While over a million people gather in New York City’s Time Square and popular cities around the world, from Seattle to Sydney, there are many other places for a fun and more unique New Year’s Eve. If you’re looking for something different, why follow the crowds? You can enjoy a more unique, off-the-beaten-path places to celebrate without the headaches.
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Portmagee, Ireland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
If small-town Ireland surrounded by lush scenery enjoying fabulous craic and a very unique New Year’s Eve without the crowds sounds like your idea of fun, head to the tiny village of Portmagee in County Kerry. Located in the stunning southwest region of the country, it celebrates “Old Year,” a quirky, carnival-like parade that essentially ushers out the old year while welcoming in the new. It’s centered on a parade that winds through the village streets led by a piper with torches of blazing turf and a local man dressed up as the “Old Year “who becomes increasingly decrepit. At the stroke of midnight, he withers away until he disappears entirely. That’s when a local dressed as the “New Year” appears to greet the crowd, while the camaraderie and pints of Guinness at The Mooring’s Bridge Bar flow well into the night.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Hotel Prices & Photos)
If you prefer a big city without paying an arm and a leg to get into a nightclub or squeeze into millions of others in Times Square, you might want to head to the cosmopolitan city of Toronto. You’ll be able to enjoy the nightlife and the parties at a lower cost and more have more room for breathing too. You can even enjoy the equivalent of the Times Square Ball drop in Nathan Square, where locals and visitors countdown to midnight and fireworks light up the city.
Reykjavik, Iceland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
While few probably think about Iceland’s capital as a spot to ring in the new year, it offers a unique experience with fireworks and the signature bonfires Reykjavik is known for. Locals throw a huge citywide celebration that starts at 6 p.m. with mass at Reykjavik Cathedral before sharing a meal with family and friends. Then it’s time to head outdoors to attend the bonfires found throughout the city’s neighborhoods that symbolize the burning away of the previous year’s troubles. Thousands of fireworks light up the sky from every corner, while people dress as trolls and elves, do lots of drinking and singing of folk songs. At this time of year, the Northern Lights might just show up to complement the spectacular man-made displays too.
Portland, Oregon (Hotel Prices & Photos)
If you’re thinking about heading to San Francisco for a fantastic New Year’s Eve party but it’s just a bit too pricey, considering heading further north to Portland, Oregon instead. The massive Champagne Ball has been taking place here for nearly three decades, held at the Hilton Portland Downtown. The all-night party features three DJs and live music, 18 bars, four themed party rooms, three dance floors, food, party favors and more. On New Year’s Day you’ll find plenty of places to burn off all those calories, like a hike on the 11-mile trail through Forest Park that offers views of the Columbia River, Mount Hood, and Mount St. Helens.
Prague, Czech Republic (Hotel Prices & Photos)
One of Europe’s most magnificent cities welcomes the coming year with fireworks that are launched from Letna Gardens while Prague Castle serves as an extraordinary backdrop. Locals and visitors watch from places like the Charles Bridge which overlooks the River Vltava, though the very best spot may be from a cruise along the river for a breathtaking view without trying to navigate thick crowds. With the thousands of fireworks exploding against the night’s sky the illuminated city is simply stunning. You’ll cruise under the bridge while enjoying food, drink, music, and many of Prague’s most impressive sights too.
Bratislava, Slovakia (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Slovakia is probably not a place that comes to mind for New Year’s Eve either, but its capital city of Bratislava has become one of the top destinations in the world to celebrate in the last decade or two. Festivities began from virtually nothing to drawing tens of thousands of locals and visitors to the medieval Old Town at Main Square and Hviezdoslav’s Square. There are multiple stages spread throughout the area, with concerts featuring some of the best local bands, dance groups and many other performers, along with open-air dance parties and a fireworks show held over the Danube River at midnight. The music and dancing goes on all night long, with Old Town divided into a “concert zone,” for enjoying the music while “party zones” are the place to socialize. Giant screens also broadcast the celebrations of other capital cities across the globe.
Tonga (Prices & Photos)
Sydney may be the first major city to ring in the new year, but Tonga is officially the very first country to do so, as it’s three hours ahead of the Australian city. If you’re looking for a tropical celebration, head to the largest island, Tongatapu, in this archipelago made up of 170 islands in the South Pacific. A coral island, it offers tropical temperatures, beautiful white sand beaches and clear azure waters with opportunities for sea kayaking and outstanding snorkeling in a protected lagoon. The downside is that you probably won’t see any fireworks, but it is the perfect spot for a couple to create their own.
Valparaiso, Chile (Prices & Photos)
The cultural capital of Chile is tucked in the hills along the Pacific Ocean and hosts one of the most extravagant New Year’s Eve shows on the continent. Valparaiso is home to a three-day festival with millions of visitors coming to witness its renowned fireworks display – the biggest in Latin America. To bring good luck in the coming year, locals wear yellow underwear, eat a dozen grapes at midnight, and put a $1,000 peso bill in their shoe. Fireworks are launched from 17 different points along the coast between the city and Vina del Mar, and it all culminates with a cascade of sparks that shower down on the water. The huge dance party filled with joyful revelers lasts until sunrise, and sometimes beyond.