New Year's Eve can go one of two ways: either it’s a night of rare revelry or, let's be honest, a bit of an anticlimax. Don't let December 31 pass you by this time around though; head to one of these party-focused destinations for a countdown to remember.

Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the first places to ring in the new year and Auckland, the City of Sails, is set to showcase its natural and man-made assets to ensure the global party gets off to a glittery start.

This year, Silo Park in Wynyard Quarter hosts the Wondergarden festival, where bobbing yachts and the iconic SKY Tower will act as a backdrop for live music and DJs prior to a spectacular fireworks display at midnight.

Revellers can spend the night on the harbour or cruise the Hauraki Gulf, sampling delicious local Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc as they watch the light show from the water. And for those wanting to escape from crowded downtown, the pyrotechnics will be visible from Cable Bay Winery on Waiheke Island, where jazz and dancing complement fine wine.

Fearful of a hangover? Don’t stress as New Zealand’s boutique coffee scene is one of the world’s best. Grab a cold-batch brew, an organic juice or enjoy a fry-up at the Takapuna Beach Cafe before donning your togs (eg bathing suit) for a reviving dip in the warm water off Takapuna Beach.

Chris Zeiher is Lonely Planet’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Asia-Pacific. Follow his tweets @chriszeiher.

British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dyke, Great Harbour, elevated view from Majohnny Hill © Walter Bibikow / Getty images
Partygoers will head for Jost Van Dyke on December 31 as the tiny island celebrates the resilience of the BVI © Walter Bibikow / Getty images

British Virgin Islands, Caribbean

In September, the British Virgin Islands were hit by the record-breaking Hurricane Irma, but this sublime archipelago is not down for the count – and there are plans to ring in the new year in style.

The Old Year’s Night at the legendary Foxy’s Tamarind Bar & Restaurant is a time-honoured Caribbean tradition; partygoers head to the tiny island of Jost Van Dyke to enjoy an evening of revelry with a roster of DJs, a barbecue and – you guessed it – lots of rum.

While the party usually features international musicians, the focus this year is on local talent, chiming with the event’s message of ‘Rise Up Virgin Islands’. So come 31 December, hit the sand, dance hard, and watch the sun rise over the Caribbean Sea for the first time in 2018 – with a new year comes new hope for the BVI.

Bailey Freeman is Lonely Planet's Destination Editor for Central America and the Caribbean. Follow her tweets @The_Traveling_B.

Fireworks on Waikiki Beach, O'ahu, Hawaii © Eric Dugan / Getty Images
Make a beeline for Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach to catch its annual fireworks display for free © Eric Dugan / Getty Images

Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawaii

Every year, Honolulu unleashes a party that captures the sense of ‘Hau’oli makahiki hou’ (Happy New Year in Hawaiian). The city’s biggest celebration is the aptly named New Year’s Eve Party of the Year; held at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, it features multiple stages of live music and DJs, food trucks, and fireworks over Honolulu Harbour. A free alternative is the Waikiki New Year’s Fireworks, which launches from a barge off Waikiki Beach; tune into Hawaiian 105 KINE FM for choreographed music.

The next day, nurse that hangover with breakfast at Cafe Kaila, which has racked up over half a dozen ‘Best Breakfast’ awards from local publications. After that, admire one of the finest collections of Polynesian art and history at the Bishop Museum before heading over to ‘Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on US soil and an important part of Hawaiian history.

Alex Howard is Managing Editor of Lonely Planet’s US magazineFollow his tweets @alexmhoward.

Venice's Grand Canal with fireworks in the night sky © SP-Photo / Shutterstock
Venice is always a spectacle – and New Year’s Eve is no exception to the rule © SP-Photo / Shutterstock

Venice, Italy

With its singing gondoliers, graceful bridges and masked balls, Venice knows how to strut its stuff and pull the crowds. So it comes as no surprise that this world-class city is a wonderful place to welcome the new year.

December 31 is celebrated across Italy as St Sylvester's Feast Day – and feasting is the focus in homes across the country, where extravagant meals last for many hours; they always include lentils, to symbolise wealth and prosperity (since they look like little coins). Around Venice, meanwhile, restaurants and bistros serve up indulgent festive menus.

Make time to wander the maze of canals – you'll need a walk after all that food – before hitting Piazza San Marco to join the annual 'Love' event, at which thousands of lovers, friends and downright strangers traditionally see in the new year with a kiss against a blazing backdrop of fireworks.

Jessica Cole is Acting Features Editor of Lonely Planet’s UK magazine. Follow her tweets @coleywole

British Airways i360 pod © British Airways i360
All aboard the flying saucer-like pod of the i360 Tower for a panoramic view of Brighton as the clock strikes twelve © British Airways i360

Brighton, UK

Brighton is a party town par excellence at any time, but it scales new heights of decadence on December 31. And that’s literally true for those ascending the city’s latest landmark, the i360 Tower. The party starts at the base of this spindly structure, where guests will enjoy a slap-up meal followed by a spin on the dancefloor as live DJs pump up the volume. But the main event is a ‘flight’ in the tower’s pod, which will rise to 450ft, affording revellers gobsmacking views of the city as they sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight.

Elsewhere, arguably the UK’s most hedonistic city looks set to live up to its reputation with some typically offbeat celebrations, including an ‘alternative 80s’ night at the much-revered Komedia, a promise to turn up the heat despite the winter chill at beachfront club Patterns, and a quirky evening of magicians, mystery and music at The Mesmerist, to name but three of many alternatives.

James Kay is Editor of Follow his tweets @jameskay123.

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Last updated in November 2017.

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