Orlando’s resorts and theme parks exist only to dole out entertainment and amusement. New Year’s Eve is no exception, with Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Studios all putting on sparkling parades and amazing fireworks displays. The Orlando World Centre Marriott hosts the Annual Sunglass Soirée, involving a swanky cocktail reception, silent auction, gastronomic dinner and music, while Universal City Walk’s non-stop dancing is a more vigorous way to see in the new year.
The Champs Elysées is the epicentre of Paris’s “St. Sylvestre” celebrations. A huge crowd gathers from 9pm, clutching bottles of bubbling champagne and firecrackers. At midnight, a dazzling display of fireworks explode and pop around the Eiffel Tower. Another spot to head for is Montmartre, where the street party is a little more relaxed; the views over the city from here are spectacular.
Prague, Czech Republic
Pyrotechnics play a pivotal role in Prague’s New Year festivities; come midnight, myriad fireworks of all shapes, sizes and colours burst into the dark Czech sky. The best place to see them is from Charles V bridge, Prague Castle or from Penin Hill. The crowds themselves set off their own fireworks by hand – an alarming but magical spectacle.
Australia is first to celebrate the New Year, and in Sydney they do it in style. Over a million people flock to Sydney Harbour to watch as countless fireworks detonate in a surfeit of shapes and mesmerizing shades over the Opera House. There are two shows – the family one at 9pm, and the main spectacle at midnight.
The Japanese new year – “Shōgatsu” – is rung in by Buddhist bells striking 108 times, which symbolizes the number of sins man has to atone for. Listening to the bells will rid them of their guilt. Another purifying tradition is undertaken by the Shinto people, who douse themselves in ice-cold water. Others simply party their cares away in Tokyo’s mega-clubs.
Niagara Falls, Canada/USA
The Niagara Falls are impressive at the best of times, but New Year’s Eve takes them to an even more magnificent level. The thundering cascades are lit up by a magical series of lights, while radiant firework displays burst overhead and to top it off, there is a energetic live music concert just opposite.
Many of Venice’s restaurants put on enormous feasts that can last hours. Revellers then flock to St Mark’s Square, where they’re treated to live music, fireworks and bella brindsi (toasted bread). Midnight is celebrated with a group kiss. The next day, hardy souls take to the chilly waters of the Lido for a New Year swim.
Celebrations in Vienna are typically elegant, as balls and waltzes are put on in many of the city’s most impressive venues. There are also enticing food markets and boisterous street parties. On New Year’s Day itself, Vienna’s Philharmonic Orchestra takes centre stage, belting out the uplifting melodies of Johann Strauss and his contemporaries.
With every strike at midnight, locals munch a grape, hoping for a month of good luck with every juicy bite. Then after a splendid fireworks display at the Puerta del Sol, they head to the clubs and party until the sun has fully risen on January 1. The celebrations for many are rounded off by a visit to the Chocolateria San Gines for some chocolate con churros.
Coconut Grove, Florida
The King Mango Strut Parade takes place on the last Sunday of every year in the residential town of Coconut Grove. The parade’s main objective is to satirize anything and everything – particularly events that have happened over the past year. Its not for sensitive folk – irreverence is the name of the game.
The crowd jostle their way to Red Square early in the evening, armed with bottles of warming vodka and Russian sparkling wine, ready to enjoy a host of live music concerts and a brief speech from the President. At midnight, an extravaganza of fireworks is set off, lighting up the sky above the Kremlin.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans prides itself on throwing a New Year’s Eve party that’s a class above the rest. Jackson Square in the vibrant, jazz-filled French Quarter, is where most people gather, ready to party hard from 9pm till dawn. Midnight sees a stunning fireworks display over the Mississippi River.
New York City, USA
There simply isn’t anywhere else to be in New York on New Year’s Eve than Times Square. As the clock strikes midnight, an almighty cheer erupts from the crowd as they watch the ball drop from the top of the flagpole of One Times Square. Fireworks burst and crackle, and the city that never sleeps begins its partying in earnest.
London’s ten-minute fireworks display erupts next to the London Eye on the South Bank, engulfing Big Ben and the stately Houses of Parliament in a glittering cloud of colour and smoke. The best place to watch from is the South Bank itself, while many cruise boats take to the Thames for some unrivalled views.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated with gusto in the good-time Indian state of Goa. The best place to be is undoubtedly the beach, where parties, complete with fireworks, take place up and down the coast – bigger and wilder in the clubbing hub of Anjuna, and quieter and cosier in Palolem.
For the best views of Hong Kong’s magnificent New Year’s Eve fireworks display, revellers jump aboard boats and glide about Victoria Harbour, enjoying all-in food and drink banquets. Back on land, Times Square is a heaving mass of celebration, while Lan Kwai Fong is where most of the parties kick off.
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu is the last place to ring in the New Year, and sandy Wakiki Beach provides a dramatic backdrop for an enormous fireworks display. Beachfront nightclubs like RumFire and The Edge of Waikiki host extremely popular and raucous parties.
Key West, Florida
It’s a New Year’s Eve tradition in the US to lower something from the sky to the ground. In Key West, these “somethings” include a large conch shell, a pirate wench and a local diva named “Sushi” riding an oversized red stiletto shoe. More usual traditions like fireworks and street parties are on hand, too.
Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand
The craziest parties on the planet take place every month on Ko Pha Ngan, but with 30,000 people descending on the island, New Year’s Eve is definitely the wildest of them all. A mind-blowing twelve sound systems blast music over the tropical beaches, while beachfront bars are packed out with boozing clubbers.
It’s a bit of squeeze on the Strip at New Year’s Eve, but it’s without doubt the place to be. After an awesome fireworks display, the celebrations then decant into the casinos or star-studded, swanky clubs and keep going until well into the new year.
Amsterdam’s four main squares – Dam Square, Rembrandtplein, Nieuwmarkt and Leidseplein – form the focus for bustling street parties, mostly comprising exuberant tourists. Come midnight, the city’s skies explode with colour: the roof of NEMO museum and Amstel’s Skinny Bridge are great spots to watch the fireworks.
The plush ski resort of Aspen in Colorado’s stunning Rocky Mountains turns into a magical wonderland over the festive period, culminating in a bonfire and firework extravaganza on New Year’s Eve. The cosy bars, snug clubs and snowy streets are packed out with people carousing and celebrating.
Berlin thoroughly enjoys its New Year’s Eve celebrations, putting on a bonanza of live music concerts, pop-up clubs, laser and light shows, food and drink stalls and a maze of party tents along Straße des 17. Juni. At midnight, the Brandenburg Gate is the venue for a fiery fireworks display.
It’s all about themed parties in Boston on New Year’s Eve. From a decadent Great Gatsby party and a sweet and sugary Willie Wonka-themed shindig to a spirited disco-burlesque rave, along with countless other sophisticated dinners and balls, Boston has something for everyone.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It’s high summer in Brazil over New Year’s Eve so sandy Copacabana beach is the place to head. The crowd wears white – to symbolize a fresh start for the coming year – and, after enjoying a lengthy firework display, douse each other liberally with champagne.
Scotland’s Hogmanay is celebrated on the chilly streets of its capital, Edinburgh, where on December 30 there is an atmospheric torch-lit parade. The next night, crowds gather for a fantastic fireworks display streaking across the skies above craggy Edinburgh castle. At midnight there’s a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.