The Best Places to Spend New Year's Eve
The hype of New Year’s Eve can often supersede the night itself. Expectations are often deflated by traffic jams, raucous crowds and overpriced Ubers. But there are certain destinations that are sure to be a hit regardless of any undesirable circumstances.
Why not celebrate at a luxurious five-star resort in the Caribbean or the Maldives and kick off the New Year on a relaxing note, floating in tranquil turquoise waters? For something more classic, you could venture to a major metropolis like Paris, London, Barcelona or New York and embrace the annual festivities, like watching the ball drop in Times Square or seeing the Eiffel Tower illuminated with fireworks. You could travel further afield and experience different cultural traditions in Hong Kong, Thailand, or Rio de Janeiro. Or swap out winter for the summer sun in the South Pacific and lock in a longer adventure to explore the natural beauty of Australia and New Zealand.
Even if you’re yet to make arrangements, there are a number of last-minute New Year’s Eve trips that are sure to be memorable. From black-tie celebrations at the world’s most fabulous hotels, to legendary beach parties and music festivals, and rainbows of fireworks lighting up iconic landmarks and city skylines, we’ve charted some of the most spectacular bucket list destinations to welcome in 2019 with renewed optimism.
Those who enjoy all-night raves in Ibiza will undoubtedly appreciate the infamous Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, an event that attracts over 30,000 people each year. Cocktails come in buckets and youthful groups from all corners of the globe swarm Haad Rin Beach wearing glow paint and not much else. It’s an experience that free-spirited backpackers and college kids revel in, embracing life on a hedonistic bender. Thailand is not all debauchery and strobe-lit beach parties, though. In fact, it’s home to the original Aman (one of the world's most luxurious hotel brands), which is celebrating its 30th birthday this year and will be ringing in the new year with a spectacular gala dinner, DJ sets, a cabaret show, and an elaborate fireworks display making it the place to be in Phuket. The Thai capital, Bangkok, is also a lively destination to spend New Year’s Eve, best experienced from one of the city’s glossy open rooftop bars, such as Vertigo at the Banyan Tree or Blue Sky at the Sofitel Centara Grand.
Does the idea of a balmy evening spent drinking rosé in a picturesque vineyard sound like a plan? If so, consider venturing to New Zealand for the holidays, where summer is in full swing. Music festivals are hosted around the country for New Year’s Eve, including the notorious Rhythm & Vines concert in Gisborne, which claims to be the the first place to welcome the sunrise in the new year, Rhythm & Alps in Wanaka, and Wondergarden in Auckland City’s Silo Park. For something more low key, venture over to Waiheke Island (a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland) and visit one of the gorgeous vineyards to watch the sun set over the city skyline. New Zealand is a hike to get to from pretty much anywhere, but just last month Air New Zealand launched a direct flight from Chicago, making the journey a bit more accessible for those traveling from North America.
Watching the Eiffel Tower shimmer in the night sky is one of the most magical views imaginable, and a stunning scene for welcoming in the new year. The most glamorous way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris is to check into a hotel suite with a front row view, like The Shangri-La, The Peninsula, Plaza Athénée, or the recently refurbished Hotel de Crillon. If you’re seeking a larger-scale celebration, venture to Champs-Élysées, where crowds gather each year to watch the spectacular light show and fireworks around the Arc de Triomphe.
New York City
Since 1907, crowds have flooded into Times Square on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop. It’s an iconic scene that is broadcast across the world each year: more than a million revelers framed by the Americana glow of flashing billboards. From Dec. 1-29, a Wishing Wall will be set up in Times Square Plaza, where people can share their hopes and dreams for the year ahead. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, those notes will be released as confetti and sent into the universe as 2019 begins.
If crowding into the main event sounds daunting, the city offers many options for those seeking more refined and intimate affairs. There are cocktail parties taking place all over town: there’s the annual black-tie celebration at the Top of the Standard, dancing on the rooftop at Ian Schrager’s PUBLIC, live jazz at the iconic Bemelmans Bar on the Upper East Side, or watch the ball drop from above the crowds at the roaring 20s inspired Elsie Rooftop VIP party. The Empire State Building will also be illuminated with an LED light show, best observed from the Rainbow Room at the Rockefeller Center.
Barcelona is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, filled with unique architecture, incredible cuisine, and perennial partygoers. On New Year’s Eve, locals gather at Plaça d'Espanya to watch the elaborate pyrotechnics on Montjuïc. Not far away, the renowned open-air architectural museum Poble Espanyol will be hosting a massive dance party, running all the way until sunrise for its 30th consecutive year. More intimate events will be hosted at hotspots around the city, including Boca Chica, the W Barcelona, which towers over Barceloneta Beach, and Soho House, the most stylish address in the city, which will be throwing a dinner and a 1920s themed party with DJs and dancing on the rooftop.
Aspen is having a moment this year with a variety of nightlife options opening just in time for the height of the ski season. There’s the EMP Winter House pop-up launching in the St. Regis next week, where groups can enjoy aprés-ski cocktails in the Instagram-friendly yurt village, 7908 supper club, and the ultra-chic basement bar, Bad Harriet. The winter wonderland comes alive during the holidays, and New Year’s Eve is always an appealing time to visit. Book into the iconic Caribou Club for the prix fixe dinner and enjoy cocktails in the cozy lounge before DJs and dancing, or head over to the Dom Pérignon party at The Little Nell and watch the fireworks display over Aspen Mountain at midnight.
Turks & Caicos
Turks & Caicos is the Caribbean’s most beautiful archipelago that hasn’t yet been saturated with tourism. Vacationing here for New Year’s Eve is a popular choice for those seeking a side of relaxation with their revelry. Visitors can embrace the Junkanoo festival, a cultural procession of masqueraders dancing to the rhythm of drums, cowbells and other native instruments, on the 31st and return to uncrowded white sand beaches to lap up the sun the following day. The best place for groups and families is The Shore Club, which recently unveiled six super-modern 8,800 square foot villas containing heated pools and sprawling private courtyards on the exclusive Long Bay Beach.
Sydney is the first major international city to ring in the new year at midnight, illuminating the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House with a rainbow of fireworks. One of the best vantage points to see the show is the luxurious Park Hyatt, located right in the center of the celebrations in The Rocks. This year, the hotel is hosting a sophisticated rooftop cocktail party with a live DJ, canapes, and an endless flow of Veuve Clicquot champagne. Many observers also opt for booking restaurants around the harbor or chartering boats with groups of friends to watch the displays from the water.
Locals tend to venture to the glossy Eastern Suburb's like Double Bay and Bondi, which have lively restaurants and nightclubs that remain unaffected by the Central Business District's lockout laws which took effect in 2014. Some of the most picturesque places, though, are best experienced during the day, including Icebergs, Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel, and the stunning rooftop bar at the Intercontinental Double Bay.
The dramatic Hong Kong skyline provides the perfect backdrop for the ‘musical fireworks’ that light up Victoria Harbour each year. From 11 p.m., multimedia and pyrotechnic displays take place every 15 minutes, with bursts of shimmering lights. Rather than cramming into the waterfront, ascend to the 118th floor of the ICC Tower in Kowloon and take in the view from the spectacular Ozone Bar at the Ritz-Carlton, which holds the record as the highest bar in the world.
Rio de Janeiro
Over two million people gather on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach on New Year’s Eve to celebrate and watch the annual festivities, locally known as the Reveillon, unfold. It’s quite the scene: dancing, music, fireworks, classic Brazilian performances, and local revelers bursting with enthusiasm. The best place to experience the big bash is at Belmond’s luxurious Copacabana Palace, which is located right in the center of it. This year, the iconic beachfront hotel will have a live band and an all-night pool party with music by local DJ Guga Weigert.
The iconic Big Ben and the London Eye provide a stunning backdrop for the city’s annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display. The event is so popular that it has been ticketed since 2014, and although it’s already sold out this year, you can still observe the action from elevated venues around the river including Aqua Shard, The Savoy, and The Corinthia. Londoners know how to have a jolly good time, and of course, revelers will be celebrating all over town: from the hipster bars of Brick Lane, to the chic establishments of Mayfair, the Natural History Museum, which is hosting its annual dance party, and cruises along the Thames River.
What better way to see in 2019 than immersing yourself in the beachside glamour of St. Barths? The Caribbean jewel is a beautiful place to visit in December and is a jet-set favorite for spending New Year’s Eve. One of the main local traditions is the regatta race around the island, perfect for those feeling particularly adventurous before the champagne starts flowing in the evening. This year, Nikki Beach will be hosting its beachfront ball, where guests are invited to dress-up in surrealism-themed attire inspired by Salvador Dali and Joan Miro. Refined celebrations will be taking place at beachfront resorts around the island, including the star players, Hotel Christopher, Eden Rock, Le Sereno, and the ultra-chic Cheval Blanc, which will be popping vintage Moët & Chandon at its White Bar alongside DJ Phillipe Paris.
Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is an experience that’s high on many bucket lists, and the holiday season is the best time of year to do it. They can be observed from around the country, but are most visible from areas where light pollution is at a minimum. If you’re making the journey for New Year’s Eve, head to Reykjavík where a brilliant pyrotechnics display is unleashed around 11:35 p.m. as 200,000 people — basically the entire population of the capital — set off around 500 tons of fireworks. After midnight, the nightclubs and pubs remain open and the celebrations extend into the following day.
Miami is a party capital all year, but it’s especially lively during December, when the rest of the country is trying to escape the cold. Head to South Beach for the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display or step aboard one of the mega yacht parties on Biscayne Bay. There’s also a variety of activity going on at the city’s best hotels, including a casino-themed party at The Setai, DJ sets at The Edition, and tango performances at Faena.
For dazzling romance and relaxation, the Maldives is hard to beat. The nation is dotted with almost 1,200 coral islands featuring some of the most jaw-dropping resorts on the planet. Book an overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons, Amilla Fushi, or the One&Only Reethi Rah for the ultimate in Maldivian luxury. Like many high-end island destinations, the resorts each host intimate events on New Year’s Eve for guests only.