on the best places to ski this winter.
Not only is Sydney the first major city to witness the clock strike midnight, it also puts on a massive fireworks show. Millions of people crowd to watch the world-famous spectacle, complete with an Aboriginal welcome ceremony, aerial acrobatics, and the Harbour of Light Parade. The striking waterfront setting doesn’t hurt either.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul knows how to party, making it a great place to spend NYE. Western-style festivities call for lively get-togethers and counting down to midnight. And that’s only part of it: Traditional Seollal celebrations (the Korean New Year, which is actually on January 25) involve traveling home to see family, so snag an invite to a Korean household to experience age-old observances and warm hospitality. Insider tip: Be sure to bring a gift, as is customary—maybe one of these genius products that help you keep your New Year’s resolutions!
As if the name alone weren’t enough to get you there, the entire Harrah’s Resort SoCal will be transformed into a vintage circus on December 31. There will be strolling entertainment, including acrobats, jugglers, and a circus barker, throughout the casino and pop up food stations serving complimentary classic circus treats including popcorn, cotton candy, mini churro donuts, and more. Plus, you can try you luck on the Mayor’s Millions with hourly drawings for $100,000 from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve day.
Whether you’re looking for fabulous fireworks or want to unleash your wild side (we’d recommend hitting up Jenja Jakarta), there’s something for everyone in Indonesia’s capital. Pyrotechnics burst into color around the National Monument and foodies will find multi-course menus at rooftop restaurants like Skye, plus all-you-can-eat buffets at local joints, especially appealing. If you’d rather stay stateside, find out the best New Year’s celebration in every U.S. state.