Image: Fireworks in Berlin
Axel Schmidt  /  AFP - Getty Images
Fireworks explode over Berlin's Brandenburg Gate as the German capital welcomes 2007.
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updated 12/28/2007 12:39:15 PM ET 2007-12-28T17:39:15

Bangkok: Brand new tradition
For the first time, a 68-foot-high Greeting Ball Tower will offer light and sound effects at midnight in the capital of Thailand. The event will happen outside of the giant CentralWorld shopping mall, where more than 200,000 merrymakers will join hands to count down to the New Year. Earlier in the evening, free events will include a cutting-edge fashion show and eight concert performances by Thai stars. Grab a Chang or Heineken from an outdoor beer garden. (A roughly 30 ounce pour costs $6).

Details:handsbangkokcountdown.com or tourismthailand.org.

Hot tip:If you want to see traditional Thai dance and folk music, head to the city's historic parade ground, Sanam Luang. At midnight, fireworks will explode over the nearby banks of the Chao Phraya River.

Berlin: The best and the wurst
Despite subzero temperatures, Berliners host an open-air New Year's Eve party, and the city claims that it is the largest such party in a specific space in the world. Roughly one million people pack the mile-and-a-quarter-long stretch between the Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate, where colorful lasers illuminate the sky while music — mostly pop — blares from giant speakers. Germans are as law-abiding on Silvester (New Year's Eve) as always, lighting their private fireworks in designated spaces under police watch. But they also cut loose with practical jokes, such as filling homemade doughnuts with mustard instead of the usual jelly.

Details:silvester-berlin.de.

Hot tip: If you need a breather, duck into one of the scattered party tents, which offer free benches and specialty sausages, such as bratwurst for around $3. Or else head to Unter den Linden Boulevard, which offers a clearer, less claustrophobic view of the fireworks.

Slideshow: Cape Town calls

Cape Town: Where the Second is best
A slave's only day off in 18th-century South Africa was on January 2, and so it's on Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year) that Cape Town parties the hardest. Up to 13,000 minstrels will paint their faces white for the Cape Town Minstrel Festival. Clad in bright reds and blues, participants carry instruments and umbrellas while parading from Keizersgracht Street past City Hall and into Rose Street. South African wares and local delicacies are hawked along the route, and troupes compete for titles like Best Dressed.

Details:capetownminstrels.co.za and tourismcapetown.co.za.

Hot tip: Pop into a café along the cobblestone streets of the Bo Kaap residential neighborhood. Watch from indoors as minstrels perform patterned dances past brightly painted houses.

Edinburgh: Viking night lights
The Scottish capital toasts every New Year with a four-day festival called Hogmanay (pronounced hog-muh-NAY). On the Saturday before New Year's, a torchlight procession along Princes Street whisks a 40-foot Viking-style longboat to Calton Hill, where it's torched. Then on New Year's Eve, indie rockers blast away in concerts at the Princes Street Gardens. Nearby, there's a ceilidh, a traditional Scottish party where locals dance gigs and reels to a piper's beat.

Details:edinburghshogmanay.org and visitscotland.com.

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Hot tip: Practice the traditional Scottish song "Auld Lang Syne" in advance. Everyone belts it out when the clock strikes 12.

Hong Kong: Reaching for the stars
At the waterfront promenade Tsim Sha Tsui, seasonal messages to loved ones hang near handprints of Chinese celebrities and a life size statue of kung fu star Bruce Lee. Make wishes and resolutions for the coming year at the Avenue of Stars, which becomes the Wishing Trail during this season. Then use this waterfront vantage point to take in the Symphony of Lights, a noisy, colorful show set on the rooftops of 44 buildings. Near midnight, pyrotechnics light up the city's tallest building, 2 IFC.

Details:discoverhongkong.com.

Hot tip: For a memorable view, jump aboard the Sunshine Star Ferry for a two-hour cruise of Victoria Harbour. It departs from the Tsim Sha Tsui pier; $17 per adult, with free snacks and nonalcoholic drinks on board.

Las Vegas: The glittering Strip
Vegas celebrates New Year's Eve the only way it knows how, with lunatic stunts, a massive light display, and performances by well known entertainers. The Strip hosts the free portion of America's Party, an extravaganza with an eight-minute-long fireworks display launching from seven rooftop locations. On Fremont Street, folks pay $60 a head to step under a four-block-long canopy and watch a motorcycle daredevil team perform stunts inside a roughly 14-foot globe. They also hear the Bangles and the Doobie Brothers jam.

Details:vegasexperience.com.

Hot tip: The Las Vegas Monorail runs until 3 a.m.; a special one-day pass costs $9.

New Orleans: Gumbo and pigskin
As in years past, New Orleans offers its own take on New York City's ball drop: a spotlit gumbo pot that drops from the Jax Brewery at midnight. Its fall prompts a nightlong bar crawl in the historic French Quarter. This year's Sugar Bowl matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Hawaii Warriors on January 1 will provide a football theme for most of the city's New Year's events. For example, in Jackson Square after the gumbo pot drop, a light-and-sound display will synchronize each team's fight song with the appearance of each team's colors in the sky.

Details:neworleansonline.com.

Hot tip:Take the ferry from Canal Street to Algiers Point (friendsoftheferry.org), where you can get a comparatively peaceful view of fireworks. The free ferry departs every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Reykjavík: Fantasy and flames
Icelandic law allows a firework free-for-all on New Year's Eve, making for a raucous night in the capital city. Elves, trolls, and other costumed creatures sing and dance at 11 bonfires scattered across Reykjavík. Note that on this holiday, local bars and clubs open a little after midnight.

Details:visitreykjavik.is.

Hot tip: The warmest way to enjoy the subzero celebrations is to take a coach tour. Iceland Excursions' Gray Line stops at the largest bonfires and offers a midnight toast with sparkling wine for $90 per adult.

Slideshow: Rio grand

Rio de Janeiro: Beach party
The two-and-a-half mile stretch of Copacabana Beach plays host to more than two million partygoers decked out in traditional white. Cariocas (as the locals call themselves) make offerings of red roses and white gladioli to Iemanjá, the Goddess of the Waters, before an all-night whirlwind of dancing. This year, Rio's live concerts will stick to homegrown Brazilian music, including performances by the four samba schools that won the competitions at the most recent Carnival.

Details: rioconventionbureau.com.br.

Hot tip: Looking for passion? Wear a hint of red and you'll send the right message.

Sydney: First to party
Because of its location, the Aussie capital is among the first major cities to greet the new year. The city will synch up its pyrotechnics with colorful lighting effects on the arching Sydney Harbour Bridge. The partying begins earlier in the day, though, with the one o'clock firing of a cannon at nearby Fort Denison. Waterfront events attract crowds of Sydneysiders in T-shirts and shorts — plus indigineous people in traditional garb. When darkness falls, 50 illuminated ships circuit Sydney Harbour, foreshadowing the barrage of light and sound to come.

Details:cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/nye.

Hot tip:Lay down a blanket at North Head at Sydney Harbour's National Park, a relatively uncrowded hangout offering a great vantage point for the fireworks.

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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