New Year’s comes once a year, so it’s worth it to make the festivities 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.
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 the Avenue 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 Lucayan offer 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 hours.
Jost Van Dyke
You may call it New Year’s Eve, but on Jost Van Dyke, it’s Old Year’s Night. The festivities on this tiny British Virgin Island take place at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar and other nightlife spots in Grand Harbor, and draw a crowd from around the Caribbean and, in fact, the world. One of the most raucous New Year’s parties in the region, Old Year’s Night celebrations actually consist of 48 hours of live music, drinking, and eating; the annual event attracts thousands of shirtless or bikini-clad partygoers who stay up late and sometimes sleep on the beach.
Walt Disney World
New Year’s Eve at Walt Disney World is a dream come true for families traveling over the holiday. The theme park stays open until 1 am, but it’s packed with fun activities all day long. Leading up to the midnight fireworks show, there are Cirque du Soleil performances, dance parties, live entertainers, and confetti explosions to keep visitors of all ages entertained. Disney’s Magic Kingdom is home to the Jingle Jungle Parade, while Epcot puts on an impressive lights and laser show just before midnight. It’s also a plus that WDW is less crowded at this time of year than during peak months.
The City of Light lives up to its nickname on New Year’s Eve, when the Eiffel Tower becomes the site of a spectacular lightshow and fireworks display. Nearby, Parisians ring in the Nouvelle Année on the Champs-Élysées, which hosts a massive street party, where they pop bottles of (what else?) Champagne and exchange cheek kisses and papillotes, chocolates wrapped in sparkly paper that crackles like a firecracker when opened. For an alternate area that’s less crowded, Montmarte offers equally good views of the fireworks, or you can book a dinner cruise aboard a bateau-mouche on the Seine.
This atmospheric city is famous for its New Year’s Eve Grand Ball, hosted at Hofburg Palace, but there’s more on offer than just throwback elegance. Vienna’s famous Christmas markets transform into New Year’s fairs, and hundreds of thousands of revelers crowd the Silvesterpfad (New Year’s Path) in the city center on New Year’s Eve. Fueled by mulled wine, the party starts at 2 pm and goes until well after midnight, with fireworks appearing over the Wiener Prater fair. On New Year’s Day, a huge crowd gathers outside the Rathaus (City Hall) to watch the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert on a giant screen.
Impromptu street parties are easy to find in the Dutch capital on New Year’s Eve, but there are organized parties in just about every large public space, including Rembrandtplein, Nieuwmarkt, Museumplein and Dam Square. There are fireworks displays in multiple locations, best viewed from the city’s bridges; after those are over, revelers head out to the clubs for drinks, live music, and dancing until the sun comes up.
With only four hours of daylight in late December, locals in the northernmost capital of the world are ready to party like no one else. New Year’s Eve kicks off with community bonfires (they symbolize burning away troubles from the past year) around which people sing, dance, and play music. Meanwhile, fireworks light up from every corner of the city thanks to fairly relaxed government restrictions. As midnight approaches, crowds gather around local landmarks like Perlan and Landakotskirkja church for the best views of the official fireworks display and of the city, after which they head to bars and clubs. Come 5 am, you’ll see many staving off hangovers with hot dogs or a trip to the hot springs.
With its world-class nightlife scene, Miami is a no-brainer for New Year’s celebrations, and the city offers celebrations both free and VIP, and everything in between. (That’s not to mention the average temperature of 75 degrees.) The festivities in downtown’s Bayfront Park start at 8 pm and include dancing and fireworks at midnight; in South Beach, Lummus Park on Ocean Drive hosts a party from 9 pm to 2 am, which also includes live music and fireworks. For party people, Miami’s glitzy hotels host exclusive events with big-name acts, open bars, and private fireworks displays to boot.
New Year’s celebrations span three days in this vibrant South African city. On New Year’s Eve, the Victoria & Albert Waterfront hosts a concert and midnight fireworks display (smart revelers picnic and party on Table Mountain for unobstructed views of the fireworks), and the Victoria Falls New Year’s Carnival includes a carnival-themed train and live music. On New Year’s Day and the day after, thousands head to local beaches, and the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival parades through downtown, with 10,000 performers dancing and singing in the streets, a tradition that dates back to the 19th-century slave trade.
This bustling metropolis’s locals and expats come together for New Year’s Eve festivities, the centerpiece of which is a massive gathering in Central World Square. The crowd numbers hundreds of thousands, and entertainment includes a spectacular light show, live concert, and video screens projecting celebrations from around the world. At midnight, of course, a series of fireworks displays illuminate the riverside. Afterward, the party continues at nightclubs and the lively beer gardens lining the streets.
This Hawaiian island offers a variety of New Year’s Eve activities in a gorgeous setting. In downtown Honolulu, the Aloha Tower New Year’s Eve party begins at 7 pm and goes until 2 am, featuring live music, dancing, and fireworks. There’s also a fireworks show at Waikiki Beach, which is a decidedly calmer affair. In West Oahu, Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii hosts a daytime celebration for families, which concludes with fireworks after sunset.