Top 10 Spots for New Year's Eve

This New Year's Eve, one doesn't have to be the loneliest number. When the clock strikes midnight, crowds will gather in cities around the world to celebrate the arrival of 1-1-11 in a wild variety of international traditions. Forget about waiting for the ball to drop in New York's Times Square. With the list we've compiled, you can sing folk songs around the bonfires of Reykjavik, rave the night away on the beaches of Goa, ensure good luck by eating grapes in Barcelona and watch fireworks in magnificent settings that include Table Mountain, Niagara Falls and the Austrian Alps.

The Fremont Street Experience on New Year's Eve in Las Vegas, Nevada


Las Vegas
Bacchanalia in the Desert

Reinforcing its status as a perennial party town, Las Vegas welcomes 300,000 revelers to ring in the New Year. Hotels, clubs and bars take it to the limit with special shows, but many lock their doors around the midnight hours, so you'll need to decide whether you want to be in or out. We recommend out, since the four-mile-long Strip becomes a vehicle-free promenade where you can drink, mingle and watch fireworks shot off from surrounding rooftops. Meanwhile, downtown, Fremont Street presents its raucous TributePalooza with bands including Fan Halen and Led Zepagain. And if you're looking for the real thing, Jay-Z and Coldplay are scheduled to headline (onstage together) at the new Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. We hear that it's invitation only, so hurry up and find a celebrity BFF to get you on the list.

Brave swimmers partaking in the annual Polar Bear Plunge on January 1 in Savannah, Georgia

Southern Comfort at the Stroke of Midnight
The South may be known for its genteel hospitality, but when the time is right, Southerners love to kick up their heels. In Savannah, that time is December 31, when locals gather for City Market's annual outdoor street party. Kids' activities are aplenty, and the live music that starts at nine is followed by a fireworks display shot off the pier on neighboring Tybee Island. While there's nothing wrong with being a landlubber, we suggest booking a cruise on a traditional stern wheel riverboat for dinner, Champagne toasts and the best fireworks views. Then on January 1, spend the noon hour watching participants with titles from Shrimp to Moby Dick (depending on how many years they've taken part) brave chilly river waters during the Polar Bear Plunge.

Fireworks over the falls on New Year's Eve at Niagra Falls, Canada


Niagara Falls
Barreling into the New Year

Long gone are the days when the most exciting thing to do at Niagara Falls was keep your eyes peeled for a daredevil plummeting over the cascades in a barrel. The falls are now the site of one of the biggest outdoor New Year's Eve parties in Canada. More than 30,000 people gather in Queen Victoria Park to eat, drink and enjoy the free New Year's Eve Concert Extravaganza, organized by the Niagara Parks Commission. Festivities take place against the stunning backdrop of Niagara Falls, which is illuminated as part of the 28th annual Winter Festival of Lights, a November 6 to January 31 display of more than three million lights on a five-kilometer route. Brightening the night even further, the 9 p.m. and midnight Fireworks over the Falls are so much a part of the country's New Year's Eve tradition that they are televised nationwide.

A view of Charles Bridge amidst the fireworks on New Year's Eve in Prague, Czech Republic

Do It Yourself Fireworks

With a free-for-all of hand-held fireworks competing with an official midnight display over Prague Castle and the Vltava River, Prague is rightly known for its wild New Year's Eve. But this is a city that has something for everyone. All day long the Christmas Markets are still in full swing, as colorful wooden huts sell handicrafts, hot food and warm drinks in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Culture lovers can take in the afternoon performance of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at Rudolfinum and then attend the New Year's Eve gala ball at the Prague State Opera. As for those who like their festivities on the rowdy side, the action is in the bars, clubs, and prime fireworks viewing spots: Charles Bridge and the town squares. For crowd-controlled celebrations, dinner cruises ply the Vltava River with music and dancing into the wee hours.

Kitzbuhel, Austria hosts one of the finest fireworks displays in the Alps every New Year's Eve.

Heating up the Slopes

For New Year's Eve in a quaint fairy tale setting, Kitzb├╝hel is our top pick. This 9th-century town has been attracting glamorous revelers ever since Kirk Douglas and Coco Chanel put it on the see-and-be-seen map. A romantic mood takes over as the clock ticks toward midnight, with restaurants and hotels hosting gala dinners and horse-drawn sleighs jingling past medieval houses on traffic-free, cobblestone streets. The big draw, though, takes place on the Hahnenkamm race course. Drinking hot wine and singing folk songs, crowds gather at the base to watch members of the Rote Teufel ski school. Beneath a fireworks display (one of the best in the Alps) choreographed to music, the skiers welcome the New Year with an unforgettable torch-lit performance on the slopes.

Fireworks on New Year's Eve in Reykjavik, Iceland

Cold Temperatures, Hot Nightlife

In Iceland, New Year's Eve traditions offer the chance to brighten up one of the darkest days of the year. With little more than four hours of daylight and sunset before 4 p.m. on December 31, the celebration starts early, beginning with 6 p.m. mass at Reykjavik Cathedral. Locals attend or listen in on the radio, then share a meal with family and friends before heading outdoors for neighborhood bonfires. Visitors wandering the city may easily come across one of these flame-fueled gatherings, where drinking, folk songs and even elves and trolls are not uncommon. While all of this may seem somewhat sedate, don't underestimate a country where there are no restrictions on the holiday sale of fireworks. As for Icelanders wielding firecrackers, they're not the only complement to Reykjavik's official, spectacular pyrotechnics display. Sometimes the Northern Lights get in on the act as well.

The picturesque Victoria & Albert Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa


Cape Town
Wild along the Waterfront

In Cape Town, summertime means surf, suntans and a hot-and-happening New Year's Eve. The entire area is famous for its music events, from the Kirstenbosch Gardens New Year's Eve Concert to the multi-genre Rezonance New Year's Eve Festival offering the ultimate trance and chillout experience. But as midnight nears, most people head for the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. Lively with bars and restaurants year-round, this former fishing terminal brings 2010 to a close against the magnificent backdrop of Table Mountain, as street performers and live music lead up to midnight fireworks over the city. Make sure to save some energy for New Year's Day, since many locals consider this the real celebration. Dating back to the 19th century, the Minstrel Carnival features more than 10,000 costumed musicians, singers and dancers parading in the streets, giving New Orleans and Rio a run for their money.
New Year's Eve in Edinburgh, Scotland

Living High on the Hogmanay
Dust off your tartan and raise a glass of single malt. It's time for New Year's Eve in Edinburgh. Billed as the biggest New Year's Eve festival in the world, five-day Hogmanay kicks off with the Hog the Stage new band competition and a torchlight parade whose river of fire winds through the city. As for the midnight hour, the choices are many. Hit the live music, DJs and outdoor bars at the massive Street Party. Attend Concert in the Gardens, where headliners Biffy Clyro and The Charlatans will rock out pre- and post-midnight against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. Or tackle tradition by learning folk dancing at the popular Keilidh. No matter which venue you choose, when the clock strikes the magic hour you will be in view of fireworks launched from numerous sites including the castle. Afterward, be prepared for the kissathon that accompanies the singing of "Auld Lang Syne."

New Year's Eve on La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain


Fare Thee Well, Old Night
A marketing ploy by grape growers following freak weather conditions and a bumper harvest in the early 20th century, "eating of grapes" is now a beloved Nochevieja (Old Night) tradition. When the clock strikes midnight, you must eat one grape per chime, with each grape signifying good luck for the twelve months of the upcoming year. Before this take place, Barcelona locals dressed in bright costumes take to the streets and main plazas, and after the midnight fireworks have exploded, the real party starts in the city's bars, where music, dancing, tapas and sparkling cava wine keep the festivities going until dawn. If you manage to stay awake that long, head to the beach for a breakfast of hot chocolate and churros as the sun rises.

A raucous outdoor New Year's Eve celebration in Goa, India


Stark Raving Mad under the Stars

Gaining notoriety as a turn-on-tune-in-drop-out hippie paradise in the 1960s, Goa seems to use New Year's Eve to keep its free-living reputation alive. Backpackers flock here for psychedelic trance raves in the open air — insiders tell us "The Hill Top" is the place to be. This Indian state is also a favorite destination for Bollywood stars, whose New Year's Eve antics throughout Goa serve up plenty of fodder for the tabloids. As for the locals, they generally keep to their own traditions with New Year's balls in nearly every brightly decorated village. If you're lucky, you might be invited to share a glass of fenny, a regional brew made from guava, coconut or cashew nuts.


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