*This story is from December 2011*
Why is there so much pressure put on New Year's Eve? It is a crowded holiday that lets us all take a deep breath (and an extra cocktail) at the end of the year and drink (yet another cocktail) to the start of a fresh new one. Traditions may be different from place to place, but it is undoubtedly the world's biggest party night of the year that everyone celebrates together. The pop of a champagne bottle at the stroke of midnight is seemingly heard round the world, in hourly intervals of course, and some cities play host to the world's most iconic and vibrant parties on Dec. 31. They may not be new, underground, or exclusive parties, but they're the nine ultimate destinations for a reason.
From energetic beach parties to chic city fetes, these destinations each have something for everyone and they're all well known for welcoming revelers in good spirits. Tokyo and New York City host legendary parties that draw many thousands of visitors each year to both Tokyo Tower and Times Square, and Koh Phangan in Thailand and Rio de Janeiro bring the party to the beach, each with its own customs like beach-side cocktails and Thai eats stands, and revelers clad in all-white tossing fresh flowers into the sea, respectively.
Not all classic New Year's Eves have to equal unforgettable debauchery, or debauchery that you actually can't remember. Ringing in the New Year in Venice, for example, means a huge feast of multiple classic Italian courses complete with wine pairings and a champagne toast at midnight. One of the city's most fun traditions is the big group kiss that happens when the countdown ends in St. Mark's Square.
So pack up your dancing shoes and read up on the world's most fascinating New Year's traditions, and help these ultimate destinations ring in 2012 the best way they know how.