The World's Greatest New Year's Celebrations (That Aren't Times Square)

Published On 12/30/2016 Published On 12/30/2016

Saying “New Year’s is overrated” has almost become overrated itself. We get it. You don’t want to jam yourself into a tiny confined space to watch fireworks with a million strangers, only to discover you REALLY have to pee at 11:36pm. And this is why most sensible people avoid New York, London, Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong, and the other uber-famous New Year’s Eve parties they show on those around-the-world montages. They're a lot like late-season NFL games: best enjoyed at home, on a big-screen.

So you need an alternative for your NYE vacation. And while we all know Vegas, Miami, and New Orleans go off, well, we all know it. So if you’re looking to travel to ring in 2017, and want a great party that the whole world might not be at, we suggest these 12 places that do NYE as well as anyone.

Courtesy of Foxy's Bar

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

One wouldn’t expect one of the ritziest New Year’s parties on the planet to be in the back of a ramshackle beach bar covered in college sports banners. But the party at Foxy’s not only draws yacht owners from around the world to the bay at Jost Van Dyke, it also attracts celebs like Michael Jordan and Richard Branson. They’re up in the VIP area, but down below there’s an all-night concert on the grass where the young, rich, and beautiful don their finest Vineyard Vines “casual” wear, and ring in the new year like only wealthy people on vacation can.


Boracay Island, The Philippines

The most picturesque place in the world to take in the final sunset of 2016 will be along White Beach on this tiny island south of Manila. The great thing about the party here is that it takes exactly zero preparation to go from your daylong beach pre-party to the full-fledged NYE party, since all the action centers on the strip of bars along the sand. Chill in shorts and flip-flops at night just like you would in the day, and watch the epic fireworks show near Station 2. If that countdown gives you a second wind? Just keep those shorts on and rage on until the sun comes up again on 2017.

Brendan Howard/Shutterstock

Edinburgh, Scotland

You hardy enough to loiter in city streets when it's 40 degrees and drizzly? Boy, has Scotland got an outdoor festival for you. Locals spend the three-day year-end celebration Hogmanay outside beginning December 30th, when a processional of torch-carrying partiers walk from Parliament Square to Calton Hill for Edinburgh’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Round 2 goes down on the 31st when street parties and music festivals dominate the daytime, and four-and-a-half tons of fireworks over Edinburgh castle dominate the night. This culminates in what some claim is the world’s largest rendition of Auld Lang Syne, sung by literally everyone pouring out of the city’s bars. New Year's Day brings more outdoor rigors: a run down the Royal Mile, a polar plunge into the River Forth, or the traditional dogsled race.

Leanne Vorrias/Shutterstock

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio is one of those places that never needs a reason to party, hence its status as one of the best party cities in the world. But on a day where every town on the planet is throwing some kind of party, it’s no surprise Rio blows nearly all of them out of the water at Copacabana Beach. Revelers decked out in all white -- said to bring luck in the new year -- pack the shore, where the summer heat is made considerably more tolerable by the perpetual spraying of Champagne along the sand. At midnight, people ceremonially throw flowers into the ocean as a tribute to the sea goddess Yemanja, though the party is so raucous some don’t even notice.


South Lake Tahoe, California

Even on a random weekend in January, South Lake Tahoe is one of the best small cities in America to spend the weekend. But on New Year’s Eve? It's packed with Californians there to gamble, ski, and après ski for the holiday, and hosts the annual SnowGlobe Festival, arguably America's best cold-weather EDM event. This year's headliners include the Chainsmokers and Major Lazer, and even if you’re not into electronic music the atmosphere the festival brings makes for a world-class party.

Marianna Ianovska/Shutterstock

ValparaĂ­so, Chile

Not to be confused with your favorite NCAA bracket-buster, this Chilean city (pronounced and spelled differently than that school in Indiana) boasts the single largest NYE fireworks display in South America. And the display is pretty much an afterthought of the three-day bonanza that goes down on the beach in Chile’s oldest port city. It all starts on December 28th and over the next three days roughly a million people make their way to the beach. The culmination is a pantheon of pyrotechnics, where 17 barges stretching from ValparaĂ­so to Viña del Mar blast fireworks for nearly half an hour. Once it’s over, the party most certainly is not, as tens of thousands from that million stick around and bang on until sunrise.

Andriana Syvanych/Shutterstock

Bratislava, Slovakia

Yes, nearby Austria has a pretty solid New Year’s scene as well. But the parties there are more the type you’d see in a Merchant Ivory film. The scene in Bratislava is like what you’d find in EuroTrip. Eastern Europe’s best NYE goes down in the Slovakian capital’s city center, which turns into a car-free pedestrian zone dedicated by day to live concerts and by night, epic parties on the Main Square and Hviezdoslavovo Square. The adjacent squares are surrounded by bars and restaurants overflowing with tens of thousands of people. And at midnight, fireworks explode over the Danube, as Slovakians use wooden noisemakers called rehtacka to chase away any of the past year's lingering bad vibes.


Berlin, Germany

You might actually see Berlin’s famous New Year's Eve party on TV, since the annual Silvester celebration on the Party Mile near Brandenburg Gate draws a million people, and some first-tier rock bands. But what you probably won’t see is the afterparty in one of the world’s best party cities, that can go till noon the next day. Or the annual Berlin Silvesterlauf the afternoon prior, a “pancake race” where runners have to flip pancakes as part of the event. Also not televised: The annual free 4K New Year’s Day race, where people who got to sleep before 8am burn off a few of those New Year’s drinks.

jo Crebbin/Shutterstock

The Bahamas

Almost every country in the Caribbean has its version of Carnival. The Bahamas just chooses to do its version at New Year’s, where boisterous Junkanoo parades fill the streets of Freeport, Nassau, Alice Town, and other cities around the islands. The parades are an island Mardi Gras ripe with small outfits, soca music, and the generally uninhibited vibe you’re looking for on New Year’s Eve. Most of said parades end with all-out beach parties and, of course, the requisite fireworks displays over the islands.

Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Though this party takes place near the US-Canada border, the event is distinctly Canadian. Though the fireworks are visible from both sides, the real party lies north of the border in Queen Victoria Park, where an all-Canadian lineup plays a nightlong concert leading up to not one but TWO Canadian fireworks displays. The biggest NYE crowd in Canada jams into the park and try and keep warm with food and drinks until the colors hit the sky over Niagara Gorge at midnight.

Arina Melekhova/Shutterstock

Reykjavik, Iceland

When you’ve only got sunlight for, like, four hours, any excuse to light up a fire in the middle of the afternoon seems like a good one. That’s why Icelanders start the New Year’s festivities a little before 4pm, with bonfire parties all over the city, meant to burn away the previous year’s negativity. From there pretty much everyone in Reykjavik has their own little private fireworks show, leading up to the main national display with literally tons of fireworks exploding over the city. On good years, the Northern Lights have even been known to join in the fun, but even lacking those, Iceland’s newfound reputation as a party destination has made its clubs on this night some of the best in the world.

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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist who thinks New Year's Eve is UNDER-rated. Follow his adventures on Instagram @meltrez1.



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