World's Best New Year's Eve Parties
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? Plan your last hurrah in style, at one of the world's most impressive New Year's Eve celebrations.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio's Copacabana Beach plays host each New Year's Eve to Reveillon, the world's largest and wildest New Year's celebration. 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. Blending African rituals and local culture, Brazilians pay homage to Iemanja, the goddess of the sea. In addition to the customary white garb, 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: Brazilian lore considers it an evil omen.
Orlando's theme parks ring in the New Year with flair. Disney's Magical Kingdom is home to the Jingle Jungle Parade, while Epcot puts on the impressive light and laser show, 'IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,' presented just before midnight strikes. MGM Studios' Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights puts on a "symphony of the senses," as artificial snow begins to fall and thousands of lights twinkle amidst a backdrop of heavenly angels and spinning carousels.
New Year's Eve in London sees an abundance of activity centered around the Thames River. The towering London Eye, a gigantic Ferris wheel, draws thousands of visitors for a spin, while the midnight fireworks show is launched from the actual London Eye. People congregate on Tower, Westminster, London and Blackfriars bridges to witness the spectacles. If you can't snag a spot near the water, watch the event on one of the big screens in Trafalgar and Parliament squares. The next afternoon partake in the magnificent New Year's Day parade, which departs from Westminster, weaves in and out of the capital's downtown, and finishes at Green Park.
Sydney is home to the world's second-largest New Year's celebration (and first place in the world to ring in the new year, time-wise). It also happens to boast the world's largest fireworks display: The display typically involves 6 barges along a 3 1/2-mile expanse of water, and the use of 30,000 pyrotechnic effects, for a lengthy 12 minutes. The show attracts a crowd upward of 1 million, with the famed Sydney Harbor, as well as the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the places to see. Also check out the illuminated boats that 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.
Times Square's inaugural New Year's hullabaloo debuted in 1904 to celebrate the opening of The New York Times 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. 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.
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. While the masses populate Princes Street, visitors in the know slip on up to Carlton Hill, downtown Edinburgh's highest point, just before midnight, to watch the fireworks. 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.
Parisians definitely get New Year's right: For a solid month, they exchange bises (small, platonic kisses), greet each other with Bonne Annee! (Happy New Year!), and send cards and gifts through the first of February. On New Year's Eve, Paris' 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. 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 consider booking a table on a bateau-mouche (riverboat) dinner cruise along the Seine and enjoy a laid-back end to a long year.