These cities are essential for any traveller’s bucket list and are some of the world’s biggest international celebrations. Scroll to the bottom for a travel hack that will let you score two cities on the list in one night.
Bangkok or Koh Phangan, Thailand
If you prefer a warmer clime, Thailand might be the place for you. But it’s clear that Bangkok has taken a page out of Time’s Square book: there are live musical performances and a ball drop at Central World Square, where hundreds of thousands of people will gather. But not only is the crowd less suffocating, there are light shows, games, and and a beer garden for party-goers as well.
For those seeking a more exclusive experience, try the roof top parties at Breeze on the 52nd Floor of Lebua, where you can enjoy an 8 course dinner and enjoy the Bangkok skyline and firework show. Or perhaps the Flûte Bar on the 64th floor, which holds the honor of being the highest al fresco champagne bar in the world.
Those seeking a more party experience will probably enjoy Koh Phangan which has become famous in travel circles for its full moon parties. Here, you can enjoy New Year’s on the beach after braving waters or jungle trails with hundreds of other backpackers who are all going to go a little crazy. Be sure to book well in advance! These parties tend to be hyper popular, with the biggest crowds at Haad Rin.
New York City
New York’s Time Square frequently tops the charts of everyone’s list for the place to spend New Year’s. And while it makes this list too, Time Square holds last place in my heart because, while it may be world famous for the massive gathering, celebrity shows, and the ball drop actually being in the thick of it can actually be a huge pain. The crowd in Time Square is incredibly dense and it’s typically freezing. There’s quite a bit of standing around for hours and hours and any hope you might have on leaving and coming back (to get a drink or use the bathroom) should toss promptly out the door — you’ll never get your spot back. If you manage to score a reservation at one of the bars and clubs that overlooks the square, even then you’ll struggle to get a drink or really enjoy the experience. It’s just too crowded, even by New York standards.
For that reason, I recommend you join the people in Central Park, or for a more unique experience, take a cruise and enjoy the show from the deck.
You don’t have to be a high roller to enjoy a crazy New Year’s in Vegas.
For those trying to be a bit more frugal the Vegas strip is totally shut down for New Year’s, transforming it into a massive block party. The best place to park is near the Panorama Tower (West side) or Hilton (East side) and start drinking before you get there, because the costs of drinks is frequently doubled or triple the price. Once midnight strikes, the casinos launch a simultaneous fireworks display that is truly amazing.
If you’re seeking out a quieter experience, away from the crowds, then the casino Stratosphere, which doubles as a 1,149-foot observation tower, might be the place for you. There are three parties being hosted — one on the 107th floor and then two VIP parties above. All floors have an open bar and DJ, plus a spectacular view of the fireworks.
Dubai hasn’t really picked up steam as a New Year’s travel destination but it’s really just a matter of time.
Known for its over the top opulence, Dubai naturally goes all out for New Year’s, much to the pleasure of the 2 billion people who come to watch the fireworks cascade down from each individual floor of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper. Last year Dubai broke world records for the longest and largest fireworks display in the world and rumor has it that Dubai is striving to break its own record this year, too.
What comes next is a four hours show of lasers, fire, and water, and music at the Dubai fountain.
But if you’d like to party like a king, skip the massive crowds and go straight to the Atlantis Royal Gala, where the evening starts with canapes and champagne and there’s an all night, free flowing bar. The guests of this resort will have a view of the famous Palm, the Dubai skyline, and naturally the lovely resort itself.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is home to one of THE biggest New Year celebrations (known as Revellions) of the year, with two million people from across the world coming to party on the beaches. It’s traditional to show all dressed in white, bedecked in floral garlands, in order to pay homage to the Brazilian goddess of the water lemanja.
Because it’s Brazil and New Year’s, naturally the beaches are filled with live performances and dancing crowds. At midnight, the skies are filled up with an amazing firework display set off from large rafts away from the shore. During that time, goddess Iemanja receives offerings from locals, including vases of white flowers, fruits and lighted candles, and and lips of papers where everyone writes down their wishes for the new year. Party until the sun finally starts to rise over the horizon — then rush into the ocean for the first dip in the sea of the year.
To truly enjoy a New Year’s Eve in Paris, you have to be a bit more meticulous than you would be in, say, Koh Phangan, Thailand. Tradition dictates that you dress nicely for the night — women should wear something chic, paired with heels. Men should wear a collared shirt and dress shoes. Now that you’re all dolled up, indulge in a traditional New Year’s Even dinner with such specialties as foie gras, oysters, or smoked salmon and then hop onto the metro to the Champs-Elysees. Here, above the Arc de Trimphe, is the only place where you’ll find the firework show on New Year’s. But word to the wise, it will be predictably very busy!
Then finish the night at the Moulin Rouge for a midnight show specially designed for New Year’s.
While Dubai might have the most, Sydney is said to have the best firework show in the entire world. It’s estimated that 2 million come to watch the show on the ground, while more than a billion people tuned it to watch it on TV. It probably helps that Sydney one of the first cities to greet the New Year’s. The best place to watch the fireworks is, naturally, on Harbour Bridge. But if you want to avoid the crowds there are plenty of cruises that will be circumambulating the harbor, and there are other good vantage points at Mrs Macquaries Point and the Opera House.
Vienna is best known for its mulled wine and music, so no New Year’s celebration is complete in this city without both. And why not kill two birds with one stone at the most popular site for New Year’s — the Silvesterpfad (“New Year’s Eve Path”). The Silvesterpfad is a massive street party that is free to the public and is filled with ongoing, open air concerts. There, all sorts of music is playing — from opera and folk to pop and rock. In addition to amazing music, there is plenty of mulled wine, beer, champagne and food to enjoy at the booths.
The biggest fireworks display is at Heldenplatz, close to the Imperial Palace.
But if you’d like to dine and dance in style, consider enjoying your evening at the Vienna Gala, hosted at the beyond beautiful town hall. A live orchestra will play waltzes penned by Vienna’s own Johann Strauss, and international soloists will serenade you with with Viennese operettas. At midnight, step outside with a glass of champagne onto the balcony to watch the fireworks.
While Tokyo is known for being hyper-modern, during the New Year’s is the perfect time to see many of Japan’s ancient traditions. So if you’re looking for a quieter New Year’s, Tokyo may be the place for you.
The shrines are hugely popular on New Year’s Eve, with many people going to to ring the New Year’s Eve Bells. Buddhist traditional calls for ringing the bells 108 times, signifying the release of our 108 worldly desires and sins of the past year. The last chime should be made at the stroke of midnight to signify a fresh start.
While at the shrine, you should also pray for a smooth and fruitful year, joining the throngs of people in a hatsumode (or the first shrine visit of the new year). The most popular shrines, and thus those with the longest lines…, are the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, the Asakusa Shrine, and the Yasukuni Shrine. While there, consider getting your fortune or buying a charm.
Finally, find a restaurant that sells soba and dig in. Soba is traditionally eaten on the last day because it’s believed to bring good fortune. It’s long, signifying longevity, easy to chew, signifying ease in overcoming hardship in the coming year, and was used to catch gold, thus bringing prosperity.
If you’d prefer to stick to the sights then Tokyo is famous for its lights. Tokyo Midtown is especially known for its Starlight Garden, and the Tokyo Tower is bedecked in its own beautiful illumination display, where fireworks will also go off at the strike of midnight. For those who still want to party, though, consider the many clubs and bars in Shinjuku.
Scotland takes its New Year celebrating seriously, especially in Edinburgh. There, the party for three days with live bands and crowds who’ve come from every corner of the world to celebrate. It’s one of the most varied celebrations on the list. You can join in on the viking torchlit procession on the 30th, dash into freezing waves for The Loony Dook (and raise money for charity while you’re at it), enjoy traditional choir music at the St. Giles Cathedral, or partake in a good ol’ fashion pub crawl.
For fireworks, the party you must be at is the Hogmanay Street Party in Princes Street Gardens, and as the bell strikes midnight, join in for the world’s largest rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Travel Hack: Party in Sydney and Las Vegas
But can knock out both Sydney and Las Vegas if you take advantage of timezones! After the ball drops in Sydney take a red eye straight flight to Vegas. The flight is 13 hours long but you’ll arrive in Vegas on the evening of December 31st. If you have the stamina, and the liver, to handle it this is a must for any traveller’s bucket list