New Year’s Eve is the party-of-all-parties …but that means the pressure is on to make the night memorable, festive, and accommodating to all involved. From the chili drop in Albuquerque to the brick drop in Legoland, Florida, it seems every locale has its own traditions (likely one in close proximity to your home), but what if New Year’s Eve was used as a jump-off to a longer, more indulgent trip? Many locations will still be decked out for the holidays, have unique celebrations already planned, and the arrival of a new year at midnight is sure to elicit fond memories you won’t soon forget.
Here are a few festive spots - near and far - to countdown to 2020!
Fireworks in NYC over Statue of Liberty
It’s the mother of all New Year’s celebrations, and so meaning it’s on many bucket lists – because who doesn’t want to celebrate the new year in the Crossroads of the World?!? Preparation for Times Square’s iconic ball drop, viewed around the World, dominates Manhattan on December 31st.
If you plan to be in the middle of it all, GET THERE EARLY (i.e., first thing in the morning); however, many premier hotels and restaurants (some with clear views of the festivities) offer special packages so you can watch the revelry below from the comfortable warmth of a climate-controlled room.
Either way, the contagious energy of the celebration will propel you through New York’s sites, restaurants, and cultural activities leading up to and following the main event.
Huge Hershey Kiss that is being lowered on NYE in Hershey
Where’s the sweetest spot to celebrate? Hershey, Pennsylvania, of course!
Home to the beloved chocolate factory that bears its name, at the stroke of midnight the town congregates in ChocolateTown Square to witness a 12-foot replica of an iconic Hershey’s Kiss ascend three-stories at the Hershey Press Building. The celebration also features fireworks and a free national headliner that is yet-to-be-announced (in 2017, it was American Idol Season 8 winner Kris Allen).
With a wealth of museums, dining, and nightlife options, most themed to the nearby chocolate factory, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. Don’t miss the FREE Hershey’s Chocolate World factory tour (they offer a bevy of hands-on experiences for additional fees) and for the ultimate luxury, pamper yourself at the historic Hershey Hotel where you can indulge in numerous dining options and a chocolate-inspired spa!
Fireworks over Las Vegas Strip of Hotels
Las Vegas is where the Country (and World!) goes to a party, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. The famous Las Vegas Strip is closed to traffic in the evening, making way for hundreds-of-thousands of revelers, food vendors, and live bands – all this is in addition to the already eclectic mix of giant casinos, over-the-top attractions, cutting-edge restaurants, live shows, and opulent accommodations that exist every day in Sin City.
Casinos offer special packages for the holiday that make celebrating simple and convenient, and with ample transportation options – including the Monorail, taxis and rideshare services, and free shuttles by RTC (the local bus system) until 9 am the next day – you’ll be carefree to have the time of your life!
Sydney New Year’s Eve Fireworks over Opera House
Be the first to ring in 2020 – IN THE WORLD!
As one of the first major population centers to welcome the new year, Sydney boasts a full-fledged, all-consuming party that sets an example for every other city welcoming the New Year shortly after!
The evening kicks-off with dazzling aeronautic and nautical displays across the harbor and even a traditional eucalyptus smoke cleanse to rid the area of any bad spirits. At midnight, the city uses its famed Opera House and Harbour Bridge to launch a light-and-sound-synched fireworks extravaganza, and hundreds of ticketed and impromptu celebrations can be found throughout the city.
Not only will the Australians’ renowned hospitality be on full display, but as an added bonus: December is the middle of Summer in the southern hemisphere, so a trip like this makes an excellent jump-off to explore nearby wonders like the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, and a range of distinctly-Aussie Cities!
The Colosseum and via Dei Fori Imperiali on New Years Eve in Rome
Why not celebrate another flip of the Gregorian Calendar in the City in which it was first introduced: Rome, Italy!
Way back in 1532, Pope Gregory XIII introduced his modification of the Julian Calendar, and from that day forth it quickly spread to be the most widely used calendar in the World!
The main celebration typically occurs around Circus Maximus (official schedules are released closer to the event) but fireworks, film screenings, live music, and other events happen all over, so your best bet (and arguably most enchanting) is to find a piazza high on one of Rome’s famous hills for a full panoramic view.
And what better way to celebrate the passing of another year than among antiquities like the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, the Vatican, and more? The holiday markets will still be in full swing to browse before and after New Year’s Eve, and you’ll no doubt find enough food, wine, sweets, and charm to make the start of 2020 the best New Year yet!
New Year's Eve Celebration on a pirate ship in Cancun
Though unrelated to the modern celebration of New Year’s Eve, the Mayans are also known for their surprisingly complicated and precise calendar. From any number of resorts along the coast, you can easily visit the pre-Columbian pyramids of the ancient Maya – many of which pay reverence to the celestial bodies that helped derive the Mayan calendar.
Beyond that, most all-inclusive resorts have everything you need (or want!) to enjoy your ideal New Year’s Eve celebration without ever having to leave: private beach and pool access, ample dining and entertainment options, and even full-service from the privacy of your own room! But never fear, most will offer special programming in recognition of the Holiday, so take-in any New Year’s crowd for as long as you like without sacrificing the quiet solitude of your room after the clock strikes midnight!
New Years Eve fireworks in Reykjavik, near Hallgrímskirkja church
There is no fireworks show quite like the Northern Lights, so if you’re looking for a cosmic display then Reykjavík is the place!
Tour operators dispatch over land and sea and typically offer up to two additional complimentary tours in the event that the Lights are veiled by clouds or otherwise elude the excursion. But keep in mind with only 4-5 hours of sunlight each day this time of year, Iceland grants ample opportunity to explore the night sky.
Back in Reykjavík, aside from an official fireworks display and 17 traditional Nordic bonfires scattered throughout, you’ll find friendly inhabitants, a wide array of dining options, and live music in nearly every bar – which is perfect for celebrating (and an excellent coffee and café culture that will come in handy the following morning)!
The City’s geothermal features fuel a wide variety of public pools and spas (including the famous Blue Lagoon) that offer a relaxing way to say goodbye to 2019 or hello to the New Year. And with a relatively quick flight (around five hours from the East Coast), you can minimize travel while maximizing your time on the ground in a truly unique destination!
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and adventure-filled 2020!
Anna Fishman is the owner of Olegana Travel Boutique and plans incredible, unique and authentic luxury experiences around the world for couples and families based on her first-hand experience of traveling through 25 countries and visiting over 200 luxury hotels and resorts all over the world. Anna promises you a stress-free travel planning process with an easy to follow itinerary that will save you a lot of time and energy so you can relax and escape to your own paradise where you will feel at ease that every detail has been thought out and taken care of exclusively for you. Olegana Travel Boutique is a five-stars rated travel agency, a member of Travel Leaders Network, Destination Weddings and Honeymoons Association, Adventure Travel Trade Association and is featured on The Knot and NJMom.