The first of January is a time to start over, to forget the old and relish the new, an opportunity to resolve to change (even if you never quite get there). Whether you're hoping to shed excess pounds or kick a bad habit, before going cold turkey why not have one last fling? Travel Channel can help you plan your last hurrah in style, at one of the world's most impressive New Year's Eve celebrations.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Copacabana Beach, sprawling along the southern outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, plays host each New Year's Eve to Reveillon. It's the world's largest and wildest New Year's celebration, a free-for-all of seaside dancing and partying that continues well into the next day. More than 2 million cariocas (Rio natives) congregate on the beach wearing stark white attire and filling a 2 1/2-mile stretch of sand, making this party a true visual extravaganza.
Blending African rituals and local culture, Brazilians use their New Year's party to pay homage to Iemanja, the goddess of the sea. Decked-out boats sport her image, and locals throw white flowers into the sea and lay gifts on the beach in her honor. In addition to the customary white garb worn at this ongoing festival, red (symbolizing romance), green (for good health), and yellow and gold (for prosperity) accessories highlight the landscape. Just be sure to leave your black attire at home: A superstitious people, Brazilians consider it an evil omen. Some added party bonuses? Fifty-cent beers, free concerts, balmy weather and midnight fireworks reflecting off the Atlantic Ocean.
The various theme parks sprinkled around Orlando offer many opportunities to celebrate the coming year. A trip to the Magical Kingdom lets visitors jive alongside their favorite mouse and his pals in Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade, after which tourists can park-hop to Epcot, where the impressive light and laser show, 'Illuminations: Reflections of Earth,' presents spouting fountains and dancing flames just before midnight strikes.
Meanwhile, MGM Studios offers a winter wonderland of its own. In the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, a stroll down the specially designed New York Street isn't to be passed up. Through this "symphony of the senses" holiday music plays, as artificial snow begins to fall and thousands of lights twinkle amidst a backdrop of heavenly angels and spinning carousels.
If roller coasters, fireworks and big-scale productions aren't your bag, hightail it out to Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney for adult-friendly happenings. Forget Bourbon Street: New Orleans has nothing on Pleasure Island's ultimate street party featuring dancing, music and gourmet food galore. Live bands and DJs help continue the party at the island's many clubs. Only those 21 and over will be admitted, and tickets must be purchased in advance.
London's rich nightlife at anytime of the year is a cheerful mecca for party lovers. New Year's Eve is no different. As if the city's overflow of traditional English pubs serving up cheap champagne and local atmosphere weren't enough, an abundance of activity centered around the Thames River is at visitors' disposal. Currently revelers' attention has shifted to the towering London Eye, a gigantic pseudo-Ferris Wheel that draws thousands of visitors who fork over exorbitant admission fees to take a spin in one of the ride's entirely transparent and bubble-shaped cars.
Since 2005, the midnight fireworks show has been launched from the actual London Eye. People from around the world congregate on Tower, Westminster, London and Blackfriars bridges to witness the spectacle together. If you can't snag a spot near the water, watch the event on one of the big screens in Trafalgar and Parliament squares - you'll still be able to view the fireworks overhead from either of these points. Stick around the next afternoon to partake in the magnificent New Year's Day parade - a long-standing charity event -- that departs from Westminster, weaves in and out of the capital's downtown, and finishes at Green Park.
The world's second-largest New Year's celebration (and first place in the world to ring in the new year, time-wise) happens to boast the world's largest fireworks display: In years past, Sydney has spent more than $4 million in pyrotechnics expenses for the one night alone. The display typically involves 6 barges along a 3 1/2-mile expanse of water, uses 30,000 effects and continues for a lengthy 12 minutes. Attracting a crowd upward of 1 million, the famed harbor refracts light beams off the bay, as well as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, midnight rolls around.
Throughout the day visitors won't be disappointed with the schedule of events Sydney has cooked up. Every hour on the hour a cannon is fired from Fort Denison, and attendees are awed by a different event from mini-light shows to indigenous smoking ceremonies to aerial flyovers that leave messages in the sky. Following a family fireworks display, illuminated boats glide along the waterfront for the late-night Harbour of Light Parade, spanning a 9-mile route.
If you need a rest from the urban center, check out Bondi Beach's ultimate dance party. Kiddie events like New Year's Eve at the Taronga Zoo are also on offer.
New York, New York
Times Square's inaugural New Year's hullabaloo debuted in 1904 in commemoration of the opening of the New York Times central headquarters; today hundreds of thousands of people descend upon the city's bustling axis each Dec. 31 to hold a party unlike any other in New York City. Hoards of attendees begin claiming spots early in the day, and once in the vicinity, visitors are advised not to leave again. Since food and drink vendors are not permitted, pack a picnic to last you the day. Area restaurants are open, but the wait time can often be hours.
As the sun sets, the famed New Year's Eve Ball is hoisted to the top of One Times Square's 77-foot flagpole, and makes its 60-second drop just before the stroke of midnight. Leading up to the climax, scores of musical acts take the stage - past performers have included Christina Aguilera, My Chemical Romance, Panic! At the Disco, Daughtry and the cast of Broadway's Jersey Boys. The spectacle is broadcast on TV, with the majority of viewers tuning in to the classic Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve. At midnight, 2 tons of confetti are released on Times Square's lucky crowd as fireworks light up the skies above Manhattan.
Thousands of jubilant and, er, drunk, Scots -- as well as scores of foreign visitors -- crowd the streets of downtown Edinburgh for the annual Hogmanay (meaning "last day of the year") celebration. World-renowned musical acts take stage all throughout the city center, as traditional ceilidh dancing brightens up the atmosphere of Princes Street Gardens (tickets to the ceilidhs are required).
While the masses populate Princes Street -- a $10 wrist band bought in advance serves as ticket -- visitors in the know slip on up to Carlton Hill, downtown Edinburgh's highest point, just before midnight and steal the best seat in the house to watch the fireworks. From here, the spectacle seems to fall right before your fingertips.
As the night wears on, the party continues well into the next day. The athletic can jog off their hangovers by joining the One O'clock Run down the Royal Mile, opt to freeze their behinds off by diving into the River Forth at the conclusion of the Loony Dook parade (a charity event), or take part in a dog-sledding competition.
When it comes to New Year's, Parisians get it right: for a solid month, they celebrate the turn of the calendar, by exchanging bises (small, platonic kisses), greeting each other with Bonne Annee! (Happy New Year!), and sending cards and gifts via mail up through the first of February. That's our kind of celebration. On New Year's Eve, and any other time for that matter, the city's epicenter is the thriving Champs-Elysees, where visitors can glimpse the Eiffel Tower, as well as the bursts of light it emits, as midnight creeps over France. If you need more breathing room, trek up to the more relaxed Montmartre, a popular New Year's spot for apartment soirees, or venture into nearby Pigalle, the red-light district and catch a cabaret at the racy Moulin Rouge. Or for a quiet evening, consider booking a table on a bateau-mouche (riverboat) dinner cruise along the Seine and enjoy a laid-back end to a long year.