3, 2, 1 ... Happy new year!
Whether counting down to 2009 at tried-and-true celebrations like New York’s annual Times Square extravaganza or by eating a grape for every stroke of midnight in Barcelona, your adrenaline is sure to be racing as 2008 winds down in our favorite places to ring in the new year.
We love the ultimate party city, Vegas, for its most over-the-top show of the year; partying hearty in Berlin's massive open-air fiesta; schussing the slopes of the majestic Rockies; and even standing under the breathtaking fireworks as they cascade over Sydney’s harbor.
Should you agree that one day of feting simply won't suffice, experience the celebration Scot-style, with merrymaking in Edinburgh that lasts four long days, or head to bustling Hong Kong to experience what's billed as the world's largest Chinese New Year celebration, spanning more than a week of festivities. Beach-lovers can also experience sandy revelry with a twist on Dec. 31 in Rio or Miami.
Snow bunnies will use any excuse to hit the slopes, and a New Year’s celebration is better than most. But, there’s way more than soft, wide mountain terrain to lure reveling holiday travelers to Aspen’s legendary runs.
This fabled, fabulous resort has long played host to the free-spirited and the Forbes/Fortune crowd who can’t get enough of the sophisticated action on and off the slopes. Whether schussing down the slopes of Snowmass or Aspen Highlands, dining on gourmet cuisine, or savoring martinis with the well-heeled, Aspen makes for a glittering Alpine getaway and a stylish end-of-year send off.
Don’t miss your siesta — Barcelona’s all-night New Year’s fiesta requires some stamina! The Spanish version of año nuevo kicks off with family and friends sharing a sumptuous meal and mucho vino at a private home or restaurant — the more exceptional restaurants, like Catalan-inspired Ca l’Isidre and upscale Jaume de Provença — must be booked well in advance.
The onset of 12 a.m. means a frantic race to stuff your face with 12 good-luck grapes — one for each stroke of midnight. You’d be wise to concentrate on the task at hand: If you succeed at this long-standing Spanish tradition, you’re ensured a year of prosperity and good luck (otherwise, it’s said you’ll have a month of bad luck for every uneaten grape).
Once the last one is downed, crowds spill out into the Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas, drawn by the pulsating music and chatter emanating from numerous bars and nightclubs. The action stays pumping until dawn — just in time to catch the first sunrise of the year on the beach, with some hot chocolate and churros in hand!
Sure, winter in Berlin can be downright frigid, but the city’s schedule of adrenaline-pumping New Year's Eve activities warms spirited revelers right up.
Kick off the festivities long before the stroke of midnight at the Berlin New Year’s Eve Run — whether you lace up your sneakers or just join ranks to watch, this is guaranteed to be a race unlike any other. (The trophy goes not to the fastest runner, but to the most outrageously costumed!)
Afterwards, follow the crowds to the mile-and-a-quarter-long Silvester (New Year’s Eve) party, which unfolds between the iconic Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column. Join over a million people at this mind-blowing bash complete with DJ towers, laser light shows, party tents, video screens, live bands and a fireworks show that brings in the new year with a bang.
This Scottish capital boasts one of the world’s biggest new year bashes: Hogmanay. At the close of each year, a four-day fête counts down to the big kahuna on Dec. 31, complete with parades, concerts, carnivals, dog races, firework shows and a slew of hedonistic events and parties.
Major international artists perform in the city center during the Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party on New Year’s Eve, while age-old national customs, like “first-footing,” are practiced all over town: Right after midnight, neighbors bring luck — and gifts of coal or shortbread — to their friends and family by being the first to set foot in their household in the new year.
What’s better than celebrating New Year’s once? Celebrating it twice! Enjoy traditional Dec. 31 festivities at home, and then jet off to Hong Kong several weeks later to do it all over again — only bigger and arguably, better.
Hong Kong earns accolades for hosting the world’s biggest Chinese New Year celebration (the leading event on the lunar calendar), with 2009 festivities set to run from Jan. 20 through Feb. 1. During this time, visitors can welcome the Year of the Ox by taking part in specially planned events and activities like browsing colorful flower markets, attending horse races or ogling massive fireworks displays.
Don’t miss the free “fiestas” (held Jan. 27 through Feb. 1), featuring elaborate floats and performers, or the International Chinese New Year Night Parade (held on Jan. 26, Chinese New Year’s Day), when Hong Kong will be bursting at the seams with costumed revelers, musical performances and an overall sense of jubilation.
Viva Las Vegas is never more vivacious than when the no-holds-barred party capital of the world hosts the biggest party of the year. Throwing down in Sin City has become a consistently bigger and better New Year’s phenomenon in recent years, as partiers are lured by dazzling pyrotechnics, wild street parties, super-chic nightclubs, gourmet restaurants, big-name performers — and hundreds of thousands of fellow revelers with whom to enjoy it.
The main action unfolds on the Strip, which is closed to traffic and transformed into a viewing platform for a fantastic fireworks extravaganza that’s blasted into the night sky above the city’s neon lights. "America's Party" also takes place downtown where the Fremont Street Experience becomes a huge block party complete with confetti, a massive wine toast, concerts by big-name rockers and a five-block-long illuminated canopy 90 feet overhead, on which state-of-the-art sound-and-light shows are shown.
While the winter chill keeps many of us bundled up and indoors on the big eve, South Beach is as hot as ever and we’re not just talking about the weather.
Miami’s trendy Art Deco neighborhood buzzes with a sexy scene that’s even more energized than usual when the year comes to a close. Cool and well-dressed hipsters bounce from bar to club, not to mention scads of Hollywood A-listers who flock south for some of the year’s most exclusive and unabashed fiestas. Don’t have an invite? You can still nab tickets to an array of party hot spots like The Delano, The Setai, or Gansevoort South to hobnob and people watch.
For something a little less velvet rope, Miami’s Bayfront Park hosts South Florida’s largest on-the-house party, with a free concert, a countdown to midnight with the big Orange drop (the New Year’s ball that slowly descends the side of the InterContinental hotel) and a dazzling fireworks display over Biscayne Bay.
New York City
For the ultimate New Year’s experience, there’s no better place to be than in the center of the City That Never Sleeps. Times Square has been home to the renowned “ball drop” celebration for 102 years (it debuted in 1907). Today, millions of visitors flood New York City’s confetti-covered streets to partake in an all-night, over-sized street party filled with live music, celebrity visits and tons of Happy New Year paraphernalia.
For those wary of late-December weather forecasts, have no fear: You can always join the excitement without bundling up, as local bars and night clubs buzz with their own private parties, many of which last until the wee hours of the morning.
Plus, if you’re looking to join the festivities from home, tune into the live TV coverage of the annual event along with audiences worldwide
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sure, Carnival might get all the glory, but New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro is memorable in its own right. An extravagant beachfront spectacle, known as Reveillon, sees an eclectic blend of traditions unfold along Copacabana, attracting some 2 million faithful practitioners of the Umbanda religion and the Candomblé religion — and a lot of curious tourists.
Sure, you’ll get your no-less-than-spectacular fireworks, delectable Brazilian food and pulsating samba music to enjoy during the warm summer day’s festivities, but you’ll also see ritualistic offerings to the sea goddess, Iemanjá, made by a group of white-clad, candle-holding, revelers who rush to the surf to release small wooden boats. Tradition holds that if the goddess is pleased with a boat’s inner offerings (normally flowers, perfumes or other similar trinkets), it will be carried out to sea and the bearer bestowed with blessings.
As night falls, Brazilians prove that they sure know how to party as DJs start up their sound systems and dancing and drinking lasts until dawn. Luxury beachfront hotels host private balls and parties, to boot. They’re also a great spot for tuckered-out revelers to enjoy champagne breakfasts as the first light of Jan. 1 approaches.
Sydney is renowned across the globe for hosting one of the ultimate New Year’s Eve bashes. Indeed, this Aussie capital pulls out all the stops, with an array of glamorous citywide celebrations and stellar pyrotechnic presentations over the harbor. Bursts of dazzling colors explode over the Sydney Harbor Bridge and dance on the water and over the Opera House’s scalloped roof.
Plenty of New Year’s Eve cruises sail around the harbor to provide unparalleled views of the spectacular extravaganza. And since it’s summer down under, you can delight in sun-drenched spoils the next day. With a chic urban vibe, gorgeous surf-swept beaches, rocking nightlife and an edgy art scene, there’s plenty to soak up after you recuperate from a champagne-filled night you won’t soon forget.