Tis the season once again to gather for the holidays. Don we now our glittery apparel and ring in a bright brand new year. Citizens of the world celebrate in unique ways, from massive firework displays to elegant balls and epic street parties that last ‘til dawn. These are our picks for the best New Year destinations.
- CAPE TOWN
This eclectic South African city gives new meaning to “after party”. It celebrates New Year’s on not one, but three incredible days, dating back to the 19th century when slaves were given one day off, January 2. On this day, The Cape Minstrels (also known as the Kaapse Klopse) take over the streets of the Mother City with white-painted faces and colorful garb singing tunes that date back to the 1800s. Today, this Second New Year Street Parade, known as Tweede Nuwe Jaar, has combined old with new and includes some modern songs with a twist.
Why we love it: For its diversity. There’s something totally unique for everyone, from a trance party to a black-tie five-course dinner, complete with a red carpet. But our favorite has to be climbing Table Mountain where picnickers get an incredible view of the firework show as the year changes.
You’d think that with only four hours of daylight the mood would be somber, but the folks in this northern capital are more than ready to have a good time come New Year’s. The festivities begin with massive bonfires, which originated from Icelandic fisherman in the Middle Ages burning things from the previous year to prepare for the new. The tradition continues as people symbolically burn the year past in readiness for a fresh start.
Why we love it: It’s about camaraderie. There’s something incredible when a large-scale celebration is organized for and by the people. There are no official fireworks or happenings from the city, these are just the locals putting on an impressive show themselves and coming together. For a great view of the 360 fireworks display, watch from Reykjavik’s famous landmark and water tower, the Perlan (Pearl).
Repeatedly mentioned as a must-see experience, Scotland’s unique Hogamany Festival boasts one of the most extravagant celebrations in the world. The three day festival begins with the spectacular Torchlight Procession, where visitors join over 40,000 people as they illuminate the city and finish in a breath-taking fireworks display. The festival also features top bands and fun activities for all.
Why we love it: For its spirit. It’s no wonder the Scots have such a passion for this event, considering “Auld Lang Syne” was written by Scotsman Robert Burns. As the bells strike midnight, join hands with people from around the world in the biggest (and loudest) rendition of this iconic song.
- NIAGARA FALLS
How do you make a breathtaking landmark like Niagara Falls even more impressive? Light up the night sky with fireworks and lights, as the colors dance on the rushing water. Canada’s biggest NYE bash takes place here, where Queen Victoria Park hosts a free concert of Canadian musicians and a magnificent firework display begins from Niagara Gorge when the clock strikes 12. The Winter Festival of Lights illuminates a 5 mile route with millions of lights, featuring a sound-light show and a 3D Projection Mapping Show, so its no wonder this gorgeous display made our list for best New Year destinations.
Why we love it: It’s free. Donations are welcome, and it’s great to give what you like from your heart rather than pay a ticket.
Whether you’re the belle of the ball or sipping libations in the streets, Vienna is the place to be on NYE. The Hofburg Palace hosts its famous and iconic New Year’s Eve Grand Ball. Beyond the palace walls, onlookers gather at Silvesterpfad, or New Year’s Path, in the city center which converts from Christmas markets to New Year’s extravaganza. As St. Stephen’s Cathedral bell tolls and the fireworks begin, the best view is from the Majestic Imperator Train de Luxe, which offers stops around the city and a 5-course gala dinner. Yes please!
Why we love it: It offers the elegance of yesteryear. Doesn’t the lady in each of us crave to don a ball gown and waltz the night away in a palace or elegant train car?
- MADEIRA ISLANDS
The magic of Madeira on this special night is not to be missed. The fact that the Guiness Book of World Records has noted it as being the world’s largest firework display earns its place as one of the best New Year destinations. Join the Portuguese for what’s sure to be a great party. Enjoy the Christmas lights of the capital Funchal from the sea aboard a catamaran with a glass of bubbly (or even better Madeira wine) in hand, then watch as the sky is set ablaze as you toast to the New Year.
Why we love it: Go big or go home. We’d love to join thousands and see the world’s largest fireworks display, wouldn’t you?
ORLEANS. You were expecting New York, weren’t you? Of course we love the glitzy ball drop of the Big Apple and its iconic countdown, but we have to admit, we really love the unique vibe of the Big Easy on New Year’s Eve. Celebrate from Jackson Square pulsing with live music performances as the countdown begins. When midnight strikes, folks gather to watch something a little different – the traditional New Orleans fleur-de-lis drop and then the stunning fireworks over the Mississippi River. Make your way to a nightclub in the French Quarter, or a “reveillon dinner” at some of the city’s best restaurants, which offer specially priced multi-course gourmet meals.
Why We Love it: This city’s got soul. It’s a place with a rhythm all its own. Whether it’s for a party or a funeral, the Crescent City sure knows how to express itself through music and festivities, so naturally it makes our top picks for New Year’s.