It takes more than a dropping ball or a big crowd to make for a great New Year’s Eve celebration.
No. 1 New Orleans
America's Best Cities for New Year's Eve
No. 1 New Orleans
As the No. 1 champ for cocktails, the singles scene, and friendly neighborhood joints, the Crescent City is a natural winner for a memorable New Year’s Eve. And if you’re not the life of the party? So much the better—you can still have a great time checking out everyone else: New Orleans also ranks No. 1 for people-watching.
As a former flight attendant, Beth Blair had been to Las Vegas countless times. A few years ago, she decided it would be a great place to spend New Year’s Eve: bright lights, cocktails, and an all-night party.
But it wasn’t what she’d hoped. “On the last day of the year, Las Vegas turns into a disrupted anthill—too chaotic and wild for me,” says Blair, now a travel blogger based in Minneapolis. “I was surprised Las Vegas could get any more amped up. It just brings out the wildest of the wild.”
Related: Best Places to Spend New Year's
Of course, that anthill level of excitement doesn’t scare everyone away. In the latest Travel + Leisure survey, Sin City ranked No. 5 out of 35 as the best American city for New Year’s Eve.
The best place to spend New Year’s Eve was just one part of the America’s Favorite Cities survey, where Travel + Leisure readers ranked 35 U.S. cities in 54 categories, such as the best luxury shopping, the best live music, and even the best coffee bars.
Finding a great place to celebrate New Year’s Eve is important. While many of us keep a standing New Year’s date with the TV and a pair of fuzzy slippers, more than 1 in 4 Americans plan to travel to welcome in the new year, according to a survey from LowFares.com.
Like Blair, not everyone who travels for New Year’s wants a raucous time. When we looked at the Top 25 for New Year’s in the AFC survey, a mix of great live music, good bars, and wild weekend potential helped bolster many cities’ rankings. But warm weather also seemed to play a huge role. Two of the Top 10 cities are on islands, two are in the desert, and one—San Diego—is the AFC voters’ winner in the climate category.
Many people also just have different definitions of what constitutes a good party. Memphis, for all its great music and good food, still came in at No. 25 for New Year’s Eve—perhaps because AFC voters found other things about staying in Memphis that dampened their spirits. Meanwhile, southern city Savannah—new to the AFC survey—shot to No. 4, even besting Vegas, proving that some folks would rather err on the side of charming for December 31.
And what about New York City, arguably the epicenter of New Year’s Eve? It made a mediocre No. 13 showing, perhaps due to cold temps, big crowds, and high prices. Shari Lynn Rothstein-Kramer, a native New Yorker, admits that she has spent more New Year’s Eves than she can count in Times Square. “Every year I swore I wouldn’t do it again,” she said, “but then a friend would come into town, or it wouldn’t seem so cold—but it was never really fun.”
Here’s where to go—and where not to go—to ensure that you do have fun on New Year’s Eve.