49 Free and Festive Ways to Ring in 2017 Around the World
Cities around the world will be ringing in the New Year come December 31, but participating in all the festivities can get pricey.
Thankfully, some of the top New Year’s Eve celebrations and events in popular cities can be enjoyed completely free of charge, whether you’re in New York City, Vienna, or Sydney.
To help you close out the end of this year in style without breaking the bank, we’ve pulled together free festivities and experiences to take advantage of in popular cities around the globe, from stunning light displays and dazzling firework shows to free concerts and tours.
From Berlin to New Orleans, here are 49 festive ways to say hello to 2017.
Whether you’re in search of bustling parties or romantic experiences to close out the holidays, you’ll find it in Amsterdam.1. Stroll through streets filled with firework displays
Fireworks abound in the city, with crowds gathering in areas that include Dam Square, Museumplein, and Rembrandplein, and Noordermarkt to celebrate.2. Catch views of fireworks and glimmering lights at the Skinny Bridge
Head to the Magere brug (Skinny Bridge) to catch magnificent views over the firework displays. The wooden drawbridge’s narrow frame has given it its famous nickname, with it being so narrow years back that two pedestrians wouldn’t be able to cross it at the same time. At night, it comes alive with thousands of illuminations to offers a romantic setting.3. Walk through themed light installations at the Amsterdam Light Festival
Be sure to check out the Amsterdam Light Festival, running until January 22. The festival brings in designers, artists, and architects from around the world to create breathtaking light installations alongside two routes within the city.
Each route has its own theme, with this year’s areas including the Water Colors route and Illuminate, a walking route. While boat tours are available, both routes are also free to explore via foot.4. Take a free tour through the city
Finish off your trip with a free walking tour of the city. Sandeman’s New Amsterdam walking tour provides free tours of the city on a daily basis, taking visitors through famed landmarks like the Royal Palace and the Anne Frank House, hidden churches, and quirky attractions like Amsterdam’s widest and smallest bridges.
In Aspen, visitors can take the day to ski or board before making their way over to one of two fireworks shows (one at 8 p.m. and one at midnight) taking place over Aspen Mountain.5. Enjoy a free bonfire party before catching the fireworks
Outdoor celebrations are popular, with the city’s Wagner Park throwing a ree outdoor party, where you’ll find a bonfire and DJ, from 8 p.m. to midnight.6. Head to St. Regis
At just a few steps from some of Aspen’s most popular slopes, the St. Regis hotel makes a prime location for unwinding after a day of skiing. The hotel will be offering a free event in its Shadow Mountain Lounge featuring a live DJ, cocktail service, and a complimentary toast at midnight.
The St. Regis will also have its courtyard set up so that you can marvel at the city’s two fireworks show and magnificent mountain views, cocktail in hand.7. Go cross-country skiing
With the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System, you can take advantage of the area’s magnificent trails, free of charge. The trail system offers a whopping 90 kilometers (or close to 300,000 feet) of free cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails between Aspen, Snowmass, and Basalt.8. Explore the Aspen Art Museum
Always free, the Aspen Art Museum will remain open on New Year’s Eve so that those interested in scoping out the latest in contemporary art can do so. The museum, which also has regular free tours, will have one that day starting at 1 p.m., while those who want to join in the museum’s New Year’s Eve party, complete with wine, food, and fireworks, can do so starting at $60 for children 12 and under.
While Berlin has an array of New Year’s Eve parties to choose from, the city turns into a giant party itself for the occasion, with live music and celebrations taking place across its streets to make for a festive evening.9. Party at Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburger Tor, oe of most popular parties, and one of Europe’s biggest, takes place between the Brandenburg Gate and Victory column.
The massive party—attended by roughly one million people each year—includes stage shows, video projections, light projections, and a vivid fireworks display.10. Watch fireworks from a vantage point
Popular locations for catching the fireworks over the city include Teufelsberg, Berlin’s highest hill, and Viktoriapark, built in the early 1800s.
During New Year’s Eve, Boston hosts its First Night and First Day festivities, bringing art performances, ice sculptures, and a variety of events to enjoy throughout New Year's Eve and New Year's day.
This year, the festivities will continue to be open to the public, giving you a chance to explore the city and take part in holiday-themed activities all day long.11. Catch up on rare Shakespearean works
Boston’s recently added exhibit, “Shakespeare Unauthorized” kicks off the first day celebrations, remaining open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. At the exhibition, visitors will find first and early editions of popular works that include “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Hamlet,” and “The Merchant of Venice.”12. Take a free art and architecture tour
While at Boston Public Library, take a free art and architecture tour showcasing some of the hidden gems and historic artifacts within the 19th century building.
Tours departs every 15 minutes from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.13. Watch ice sculptures being made in Copley Square
Head to Copley Square, where you can see artists putting together ice sculptures that will later be illuminated in bright colors in the evening. Artists tend to start working around 9 a.m. and go up until about 2 p.m. or so to create the impressive works.
Plus, according to Boston’s tourism agency, the sculptures don’t’ stick around for much longer than the first day, making the 31st the ideal time to go.
In Chicago, New Year’s Eve events range from bustling parties that take place throughout the night to family-friendly activities for parents and their children to enjoy.
Free activities in Chicago range from an illuminated night exploration at the Lincoln Park Zoo to ice skating and stunning fireworks over Lake Michigan.14. Check out Chi-Town Rising
This year, Chicago’s popular Chi-Town Rising celebration will be offering free outdoor viewing areas where participants can dazzle at the ascension of the large Rising Star as high as 360 feet in the sky, which the organizers of the event told TK news is currently the world’s largest New Year’s Eve icon.15. See the zoo at night
While Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo already offers free admission, on select dates for the holidays, the zoo is filled with limited 3D installations, ice sculptures, and light shows.16. Ice skate to magnificent views
Take in Chicago's cozy winter atmosphere at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. The rink is free and open to the public, with free lessons on Fridays, with rentals for $12 for those who don't have their own skates. The rink provides som eof the most stunning views of the downtown skyline, all of which you can enjoy while gliding on ice.17. Gaze at the lakeside fireworks show
Navy Pier offers Chicago’s only lakefront midnight fireworks, for New Year’s Eve with festivities including a fireworks display set over Chicago’s skyline as the setting. The display, which occurs with synchronized music over Lake Michigan, makes for a stunning sight and can be watched from spots like the Landshark Beer Garden and Pier Park as well.
While those looking for ticketed events will find a slew of parties and river cruises taking place around the city, London also has plenty of free celebrations and attractions to offer.18. Start the day with the New Year’s Day Parade
The New Year’s Day Parade brings in more than 8,000 performers and around 500,000 audience members who come to the parade route, running form Green Park Tube station to Parliament Square from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., to watch the display. This year, the theme of the parade is “Lights, Camera, Action,” featuring displays and acts based on popular movies and shows, with large-scale balloons, music, and confetti to go along.19. Next, head to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
Bring the youngsters to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, running from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., where you can peruse through Christmas markets, take the kids into Santa Land for a final meet and greet with Santa and his elves, catch live stage performances, and engage in everything from ice skating to riding on a giant observation wheel. The event is free, though some activities, like ice skating and the observation wheel, require a paid-for ticket.20. Wander through unforgettable museums
Some of London’s top museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum (open since 1852 and home to 4.5 million objects) and the Natural History Museum (where you’ll find everything from animatronic dinosaurs to giant sequoia trees and gem collections) offer free admission.
You can also check out more quirky stops like the Horniman Museum, where visitors can pick up, try on, and play with some of the museum’s historic artifacts, including many of the thousands of musical instruments in its collection.
Even though Los Angeles’ weather may be warmer than some of the cities on this list, you can still get in the winter spirit with these New Year’s Eve events.21. Dance at the Grand Park New Year’s Eve LA
Head to Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles between the Music Center and City Hall from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a Los Angeles’ flagship party to kick off the new year.
You’ll find everything from live music and photo booths to 3-d digital video mappings on City Hall and large floats throughout the space.22. Try a Polar Bear Plunge
On January 1, you’ll see people across Los Angeles beaches participating in the polar plunge countdown. Locations vary from Huntington Beach to Manhattan Beach and23. Enjoy some art
Several of Los Angeles’ major museums are open to the public for free. Make your way to the latest addition, the Broad, to wander through two floors of gallery space housing quirky and compelling works and stunning installations. The museum is open until 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
Plus, you can catch the tail end of the Eyvind Earle exhibit at Forest Lawn. Open until 5 p.m. and ending January 1, the exhibit looks at the works of Earle, famous for his background illustrations in Disney’s animated films from the 1950s.
Already a city know for its festive celebrations, New Orleans doesn't disappoint on New Year's Eve. The city adds its own twist to typical holiday events, like the dropping of a fleur-de-lis in the historic Jackson Square.24. View the fleur-de-lis drop
This year, New Orleans' famed fleur-de-lis will come with a new design outfitted with lights. The Crescent City countdown will take place at Jackson Square, with this year's live music coming from the nearby Allstate Sugar Bowl Fan Fest. At the end of the countdown, the fleur-de-lis will drop before a firework procession starts over the Mississippi River.25. Attend the Allstate Sugar Bowl Fan Fest
The Allstate Fan Fest will be featuring live music this year from 9 p.m. all the way through midnight. Bands for the occasion are set to be announced by the end of this week, though visitors can expect top-notch names. For the first time, live segments that will be part of "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest" will include performances from the event.
Each year, about 1 million people pack in to watch New York City’s infamous ball drop from Times Square. While the event is a noteworthy one itself, there’s plenty of free options for those who want to get in on the fun without dealing with all the crowds.26. Watch the fireworks in Prospect Park
If you happen to be in Brooklyn and want to catch the fireworks head to Prospect Park. The Park will be hosting its annual display from 11 p.m. to midnight, with hot refreshments available to keep you cozy through the night.27. Take the ferry
For one of the best ways to take in the fireworks that will be on display in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and in New Jersey, take the free Staten Island Ferry. This way, you can see the fireworks and the stunning reflection they cast on the water, in a relaxed setting.28. Go on an evening bike ride to a free party in the park
Starting at 10 p.m. at Washington Square Park, bikers and skater can meet to ride up to Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Once they arrive, they’ll be greeted with a free New Year’s Eve dance party, complete with fireworks.29. Take a food, history, or beer tour
Various New York City tour operators will show you the best of the city for free. The Free Tours by Foot walking tours allows you to choose from walking tours, food focused tours, bike tours, or bus explorations. The tours are on a pay-what-you-wish basis for customers, which the company claims is New Yorkb city’s only food tour with this option.
Beer enthusiasts can check out Brooklyn Brewery on January 1 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to get a free tour of the brewery. The brewery offers the free tours on weekends, with beer available for purchase starting at $5.
The Big Apple Greeter tour pairs you with a native New Yorker, though you’ll need to book at least three weeks in advance. Visitors are asked to specify neighborhoods they’d like to see and their interests, so that a customized experience can be made for them.
Philadelphia is filled with activity on New Year's Eve, hosting not one, but two firework shows along the Delaware River Waterfront. Before you make your way over, here are some other free and traditional holiday activities to check out.30. View the Macy’s Light Show
Head to the last day of the Macy’s Light Show on December 31 at the Macy’s in Center City, in the historic Wanamaker Building, to see more than 100,000 LED lights create holiday spectacles ranging from snowflakes and reindeer to ballerinas. The traditional event has taken place in the city since 1956.31. Brighten your night at Franklin Square
Also ending on December 31, the Franklin Square Holiday Festival event includes more than 50,000 twinkling lights that glisten to famous holiday tunes. In the center is a 12-foot kite in honor of Benjamin Franklin’s experiment using a kite, while areas like a beer garden help keep you refreshed.
Those with a sweet tooth can also see homemade fudge being made on-site and help decorate cookies and gingerbread houses.32. Get mesmerized at the Comcast Holiday Spectacular
The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is shown on the Comcast Experience video wall, which is one of the world’s largest high resolution LED displays.
Each year, the event, which displays captivating scenes from “The Nutcracker”, actors from the historic Walnut Street Theater, and dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet, draws in over a million visitors.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is known for its vibrant nightlife scene throughout the year, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Plus, one of the best parts is, those who are in ringing in 2017 in this city will be able to do it in the warmth of summer.33. Head to the free outdoor party that broke the world record for attendance
The city’s free outdoor concerts and fireworks display at Copacabana Beach, which overlooks Sugarloaf Mountain, is a wild event not to be missed.
In 1994, Rod Stewart put on a free concert at the beach for New Year’s Eve, taking the title for the largest attendance for a free rock concert in the world with 4.2 million participants. Starting in the evening, you can catch live music shows ranging from samba to rock, with partiers dressed in white for the occasion.34. Wander through the world’s largest urban forest
Part of the fact that you’ll be celebrating the occasion in the heat of the summer means you can explore some of Brazil’s stunning outdoor sights.
This includes the Tijuca National Forest, Brazil’s first national park, which is also thought to be the largest urban forest in the world. Inside, you’ll find a setting of cascading waterfalls, lush greenery, rugged peaks, and a series of hiking trails.35. Head to a public park nestled in an incredible location
While heading to Tijuca National Forest, be sure to see Parque Lage, a public park in the city that sits at the foot of the Corcovado Hill.
The park includes a mansion whose gardens lead into the national forest and trails leading to popular attractions like Christ the Redeemer. The spot’s stunning setting has helped it appear in music videos from artists that include Pharell Williams, Snoop Dogg, and the Black Eye Peas, according to Atlas Obscura.36. See some of Brazil’s top exhibitions
The Centro Cultural Bando do Brasil, which is housed in a restored 1906 building, is always free and will remain open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The venue has everything from a cinema and multiple theaters to changing exhibits and displays showing the history of Brazil’s currency.
Since midnight arrives to Sydney earlier than it does in most major international cities, you can get an early starting on counting down to 17 here.37. Take part in the famous fireworks show
Sydney’s popular fireworks display will take place again this year at the Sydney Harbour, with various free viewing points available throughout the harbor to catch the show. Those with kids can head to the earlier display, which will take place at 9 p.m., while another fireworks show will occur at midnight.38. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
Located at the Sydney Harbour as well, the Museum of Contemporary Art gives visitors a chance to wander through some of the cities top contemporary art collections, with free daily tours available to introduce you the museum and its various collections.39. Take the Bondi to Coogee walk
To see some of Sydney’s best views, including its top beaches, parks, cliffs, bays, and rock pools, try this cliff top coastal walk, which takes a total of roughly two hours. If you get tired along the way, the many beaches and parks you’ll see along the route offering prime resting tops, while taking in all the breathtaking coastal views.
One of the most stunning parts of being in Tokyo during New Year’s Eve is catching a glimpse at all the magnificent illuminations displaced throughout the city, from rivers lit up in pink to a mesmerizing walk through thousands of blue lights.40. Take in the views of the Meguro River Illumination
Each year, the river in Meguro comes alive with more than 400,000 pink LED lights that illuminate the water in a sparkling glow. The lights, in combination with the cherry blossoms that line the river, make for an incredible site that you can enjoy up to January 9.41. Step inside the “Blue Cavern”
The At no Dokutsu or “Blue Cavern” illumination transforms the streets of Shibuya into an enchanting blue paradise, thanks to the thousands of blue LED lights that form reflections around their surroundings to make you feel as though you’re walking through a bright blue cave as you explore the area’s back streets. The illumination will also be open until January 9.42. Celebrate at Tokyo Tower
The soaring Tokyo Tower, a radio tower built in 1958, puts on special illuminations that change depending on the season and events. New Year’s Eve is no different, with crowds gathering to countdown as they gaze at the 180 different lights that make up the tower’s impressive designs.43. Participate in Hatsumode
In Japan, a popular tradition is hatsumode, where locals head to their beloved shrines and temples to ring in their first visit in the new year. Festivities can often be seen at the shrines and temples during the first few days of the new year, giving you the chance to both take part in a local tradition and explore the beauty of the ancient structures.
Concerts and musical performances are beloved in Vienna, and they continue on throughout New Year's celebrations. Additionally, the city has a New Year's Eve Trail as its inner city transforms into a vibrant party.44. Walk through the city
See Vienna's sights while taking party in its New Year's parties by following the New Year's Eve Trail as it weaves you through the Town Hall Square to the sounds of DJs, before taking you through Graben, which becomes a lovely open-air ballroom where you can practice your dance skills. Dozens of food vendors will also be on hand to service up goodies.45. See an opera show
For those who want to get a chance to participate in the city’s wonderful musical performances for the holidays, the State Opera will give a gala performance of Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus,” which will be screened live on the video wall of the Karajan Platz. The Karajan Platz is located in front of the Opera House, with the viewings starting at 7 p.m.
In Washington D.C., you can spend the day exploring some of the areas famed historic sites and entertainment venues and keep the celebrations going into the night.46. See the National Zoo lit up in LED
Thousands will head to ZooLights, part of a free annual event running from November 25 to January 1 at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Over half a million LED lights encompass the zoo from the entrance to the exit, with live music, holiday shopping stands, and wintertime treats like gingerbread and mulled cider, helping create a marvelous winter wonderland.47. Tour a brewery
Take a free brewery tour at DC Brau, which is the first brewery to operate in the District of Columbia since 1956, according to NBC. The brewery offers free tours on Saturdays at a first-come, first-serve basis and will be open on New Year’s Eve, with tours running from 1 to 4 p.m on an hourly basis.48. See a historic neighborhood come to life
If you’re in Washington, D.C. around the end of December, you’ll still have time to catch Georgetown Glow in what is D.C.’s oldest neighborhood. Thanks to its success, the previous 10-day event is running for an entire month this year, with works around the neighborhood lighting up from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.49. Wander through the United States Botanic Garden
From Nov 24 through January 2, the U.S. Botanic Garden will be running its “Season’s Greenings” annual holiday show. Inside, a model train exhibit runs through more than 50 plant-based creations of iconic national parks and historic locations throughout America.
Plant recreations include everything from Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon and Gateway Arch.