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Why stay home and bang pots at midnight yet another year, when there's a world of more exciting New Year's Eve options beckoning? It may be late in the holiday-travel planning game, but there's still time to book yourself a Dec. 31 to remember. From beach parties to ball drops, fireworks to waterfalls, CNBC presents, in alphabetical order, the top 14 spots—at home and abroad—to ring in 2014.
—By Kenneth Kiesnoski, CNBC.com
Posted Dec. 6, 2013
Any night's a great night to go out in Berlin, Europe's undisputed party mecca. But you can count on Germany's capital—like cuckoo-clockwork—to offer an even more outrageously good time each New Year's Eve. Despite the usual northern European cold, more than 1 million locals and visitors will gather outside at the city's majestic Brandenburg Gate—which once straddled the city's divided East and West regions—to ring in 2014 and take in a dramatic fireworks display and laser light show.
The open-air, public party, stretching along 17th of June Street all the way to the gilded Victory Column, will feature performance stages, DJ towers, dance floors, dining outlets and even a Ferris wheel. Uninterrupted entertainment should keep you out on the streets until the wee hours of the morning. If you get a chill, the Continent's hippest, most cutting-edge collection of nightclubs, bars and lounges beckons.
No New Year's Eve neck-craning here. In beautiful, balmy Cape Town, they watch the fireworks from above. Head to imposing Table Mountain—possibly the coolest fireworks vantage point on Earth—for a bird's-eye views of the pyrotechnics blasting off from the city's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront far below. Other one-of-a-kind, turn-of-the-year options include picnic-blanket concerts at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the Nederburg Wines estate, as well as an inner-city street dance party sponsored by the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice.
Stick around through Jan. 2 for a unique experience: Tweede Nuwe Jaar, Afrikaans for "Second New Year," and the Cape Minstrel Carnival. Troupes of colorfully made-up costumers parade from the quaint Bo Kaap neighborhood in a South African take on New Orleans' Mardi Gras.
They do New Year's Eve—like everything else—big in Dubai. The Muslim new year of 1435 will already be almost two months old come Dec. 31, but Emiratis wouldn't let that stand in the way of a spectacular party. The pièce-de-résistance of citywide celebrations has to be the downtown fireworks display centered on the world's tallest building, the 2,722-foot-high Burj Khalifa.
In addition to the world's highest pyrotechnics, the event offers celebrity entertainment and a water-light-and-fire show. Prime viewing spots include the restaurants lining the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake, so book early. For more dining, dancing and drinking, hit any of Dubai's legion ultra-high-end hotels, including the sailed-shaped "seven-star" Burj Al Arab.
The unique Scottish take on New Year's celebrations, called "Hogmanay, " is renowned the world over. Across the country, Scots celebrate with open-air concerts, giant bonfires, fireworks displays and cèilidhean, a kind of Gaelic hootenanny. In Edinburgh, things begin a day early on Dec. 30 with a torchlight procession along the historical Royal Mile, ending in a sound-and-light show and fireworks.
On Hogmanay itself (that's New Year's Eve to you), some 80,000 gather beneath Edinburgh Castle for the Concert in the Gardens featuring live music, DJs, outdoor bars and—you guessed it—more fireworks. The morning after, locals who partied too hardily clear their heads with the so-called Loony Dook, a bracing dip in the icy River Forth.
Tony Caribbean island St. Bart's may be many high-end travelers' top pick for beachside New Year's Eve bashes. But sun lovers of all economic stripes who share a taste for exotic adventures increasingly make tracks for Goa, India's smallest and richest state, to usher in each January.
This sun-soaked stretch of the Arabian Sea coast offers everything from energetic, non-stop dance parties to weeklong yoga and spa idylls. Whether you're looking for nightlife or nirvana, on New Year's Eve or any day of the year, Goa's got it. Just be sure on Dec. 31 to head to the beach for seaside fireworks displays—likely to the beat of a trance-music DJ—under the palms.
The Chinese invented fireworks. No wonder Hong Kong places a premium on outdoing its global rivals on the pyrotechnics front each Dec. 31. In fact, it has to make an effort to trump itself— "Asia's World City" offers a 10-minute, multimedia laser-light show incorporating more than 40 skyscrapers every cloudless night of the year. Last New Year's Eve, the fireworks started on scenic Victoria Harbour and gradually moved inland, enveloping Hong Kong's towers in the process.
Pick a spot along the harbor and enjoy the free show. For more privacy and comfort, consider a dinner cruise on the harbor or reserve a table at tony eateries in high-end hotels such as The Peninsula or the Four Seasons. All that said, the harbor's not the only show in town: If you don't mind enormous crowds, head to enormous Times Square mall for its annual New Year's Eve clock countdown, inspired by its namesake locale in New York. Or prowl the packed, bar-lined streets of the Lan Kwai Fong district for after-hours revelry (and ribaldry).
Liked 2013 so much you hate to see it go? Hang on to the old year longer than nearly everyone else by ringing in 2014 in Honolulu. Thanks to its location just 1,422 miles east of the International Date Line, the Hawaiian capital is the last major metropolis on Earth to greet each new year. For fireworks, get your hula on and head for the beach at Waikiki, for an 1,800-shell show over the Pacific, or Oahu's west coast at Ko Olina, site of the island's largest pyrotechnics display. There's also an annual outdoor block party at the landmark Aloha Tower downtown.
High-end Honolulu hotel affairs include the black-tie LUX at the Trump International, the annual Pink Party at the Royal Hawaiian and a Roaring 20's-themed party at the Modern. At the latter, you can jet in on a $114,000 package that includes not only party entrance but private-jet air travel, a four-night penthouse stay, catamaran sail, meals, spa treatments, limousine transfers and more.
It may seem improbable, but Sin City manages to kick things up a notch each New Year's Eve, with pyrotechnics and parties—not mention jackpots—lighting up across town, from the neon-bathed honky-tonk of Downtown Las Vegas' Freemont Street Experience to the mega-casinos of the Strip. This year's fireworks bonanza, billed as "America's Party," will shoot skyward from the roofs of the MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, The Venetian, Stratosphere and a host of other casino-hotels. The city will close the Strip to traffic, easing pedestrians' passage from restaurant to showroom to casino floor.
Book dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant, grab some seats at a Cirque du Soleil show or Broadway production, or simply find a perch somewhere to take it all in. If you inquire early enough, you may be able to get tickets to see some of the headliner stars ringing in 2014 to the tune of slot-machine jingles, such as pop sensation Bruno Mars, performing at the The Cosmopolitan, and queen of Vegas Celine Dion, holding court at Caesar's Palace.
Twelve "bongs" from Big Ben will kick off New Year's celebrations and signal the start of the U.K.'s largest annual fireworks display above the sleek London Eye observation wheel. A quarter-million spectators will line the banks of the Thames River for a 45-minute public street party, with all the sky-rocketry and such synchronized to a live DJ set. If you prefer to usher in 2014 indoors at one of central London's legion pubs, clubs or eateries, you'd better book now; most venues are "ticketed" beforehand for New Year's Eve and will refuse entry to walk-ins.
If you'd like to combine fireworks with feasting, try the three-course dinner and three-hour cruise combo from the Brew Wharf at Vinopolis and the Meteor Clipper. Come morning, head out into the streets for London's 28th annual New Year's Day Parade, with 10,000 participants from around Britain and the world.
What better place to party at midnight, and long after, than the city that never sleeps? Times Square is the Big Apple's iconic New Year's Eve destination, drawing some 1 million revelers to its five square blocks each Dec. 31 for noise- and merrymaking, celebrity entertainment and, of course, watching the famous crystal ball drop. Arrive early for prime viewing; spots—and free party favors—are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Those not brave enough to, well, brave the expected cold can usher in 2014 indoors—but still in sight and earshot of the action—at nearby events such as the New York Marriott Marquis' Ultimate New Year's Eve Times Square Party (tickets from $950 a person) or at hundreds of other hotspots across the five boroughs.
For a quainter, quirkier New Year's Eve, fly up to the world's northernmost capital. Tiny Reykjavík has built up an outsize reputation for year-round fun, thanks to a lively nightlife culture and myriad outdoor—and sometimes oddball—adventure options. Gamlárskvöld, as New Year's Eve is known in Icelandia, is no different. There's no officially organized celebration, so locals take matters into their own hands.
Start the night as they do with a cozy dinner, gather around a nearby bonfire and then chill while all the locals disappear to watch a beloved annual TV special. As soon as the show's over—around 11:35 p.m.—people pour out into the streets to set off 500 tons of fireworks. If you're lucky, the man-made displays will be complemented by Iceland's famed natural sky show, the Northern Lights. After midnight, hit those famed Reykjavík bars and clubs—where the party goes on until dawn.
Cariocas, as residents of Rio de Janeiro are known, don't call their hometown Cidade Maravilhosa, or "Marvelous City," for nothing. Rio's renowned the world over for its spectacular annual Carnival celebrations each February, but the city also rings in the new year in show-stopping style every Dec. 31, as well. Dress in the traditional white, with a dash of color here and there—red for romance, green for health—and join the crowd of 2 million-plus gathered on storied Copacabana Beach for live music, fireworks and Champagne toasts … and showers. Expect to get wet. You'll also see locals tossing flowers into the waves in good-luck tributes to Yemanja, goddess of the sea.
Bookend the beachfront bacchanalia with a pre-event sampling a special New Year's Eve menu at a nearby restaurant and, after the last fireworks have fizzled, dancing the first morning of 2014 away in a trendy bar or nightclub.
You get more bang for your fireworks buck in Australia's largest city. Sydney rings in the new year with two such shows Dec. 31: Family Fireworks at 9 p.m., followed at 12 a.m. by an even bigger midnight display. Self-styled "New Year's Eve Capital of the World, " sunny Sydney—where it's summer this time of the year—takes this holiday seriously, naming a so-called creative ambassador each year to develop and promote an overall theme. Last year, pop star Kylie Minogue presided over the theme "Embrace."
For 2014, noted local artist and musician Reg Mombassa does similar honors under the theme "Shine." One million people will gather around Sydney's iconic harbor, opera house and bridge to take it all in. In addition to the de rigueur pyrotechnics, the event includes acrobatic displays, light shows and a regatta.
Toronto celebrates with its annual New Year's Bash at Nathan Phillips Square, where some 40,000 revelers enjoy free performances while waiting to count down to midnight. Take in the city's fireworks off shore on a Lake Ontario dining sail with Mariposa Cruises, or treat the kids to the Toronto Zoo's New Year's Eve Family Countdown.
For something truly spectacular, head 1.5 hours southwest to nearby Niagara Falls for what's billed as Canada's "biggest and best " New Year's celebration. Two thousand pounds of pyrotechnics will be launched over the famed falls, as 60,000 spectators dig into food and snacks in Queen Victoria Park, serenaded by a concert lineup of pop-music greats, including this year's headliner, Demi Lovato.