As the clock ticks down to midnight, a crowd gathers in Times Square, waiting for a glittering ball to descend and launch the New Year. But this isn't New York, it's Hong Kong, where a ball drop has also become an annual tradition.
Around the world, locals celebrate the passing of one year to the next in similar ways: fireworks, street parties, dancing, and generous helpings of food and drinks. Still, each destination has its own cultural twists and distinctive setting. In St. Petersburg, Russia, for instance, folks bundle up to admire fireworks above the partially frozen Neva River-and send hundreds of paper lanterns up into the night sky.
Party people can stay out late in Reykjavik, Iceland, then go for a dip in the hot springs. Or they can join the massive beach bash in Valparaíso, Chile. For good luck in 2014, do as the Chileans do and wear yellow underwear, eat a dozen grapes at midnight, and put a $1,000 peso bill in your shoe.
Beachfront fireworks shows ring in the New Year in Maui, HI, which caters to couples and to families. The Bahamas offers similar warm-weather appeal along with traditional Junkanoo costumed street parades.
Whether you'd rather cozy up by the fire with a fine wine in Sonoma, CA, sing "Auld Lang Syne" on a torchlight procession through Edinburgh's cobblestoned streets, or party until the sun comes up, there's a destination that will start your New Year right.
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Why Go: The biggest New Year's Eve show in Latin America takes place in the Valparaíso harbor with a 20-minute fireworks show (launched from 17 different points along the coast between Valparaíso and Viña del Mar) and a dance party that lasts until the sun comes up. The festivities begin on the 28th, and by the 31st more than a million people have made their way to the city's sandy shores for the beach party to end all beach parties. To ensure good luck in the New Year, do as the locals do and wear yellow underwear, eat a dozen grapes at midnight, and put a $1,000 peso bill in your shoe.
Where to Stay: Each of the 14 rooms at Hotel Acontraluz overlooks the beach and comes with furniture made with reclaimed materials like adobe and Oregon pinewood once brought to Valparaíso as shipping ballast. hotelacontraluz.cl
Why Go: Iceland's capital has an outsize nightlife that belies its small size, and on New Year's Eve the hard-partying locals throw a citywide celebration that lasts until the wee morning hours. The party starts with community bonfires, meant to symbolize the burning away of the previous year's troubles, and thousands of fireworks lighting up the sky from every corner of the city. For the best view, head to the Perlan, or Pearl, which offers a fantastic view of the city and hosts a New Year's Eve party with dinner, drinks, and dancing. If you make it to 5 a.m., join the locals queuing up for hangover-helping hot dogs, or head to the hot springs for a rehydrating soak.
Where to Stay: With panoramic views over the festivities, the luxury apartment-style rooms at downtown's Room With a View put guests close to the action but above the fray. roomwithaview.is
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Why Go: While winter is the slow season in northern California wine country, it makes for a more laid-back, less crowded holiday experience. On New Year's Eve, many larger hotels and wineries offer their own wine-fueled parties in cellars and wine caves, including the Black and White Gala at Etoile at Domaine Chandon, a candlelit multicourse dinner in the Trinitas Cellars wine cave at the Meritage Resort, and a five-course dinner and masquerade ball in the Grand Barrel Room at Castello di Amorosa winery. The Napa Valley Wine Train hosts a Blackjack Ball in its restored Pullman cars as they make their way up and down the valley. For a more low-key celebration, make reservations at one of the area's famed restaurants, such as Redd, Bottega, or Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc or Bouchon in Yountville, and then retreat to a luxury inn for a private midnight toast by the fire.
Where to Stay: In Sonoma, the Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa (marriott.com) offers an on-site restaurant and a free shuttle to the nearby Sonoma Plaza. Napa's Hotel Yountville (hotelyountville.com) is an ultra-sexy oasis just steps from the dining options of charming Yountville, including the French Laundry.