Ringing in the new year is a tradition worldwide, with every country putting their own spin on the festivities. If hopping on a flight to somewhere new and exciting is how you want to herald in the new year, these 10 cities pull out all the stops and then some.
Whether it’s a party on the beach, fireworks over the Colosseum, a cruise around Sydney Harbour, or an evening at Disney, there’s something for everyone.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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 (almost) on par with the city’s famous Carnival, and the ultimate celebration – one of the best in the world – is at Copacabana Beach, where an estimated two million revelers congregate each year for music, swimming, football, barbecues and a massive fireworks display. Smaller, just-as-lively beaches such as Ipanema and Flamengo are also worth considering. The restaurants along Copacabana fill up quickly, so early booking is essential if you want to schedule dinner. Try Rio institution Bip Bip for live music, and local favorite Pavão Azul for the octopus rice and batida de coco, a cocktail made from coconut cream, condensed milk and cachaça (a spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice).
Ringing in the new year in Rome is all about lavish fireworks displays against the backdrop of some of the most spectacular buildings in the world. Make your way toward the Circus Maximus for La Festa di Roma, a free all-day affair of entertainment, activities and events for all ages. Around 10pm stake your claim for a prime viewing spot as you ring in the new year watching the Colosseum sparkle under a sky of exploding colorful fireworks. For a low-key New Year's celebration, join the locals at Trastevere for a festive dinner and general celebratory mood no matter where you go. If you want to keep the party going on January 1, join the New Year’s Day parade at the Piazza del Popolo.
New York City, USA
With its famous glittering Ball Drop, Times Square offers one of the most iconic NYE gatherings in the world. Crowds start queuing in the cold — usually at noon — on December 31 as they await live performances and a midnight rendition of “New York, New York.” But this isn’t the only NYE party destination in New York. A river cruise, like Gatsby’s Fireworks Yacht Party, always provides a festive vibe, not to mention views of the fireworks as they ignite against the Midtown skyline. New York rooftop bars are also great locations at which to party. Magic Hour is the city’s largest indoor/outdoor rooftop and features Empire State Building views. If you want to stay away from the Manhattan madness, join a walking tour across the Brooklyn Bridge to see the city skyline twinkle and perhaps catch some fireworks at midnight if you linger long enough.
The hottest New Year’s ticket in Tokyo is for Countdown Japan, a four-day long music festival that runs into New Year’s Day. However it’s also the hardest ticket to get, and after two rounds of a lottery it’s already sold out. But Tokyo has plenty of other ways to ring in the new year including Tokyo Disney’s countdown event. This is one of the only times during the year where you can experience the park offerings well after midnight and dine on foods prepared especially for New Year. If you’re looking for a low-key alternative to the big parties, check out one of the city’s temples for the ritual of the ringing of the bell. At midnight, a monk rings the temple bell 108 times, correlating to the number of worldly desires recognized by Japanese Buddhism, and purifying participants. The ancient temple of Zōjō-ji, which dates to 1393, draws both locals and tourists for the hatsumōde, a pilgrimage to visit the first shrine of the new year. If you’d prefer more of a party atmosphere, Yokohoma across Tokyo Bay offers laser and light shows and countdown cruises around the bay. The Roppongi area is another NYE hotspot, with plenty of countdown events and all the tunes.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is just coming into summer on New Year’s Eve, which makes for an ideal time to visit. Your NYE options are exciting indeed in this spectacularly beautiful destination. Immerse yourself in South African music, sports, and food at the three-day Get Lucky Summer festival, which runs from December 30 until January 1. For a completely unique experience, go immersive with Alcazar’s NYE party, a feast for the eyes and ears with performance art and a music extravaganza that will have you partying until 4am. You can also take a cruise around the harbor to see the last sunset of 2023. If you want a perfect viewpoint for the fireworks, pack a picnic and take a cable car to the top of Table Mountain.
All eyes are on Sydney for New Year’s Eve. Within the city, numerous vantage points for the iconic harbor fireworks welcome visitors all day on December 31; check online to see what time they’re likely to fill up (most close when capacity is reached in the early afternoon), and whether you can drink alcohol. Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden is a fabulous (and free) venue at which to celebrate the new year, as is Sydney Harbour National Park, with a choice of parties on three islands or parks on either side of the water. A very glamorous option is the House of Splendour party at Sydney Opera House (tickets start at a whopping AUS$950) or an NYE boat party on the harbor. There are also family-friendly events like obstacle courses, music, face painting and more at The Greens North City.
Another city renowned for its high-octane nightlife, the Thai capital doesn’t disappoint on December 31. The CentralWorld Plaza is the focus for much of the revelry, with a beer garden and live entertainment; the open-air night market Asiatique is another popular NYE destination, with restaurants offering special menus for the evening. There are lots of wildly impressive rooftop bars and restaurants to choose from in Bangkok – and you can certainly reach for the stars at the Lebua hotel at State Tower, with its four altitude-defying restaurants and bars, including the world’s (supposedly) highest outdoor bar. If you’re looking for a romantic evening, take a river cruise and feast on Thai food, music and fireworks.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai certainly knows how to throw a party. The fireworks display at the Burj Khalifa is so bright that it can be seen across the entire UAE. In town, there are numerous locations from which to enjoy them, including the breathtaking Kite Beach, where you can bring a picnic. Glamorous galas and gourmet soirees abound, such as at one at the opulent Atlantis, featuring free-flowing champagne, Michelin-starred cooking stations, and a massive fireworks display. The highly anticipated party at Zero Gravity features a daytime pool party until sunset and an evening lineup of international DJs that will have you dancing into 2024.
Québec City, Canada
Temperatures average 16°F (-9°C) in Québec City in winter, but this charming town warms up on New Year’s Eve thanks to heated terraces and outdoor fireplaces. (Sipping on a caribou cocktail – a combination of red wine, hard liquor and maple syrup – can also help.) The main NYE party is at Grande Allée, with a winter village, live bands, dancing in the streets, Ferris wheels and fireworks, and Place de l’Assemblée-Nationale is where you’ll find musical performances. Sample some of Québec’s famous cuisine at Auberge Saint-Antoine’s Chez Muffy restaurant, which showcases regional produce. But before that, work up an appetite by tobogganing at the famous Terrasse Dufferin or by skating under the stars on the ice rink at Place d’Youville.
Las Vegas, USA
The Las Vegas Strip becomes party central on New Year’s Eve, when it closes to traffic starting at 8pm and visitors 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. North of the Strip, the Freemont St party downtown is always worth catching, with pyrotechnics, bands and a music stage with aerialists and dancers. This year you can rock out at shows from Bruno Mars at Park MGM, Adele at Caesars Palace and Demi Lovato at The Cosmopolitan. Another great way to see in 2023 is to book a pod on the High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel, which offers impressive views of Sin City.