Best option for extending your visit into 2015: Rio de Janeiro
December 31 is both a festive and healing holiday in Brazil, where party goers head to the beach and don all-white outfits to symbolize the clean slate of the new year. As part of the renewal process, locals launch floating candles, flowers, perfume, and gifts in little decorative boats into the ocean as a tribute to Iemanja, Goddess of the Sea. This year, the party promises to be more impressive than usual as Rio celebrates it’s 450th anniversary and completes one final prep year for the upcoming 2016 Olympics. And if you need one more reason to spend time on a warm beach while sipping from coconuts surrounded by gorgeous people, Rio’s Reveillon celebration on Copacabana beach features one of the finest fireworks displays on Earth.
Best for urban dwellers: Sydney
As one of the first cities to fearlessly charge into the New Year, it’s fitting that Sydney would throw a party like no other. A night of music and entertainment culminates in an epic fireworks display over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as millions of revelers watch from vantage points across the city (last year 1.5 million people attended!) or via expensive boat rides throughout the harbour. If you’d like to see the jubilations, but don’t want to get crushed in the crowd, you can also volunteer to assist the festivities team!
Best for a great meal: Tuscany
Fill your belly with something other than alcohol with a New Year’s Eve in an Italian courtyard surrounded by live music, a hundred of your closest friends, and a freshly cooked cenone, or enormous dinner. The day-long event centers around the bonds of food and family, shared among close-knit neighbors in their local piazza. Each town prepares a different party every year, but you’re likely to see an orchestra in Siena, a light show in Livorno, and, if you’re in Pisa, a display of acrobats near the Arno River. Your meal might be a mix of sausage or pork, and possibly some lentils — all meals that are said to bring good luck for the new year. And speaking of luck, it’s Italian tradition to wear red underwear on
Best for fireworks fanatics: Hong Kong
If you thought Times Square was crowded, you might be impressed with Hong Kong’s biggest bash. The annual fireworks display on Victoria Harbor is so amazing that locals start lining up even before nightfall on either side of the water, Kowloon or Hong Kong Island, some holding their spots for five or six hours. If crowds aren’t for you, you can still enjoy a sparkling evening watching the countdown to Midnight at the Times Square shopping center, where a smaller replica of New York’s infamous New Year’s Eve ball will drop at the stroke of 12.
Best destination for staying in the holiday spirit: Berlin
Berlin is a party city and certainly upholds that reputation on New Year’s Eve. House music fans, or people who just want to let off a little steam and dance, will find no shortage of clubs to enjoy until the early hours of the morning on “Silvester,” the German celebration of the turning of the new year. But where this city really stands out is within its many little holiday markets. So, for a more traditional holiday, spend the daylight hours at Berlin’s favorite outdoor shop, the
Most exotic New Year’s party: Cartagena
Surround yourself with a little bit of old as you bring in the new while spending New Year’s Eve inside the walls of the old city of Cartagena. Because of the concentration of gorgeous boutique hotels, you’ll find a party pretty much anywhere you find a bar, but the closer you get to 2015, the larger the party will become and soon you’ll be spilling into the crowded narrow streets, with everyone from hotel staff to other tourists, while local musicians beat drums and dance to the beat. Grab some queso, empanadas and limeade from the carts that line the old city streets and get dressed up at one of the many closet-sized boutiques that sell jewelry and trinkets. Can’t make it to Cartagena? In Colombian tradition, grab a suitcase and run through the streets as fast as you can to entice travel into your life in the New Year.
Best destination for something completely different: Key West
Capitalizing on its stereotype as an off-beat beach destination, Key West plans a ball drop like no one else. Duval Street is where all of the action happens, with jubilating crowds, live music, drinks and the suspension of star drag queen Sushi from an extra-large, sparkly high heel at the Bourbon St. Pub, and the 22nd annual dropping of a large conch shell at Sloppy Joe’s, a favorite bar of Ernest Hemingway.
Most romantic New Year’s setting: Budapest
According to Hungarian folklore, if you were the first person in your town to pull water from the well in the New Year, you’ll have good luck the whole year through. There’s no need to dig a well now, but you can make your own luck in Budapest by taking a boat cruise on the beautiful Danube to celebrate Szilveszter. From your vantage point on the water, you’ll see several small fireworks displays, including the most prominent near the city’s iconic Chain bridge, and many boat tours offer dinner and open bar, as well as stunning views of Hungarian Parliament.
Best option for a quiet night: Upstate New York
When December 31 rolls around, you won’t find many New Yorkers hanging around Times Square. The crowds and the noise just aren’t worth it. But if you want to stay within the Empire State, head north for some peace and quiet. The Catskill Mountains, are fast becoming a respite for city dwellers who want to get out of town while enjoying miles of fragrant pine trees, chic boutique motels and Airbnb cabins, and numerous options for your final meal of the year; try the modern Italian cuisine at Cucina or Red Onion — a favorite of locals in Woodstock. Spend the night enjoying a romantic sip of champagne, then fall asleep in total peaceful slumber away from the cavorting hordes of Manhattan. When you wake up (but not too early) grab a specialty pancake at Sweet Sue’s in the hamlet of
Wildest party: Koh Phangan, Thailand
This list wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of at least one intense, exhibitionist, insane party, like Koh Phagan’s Full Moon Party. There’s a reason this destination ranks high on the list for young intrepid New Year’s travelers anxious to add some experimentation to their lives. But, if you are adventurous enough to handle the casual (and illegal) drug use, blaring trance music and rampant alcoholism of the crowds on Sunrise Beach, few locations are more beautiful to open your eyes to on the first day of the New Year. Party at your own risk.