Honoring the New Year is one of only a handful of traditions universally cherished around the globe, and with just about every nation now celebrating on December 31, your choices of where to ring in the new year are mind-bogglingly infinite. Be sure to plan early for prime parties and the best viewing areas for fireworks. Some venues charge admission, and tickets sometimes sell out well ahead.
Sydney, Australia, is the first major international city to greet the New Year at midnight. The major fireworks display takes place at Sydney Harbour with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge providing a spectacular backdrop. More people attend New Year’s Eve in Sydney Harbour than in Times Square, and for good reason: the Sydney fireworks may be the most admired and beloved display worldwide. Fireworks launch from the Opera House, nearby buildings, barges on the water, and from Harbour Bridge.
Bangkok often tops the lists of Asia’s best nightlife cities so of course, it’s a natural place to ring in the new year if you like crowds, noise and revelry. Bangkok’s answer to Times Square, Central World Plaza, is one of the main gathering spots for celebrations. Before catching one of the fireworks displays, why not attend a drag show, Muay Thai boxing exhibition, or any number of special cabarets for the holiday. If you’re looking for the most Bangkok-y experience imaginable, then head to Khaosan Road and bar hop the many street-side options, or dive deeper into one of the clubs for an unforgettable start to the new year.
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is one of the most attention-grabbing skyscrapers in the world, and it’s only more so at New Year’s Eve. There aren’t many places on Earth to witness more (manmade) spectacle than Dubai, and New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to take it in. Explosive fireworks around the city are visible from public spaces, but the best views come from the decadent parties held in the city’s towering skyscrapers, especially the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa, where parties rage on the 122nd floor. Dubai was once the world record holder for the largest fireworks display ever, launched on New Year’s Eve 2013, before the Philippines unseated the city in 2016. Dubai loves records, so watch for the city to take back the title someday.
Cape Town is one of the most beautifully situated cities in Africa — and the world. New Year’s Eve fireworks make it even more spectacular. Fondly known as South Africa’s “Mother City,” Cape Town is a favorite destination for countless travelers to the continent, and New Year’s Eve is an ideal time to check out the diverse cultural offerings of this scenic city for free. Throughout the famous V&A waterfront area, pop-up performances ranging from opera solos to dance ensembles entertain throughout the evening, with free entertainment all tied to the annual theme.
The ball may drop in New York City, but Big Ben rings out in London. Greenwich Mean Time is the standard from which all other time zones are measured and kept, so it stands to reason that Big Ben is a symbol of steadfast timekeeping and a New Year’s Eve icon. Magisterial London along the Thames always provides a remarkable backdrop for New Year’s Eve fireworks. Tickets sell out fast for the official staging area, but you may be able to see the fireworks for free from hilltops such as Primrose Hill, Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, Greenwich Park and Alexandra Palace.
Year-round, the Big Apple is the center of the universe to plenty of people, but on New Year’s Eve it’s the center for everyone. There are 38 different time zones counting down to midnight on December 31, but all eyes are on Times Square, as more than one billion revelers around the globe tune in to see the glittering ball drop high above the crowd of one million partiers ringing in a new year. Star-studded concerts entertain the throngs who arrive as early as noon for prime viewing. Times Square is synonymous with New Year’s Eve across the United States. Even if you aren’t there in person, there’s a good chance you’ve watched the famous ball drop on television. (The ball made its debut in 1907 and has been dropped each year since then, except for two years during World War II).
If you thought Disney was the best reason to go to Orlando, well . . . think again. There’s no question that no one does hospitality quite like Disney, and when there’s a parade and fireworks every night of the year, you can be sure that holidays are extra spectacular. New Year’s Eve at Disney is packed with themed parties, special menus, and events at restaurants throughout the parks, and photo ops with all your favorite characters, but Countdown to Midnight is the main attraction on December 31st. This massive soiree includes cocktails in the Fantasia Ballroom and chefs preparing food fit for a banquet, an interactive DJ, a live band, and, of course, a champagne toast under one magical fireworks display.
With warm, sunny weather, panoramic views and a seductive samba beat, New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro is life affirming. Festivities here are on par with the city’s famous Carnival, and the ultimate celebration is at Copacabana Beach where an estimated two million revelers congregate for music, swimming, football, barbecues and a massive fireworks display. Smaller beaches such as Ipanema and Flamengo, meanwhile, are also worth considering. The restaurants along Copacabana fill up quickly so early booking is advisable if you want to schedule a NYE dinner. Try Rio institution Bip Bip for live music and local favorite Pavão Azul for its octopus rice and batida de coco, a cocktail made from coconut cream, condensed milk and cachaça (spirit from fermented sugarcane juice.)
The Las Vegas Strip becomes party-central on New Year’s Eve, as it closes off traffic from 6pm so visitors can take to the streets for the world’s biggest block party. The fireworks display is choreographed from seven different casino roofs, lighting up the Nevada sky. As well as the Strip, the Freemont street party is always worth catching, with pyrotechnics, bands and an EDM stage with aerialists and dancers, and an appearance by the Las Vegas mayor. You can rock out to some of the hottest entertainers around with shows from Lady Gaga at Park MGG; Maroon 5 at Mandalay Bay; and Christina Aguilera at Planet Hollywood. Another great way to see in 2020 is to book a pod on the High Roller the world’s tallest observation wheel for impressive views of Sin City.
It should be little wonder that one of Europe’s most iconic cities makes the list as one of the best places to spend New Year’s Eve. The Eiffel Tower is lit up to mark the occasion and crowds of revelers swarm the Champs-Elysees, which provides fantastic views of the tower. The area turns into a massive street party, with both champagne bottles and fireworks popping everywhere. If you’re looking for something a little different, try Montmarte for excellent views of fireworks without the crowd. If you want something romantic, book a dinner cruise along the Seine and listen to a live orchestra as you sail through the City of Lights. Restaurants and nightclubs also hold soirees, so you have no shortage of options for how to ring in the new year.