Top Ten Places to Ring in the New Year

Pop the cork and party! Whether at home or abroad, a little champagne gets the celebration going. 3, 2, 1 . . . Happy New Year!

Whether counting down to 2007 at tried-and-true celebrations like New York’s annual Times Square extravaganza, or by eating a grape for every stroke of midnight in Barcelona, your adrenaline is sure to be racing as 2006 winds down in our favorite places to ring in the new year. We love the ultimate party city, Vegas, for its most over-the-top show of the year; schussing the slopes of the majestic Rockies; and even standing under the breathtaking fireworks cascade over Sydney’s harbor. Should you agree that one day of feting simply won’t suffice, experience the celebration Scot-style, with merrymaking in Edinburgh that lasts four long days or, head to the bustling Thailand capital of Bangkok, where you can ring in the new year no fewer than three times, Western, Chinese, and Thai style, between December and April. Beach-lovers can also experience sandy revelry with a twist on December 31 in Rio, Miami, and Goa.

1. Aspen
Snow bunnies will use any excuse to hit the slopes, and a New Year’s celebration is better than most. But, there’s way more than soft, wide mountain terrain to lure reveling holiday travelers to Aspen’s legendary runs. This fabled, fabulous resort has long played host to the free-spirited and the Forbes/Fortune crowd who can’t get enough of the sophisticated action on and off the slopes. Whether schussing down the slopes of Snowmass or Aspen Highlands, dining on gourmet cuisine, or savoring martinis with the well-heeled, Aspen makes for a glittering Alpine getaway and a stylish end-of-year send off.

2. Bangkok
New Year’s Eve is thrice as nice in Thailand, where you’ll have three annual chances to rid yourself of the old and ring in the new. First, there’s the New Year’s celebration with the Western world on December 31; the biggest event unfolds at Bangkok’s Central World Plaza where rockin’ Thai musicians and mesmerizing fireworks promise a party through the night (and a hangover to remember it by). Between mid-January and February, Thailand then tips its hat to its Chinese neighbor, with massive celebrations in Bangkok’s Chinatown, including colorful parades of dragons and lion dancers, fireworks, operas, and more. Finally, the centuries-old tradition of Songkran kicks off on April 13, a joyous occasion that celebrates the first day of the traditional Thai calendar with three days of parades, feasting, costumes, and, most outrageously, a water-throwing festival in which passersby are drenched with water balloons, water guns, buckets, you name it, an interesting custom that’s surely a byproduct of the region’s often stifling heat.

3. Barcelona
Don’t miss your siesta, Barcelona’s all-night New Year’s fiesta requires some stamina! The Spanish version of año nuevo kicks off with family and friends sharing a sumptuous meal and mucho vino at a private home or restaurant, the more exceptional restaurants, like Catalan-inspired Ca l’Isidre and upscale Jaume de Provença, must be booked well in advance. The onset of 12am means a frantic race to stuff your face with 12 good-luck grapes – one for each stroke of midnight. You’d be wise to concentrate on the task at hand, if you succeed at this long-standing Spanish tradition, you’re ensured a year of prosperity and good luck (otherwise, it’s said you’ll have a month of bad luck for every uneaten grape). Once the last one is downed, crowds spill out into the Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas, drawn by the pulsating music and chatter emanating from numerous bars and nightclubs. The action stays pumping until dawn, just in time to catch the first sunrise of the year on the beach, with some hot chocolate and churros in hand!

4. Edinburgh
This Scottish capital boasts one of the world’s biggest New Year bashes: Hogmanay. At the close of each year, a four-day fête counts down to the big kahuna on December 31, complete with parades, concerts, carnivals, dog races, firework shows, and a slew of hedonistic events and parties. Major international artists perform along Princes Street during the Royal Bank Street Party on New Year’s Eve, while age-old national customs, like “first-footing”, are practiced all over town: Right after midnight, neighbors bring luck  and gifts of coal or shortbread, to their friends and family by being the first to set foot in their household in the new year.

5. Goa
Before creating that list of New Year’s resolutions for 2007, why not venture off to Goa for one last chance to enjoy a night of true hedonism? Located on the western coast of the Indian Peninsula, Goa’s lush green vegetation and breathtaking beaches not only offer some of India’s most beautiful natural scenery, but also serves as the backdrop for some of the globe’s hottest New Year’s celebrations, complete with all-night seaside bashes packed with partygoers entranced by techno music. If glow sticks and rave parties aren’t your thing, you can gamble the night away aboard India’s first and only offshore casino, the MS Caravela yacht, or, rent a motorbike and visit an old Portuguese fort or local fishing villages. Either way, if you’re looking for a place to kick back, party and relax, just follow the local Goan motto of sossegarde, take it easy, and enjoy the fun!

6. Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas is never more vivacious than when the no-holds-barred party capital of the world hosts the biggest party of the year. Throwing down in Sin City has become a consistently bigger and better New Year’s phenomenon in recent years, as partiers are lured by dazzling pyrotechnics, wild street parties, super-chic nightclubs, gourmet restaurants, big-name performers and hundreds of thousands of fellow revelers with whom to enjoy it. The main action unfolds at the free “America’s Party”, when the Strip is closed to traffic and transformed into a viewing platform for a fantastic fireworks extravaganza that’s blasted into the night sky above the city’s neon lights. Part of the party takes place downtown, the Fremont Street Experience (tickets cost $80) becomes a huge block party complete with confetti, a massive wine toast, concerts by big-name rockers, and a five-block-long illuminated canopy 90 feet overhead, on which state-of-the-art sound-and-light shows are shown.

7. Miami
While the winter chill keeps many of us bundled up and indoors on the big eve, South Beach is as hot as ever and we’re not just talking about the weather. Miami’s trendy Art Deco neighborhood buzzes with a sexy scene that’s even more energized than usual when the year comes to a close. Cool and well-dressed hipsters bounce from bar to club, not to mention scads of Hollywood A-listers who flock south for some of the year’s most exclusive and unabashed fiestas. Don’t have an invite? You can still stop by an array of hot spots like the Delano, Mynt Lounge, or Prive, to hobnob and people watch. For something a little less velvet rope, Miami’s Bayfront Park hosts South Florida’s largest on-the-house party, with a free concert, a countdown to midnight with the big Orange drop (the New Year’s ball that slowly descends the side of the InterContinental hotel), and a dazzling fireworks display over Biscayne Bay.

8. New York
For the ultimate New Year’s experience, there’s no better place to be than in the center of the City that Never Sleeps. Times Square has been home to the renowned “ball drop” celebration for 100 years (it debuted in 1907); today, millions of visitors flood New York City’s confetti-covered streets to partake in an all-night, over-sized street party filled with live music, celebrity visits, and tons of Happy New Year paraphernalia. For those wary of late-December weather forecasts, have no fear, you can always join the excitement without bundling up, as local bars and night clubs buzz with their own private parties, many of which last until the wee hours of the morning. Plus, if you’re looking to join the festivities from home, tune into the live TV coverage of the annual event along with audiences worldwide.

9. Rio de Janeiro
Sure, Carnival might get all the glory, but New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro is memorable in its own right. An extravagant beachfront spectacle, known as Reveillon, sees an eclectic blend of traditions unfold along Copacabana, attracting some 2 million faithful practitioners of the Umbanda religion and the Candomblé religion and a lot of curious tourists. Sure, you’ll get your no-less-than-spectacular fireworks, delectable Brazilian food, and pulsating samba music to enjoy during the warm summer day’s festivities, but you’ll also see ritualistic offerings to the sea goddess, Iemanjá, made by a group of white-clad, candle-holding, revelers who rush to the surf to release small wooden boats. Tradition holds that if the goddess is pleased with a boat’s inner offerings (normally flowers, perfumes, or other similar trinkets), it will be carried out to sea and the bearer bestowed with blessings, if not, count yourself unlucky. Either way, Brazilians sure know how to party and, as night falls, DJs start up their sound systems and dancing and drinking lasts til dawn. Luxury beachfront hotels host private balls and parties, to boot, they’re also a great spot for tuckered-out revelers to enjoy champagne breakfasts as the first light of January 1 approaches.

10. Sydney
Sydney is renowned across the globe for hosting one of the ultimate New Year’s Eve bashes. Indeed, this Aussie capital pulls out all the stops, with an array of glamorous citywide celebrations and a stellar pyrotechnic presentation over the harbor. Bursts of dazzling colors explode over the Sydney Harbor Bridge and dance on the water and over the Opera House’s scalloped roof. Plenty of New Year’s Eve cruises sail around the harbor to provide unparalleled views of the spectacular extravaganza. And since it’s summer down under, you can delight in sun-drenched spoils the next day. With a chic urban vibe, gorgeous surf-swept beaches, rocking nightlife, and an edgy art scene, there’s plenty to soak up after you recuperate from a champagne-filled night you won’t soon forget.

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